In the immortal words of Channel 4 news team legend Ron Burgundy, “Well, that escalated quickly!” Though Los Angeles is overrun by walkers, human beings are the most dangerous and sinister forces at work in “Cobalt”, the penultimate episode of Fear The Walking Dead. Based on the previous four episodes, this should come as no surprise, but now we get our first look at the sort of apocalyptic brutality and ruthless survivalism we’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead. Of course, the looming zombie apocalypse is nothing to sneeze at, but for now the biggest danger is the unpredictability of other people, especially when they’re backed into a corner and looking death in the face.
After being unceremoniously carted away by the Army last week, Nick and Griselda are being held in a weird military hospital/black site-style prison. And they’re not alone — the military is culling members of the community and holding them in captivity. Daniel, however, has a plan for retrieving his wife. Using Ofelia as a honeypot, the pair lures the smitten soldier Reynolds into a trap, tying him up in the basement of an abandoned home with the intention of using him as a bargaining chip to trade to the military for Griselda’s safe release. At least, that’s what Ofelia thinks the plan is. In truth, Daniel plans on using his barber tools to give Reynolds the closest shave of his life, wielding his blades to elicit information from the imprisoned infantryman one layer of skin at a time.
No, Daniel isn’t a member of House Bolton; as we learn in a scenery-chewing performance by Ruben Blades (quickly becoming the series MVP), he learned the grisly art of torture and interrogation during Salvadoran Civil War. While Ofelia is devastated by this turn of events, Madison takes it surprisingly well, asking Daniel a chillingly pragmatic question: “Did he tell us what we need to know?” As it turns out, he did. Reynolds revealed both the location of the military hospital where Griselda is being held, as well as the meaning of “Cobalt”, a military code to commence the evacuation of all enlisted military from the LA area the next day. The civilians, however, have been marked for “humane extermination,” which is probably one of the last things you’d like the United States military to mark you down for.
While Reynolds is regretting ever meeting his girlfriend’s father, Travis is taking a more diplomatic tack to rescuing Nick, Griselda, and his ex-wife Liza by entreating Moyers, the obnoxious lieutenant in charge of LA’s very own Guantanamo Bay. It isn’t until Mr. Mayor, as Moyers insists on calling Travis, warns of an impending civilian insurrection that Lieutenant Douchebag and his howling commandos agree to take Travis to the hospital. Sadly, the world’s most obnoxious fighting force never makes it to the hospital. While stopped, Travis is goaded into taking out a lone walker with a military-grade sniper rifle, but he is unable to bring himself to do it. Shortly thereafter, the team gets a distress call from another unit nearby, which is pinned down in a house full of walkers. Responding to the call proves to be a fatal mistake as Moyers gets trapped in the house and presumably dies. This forces the remaining members of the squadron to retreat, taking Travis back to his house rather than to the military hospital. So, basically, it was an apocalyptic remake of Ride Along with 0% Kevin Hart.
Back at the homestead, Travis is understandably upset when he realizes that Daniel took Supercuts to a new level. He’s even angrier when he learns that Madison did nothing to stop it. Travis may not have the police training, but he fills the early Rick Grimes role of the upstanding, moralizing champion of the people quite well. (Of course, we’ve seen how Rick changes over the course of five seasons, so we’ll see how long Travis can keep up the Boy Scout routine.) Just about the only thing that Travis can’t be upset about is how useful Reynolds’ information will be. One fact that Daniel seemingly kept to himself, though, is that the military cordoned off hundreds, if not thousands, of infected in a nearby stadium. At the episode’s close, Daniel creeps to the chained-up stadium doors, one can’t help but wonder if he intends to unleash the monsters within to overrun the soldiers. Actually, given Daniel’s track record so far, it’s not a matter of if, but when. And then it becomes a question of what will happen when they actually get to the military hospital
Speaking of that top-secret military hospital, it is a weird combination of a triage ward and a Children of Men-style prison camp. On one side, cherry-picked citizens are being held in large holding cells. One of these citizens is a supremely suave black man wearing the sharpest suit I’ve seen this side of a GQ spread. Played by Colman Domingo, this charismatic, silver-tongued mystery man proves difficult to pin down. At the episode’s outset, he convinces Doug (Travis’ sad sack neighbor) that he is a complete failure as a father and a husband, and that his attractive wife will have no problem finding a real man to help her ride out the apocalypse. Naturally, this sends the poor blubbering man into hysterics, prompting guards to carry him away. Later in the episode, the mystery man saves Nick from being hauled off by soldiers by trading a pair of diamond cufflinks to a less-than-scrupulous guard. When Nick asks him why, the slickster produces a key and reveals that he’ll need a “man of [Nick’s] talents” when it comes time to make good his escape.
Meanwhile, in the hospital wing, Liza continues to get on-the-job training from Bethany, the strangely stern military doctor who convinced her to leave her family behind at the end of last week’s episode. Though she manages to provide comfort to the ailing and save several lives, there is nothing she can do for Griselda. With her foot amputated, Griselda lies in a special ward under heavy sedation. Unfortunately, septic shock has set in and Griselda’s brain is rapidly swelling. Before she dies in front of Liza, Griselda has a supremely creepy monologue in which she rapidly babbles in Spanish about the horrible things she did and her “true nature,” which seem like veiled references to the things she and her husband had to do in order to escape El Salvador during the war. When she passes away, the grim task of preventing her from turning falls to Liza, who uses an Anton Chigurh-style captive bolt pistol to deliver a humane kill shot. It is the first major death to hit the core cast and one that will undoubtedly have horrible emotional repercussions once Daniel and the others learn what happened. Something tells me, though, that Griselda won’t be the last major character to kick the bucket this season though…
Oh yeah, Alicia and Chris also had a weird plotline where they got drunk on champagne, played dress-up, and had an uncomfortable amount of sexual tension while they destroyed a rich family’s abandoned home. Take that, one percenters!
What did you think of tonight’s episode of Fear The Walking Dead? Who will survive the finale? Let us know your theories in the comments below.
Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of 100 Things Avengers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. You can follow him on Twitter (@Osteoferocious).