‘Fear the Walking Dead’ is starting to feel very much like the creators came up with a concept for an 90-minute TV movie and then stretched it out across six episodes. Every time the show hints at something interesting, it ignores it again until (if viewers are lucky) the end of an episode. This week’s entry is another exercise in frustration and pretty much cements the fact that this first season has been an abysmal failure.
Things start off promisingly (as, honestly, most of the episodes have). Viewers are taken inside the makeshift military hospital, which seems to have been set up inside a high school. Fenced cells have been created to hold those imprisoned there, including Doug, the paranoid husband we saw last week. An African-American guy is talking to him and starts asking him questions about his wife, pointing out how attractive she is. Doug freaks out again and members of the military have to come drag him away. This episode doesn’t tell us much about the mysterious smooth talker, although he’s been identified on the internet as Victor Strand and is played by Colman Domingo. We also learn in this scene that Nick is in the same cell with Strand.
Back in the safe zone, Ofelia raises a ruckus by throwing bottles at the National Guard troops (who are behind their own fenced-in area). Ofelia’s soldier boyfriend – another character whose name I don’t recall ever hearing on the show [Ed.: Cpl. Andrew Adams -JZ] – shows up and settles her down. He’s going to regret making any contact with her at all. Not long after this event, Madison discovers that Ofelia and her father lured Andrew back to their house, were Daniel Salazar has tied him to a chair in the basement and plans to torture him for information about where his wife was taken.
While that’s taking place, Travis talks to the leader of the Guard, Lt. Moyers, with his own request to see where Mrs. Salazar and Nick have been taken. Moyers agrees to drive him to the military hospital, but along the way they come across a lone female Walker. (Hey, a zombie actually showed up on this show about zombies!) The troops set up a long-range rifle to eliminate her, but when it comes time to fire, Moyers tries to make Travis pull the trigger. When Travis sees a nametag on the Walker, he can’t bring himself to do it, so one of the troops steps in and shoots the Walker in the head.
Meanwhile, back in the safe zone, Alicia and Chris break into the abandoned house of a rich family, where they try on fancy clothes and smash things into small pieces. I have no idea what any of this has to do with our ongoing story, but maybe we could send these two over to the AMC offices for a visit? Oh, Chris starts making goo-goo eyes at Alicia this week, so you know that’s not going to end well.
Daniel continues interrogating and torturing Chris. He’s cutting up his right arm, but what exactly he’s doing to it I’m not 100% sure. Not only does Andrew reveal the location of the hospital, but the fact that the military has locked a horde of Walkers up inside a local arena. Daniel keeps asking the solider about the term “Cobalt” – a word he’s heard the soldiers use over and over again in radio communications. It’s finally revealed to Daniel that Cobalt is a plan for the military evacuate the area and to terminate all of the people in the safe zone (humanely, of course!). It’s a good thing that Daniel was able to get this info when he did, as it’s revealed that the Cobalt operation will begin first thing in the morning.
Back at the military hospital, Liza has to say goodbye to Mrs. Salazar. The woman’s brain is swelling up and death is imminent. After she passes, Dr. Exner gets a cattle gun and explains to Liza that they have to shoot her in the head, otherwise she’ll come back as one of the infected. Liza takes the gun from Exner and does the job herself. I’m guessing that Daniel will be less than pleased when he finds out about all this.
Troops come to take Nick’s temperature in his cell and discover that he’s running a fever. But before they can drag him away, Strand bribes the lead officer with a pair of fancy cufflinks if he won’t take Nick. The officer agrees, but tells Strand he’s on his own if Nick turns. Nick asks Strand why he did that, and Strand says he’s going to need Nick’s skills (what those are, who knows?) when he makes his escape.
Still out with the troops, Travis is asked to stay in the vehicle when they’re called to a building where other troops are being overrun by Walkers. Not long afterwards, some of the soldiers return to the vehicle in retreat, but Moyers is not with them. He’s apparently been turned, although – naturally – the series never shows us this. All we see is a few Walkers exiting the building and the soldiers blowing them up with a grenade. One of the soldiers tells Travis that they’re no longer going to the hospital. They’ll drop him off back at the safe zone, and it appears that they’ve been spooked enough by what they were just involved in that they’re going AWOL.
When Travis returns to the safe zone, he’s upset by what Daniel has done to Andrew and even more upset that Madison knew about it. Daniel also feels a bit guilty about what he had to do, and I’m not too happy that the series has taken one of its most promising characters and made him as unlikeable as the rest of this lot. The episode concludes with Daniel paying a visit to the arena the soldier told him about, seeing the doors chained shut and the Walkers inside (which, again, we never see… not even a hand through a crack in the doors) trying to break out.
The biggest problem I had with this week’s episode – other than the fact that it’s mostly just as boring as the four that came before it – is the idea that the United States military would be ordered to kill all the remaining living and healthy people just to avoid them potentially turning in the future. Not only is an evil military a cliché from hundreds of other apocalyptic and sci-fi stories, but it makes little, if any, sense in the context of this show. It’s also a pretty big insult to potential loyal viewers (something this series should cherish considering how lame it has been) to insult members of the military by suggesting that they’re all a bunch of mindless, order-following grunts with no conscience. Yeah, there’s always a few non-ranking members that care, but almost always the person in charge (see Lt. Moyers) is a heartless bastard.
I did like what I’ve seen so far from Victor Strand. He appears to be the first person to pop up on this show that the audience can really latch onto and root for, even if he seems so far to be less than a good guy. Why wasn’t this character introduced from the start? He appears to have more charisma than any other actor we’ve seen on the show. I’m hoping we’ll find out more about him in next week’s season finale, but given what’s come so far, I’m not holding out hope for anything entertaining.