'Fear the Walking Dead,' season 1 finale: surviving a maddening world
Unlike The Walking Dead, the characters find out much earlier on that no matter how a person dies, they always come back as a flesh-eater. We've heard it a few times from the cold Dr. Exner, but Liza confirms the world's diagnosis during her final few minutes among the living in Sunday's season finale.
Fear the Walking Dead's first season got off to a stumbling start, with far more family arguments and withdrawal worries than actual walking dead. But the lack of zombies made it much more exciting when they actually showed up (at least for me). I never thought I'd be yelling "THANK GOODNESS THE WALKERS ARRIVED" at the TV screen.
Above all else, season one's finale was a turning point for every character. Madison was the focal character during the beginning, yet it was Travis who evolved from a meak, law-abiding schoolteacher into a soldier-beating, ex-wife-killing leader.
Travis's last act as Mr. Law and Order was to free soldier Andy Adams after Adams instructs them how to break into the medical compound. Though the group was successful in rescuing Nick, Liza and new friend Victor Strand, they're stopped by a gun-wielding Adams out for revenge against the torturous Daniel Salazar.
He says nothing, but chooses to shoot former-GF Ofelia instead of her father. Cue Travis pounding his fists into Adams' face. In a strange way, Ofelia is lucky Adams has a wounded arm from Daniel the demon barber of L.A. or else Adams might have shot her in the head instead.
"I thought we were winning."
I'm really hoping Alicia and Chris become more useful in season 2. All they've really contributed so far is the occasional thoughtful observance about the world around them. For whatever reason, Alicia thought we (the living) were winning this war on the dead.
The three families get back to the original plan -- make for the desert and hope for the best. As they leave the safe zone, Madison silently says farewell to the crayon growth charts on her home's wall and to the neighbors who didn't help when the military came for Nick and Griselda.
At the medical compound, Dr. Exner prepares her team for the immediate evacuation of the facility. Cobalt has been activated and they have just a few hours to get everyone out safely. Liza keeps bugging her about the rest of her family and to that Dr. Exner demands she make a choice in regards to who her actual family is: blood or bond? "What is family now?" Dr. Exner says. "Be brutal."
"Save your ammunition."
Like him or not, Daniel's got style. Casually strolling up to the medical compound, he doesn't balk as two tower guards command him to stop, but keeps on leading a massive horde of zombies into the north gate.
As Dr. Exner tries to keep contact with the evacuation team, she sees the thousands of walkers attacking the fence. She knows the evac team sees the compound as compromised and watches as the rescue helicopters fly away.
Before Travis and co. make it into the compound, Nick and Strand make their escape. True to self-serving form, Strand ignores the pleas of the rest of the inmates to free them too. The two make their way around the facility and happen upon a soldier being eaten alive by a ravenous zombie. The soldier just happens to be the same one who took Strand's cufflinks and watch. In a second act of frigidness, Strand ignores the pleas to end the soldier's life. "You're well on your way," he says.
The nail-biting moment of the entire season comes when Nick and Strand are trapped behind a locked facility door while a crowd of zombies makes their way down the hall. Travis and Madison frantically try to beat down the door to no avail. For a few seconds, it looks as if Madison will have to watch her son get eaten alive by zombies a la Noah. Luckily, Liza's ID card works to unlock the door (after like, the 15th time).
Embracing the madness
Dr. Exner is lost. The group finds her sitting among the dead bodies of her patients, holding the captive bolt pistol. It's clear she killed them all to avoid turning, and plans to do the same to herself.
As they head back to Alicia and Chris with the getaway cars, Liza reveals Griselda's fate -- how she died and what they did with her body. Outside, the troupe finds huge piles of human ashes and burnt bones. Ofelia bursts into tears when she realizes her mother is in that pile.
They make it back to Alicia and Chris, but sans one SUV (a few surly troops beat Chris until Alicia gave them the keys). Strand directs the caravan to his massive waterfront home (is it really his?) with an injured Ofelia, but explains they must not stay long.
Instead of feeling calm and safe for the first time all night, another crisis arises. Liza shows Madison the bite marks on her side (from the tussle with a few walkers in the compound kitchen) and begs her to "take care of her" instead of Travis. Both Madison and Travis try to find a way to save Liza, but in the end Travis takes the gun and his ex-wife's life.
The last things we see are Chris sobbing over his mother's dead body and Madison clutching Travis as he collapses into the ocean.
"You can get out, but there's nowhere to go."
‘The Good Man' gave us more of the grisly carnage we've been craving ever since the show began. Seeing a soldier slowly eaten alive from the leg up was enough to send chills down my spine. But then I remembered Liza watching a bitten soldier run himself into the back blades of a helicopter, splattering his brain everywhere.
The season ended with anguish and despair for all. Just hours after almost beating a soldier to death, Travis is forced to kill his ex-wife and watch his son openly mourn over her loss. The Salazar family is reeling over Ofelia's injury and the loss of Griselda. Looks like Madison will have to keep everyone together now.
The only person holding it together is Nick, who admits he's in his natural element. "I've never known where I was going, it's like I've been living this for a long time and now everyone is catching up with me," he says. Who knew a heroin addiction could be good preparation for a zombie apocalypse? He and Strand will make a swell team in season 2.
Speaking of Strand and the Abigail he's been wanting to get back to -- Abigail is a ship, a yacht to be precise. Will zombies on a boat be next?
Fear's first season gave us what it promised -- fear of the unknown. Complain about the lack of gore all you want, Fear gave us a glimpse into the life of a normal family with normal issues then threw in a a few cups of contagious outbreak, a pinch of ill-prepared government and just the right amout of terror and suspense.
Some parting thoughts:
-- Death count: hard to say with the thousands of zombies attacking from all sides, but I'm going with a rough estimate of 83.
-- It's too bad Tobias didn't make another appearance. We are all hoping he will survive this.
-- So zombies on a boat huh? Let's see how that goes.
-- reminder: THE WALKING DEAD RETURNS NEXT SUNDAY.