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by Thom Yee

Fear the Walking Dead images courtesy of AMC.

Fear the Walking Dead images courtesy of AMC.

1×05: “Cobalt”

It may not be the best example of our own humanity when we react positively to death on a show we watch week after week, but when we cheer for the deaths of certain characters, some entirely innocent, does that actually make us bad people?

In this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, entitled “Cobalt”, we finally learn the meaning of that mysterious term, the military’s plan for self-extraction and abandonment (and possibly extermination) of its civilian charges.  And it’s happening soon. Except delete the word ‘finally’, because there have been no seeds for cobalt planted thus far, and that’s the type of lack of forethought that’s really hurt the show in these late stages. By now we’ve all become relatively well adjusted with our primary characters, and even though some of the time we’ve spent with them has bordered on navel-gazing, it’s at least added to a type of show that’s more concerned with the realities of a zombie outbreak than the adrenaline and gore of a zombie takeover.

Corporal Adams probably gets the worst of things this week as we, once again, witness the terrible cost of getting some in a horror story when he’s tortured for information by Daniel Salazar. Even though I don’t quite feel like torture has become a hoary old trope in these types of shows yet, it was a scene in which I couldn’t help but reminisce on something similar from a much better show (no matter how we felt about that other show’s ending):

 

After Adams’ live flaying and Ofelia’s horrific realizations of the depths of her own father’s capacity for survival, we follow Daniel to the local sports arena where he finds a hoard of more than 2000 reanimated dead inside, pounding at the locked gates and answering our question, “Where have all the zombies gone?”  It’s a moment almost boiling over with obvious peril and the total destruction of mankind, but I’m really hoping it’s not the opening of those gates and the military’s overestimation of its control of the situation that we end the season with, because that feels like an easy way out that’s a little too inconsistent with the story being told so far.

Meanwhile, the military finally capitulates to one of Travis’ demands to be taken to military command, only for a zombie altercation to keep him from getting there and, seemingly, the death of Lieutenant Moyers (Yay 1!), while at the command’s medical ward, we catch up with Liza and Dr. Exner and don’t learn anything we didn’t already know from watching the parent show, although we do get to see the walking limping plot device known as Griselda finally put out of her misery (Yay 2!). These scenes contain their own individual character moments, chiefly that Travis still kind of sucks even after what he learned last episode and Liza cares more about her son Chris and former husband Travis than Madison and her family (shock!), but the most important thing we get from this time at military HQ is the introduction of Victor Strand, a self-involved manipulator who has plans for Nick in their eventual attempted escape. Strand could be an important newcomer to the show, as could Dr. Exner if she survives, but the introduction of potentially important characters this late leaves us with even more to clean up next episode, the last of the season.

Dr. Exner:  "She'll turn, Liza, and we don't want her to turn.  Right, friendo?"

Dr. Exner: “We don’t want her to turn, do we, Friend-O?”

I’ve enjoyed Fear the Walking Dead, especially earlier on, as it fit my idea of a reasonably realistic escalation of events during a zombie outbreak, but seeing where we are and where we seem to be trying to get here at this late in the game, it makes the progression of this season is all feel way off. The build up to “Cobalt”’s key moments are all wrong given the pace and style of the preceding episodes, with several woefully underdeveloped characters, some characters forced to look dumb because that’s where the plot suddenly needs them to be, and a show that seems too ready to jump head long into the apocalypse. There have been criticisms far and wide over how slow Fear the Walking Dead has been, something that I’ve been okay with as long as the show was taking a realistic approach before the inevitable, but “Cobalt” has shown us the peril of pushing a show forward with a sudden jolt when its story and characters aren’t caught up.

Or maybe I’m just in a bad mood because of all the shaky cam in this episode. F*ck shaky cam!

Fear the Walking Dead — “Cobalt” final score:

2.5


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