The third season of Fear the Walking Dead began Sunday night, and in the midst of the two-episode premiere, the show did something very unexpected. It was so unexpected, in fact, that I was sure I was watching a dream sequence. But no: what happened actually happened.
At the start of the second episode, Travis, either the show’s second or third main character depending on how you look at it, was killed. After escaping the compound from the first episode on a helicopter, the vehicle took fire and Travis got shot. He then admitted he was dying and threw himself off the helicopter, tumbling to the ground below.
This was a huge deal. For context, it’s equivalent of killing Michonne on The Walking Dead. Madison is Fear’s equivalent of Rick, and her son Nick is Daryl, so Travis is probably Michonne, especially since he and Madison are married. And it was a pretty ballsy thing to do—and maybe just the thing to get fans reinvested in a show that gets good ratings but has almost zero buzz, especially compared to its sister show.
Showrunner Dave Erickson said after the episode that they killed Travis because his story had come to its conclusion. In season one, Travis vowed to protect his biological son, Chris. In season two, he broke that promise and Chris was killed. So then, in season three, to make amends he helped find his missing stepson, Nick. He’d done his duty, protected his boys to the best of his ability, and it was time for him to go. Erickson also said that Travis’ death will have a profound effect on the surviving characters as the season wears on.
While I thought killing Travis was a bold and unexpected move, the fact it happened mostly through the eyes of new characters seemed to undercut it a bit. His step-daughter Alicia was there, but she only had the new characters to project on. It wasn’t until the end of the episode, when Madison found out Travis was dead, that the show paid the emotional price for the killing. By then, though, almost 40 minutes of the show had passed and it felt a bit like an afterthought. At least in my opinion. I just didn’t feel the heartache that I’m sure the show’s creators wanted me to.
Don’t worry about actor Cliff Curtis, though. He was recently cast in the upcoming James Cameron Avatar sequels, reportedly in a major role. So he’ll be in Pandora as Madison, Nick, and Alicia deal with his passing.