The first season of Fear the Walking Dead ended Sunday night with a finale that brought some much needed action, drama and character building to a series that has struggled mightily to find its voice.
Six weeks ago, when we first sat down to watch this spinoff to The Walking Dead, we were promised a glimpse at how Los Angeles fell to the zombie infection; a prequel to the mayhem in Atlanta. We got that, but on a very micro scale, as we’ve meticulously followed two teachers and their respective families through the initial shock, denial, adaptation and eventual acceptance of what’s occurring. In fact that last bit, acceptance, was the focus of the finale, especially on the shoulders of Travis.
The finale began with some beautiful shots of a pitch black Los Angeles, providing the kind of widespread scope the show rarely gave us a glimpse of. Later, after the action-packed invasion of the military base, we got those views again as the characters dove through the Los Angeles aqueduct. Both these scene were welcome band-aids on the show’s very insular view of the city’s fall and showed up just in time.
Between those scenes, we witnessed the show’s biggest action scenes by far. Actually, that’s almost an understatement, as Fear the Walking Dead has certainly not been known for its action. Travis, Madison, Daniel and the crew finally left the safety of their own home to execute a plan that’ll save Nick, Griselda and Liza from the military base, which involved Daniel unleashing thousands of zombies who were locked in a stadium to distract the soldiers as everyone makes the rescue. Now, this was probably the most horrific and selfish thing done so far on this show—sacrificing God knows how many to save just three people—but I’m okay with it. That’s the attitude humanity would likely have in a awful situation like this and, despicable as it is, it tells you something even more important about Daniel. He’s not a good person, and never has been.
The zombie distraction worked and through some very dramatic near misses, everyone gets out. However, just as they’re about to leave, the soldier Daniel interrogated from the previous episode, Andy, returned. Travis had let him go earlier and now that decision backfired. In that moment, seeing his trust in people betrayed, Travis snapped. He attacks Andy and beats him to a pulp. It was the first of two big moments that would finally reveal what this first season of Fear the Walking Dead has actually been about.
Once they got out, the salesman Strand suggested the group not go east to the desert as planned, but west to his beach house. (Fun fact: The beach house he’s is in Palos Verdes, California, and was also the house Turtle owned in the Entourage movie. I’m guessing Turtle and the Entourage boys have been eaten by zombies.) The beach house seems like a good place for them to hold up but no. Strand isn’t having it. He wants to be mobile and potentially teased to Nick that he has a yacht they could use. How convenient.
Then, in the show’s closing moments, we found out Liza—Chris’s mom and Travis’s ex—had been injured. She’s infected and wants Madison to kill her. “Don’t let Travis do it, it will break him” she said. In that moment, Travis arrived, tears were shed, and he shot his ex-wife—the mother of his son—in the head.
As Travis cried on his knees on the cusp of the ocean, the whole point of this very divisive, often boring, season of Fear the Walking Dead revealed itself. Madison may get top billing, but from episode one she was ready for this. No, season one has been about Travis. The character who denied what was happening the longest. Who quickly adapted to protect both his families despite not really being sure what’s going on. Who was diplomatic to even the worst enemies and who has finally been broken by killing his own ex-wife for the survival of the greater good. In that arc, we see the arc most of us would hope to have in a situation like Fear the Walking Dead. We’d want to remain the best person we could be... until we couldn’t.
In the season’s final shot, the camera pulled back to reveal a huge section of southern California. It then panned left and swooped down over the ocean. Will season two actually see our characters take Strand’s yacht? What dangers are there on the water? And how far will they make it? Could Los Angeles only be the setting for season one? Lots and lots of questions that we’ll presumably get the answers to next year.
So that’s season one of Fear the Walking Dead. For the most part, I was horribly disappointed by it. But this finale was solid, a great mix of what the show was and what the show could be. I’m confident that, with season two, things will escalate a bit more quickly, get a bit more dramatic and live up to its namesake. And if it really does become an international show, that would be awesome. Either way, a strong finish.
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