Fans have been divided on the freshman season of "Fear The Walking Dead" -- some expressing frustration at the slow pace, others at the lack of a Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) or Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) style breakout badass in the cast.
I'm going to respectfully disagree. "Fear" has more than proven itself in six short episodes, showing that it wasn't just "Walking Dead" in Los Angeles, but in fact an entirely different show, with entirely different things on its mind. Specifically: what do people do when the world starts to fall apart? Do they pretend things haven't changed? Do they immediately revert to their animal state? Or something in between?
And where "Walking Dead" spent literally seasons trying to figure out how to show rather than tell, "Fear" has been offering up beautifully scripted and acted vignettes since the first episode.
That said, if you were waiting for things to get actually apocalyptic, "The Good Man" was your episode. Here's the biggest, baddest moments from the season finale.
Streets Of FireAMC
The opening shots are like "True Detective" season 2, but with, you know... zombies... And very poetically recall the opening of the first episode. Los Angeles is quiet, it's night... But here and there we see fires and wreckage. And of course, the arena filled with 2,000 members of the undead. Yikes.
With that -- and Cobalt, the executive order that will find the military eliminating everyone in the Los Angeles Safe Zone while they make their speedy escape -- in mind, the Clarks, Manawas and Salazars are getting ready to head East (to Atlanta, maybe?). Except they're not, of course: Nick (Frank Dillane) and Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) are still at the compound, so the survivors are headed to go save them.
Funny thing about that, though... Nick is under the influence of the enigmatic Strand (Colman Domingo), while Griselda is straight up dead.
It's a strange structure for a mission plot, don't you think? When the audience knows that they're all doomed from the start, and will never achieve their objective. It's also a fitting metaphor for the entirety of the show: do you push on, even when everything is already lost?
Exner (Sandrine Holt) is prepping for departure as well, getting only essential supplies and personnel out. That includes Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who is doing a little bargaining of her own: take her, and Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) go with her. Wonder how that's going to go over with Travis, when he's told he has to leave Madison (Kim Dickens) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey)? Well, I bet. Real well.
He's Got The Zombies, Show Me The ZombiesAMC
As our heroes drive to save their family members, Daniel (Rubén Blades) stays back to create a distraction. He walks up to two bored military guards, who threaten to shoot him for entering a restricted area. "You should save your ammunition," Daniel calmly says, and walks away... As all 2,000 walkers from the arena head towards the installation.
First: OH S--T.
Second: there's the zombies you asked for -- and the Daryl style badass you wanted, too. Some cool guys walk away from explosions, others are chill while an army of the undead walks directly behind them.
Also, what a horrible, horrible solution, right? Sure they want to save their family, but is ruining Los Angeles a good part of the deal? I guess they think that the military is going to fire-bomb the place anyway, who cares; but if one were to place a guess as to why Los Angeles won't recover from the zombie apocalypse, you can trace it all back to Daniel Salazar.
Strand By Your ManAMC
A small moment, but Nick proves his worth with Strand as the compound starts to fall. "Time to go," Strand tells him, searching fruitlessly for his key to their cage.... Which Nick pilfered off of him. Strand smiles. Whatever happens to the rest of the cast, I'm really looking forward to watching this pairing next year.
This Is The EndAMC
Exner realizes the compound is compromised, and quickly tells everyone to exit -- she'll stay behind with the "patients." Nick and Strand, meanwhile, casually walk out of the compound as Strand notes they shouldn't free anyone else because there's no, "value add." Oh, and Chris and Alicia hide in a car to avoid detection by the military, which is a terrible plan, because they get detected by the military.
A pretty rapey military dude propositions Alicia, so Chris -- who saw her naked back last episode, and is therefore in love with her -- tries to punch him out. He punches Chris out instead, leaving Alicia with the rapey dude. Yikes! Watch out, Alicia!
Meanwhile, Liza needs to make a decision: wait around for hordes of hungry undead to eat her, or get on a truck to safety. Still unclear on what to do, she watches a military man who got bit run head first into a helicopter blade. She sees the guard tower fall. And that's when she, against all logic, decides to run back inside.
I mean... Bad survival instincts, Liza.
My Father's WatchAMC
Again, let's discuss your assertion, dear viewer, that there are no bad-asses on this show. Entering a zombie infested area of the compound, Strand casually walks up to a walker to pick up a flashlight. "It's all right, they're slow," he tells Nick. And that's when he sees the soldier from last episode, getting snacked on by a zombie.
He sees his watch -- the one he traded to the soldier for safety -- and takes it back with a sneer and a growl.
I mean... Who on "Walking Dead" could possibly all chill-like go up to a guy being eaten just to take their property back? And a gun, mind you, but still.
Anyway, all that seems for naught when they get trapped in a hallway behind a locked door. Strand blasts away at the undead, they're running out of ammo -- and that's when Travis and Madison catch up to them.
Apocalypse Mom(s)Justina Mintz/AMC
Madison and co. try to open to the door, but the walkers are almost on them... And that's when we get, arguably, the most powerful, subtle moment in the episode: Madison gives up. Without a word, she says goodbye to her son. He sees it in her eyes. He panics. Then Liza runs up and opens the door with a keycard, leading to an insane fight scene in a kitchen.
There, everyone gets to kill a zombie, including Nick -- who saves Madison. But that's going to be an interesting moment to revisit, and again ties into the whole theme of the show: for weeks, Madison has been going to bat for Nick. But when the chips are down, she's ready to give up on him. Him, not so much on her.
Together Again -- For The First TimeAMC
Finally, everyone -- even first cousin Strand -- is in the same room. Sadly, that room is the hospital, where Exner has been taking the time to euthanize her patients. Exner tells them about an exit in the back of the compound, where they plan on heading east. "Go west," Strand tells Madison, suggesting that going out on the water where he's prepared with supplies is the way to go.
On the way out, though, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) discovers something horrible: stacks of ashes from burnt bodies, including her mom. MOOOOOOOM.
The Good ManAMC
Here's a detail I neglected to mention: Daniel asked Travis to bring Andrew (Shawn Hatosy), the corporal who was boning Ofelia, and got tortured for info on Cobalt by Daniel, along for the ride. Travis trusted Andrew, instead, and told him to stay behind. Bad decision, as Andrew returns with a gun... And shoots Ofelia in the arm.
That's when Travis breaks. He jumps on Andrew, and beats the s--t out of him, blood bursting from Andrew's mouth as he lies on the ground. Like Madison, when the chips are down his true nature shows through.
Escape From LAAMC
Following Strand's directions, the group drives through the burnt ruins of Los Angeles, shots of zombies everywhere. And when they finally arrive, they find themselves at Strand's compound. It's pristine, protected, and quiet. Madison and Nick take a moment to breathe, and Madison apologizes. Not for ditching him in the hallway, but for letting him be taken in the first place.
But Nick's okay, he finally knows what his place in the world. In fact, as he says, "I feel like the rest of the world is catching up to me."
...Which is appropriate, because they're going to keep running. Nick asks Strand if they can stay, and he gives it a big fat nope. They need to stay in constant motion. When Nick asks him if he's crazy, Strand quips, "The only way to survive a mad world is to embrace the madness." His breed of madness? A boat named Abagail, which they'll have to use to keep moving, and stay ahead of the literal zombie tide.
Liza And Let DieAMC
One last bomb to drop: Liza got bit while they were escaping. She stands on the shore, seagulls in the background, hoping to look at the sea while killing herself. But she can't do it, so she hands her gun to Madison to do the deed.
Travis approaches, and even after all this, he's still staying optimistic. He says they have meds, they can save her, he won't let her do this. But Liza lays down the law, looks him in the face and explains the way of the world. Travis can't look her in the eyes, he doesn't want to listen. But finally, crying, he admits defeat. Liza sobs, and we cut to a mostly silent montage. Chris and Alicia are eating popsicles when the gunshot rings out. Travis runs to the sea, grabbing the sand like his life depends on it. Chris finds his mother's body.
And Madison finds Travis, holding him as the waves wash over his body.
You can't stop the tide, Travis, as much as you want to. And thus ends the first, excellent season of "Fear The Walking Dead." Not on a scene of death and destruction, but zooming out over the ocean, with a picture of serene beauty. Except... It's broken up by a band of toxic algae before we reach the sunset. It's going to be a long road -- or sail -- until they reach their happy ending, and along the way lies death, destruction, and tests of everything they hold dear.