FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Review: “Date of Death”

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The penultimate episode of ’s second season was short on action and zombie deaths, but heavy on emotion. It comes across as a very calculated move on the ’ part, after the first season ended with a large-scale action sequence complete with helicopters and explosions, but left many viewers feeling uninvested and distant from the cast of characters.

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This season, especially the back half, has been packed with character exploration and emotion. The payoff? A FTWD episode made me feel feelings. The episode largely revolved around the strained relationship of father and son Travis and Chris. A few episodes ago, Chris and Travis happened upon a group of young kids, college-aged, who Chris immediately took a liking to and Travis did not. The last we saw of them, Chris had just shot a man to death in a barn, point blank, after their group had trespassed on his farm. Travis’ look of disgust mixed with intense worry was left lingering last week as the storyline went unaddressed. We picked up here at the beginning of this episode, and unsurprisingly the little sociopath Chris, much to Travis’ dismay, showed no remorse for the life he just took. Chris’ explanation: there is no more good or bad in this world. Only us vs. them. Kill or be killed. There’s no use for having remorse or hesitating to do what you have to do.

The episode cuts back and forth from the present, where Travis has arrived at the hotel Madison and co. have shacked up in, along with dozens of other survivors clanging at the gates to get in. When Madison spots her rather tall husband in the back of the group, they make their way to each other, and she somehow gets him in without the rest of the people pushing their way through the open gate (come one, guys, even the zombies seem to have this down). Travis is conspicuously without his son. When Madison asks him where he is, we see what actually went on to transpire on the farm.

In the altercation, one of the kids had been shot clean through his leg. Travis immediately picks up on the fact that the kid is terrified to admit any crippling injury in front of his “friends” in fear of being killed or left behind. Travis does his best to mend the poor guy back to health, but after a week goes by and he still is not on his feet (and the boys have eaten every chicken alive on the premises) they decide it’s time to move on. And if that means putting their wounded “friend” out of his misery, then they are prepared to do that (it later comes out that they’d done it once before).

Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris Manawa, Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

Travis is sickened by the idea. He knows the kid will get better given time. But once the other guys have gotten it in their heads that it’s time to mosey on, it’s already too late. Sensing this, Travis steals a gun off his son, in order to protect the wounded youngster (and himself). However, and this may have gotten the biggest emotional rise out of me in an episode that was packed with it, Chris comes in, fools him into thinking he’s come to his senses and is back on board with his good ol’ dad, then incapacitates him, calling his new friends in, and takes the gun back. The worst sort of betrayal.

This of course leads to a gut-wrenching goodbye between father and son, Travis literally begging Chris not to ride off with the other boys. “I told her I’d protect you,” Travis says about his wife and Chris’ deceased mother, who Travis mercy killed at the end of season one. Chris explains that by letting him go, Travis IS protecting him. Travis doesn’t have what it takes to survive in this world, and that’s something Chris can’t make his dad understand. In a way he’s right. On the other hand, how could you do your old man like that?! Eventually, he does ride off into the distance, with Travis’ last words to him being “Goddamn you, Chris!” He later vocalizes his regret about not having told his son he loved him one last time. No, that’s not a tear in my eye. Okay, it is.

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As if that wasn’t enough emotion for a show that’s supposed to be about corpses eating people and getting killed in new disgusting ways, Madison decides NOW is a good time to drop this bomb on her daughter Alicia: her father didn’t fall asleep at the wheel and die in a car crash. He killed himself in an intentional car crash. He left a note. I’m still not happy with Madison as a character (she contradicts herself every other scene it seems) and so this scene just came off as a little too much. We already had our emotional moments and revelations for the episode. This could have been saved for another time.

Although when that other time would be I’m not sure as the preview for next week makes it look like quite the action packed two hours (that’s right, TWO hours). For one thing, Chris and his new jerk friends appear to have found the hotel. That’s a pretty quick father and son reunion. I have a feeling Chris is going bye-bye next episode, maybe by Travis’ hand when he has to make a choice–his son, or an innocent who Chris is about to kill. Either way, it should make for an interesting finale to a solid season.

TB-TV-Grade-A-
Season 2, Episode 13 (S02E13)
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9PM on AMC

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Paul produces and co-hosts SHOWoff Live, a Facebook live show covering all things TV/movies.

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