I’m as surprised as anyone that I watched the entire third season of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’. I was ready to give up on the series after last season, but I stuck around for curiosity’s sake. Little by little, the show actually improved in many respects. Now that it’s over, is that progress enough to justify a fourth year?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a great show now. The spinoff still doesn’t have a patch on the original ‘Walking Dead’ – not even during that show’s decline in recent years. However, this season had less abject stupidity and the zombie action was passively entertaining enough to keep me hanging around.
Most of the season was spent with the Clark family camped out at a survivalist compound on a ranch, trying to defend the place from threats both alive and undead. (You know the drill; the living are always the worst monsters.) Eventually, the place got overrun by a zombie horde driven there by whiny psycho Troy Otto, who had formed a weird friendship with Nick but lost his marbles for a bit. Ofelia died as a result of the attack, as did pretty much anyone not among the small group of core characters.
Retreating from that disaster, the Clark family split up briefly. Nick is still friends with Troy, who feels a little sorry for what he did. They decided to hang out at a black market trading post, where Nick has access to drugs and has taken up his old junkie ways. Alicia went off on her own and made a friend in a tough scavenger girl named Diana, but the two of them get abducted by a biker gang called The Proctors (which is seriously one of the lamest names for a biker gang I can imagine), and Alicia is forced to act as nurse to their leader, Proctor John (Ray McKinnon). Madison reunited with Victor Strand and headed for a fortified dam run by a woman named Lola. Daniel Salazar, still alive and somewhere around three-quarters sane, serves as Lola’s right-hand man. He hates Strand, and isn’t too pleased with the Clarks for letting his daughter die either.
In the two-part finale, everyone converges on the dam. The Proctors want to seize it and take control over the only water supply for a drought-stricken area. Strand cut a secret deal with Proctor John to give the gang easy access inside in exchange for being made administrator over the dam, and for Madison’s safety. When Salazar finds out about this, the two men fight, ending with Strand shooting Salazar through the cheek. He lives, but is sidelined for a while. Madison can’t put up with Troy’s shit anymore and clocks him a couple times on the skull with a hammer, killing him. The proctors invade and shoot the place up, killing a lot of people, including Lola. Proctor John is displeased with Strand about the amount of resistance they faced. Strand manages to hide Madison and Nick for a while, but Proctor John soon finds them. Although this reunites Alicia with her family, Proctor John threatens to kill all of them.
Through all of this, we periodically cut away to a fantasy Madison has about a lovely Christmas dinner with all of her family and friends, many of whom are dead (and not all of whom were actually friends).
Anticipating the Proctors’ invasion, Madison and Nick lined the dam with C4 explosives, hoping to use that as leverage. Before Proctor John can kill them, Nick whips out the detonator and negotiates for his mother, sister, and Strand to escape on a motorboat. Nick himself has to stay behind because the detonator doesn’t have much range. He plans to sacrifice himself.
Proctor John thinks Nick is bluffing and tries to take the detonator from him, forcing Nick to set it off before the motorboat can get far enough away. The dam blows, creating a flood that sucks the boat back and capsizes it. Madison, Alicia and Strand are separated and washed downriver. While trapped underwater, Madison’s Christmas fantasy turns into a nightmare as she’s dragged into a grave by a zombie Jeremiah Otto (Troy’s father) until saved at the last second by Travis, who died back at the beginning of the season. Madison then surfaces from the water and washes up on the river bank as grateful villagers rush to get water around her.
Salazar comes in with guns blazing and saves Nick from Proctor John. (Some peripheral Native American characters whose storyline is too much for me to get into here also help out by sniping the Proctors from afar.) Whether Nick and Salazar can get off the dam before it collapses is left as a cliffhanger. We’re also not told whether Alicia or Strand survived. I imagine that all of them will turn up alive next season, probably separated for a while before reuniting yet again.
This show is very frustrating for me. Even with the improvements this season, the characters still routinely make dumb decisions and are all very hard to care about. However, the show has not yet hit the point where I’m ready to cut ties with it. (It came damned close last season, let me tell you.) The finale is… fine, I guess. It does what it needs to do to keep the plot moving, but I never really felt any sense of danger for the characters. I’ve never seen anything on this show as nerve-wrackingly tense as the best episodes of the original ‘Walking Dead’. If the entire cast of characters had been killed off here, I doubt it would have fazed me.
Will I tune in again next season? Yes, at least for the beginning. But as always, I’ll reserve the right to drop out at any time if I so choose.