Fear the Walking Dead: Grotesque

Life is so not a cabaret in the zombie apocalypse.

As usual, the internet reaction to this episode was disparate. Apparently, "Grotesque" was either a fascinating piece centered on one of this show's best characters, or a boring, pointless mess that proves Fear the Walking Dead should be swiftly canceled. It probably won't surprise you that I'm with the first group. If I thought FtWD was a boring, pointless mess, I wouldn't bother watching it, much less spend time reviewing it.

Nick left his family to completely embrace the apocalypse, and smiled at the beginning of his journey. He was happy. Off to "find himself," as they used to say in the sixties. Or going on walkabout, or some other cliche. Nick had told his mother Madison that he couldn't die, but maybe now he has now realized that he can. The woman with the bat could have killed him, or the three outlaws on the road with all of the guns, or the dogs, or the herd. Or thirst, or infection. Was he praying, there in the end? Was there a hint of divine intervention? Because let's face it, Nick should have died way too many times by now. And yet, there he was, saved by the rain. In the opening scene, Sofia and her son were off to look for family and sanctuary, while Nick was running away from both. In the end, note where he ended up: in what the internet is calling "Mexican Woodbury."

Nick initially just wanted to be with the walkers. I was struck by the scene where he reached out to touch the hand of the walker in the car, and by how the dog bite on his leg made Nick stagger like a walker. While he was hiding in the herd, he was hallucinating that the walkers were telling him to follow them home. Nick did finally learn the value of community and family, the hard way. Or at least, I hope he did.

This episode began with Nick opening his eyes, and it included Lost-like flashbacks that explained some things about him. Like, more about his relationship with Gloria, the walker he was running from in the pilot, whom he apparently met while they were in court-mandated rehab together. While he was there, Madison came to tell him about the death of his father in a car accident. Nick's father was apparently depressed and self-destructive, like Nick. Would it have helped Nick if his father had been there for him? What if Nick had been, say, Travis's son? Travis, who just gave up all of the other people in his life to take care of his son Chris?

Actually, having a good father didn't do much for Chris, did it?

"Grotesque" not only brought back Gloria from the Fear the Walking Dead pilot, it also gave us an obvious parallel to Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead's pilot, showing Nick alone on an empty highway at the beginning of his character journey. I also really liked the shot of Nick staring at himself in the rearview mirror of a wrecked car. Geez, no symbolism there.



Honestly, I find Nick and his affinity for the dead fascinating, and I felt that Frank Dillane gave a terrific performance in "Grotesque." I kept thinking Nick would die at any time. And that's not easily achievable when a story is about the most popular member of the cast.

Bits:

-- Ruben Blades (Daniel) was no longer in the opening cast list. But the thing is, we didn't see Daniel die. If you don't see the body, never assume someone is dead. Rule 10, Josie's Law.

-- Danay Garcia (Luciana), from Prison Break, has just joined the FtWD cast. Isn't it odd that there are now two actors named Danay/Danai in the WalkingDeadVerse? It's not a common name. Is it?

-- Nick walked from Valle de Guadaloupe to... how close did he get to Tijuana? Forty miles?

-- In the pilot episode, Nick hid his "works" in a copy of the book, Winesburg, Ohio. In the flashback here, Nick told Gloria that his father gave him the book. I haven't read it, but its themes, especially those of loneliness and isolation, do seem to reflect Nick.

-- Nick also said that "Grotesque," the title of the episode, was a reference to a concept in Winesburg, Ohio (that when you hold on to something too hard, you corrupt it). But for me, I thought it was all about Nick looking like a gargoyle when he's covered with walker blood.

-- There was also a return to the "Ouroboros" circle of death theme on this show: the dogs trying to eat Nick, and the walkers eating the dogs.

-- Song cue: "How low are you willing to go?" Well, drinking your own pee might qualify.

Quotes:

Nick: "I am not gonna shit on my parents for a 'get out of jail free' card. Not gonna do it." Good for him.

Clinic guy: "Death is not to be feared. But it shouldn't be pursued. There's a difference." You think?

I liked it. Three out of four gargoyles,

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

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