FEAR THE WALKING DEAD has returned with a back-to-back two episode premiere. Last season left many of our main characters separated and fighting for their survival, and we also got the gut-wrenching reveal that Travis’ son Chris had been killed. Chris had actually become one of the more interesting characters on the show, with his rebellious dark side (perhaps mentally unstable) and defiant attitude towards his father. It was one of the more emotional arcs to see father and son torn apart as they were, and you really felt for Travis when he learned of his son’s unfortunate demise.
Unfortunately, Fear the Walking Dead does not have a lot of legs. There aren’t a ton of creative paths they can take that we haven’t seen done a million times before in the genre, and even in the series that spawned it, The Walking Dead. It all seems to be the same: run for a little bit, kill some zombies, settle down somewhere that seems a safe haven only to find out it’s not so safe after all, run, kill some zombies, repeat. It appears that that is the predictable direction this season is headed, though there were some surprises along the way.
It was in fact an action packed two hours, filled with a ton of gore. We pick up with Travis, Alicia, and Madison having been captured by some men in army fatigues at their hotel and brought to their facility. Alicia and Madison are separated from the men and held in an office-like room where we meet new character Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman), a good looking maniac who at first comes off polite if awkward, but is soon revealed to be running experiments on people, murdering them and recording how long it takes them to be resurrected as a zombie. This is actually probably crucial information to have, especially in the early days of the zombie apocalypse (which I think we are still in? How long has it been, a couple months?). I don’t blame Troy for wanting to know these answers, but the way he is going about it is all wrong.
Especially when we realize that Travis is potentially next to be experimented on. Held in captivity, Travis spots Nick and a badly wounded Luciana in the same prison as him. They reacquaint themselves (it’s been about an entire season since Travis and Nick have interacted) and Travis let’s them know that he has no intention of dying here. Troy’s army boy friends are taking innocent people, shooting them in the chest, tying them up, and then noting how long it takes for people to turn. Soon enough it’s Travis’ turn (of particular interest because he is of Mauri descent and they have not tested any of his people before–Travis actually tells them that they do not turn, which would be awesome if true). But anyway, Travis is able to escape because he’s a bad ass, and Nick and another prisoner help him as well.
Meanwhile, Alicia and Madison plot a plan to get out of their office-prison. It turns out Alicia smuggled in a knife. When Troy comes in to talk to them one day, Madison waits behind the door, then leaps out at him. He quickly gets the upperhand, and even throws Alicia against a wall. However, Troy would soon regret being so kind as to bring the girls tea. Madison, in a moment of desperation, jams a TEASPOON into Troy’s eye socket. That’ll do it. Using him as a hostage, she gets herself and Alicia out of their confines around the same time Travis, Nick, and Luciana are escaping.
However, as is typical, they are soon compromised again. Travis is thrown into a zombie pit and in one of the two hour’s most harrowing sequences fights off every last one of them successfully, however not without being critically injured himself. Nick and Luciana are also recaptured after running through some underground tunnels for a bit. And the situation with Madison, Troy, and the spoon is deescalated when Troy’s older brother (and far more sensible one) Jake (Sam Underwood) shows up. Apparently Troy was doing his little experiments unbeknownst to the rest of the group, and Jake sides with Madison. Of course Madison doesn’t trust anyone or want anybody else’s help, but Jake insists she come with them. Travis needs help, as well as Luciana, and so she doesn’t have much choice. Then a convenient zombie heard shows up to make her decision for her.
Here’s the real shocker and SPOILER ALERT: Travis doesn’t make it. I’m kind of mad about it. There are not a lot of characters I root for in this show. I think Madison is annoying and acts irrationally often. Nick is incredibly whiny. Alicia almost has no character whatsoever. I think Strand is interesting, if dumb at times, but he is so far removed from the main story at this point (more on that in a bit). And Ofelia? Who is Ofelia again? Has she ever done one interesting thin in this show?
Like I said, Chris had just begun to become interesting and they killed him off last season. Travis was somebody to root for. Cliff Curtis’ portrayal of the father just wanting to keep his family alive was solid and he will be sorely missed. This is like if Rick Grimes had died instead of Lori in the third season of The Walking Dead. I almost don’t even want to watch this show without him. Bummer.
Madison, now in the hands of the Ottos, tells Alicia and Nick that they are going to stay there and take over the place if they have to. She is a woman scorned after Travis’ death and it will at least be interesting to watch her reaction to it all. But this just fits into the repetitive narrative I detailed at the top of this review. Run a while. Stay a while. Run again. We know where this leads, even if we don’t know how yet.
And Strand is still at the Mexican beachside hotel, where he lies and tells everyone he’s a doctor so they don’t kick him out. He is able to successfully remove shrapnel from an injured person AND deliver a baby. Yet they still kick him out. It doesn’t make much sense, and feels like the writers just need to get Strand to where they need him to be, but if he joins the main storyline again, it will probably make it a little more tolerable.
Season 3, Episode 1-2 (S03E01-02)
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday at 9PM on AMC
Paul Gulyas | Contributor