*SPOILERS AHEAD … A ZOMBIE MEAT-TASTING PARTY AND MORE UNHINGED BEHAVIOUR THAN A HOUSE FULL OF LOOSE DOORS*
It won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that zombie apocalypses – or as Celia (Marlene Forte) rather delusionally calls them “new beginnings”; yep thanks, you can keep your reinterpretations of death and life, I’ll stick with the old ways – aren’t that good for your mental health.
It stands to reason really.
With all of civilisation’s bells and whistles, its baubles and trinkets ripped away, and only the cold, unsparing hand of unfettered human nature left at your disposal, there’s really nothing left to buttress yourself against the dark winds of misfortune that seem to be blowing every which way.
Even when you think, erroneously – since being safe and happy is never an option in an apocalyptic drama – that you have found sanctuary, you find very quickly that someone or something will come along and ruin it all.
That someone, in this instance, was a whole lot of people, all of them from Madison and Victor’s party of death and chaos – again they’re like an end-of-times Jessica Fletcher (Murder She Wrote); wherever they go, death follows – who managed to turn a perfectly good sanctuary on the Baja Peninsula into hell on earth in a matter of days.
Nick (Frank Dillane), who finished the episode covered in zombie guts, wandering along a road away from his family, nailed it when he said “We destroy everything.”
And that they did, with the end of Fear the Walking Dead mid-season 2 finale finding the hacienda in flames courtesy of a grief-stricken, mentally-unstable Daniel (Rubén Blades), Celia’s cage of zombies on the loose and the world quickly finding another handbasket in which to go to hell in.
Not the finest hour for any of the gang really and proof that you shouldn’t let Victor (Colman Domingo), Madison (Kim Dickens) or anyone else from their blighted crew anywhere near your safe place or those you want to keep sheltered within it.
Truth be told though they weren’t the only ones losing the plot in a rather fingers-in-ears-can’t-hear-you-lalala kind of way.
Celia, who seemed positively shipper about the way things had gone down of late, welcomed her dead zombiefied son Luis (Arturo del Puerto) back as if he’d slipped down the road for a bottle of milk, and set about haranguing Victor for not sipping the Kool-Aid and welcoming death’s transformation into slobbering eternal life.
Yep whereas most people think staying alive in the zombie apocalypse is a Good Thing, Celia begs to differ, convinced that the world has turned a new page in which zombies are the standard bearers of a new kind of life.
Not the kind of life many other people want however, and Victor buries his partner Thomas (Dougray Scott), Celia becomes ever more adamant that he is making a terrible mistake, entombing his beloved in such a way that he will suffer a great big undead case of FOMO.
What makes celia’s characters so gripping to watch is that she hasn’t been written in some sort of Bond villain-ish half-arsed way; rather her character, who has found a belief system that helps her life with a ghastly new version of life on earth, is nuanced and her arguments, twisted though they are, are given the kind of validity that less assured writing would not have afforded them.
Nick too, who can’t seem to decide if Celia or his actual mother would make a better maternal figure, spends the episode covered in zombie guts, out looking for Luis – he brings him back as a way of convincing Celia, who has wisely given Madison’s group their marching orders, right along with Victor – and then Chris, who has his own issues to deal with (where may or may not include holding kids hostage so they won’t tell his dad where he is; yep marbles all intact there; no, not really).
Always the outlier of the group, and humanity in general, Nick has found a perverse pleasure in marching to the beat of his zombie-accompanying drum, and made the decision final – well until Fear the Walking Dead returns with the rest of season 2 in August – when he leaves the compound for parts unknown, march to Madison’s horror. (All that helicopter mothering isn’t exactly working out for you now is it?.)
Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), who was last seen hovering over Alicia Alycia Debnam-Carey and Madison, knife in hand, decides he is too damaged to be among normal society, such as it now is, and hives off across the fields, with dad Travis (Cliff Curtis) in hot pursuit, determined to rescue his son.
After rescuing a dad and son being held hostage by Chris, and undertaking what can only be described as a very physical bout of hands-on psychotherapy, Travis decides he won’t rejoin the Crew of Death and Burning Chaos either, choosing instead to embark on some sort of Outward Bound in the apocalypse treatment plan for his son.
Which leaves us with Daniel, who ends chained in the basement after he slashes one of Celia’s workers with a knife, talking his dead wife Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) who oddly enough helps him work through some of his issues, helping him see that he was the first victim of a life marked by death and violence.
Alas, all this talking to the dead doesn’t help Daniel much who grabs some petrol, heads to Celia’s cage of death and zombies and torches the place, with his beloved wife murmuring words of encouragement to him all the way.
And thus is sanctuary lost, along with the mental health and well being of three members of the boat gang, all of whom either scatter off in a number of different directions or possibly die in the fire they start (I wouldn’t count Daniel out just yet; there’s every chance he may pull a Glenn although frankly for the sake of the integrity of the narrative, I hope he doesn’t live).
Relying less on big action sequences, although they were there, and more on the slow build fleshing out characters, “Shiva” beautifully and fearfully paints a picture of a world in which the living lose out far more than the dead when it comes to the darker side of the apocalypse.
It is masterful, if occasionally uneven storytelling that doesn’t depict anyone as bad or good; simply as fallibly human and without any kind of compass to navigate their way out of this mess.
In fact, it looks like no one is getting out in anything approaching a sane and safe way, with even Madison, Alicia, Victor and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), who manage to get into a truck before hell completely breaks loose, heading off to find the Abigail if she still remains at anchor, losing a great deal as they race away from many of the people they thought they could keep safe in a world that is edging ever closer to Celia’s dementedly accurate vision of the future.
- So what lies ahead? Probably not good things if the promo below is any guide with the slide into chaos and despair accelerating despite everyone’s best efforts.