Fear the Walking Dead: The Good Man

"Be brutal."

As I expected, we got a violent blow-out walkers versus Army finale. And it was fine, as violent blow-out finales go. It was absorbing and watchable and I was invested enough in the characters to care how it came out.

But there was a logic problem that I just couldn't get past, because we didn't see it happen. How on earth did Daniel manage to get the walkers out of the arena and aim them at the compound? He'd have to first open the doors without being overcome by walkers, and then get the herd moving in the right direction, and wasn't Daniel with the rest of our group at the same time? It felt like we got from point A to point C with no B in the middle. Plus, what about all of the innocent non-Army people who got eaten by those thousands of arena walkers? So not right, Daniel.

But okay, it worked as a massive distraction. The Army was overcome, the hospital was never evacuated and omigod, Dr. Exner killed all those patients herself. More blood on Daniel's hands, now that I'm thinking about it. But at least our group got Nick and Liza back, with the extra added bonus of the completely amoral Mr. Strand. Who has a gorgeous house in what looked like Malibu, with an amazing ocean view and, apparently, a yacht called Abigail.

I had pretty much expected throughout the episode that we were going to lose somebody, but was revising my expectations when we got the beach house and everyone had survived. When Liza lifted her scrubs and showed the bite mark, I gasped out loud. In "The Dog", Maddie asked Liza to kill her if she was bitten because it would be too hard for Travis. I wasn't expecting Liza to turn the tables and ask Maddie to kill her, but maybe I should have.

In a way, this entire short season was about Travis getting (yes, I'm going with the same analogy) from point A to point B. Here, even though he let Andy the soldier go at the beginning of the episode, he later tried to beat Andy to death. And here, Travis was the one to kill Liza. He's finally adapted. He's no longer a "good man". Or maybe what the title of the episode meant was that Travis is finally a "good man" by the world's new standards, a man that can keep his family alive during the apocalypse. It was similar to what Rick went through in the early seasons of The Walking Dead when he wanted to see the good in everyone, when he wanted to take everyone in. Rick changed. He had to.

But you know, I again had a problem with the logic. It felt like it was too soon for our characters to accept that there was no hope for Liza. It would have been less dramatic, yes, but it would have made a lot more sense for Liza to hang around for awhile and spend time with her son before she opted for assisted suicide, like Jim in season one of TWD. Or maybe I'm just pissed because I like the actress.

How the apocalypse changes people is pretty much the raison d'etre of both the parent show and the spinoff. Maddie wanted to tell her neighbors to get out of town, but didn't because it was everyone for themselves. Liza had to be brutal and choose which of the extended family to save, and chose only Chris and Travis. Ofelia was deeply upset and disappointed when she learned that her father was a torturer instead of a victim, meaning that she considered Daniel as a victim to be "a good man". It seems likely to me that Ofelia will need to change, or she'll die.

One more thing I want to highlight. During the hallway key card scene, Nick gestured for Maddie to leave him behind to die, and he meant it. Later, Nick and Maddie talked, and Nick said that he'd always felt that the world was coming to an end, and now everyone else was catching up with him. Yes, it was a bit like an addict saying "it's all about me", but the comparison of the helplessness and world-changing-ness of addiction to the zombie apocalypse was apt.

This show got a second season before it even aired, but the ratings have been tanking since the premiere. Will a finale that finally delivered zombie action and character death help the ratings? Do you think maybe the show should have stayed at a slow burn instead of exploding into flames?

Even though these six episodes felt more like a miniseries than a season to me, I'll be watching and probably reviewing season two. I'm curious about where our group can go from here. It would be tempting to stay in a house up in the mountains with a generator and fences, although wouldn't it eventually be overrun? I'm intrigued by the idea of what could happen if they end up on Abigail the yacht, but the problem with that is that you eventually have to dock and find supplies. And why would the selfish and amoral Strand want that whole extended family to go with him? Does he have some ulterior motive?

Bits and quotes:

-- Dr. Exner remained a cipher until the end. Or maybe it's not the end of Dr. Exner. Maybe she didn't kill herself, after all.

-- I liked the visual of the bouncing chain link fence framing Strand.

-- Chris and Alicia were freaking lucky that all they lost was the SUV. I thought the soldiers were going to take Alicia along as a sex toy.

-- As they were dashing through the hospital, Maddie stopped long enough to take pills that I assume were for Nick. She's always thinking. It's a rare talent.

-- Things I could do without: The bitten soldier walking into the copter blade. And another soldier begging Strand for death and not getting it. Keep the watch? Seriously?

-- The piles of human cremains were upsetting, too. You could see Daniel and Ofelia looking at the ashes and thinking of Griselda somewhere in that pile. Well done.

-- There was a closeup of Travis' hands after he killed Liza. Where were the marks on his knuckles from beating Andy? Oops.

-- Sadly, Fear the Walking Dead is giving us webisodes about "Flight 462" which I assume will turn out to be a zombie non-stop. The webisodes are available at the AMC.com site. I don't plan to watch them. Heroes scarred me forever when it comes to webisodes.

-- We only got one Talking Dead that covered all six Fear episodes. I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead, but the darkness of it gets to me. Talking Dead hosted by the clever Chris Hardwick is the perfect way to decompress after a heavy episode, like comedic psychotherapy. This TD episode's most tantalizing bit was executive producer Dave Erickson wondering why fans hadn't noticed that Madison has a southern accent. Does that suggest that Madison is related to someone or knows someone on the parent show?

Daniel: "You see what doing the right thing gets you?"

Nick: "Are you insane? Strand?"
Strand: "The only way to survive is to embrace the madness."
Nick: "Is that a yes?"
LOL. In the pilot episode, Nick said he himself was insane. Nice little bookend there.

This finale was definitely more of what I had expected of a Walking Dead spinoff. What did you guys think? Will you give season two a try?

Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.


Anonymous said...

Avoiding the Fear “webisodes“ won't be that easy — despite the name, they'll also be airing them during the main series' commercial breaks.

Strand not being fond of the soldier and refusing to grant him a quick death was understandable. That was the guy that kept bargaining him for his possessions in exchange for little favors, such as letting Nick stay. And he did take the cufflinks he gave up for Nick back, it's his watch he left behind.

But I'm also very hard pressed to come up with an explanation on why Liza would want to check out right away, before even catching a fever, and Travis agreeing in record speed… That just felt stupid and unnecessary, as did Daniel's sudden excessive cruelty starting with the previous episode. And he can't put Ofelia's shooting on Travis. If he didn't torture that soldier kid for no reason, he wouldn't have cracked.
It all made me annoyed with the show these past two episodes, which is a real shame as I felt I truly looked forward more to Fear's story before those. The main series just feels like running in circles after that many seasons, losing its soul after needlessly trying to up the carnage each year.

Docnaz said...

It grew on me. I liked it. The shows are always better with a Doux review,

TheShadowKnows said...

"It would be tempting to stay in a house up in the mountains with a generator and fences, although wouldn't it eventually be overrun?"

It's hard to say. In the real world, probably not. In Zombie Movie World where the military has no grenades, no RPG's, no mortars, no light machine guns or other squad support weapons, no heavy machine guns, no armored vehicles, no drones, and no artillery or air support... maybe? It's hard to make a judgment about a world so divorced from reality.

I don't want to go off on a rant, but Hollywood writers appear to avoid looking into the realities of military hardware and tactics out of an understandable distaste for the subject. I'm no big booster of the military myself. But I DO know the army has equipment other than rifles and nuclear bombs, the only weapons they ever seem to use in zombie movies. It's easy enough to see why Hollywood avoids showing the other equipment in action. Two thousand zombies, even ten thousand zombies, shambling in a loose mob would be no threat to a modern military force. Three soldiers could set up one of the larger machine guns and make two or three passes - WHAKKA WHAKKA WHAKKA WHAKKA WHAKKA WHAKKA - and that would be it. The entire mob would be reduced to fist-sized chunks, which would render the whole "head shot" issue somewhat moot. There's a reason no one uses the "stand shoulder to shoulder in a loose mob and shamble toward the enemy" tactic in the real world, except for civilians who know very well that soldiers and police won't use the really heavy stuff on them for PR reasons. Against zombies there would be no such restraint.

But zombie movies can't show that kind of thing because it would raise obvious questions about how slow-moving, stupid zombies could overrun the world in the first place in the face of such opposition (hint: they couldn't). So instead we have soldiers doing the stupidest things imaginable, such as confining a million zombies with the kind of chain used to secure a high school gymnasium (28 Weeks Later) or building a giant anti-zombie wall and then not having anyone guard it (World War Z). Or in this episode, having nothing but three guards and cut-rate fencing from Lowe's to hold back the zombie hordes. Where were the machine gun nests? The minefields? Concrete barriers? Helicopter gunships? Drones with night vision? The military sets these things up against HUMAN foes all the time. Even my wife, a zombie booster who DOES believe they could overrun the world, asked me, "Why aren't they using grenades?" I guess because this is Zombie Movie World, and they don't have any? And if all else fails they can always use their automatic weapons incorrectly (up and down instead of more effective side to side fire) or just not be able to hit anything in the first place. It's not like soldiers spend much time at the range, right?

Hmmm. I guess I DID want to go off on a rant after all... sorry.

Now all that said, I don't normally worry about it that much. Even though the situations presented are fairly ludicrous, in order to have a "zombie overrun world" in the first place, it's necessary to suspend one's disbelief about how this might occur*. Just as the fact that faster-than-light travel is probably physically impossible must be ignored in order to make most science fiction work, for the purposes of these movies I will accept that the military is staffed from top to bottom with thugs and incompetents who can't shoot straight and don't have any big guns. It kind of serves them right anyway for the six hundred dollar toilet seats.

* - Although it's tough when they have scenes like Rick and his crew quickly and efficiently clearing the zombies out of the prison yard... exactly the way soldiers would deal with them... except that soldiers are even better trained and equipped... I'll be quiet now.