Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episodes of Fear the Walking Dead! Proceed with caution, survivors. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched the latest episodes, “Wrath” and “North”, we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
Well, that was interesting. After pulling us kicking and screaming across land and sea for most of this summer, Fear the Walking Dead concludes its second season with two back-to-back episodes, wrapping up some of this year’s storylines in unexpectedly satisfying ways and some, er, less so.
The decision to run “Wrath” and “North” on the same night winds up making a kind of emotional sense, if only because “Wrath” is so clearly the lesser of the two, and every bit as dark and one-dimensional as its title suggests. That darkness is entirely due to the actions of Chris’ “friends,” whom we’ve learned to hate and despise over the course of the last several weeks. But just in case we didn’t despise these bro-dudes, who put as much thought into killing as they do to playing their favorite tunes, “Wrath” immediately confirms that 1.) Chris is now dead as disco, and 2.) These asshats are responsible. Rarely in The Walking Dead universe have we encountered stereotypes as unimaginatively rendered as these two millennials. So it comes as no great surprise when Travis beats their faces in. But it’s not nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be either. I’d been actively rooting for this moment for some time now, but the two lads are so stupid when they admit to Travis that they killed his son when he became “dead weight” after falling asleep at the wheel of their truck, it’s a little like Travis taking his titular anger out on a roomful of stuffed animals.
What’s most disappointing, however, is that Madison’s decision-making skills are almost as inept in this episode. After discovering that Chris is killed, she moves to throw his idiot bros out of the resort, but the other refugees take offense when she lies and says she’s giving them emergency medical treatment. Naturally, a mob forms, catching Travis’ interest. One of the more frustrating staples of this world is the lack of consistency in its heroes IQ’s; and like so many other survivors we’ve known, Madison is only as smart as the plot needs her to be in any given episode.
In “North”, thankfully, the plot works better. Or at least moves more relentlessly than in just about any other episode this year. In true Walking Dead form, season 2 is capped with action and spectacle. Travis is immediately imprisoned by the hotel resort’s staff after he injured Oscar during his killing spree. Which puts Madison and co. at odds with their newfound friends. After Oscar dies from his injuries, they move to kill Travis, but Alicia draws first blood (as well as her first human kill). Then Madison, Travis, and Alicia flee into the night, while Strand elects to stay behind. I’m not entirely sure why he stays, but it’s likely he’s hatching some plan in which he’ll convince everyone that he tried to stop Madison but she got away. Then he’ll gradually rise in power and take control of the resort. At least that’s how I’m hoping it plays out. Because if Strand just winds up dying like Chris in some brief flashback, I’m gonna get out a Daryl Dixon-sized can of whoopass. Say it with me people: If Strand dies, we riot.
Nick’s story winds up less satisfying. Season 2 Nick has fallen rather uncomfortably into the “white savior” role of movies like Dances with Wolves and Avatar. The show would have viewers believe that a broken heroin addict is the only person capable of saving the colonia. And Luci, as badass as she was when we first met her, sadly suffers from Trinity Syndrome. Ever since she fell into Nick’s arms, she’s become as bland and ineffectual as most of the background extras. The one saving grace of this storyline, and the one character in it with genuine dimension, turns out to be Alejandro. Yes, he who appeared to be just a token cult leader at first becomes a surprising study in heroism when he saves his people in death as much as he did in life. But are Alejandro’s motivations purely altruistic or is he motivated by ego? His ambiguity is appreciated. If only Nick had as much of it. But that might get in the way of what we’re presumably supposed to regard as his exquisite emo beauty.
Not that it matters much. Because now he and Luci have been captured by border thugs, as has Ofelia (who is by far the most underused, underdeveloped character on this show). Which leads me to worry that next season the three will be thrown into the same prison camp and we’ll have to suffer through some kind of love triangle.
An altogether different triangle is again rearing its head with Madison, Nick, and Alicia. The light of jealousy is lit once more in the daughter’s eyes when she realizes her mom is still keen on reuniting at all costs with her brother. Alicia earned her zombie-slaying stripes this season, and her relationship with her mother strengthened. So wherever Fear the Walking Dead heads next year, I’m hoping against hope the show finds a way to preserve their dynamic.
So long as it doesn’t kill Strand.
— Fear the Walking Dead strives for social relevancy in these episodes with various shots of the border fence beckoning our characters. But it never quite gels as the political metaphor I sense it wants to be.
— “Mexcrement”? Good God, could these jackasses be any less sympathetic, or more broadly drawn?
— Once more Travis shows that he’s never better than when he’s having a good old-fashioned complete nervous breakdown.
— “North” may be the most gruesome episode yet on either Walking Dead show. Gratuitously so. Are those long, loving close-up shots of the knife and saw going into Oscar’s brain–and the resulting head cheese that oozes out–really necessary?
— Season 3 needs to lighten up on the music at the end of each episode. I’m sure I’m not the only who resents being ordered what to feel by the soundtrack.
What did you think of this week’s episodes? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).