by Thom Yee
1×06: “The Good Man”
So they let them out.
This is the final episode of the season and the one where our heroes try to save their three taken loved ones — Nick, Liza, and Griselda — by committing the slow, shambling, long-term, horrific genocide of the remaining L.A. residents. We knew that the arena full of crashing-at-the-gates, yearning-to-be-free-and-eat-brains zombies were most likely going to be some sort of trump card for one group or another, but it’s disappointing (if not predictable) to see our heroes responsible for the overrunning of L.A. by zombies, our heroes packing up and running away without telling anyone, our heroes basically killing a bunch of innocent people to achieve their own ends. Their evils weren’t direct, they didn’t set out to bring about the apocalypse, but in releasing that crashing, brain-eating zombie horde to distract the military and get Nick, Liza, and Griselda back, they were responsible for the killing of L.A. They didn’t even close the gates of their community behind them when they left.
At this point in the story, even if it may be a relatively early snapshot in what will become the overall Walking Dead franchise photo album (and only a select few of you Edmonton-based, Oilers-fan readers will know where I stole that metaphor from), it’s still a little disappointing to see how incapable the military is in their attempts to dispatch zombies. As I saw their bullets fly through zombie flesh like a butter knife through semi-hardened concrete (i.e., they did bad), I kept wondering:
Yo, where the grenades at?
Sure, you have to take cover after throwing, and sure, grenades aren’t going to target zombies at the head any better than poorly aimed bullets, but it seems they’d at least cut them off at the legs and convert much of the walking dead crowd into the limbless/unable-to-walk dead (or the “infected” as this show has settled on calling them).
“The Good Man” is a lesson-heavy concluding episode. There are stories about betrayal by those we trust, as in the military’s actions in general but especially when the three escaping soldiers steal the truck from young Chris and Alicia; guilt and penance when Dr. Exner chooses to stay behind after mercy killing her remaining patients when she realizes help isn’t coming; the cost of mercy when Andy, the tortured soldier, makes his return to the group after Travis initially let him go; the destruction of all we hold true when Nick relates to his mother that everything they’ve gone through is just catching up with where he’s always been; worlds gone mad, when Strand tells Nick about his plans to survive; and especially the breaking of a good man when Travis is forced to do the unthinkable.
And it’s only unthinkable because of the time we’ve spent with these characters so far. When we find out that Liza was bit at some point during their escape and then when we see Chris crying over his dead mother and Travis barely able to cope with what he’s just had to do to keep Liza from turning, it’s a more gut-wrenching moment than almost anything we’ve seen in the parent show. Harder than Carl shooting his mother to keep her from turning as she laid dying after giving birth to Judith, harder than discovering Sophia, missing since that season’s first episode (and still alive in the comicbook), was long dead after she emerged as a walker from Hershel’s barn, harder than watching Emily Kinney (Beth) barely keep it together while talking about her character’s death on the Talking Dead after show, because it was a moment that Fear the Walking Dead earned by not being a manic, zombie-killing genre show but a show about real people in horrible circumstances.
Also, that soldier running straight into the propeller blades after being bit was pretty great.
Spending the final moments of the season with the newly introduced Victor Strand at his beach-side home allowed our remaining heroes time to gather themselves, clean up, and unclench a bit — especially for Ofelia who had just learned of her mother’s death and had just been shot in the arm by Andy — and it’s time spent learning that Strand isn’t just manipulative and successful, but rich and empowered in a way we’ve never seen a Walking Dead character empowered before. And a boat owner. We learn that Strand plans to escape (or at least avoid) the apocalypse by heading to his luxury yacht, “Abigail”, and it seems like a good plan for the group for now, even if it’s fraught with Dead-Calm-esque peril. But being at sea is a bit like being stranded (not to mention they’re going to have to run into at least a few zombies some time to fulfill the basic, implied social contract of the show), and especially since seeing The Martian this past weekend (review’ll be up this Saturday), I wonder what they’ll do when they run out of food. I’m skeptical that any of them has what it takes to science the sh*t out of living on that boat and build themselves a makeshift potato farm.
More often than not, we’re presented with a zombie outbreak first as a trickle before growing to a stream and then very suddenly a full-on wave. That’s what made the initial prospect of Fear the Walking Dead so potentially fascinating: seeing the zombie apocalypse starting from the ground up. The idea of a zombie event proceeding to the point of apocalypse is inherently predicated on the notion that people are very slow on the uptake, skeptical to the point of mortal stupidity, and highly prone to keep or hide important information. While those are very often the foundations of drama in any number of other genres, the importance of those factors, often at the cost of logic or reason, grow in direct proportion to the fantastical nature of a story’s premise. In other words, the more unlikely the story setup, the more stupid the characters will usually have to act. For all of its faults, despite that central tenet, and at least in comparison to its parent show, Fear the Walking has not been a show full of stupid characters in its first season. In a show like this, that’s enough reason alone to keep watching next year.
Fear the Walking Dead — “The Good Man” final score
Items of Note
- You can also catch the Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462 spin-off series on YouTube. Here’s the first instalment:
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