*SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A ROUSING GAME OF WHACK-A-ZOMBIE …”
Season finales of apocalyptically-inclined shows like Fear the Walking Dead are usually fairly grim, violence-packed affairs when the metaphorical apple carts of all the characters are upset, things go even more to hell in a handbasket than they have already, and the truism that you should never let the main character of a show anywhere near your safe haven are richly observed to be true.
And so it was with “Wrath” and “North”, though in typical Fear fashion, these reasonably predictable tropes came complete with some trademark existential angst and some genuinely meaningful pondering on the human condition.
Take Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alejandro (Paul Calderon) who engaged in an emotionally-fraught, though richly-argued battle of the wills to see who would determine the ultimate fate of the near-cult like population of La Colonia, who were firmly in the sights – literally so; Binoculars anyone? – of the drug gang/aspiring warlords run by Marco (Alejandro Edda).
Thanks to some unauthorised Oxycontin supplying to Marco’s drug-dependent redoubt further down the hill, Nick, who remains deeply in love with the sweetly-trusting Luciana (Danay Garcia), a woman who values faith above common sense it seems – a touching quality and one to be admired unless it leaves you, you know, DEAD – found out the gang were coming to visit La Colonia.
And not to deliver flower, warm wishes, and chicken soup for the ailing.
No, they wanted La Colonia’s beautifully-situated, fortified hilltop position, complete with swarming zombie herd and they weren’t too fussy about who they killed to get it.
Naturally, if you were the bearer of such cataclysmic news, you’d expect everyone to nod sagely, say we should leave and forthwith and henceforth and get the hell of out of Dodge, undead filling the streets or not.
But no, Alejandro decides to stay put, fight to the last man, woman and child for their, I mean, his future; that was until he is bitten when one of La Colonia’s hospital patients turned when no one’s looking and his fate is pretty much sealed because, surprise, surprise, he isn’t immune and his tales of surviving a bite were just a PR person’s wet dream.
I know right? Who saw that coming?!
Nick, that’s who, and after leaving the good people of La Colonia to their rather deluded fate – Alejandro doesn’t spill the beans on his true un-immune status to anyone but Luciana who, true pragmatic believer that she is, stays true to the cause – he comes back after seeing a big fat army base/refugee camp north of the border and deciding that La Colonia, well its people anyway, might be salvageable after all.
A lovely plan and one that, after inspiring Alejandro to commit to a noble, bus-driving death, looked close to working until a rather nasty gun fight at the border crossing, stuffed with Homeland Security agent zombies in booths and endless ghostly traffic jams, left everyone either running or at gunpoint.
Best laid plans and all that Nick huh?
Naturally it leaves us with a big stonking cliffhanger but given the fact that Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), who got to play her own game of dashed expectations aka Whack-a-Zombie when her truck broke down, was now in the hands of military looking souls, the odds of a rather awkward reunion are firming all the time.
But where “Wrath” and “North” gave us the possibility of reunion – the whole scatter-the-flock tactic had been tried during season 2 so repeating that would have been some poor writing by the show – it also took it away, at least in part from Madison (Kim Clark), Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who found themselves having to run from the Rosarito Beach Hotel, with its margaritas at sunset with views of seaside zombies, when Travis lost his cool just a little bit.
OK, a lot but with good reason though pretty poor judgement.
Coming across Brandon (Kelly Blatz) and (Kenny Wormald) in a crowd at the Hotel, who are, you won’t be surprised to learn, being fantastically racist, boorish and Darwinian even in their post-car accident pain, being led out of the hotel before they can be lynched by an angry refugee mob.
Frankly they should have run for the gate when they had the chance because once Travis is done with them and finds out they’ve killed an injured Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) who’d ripped his leg open in the crash but was otherwise alive, their fate was pretty much sealed.
A locked room, some off-the-chain violent pounding of heads and anything else within reach later – what with that and some fairly gruesome medical scenes, you got the feeling Fear the Walking Dead was gunning for its progenitor show’s garish violence credentials – and the two young men are dead, another of the hotel survivors isn’t far off and Travis is about to be exiled as per Madison’s edict.
Yup, the very law she created comes to bite her royally, and not as elegantly as a flesh-hungry zombie, on the arse.
So much for the ill-thought-out rule of law hmmm?
Rather nobly, Madison and Alicia, but not Victor (Colman Domingo), who helps them escape but won’t go with them – apparently the hotel which was’t home now suddenly is – decide to go with Travis but their quiet departure at dawn went all drive the gates rushed and frantic when their fellow survivors decide that killing the murderer is far better than exiling him.
Off on the road again then, and after a stop at La Colonia to see Alejandro and find out where Nick is – yep Alicia mum is still prioritising him, call your therapist now – it looks like the threesome are on their way north too.
“Wrath” and “North” may have played its part as a season finale according to some well-worn tropes but it invested them with a huge amount of meaning and emotional gravitas as it did so.
Travis’s crimes attracted a penalty, there was anger, pain and retribution from those caught in the afterwash of his grief-saturated actions, and Nick discovered that nothing is as miraculous or wonderful in the apocalypse as it seems on paper.
It was kind of a pity in the case of Nick and La Colonia since his newfound zest for life, inspired by his love for Luciana, ended up costing everyone a great deal.
Not necessarily his fault really since he meant well and for a long while it looked like his plan to get everyone to safety would work a treat; that was until gunmen and the Darwinian rule of the road – damn those finches! – conspired to puncture his romance-bubble of hope and optimism.
The good news on the back of all this despondency and dashed hopes is that it looks like everyone might get reunited albeit under the jackboot of a military outfit that might not exactly be observing previously held-dear army protocols.
While the double-bunger finale did kick things into a far more violent vein that had been the case, a pity in some ways since it eschewed the slowburn that has the show’s welcome hallmark, the way people reacted to events in the show made sense.
All of it – the anger, grief, violence, hope, optimism, love, noble self-sacrifice – it felt like the actions of ordinary people in an extraordinary situation trying to fashion some sort of response to events happening on the run.
Life is no longer predictable or normal but what is heartening and what continues to be the beating lifeblood of this show, unlike The Walking Dead, is its adamant stance that hanging onto your humanity, though it might get bent of shape, is not just theoretically possible but necessary, the driver of many characters’ actions.
If it continues down this path into season 3, Fear the Walking Dead could well turn out to the morally weightier of the two shows, giving a far richer and more realistic view of how humanity would actually behave in an apocalypse.