“Date Of Death” is the penultimate episode of the second season of Fear the Walking Dead. You might expect the episode preceding the finale to set up some major conflict, but instead, this is a Chris and Travis story told largely in flashback. The outcome of the father-son struggle was apparent to us at the end of last week’s episode when we saw Travis all by himself. And yet, even as this episode ends, Chris’ ultimate fate is uncertain and we, the viewers, have learned nothing we didn’t already know.
I wasn’t really sure how to end last week’s Fear the Walking Dead recap, so I wondered aloud how the show would go about reuniting the scattered cast. There didn’t seem to be a logical way to reconnect the various plot threads, but clearly that would be the objective for the remaining episodes this season. Sure enough this week’s episode titled “Pillar of Salt” set the ground work for the expected reunion. And as expected, it did so in the laziest, most nonsensical way possible.
I skipped last week’s Fear the Walking Dead write-up in favor of the Labor Day Weekend, so today’s recap of this week’s episode, “Pablo and Jessica”, will pull double duty. That shouldn’t present too big of a problem since both episodes are concerned with the characters adjusting to their new status quo. Last week’s episode, “Do Not Disturb”, spent some time with everyone’s two least favorite characters, Chris and Travis. Since they didn’t make an appearance this week, I’m just going to leave the unfortunate “zombie bros” story for another day. Instead, we’ll focus on events at la colonia and the Hotel Zombiefornia.
Last week, I gave “Grotesque” a rare passing grade. I thought the simplicity of the Nick-centric mid-season premiere played to the writing staff’s strengths while avoiding their weaknesses (specifically dialogue). By focusing on the immediate challenges of crossing the desert, “Grotesque” was able to avoid the logical pitfalls that the show tends to fall into as well as sparing us a bunch of pointless speechifying. The second episode of the second half of the second season returns to the show’s regular format. As such, it brings back all of the show’s usual failures.
During Fear the Walking Dead‘s first season, I frequently requested for Nick to be killed off as soon as possible. The show spent a lot of time developing the idea that a drug addict like Nick was uniquely suited to life in a zombie apocalypse. I’m still not buying into that thesis, but I’m not asking to have Nick meet his demise either. Although Nick himself seems like he would be perfectly okay with being one of the walkers. The midseason premiere of Fear the Walking Dead was devoted to Nick’s solo journey and to my surprise, I was digging it.
Madness reigned on the midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead. The characters arrived at the Abigail compound last week and it was immediately apparent that despite the lush surroundings, this place was about as safe as your average death cult. The matriarch of the family, Celia, was clearly off her nut. So there wasn’t a lot of point in settling in to their new digs. Sure enough, within a matter of days, the whole place is going up in flames and the blended family has been scattered to the wind.
In theory, Fear the Walking Dead is the story of a blended family trying to keep it together during the zombie apocalypse. But the Clarks and Manawas would have been stuck in Los Angeles were it not for the introduction of Strand late in season one. While the drama has centered on the mixed-up family dynamics, the plot has been driven by Strand’s desire to… well, we weren’t real sure what Strand was up to. Ever since his introduction, the show kept Strand’s motivations shrouded in secrecy. Turns out, he really did just want to return to his loved one.
Strand’s quest to get home has been the driving force of the show’s second season. In this episode, the group finally arrived at their destination. And it was the Mexican equivalent of Hershel’s farm.
A common criticism of Fear the Walking Dead is that most episodes consist of “filler”. The writers concoct all manner of diversions in an effort to run down the clock while holding off on the good stuff for later. The “good stuff” presumably was the pirate threat which was brought to the forefront last week. In “Captive”, we finally get some measure of payoff. But if this is the “good stuff”, the show has a problem. Because even the episode’s big prisoner exchange which culminated in a zombie attacking his brother was remarkably light on dramatic tension.
Blood in the Streets, the second episode of the second season of Fear the Walking Dead, picked up right where the season premiere left off. The pirates who were tipped off to their location by Alicia trick their way on board the Abigail. Meanwhile, we get glimpses into Strand’s mysterious past via Lost-style flashbacks.
Wait. What do you mean this is the fourth episode of the season and not the second? How can that possibly be? Oh right, they pissed away two hours on absolutely nothing.
As the second season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead demonstrated, there is an inherent problem with setting your zombie show on a boat. Zombies don’t swim. So unless something happens that brings your characters back to dry land, you’re stuck with characters on a boat discussing their feelings. Character development is Kryptonite for writers of The Walking Dead, so every episode since the season premiere has found some excuse to bring the cast ashore.
On occasion, I have accused The Walking Dead of running in place. The zombie show frequently pads out its runtime with filler. It’s reached a point where I am pretty certain a viewer could watch the premiere and finale episodes skipping everything in between and not miss a thing. But with the second episode of its second season, the spin-off series, Fear the Walking Dead, has managed something I don’t think the original show ever did. It actually ran backwards.
Following an infuriating season finale for the parent show, the question going in to season two of the spin-off was how bad would it be? The first season of Fear the Walking Dead contained all of the shortcomings of the parent show without the benefit of likable characters. The spin-off seemed to exist to make The Walking Dead look good by comparison. But now that the parent show has reached new lows in its sixth season, perhaps Fear the Walking Dead won’t seem so bad any more.
Did the season finale of The Walking Dead piss you off? If it did, shame on you. I realize that ending the season on a major cliffhanger is an infuriating decision. It’s a big, fat middle finger to the show’s fans. But it’s also typical of the show and especially the show’s sixth season. After I don’t remember how many episodes of The Walking Dead teasing viewers with Glenn’s fate in the first half of the season, you really can’t be surprised when the season finale promises to deliver a major death and then makes viewers wait sixth months to find out who it was. We collectively are Charlie Brown and The Walking Dead is Lucy pulling away the football at the last second. The question is, when Lucy comes back in October and asks us to kick the football, will you fall for it again?