The question that had interested/nagged me a bit over Fear The Walking Dead’s first few episodes was answered tonight, in a couple of interesting, insightful ways: If we knew about the virus fairly early, and if it seemed at least semi-contained, how did things collapse to the point that we ended up at the post-apocalyptic regular series? The first, as we saw tonight, was that the military was actually overrun at times: Even with their superior weaponry and armor, sometimes the sheer force of numbers overwhelmed them. The second answer goes hand-in-hand with the first: These guys, for all their bluster, are as scared as everybody else. They want to find their families, they want to get somewhere safe and ride this thing out, or maybe just get a bunch of supplies and find a sturdy cave. This is not the type of war they’ve been trained for.

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Which leads us to “cobalt,” a word that Daniel Salazar keeps hearing on Adams’ radio, and that he’s determined to learn the meaning of. And along with learning its meaning—more on that in a second—we learn Salazar’s true past: No, this simple barber wasn’t so simple at all. As a younger man, he was given the choice between torturer and victim, and he chose the path that kept him alive. And those torturing skills came in pretty handy when he started carving up Adams’ arm: We learned that “cobalt” basically means that the military is going to abandon the people, and possibly even humanely exterminate those that are left, presumably in order to keep the zombie—or “skinbag”—population to a minimum for the future.

So Salazar got the information, along with the knowledge that there are thousands of former humans locked up in a nearby stadium. Maddy got an earful from Travis about turning a blind eye to the nice young soldier being flayed in her basement, and she set herself apart from her pacifist boyfriend once again with one cold-hearted line: “Did he tell us what we need to know?” Maddy wants her son back, and she doesn’t care how that happens.

Meanwhile, still in his Grandpa’s signature Members Only jacket, Nick is locked in a holding pen with other sick, freaked-out, or otherwise troublesome folks, including poor, wimpy Doug, who just can’t keep his shit together long enough to stop whimpering. Those two are joined by a smooth operator named Strand—I don’t think they said his name yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is. I thought at first that Strand was in there because he’s a lunatic, rambling on about the world. But it turns out that Strand has a plan for when the shit hits the fan, and he’s apparently got enough watches and cufflinks to buy Nick some time. Why does he need Nick? It’s hard to imagine what his “set of skills” are besides trying really hard to get heroin and perfectly mussing up his hair, but I guess we’ll find out next week, when we also find out what that key leads to.

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Chris and Alicia trash the former house of some rich neighbors and play dress-up. Great.

Liza, on the other hand, finally has something interesting to do. She’s in the thick of helping out the sick and needy, which means she’s privy to some inside information—including the fact that everybody turns when they die, and that it takes a traumatic brain injury to stop that from happening. So bring out the cattle gun, Dr. Exner, and let’s make sure that nice old lady Grizelda stays dead. At least she got a chance to admit her and Daniel’s sins before she went.

So it’s onto 0900 hours tomorrow for next week, when the military will presumably kill everything and everyone—living or dead—that isn’t wearing camouflage, and then move to a more secure location. Will we get to see a big zombie battle before this mini starter season ends, or will our family unit simply duck out before the shit hits the fan? Part of me is hoping that Daniel sets those zombies loose from the stadium to cause a ruckus, but he might be smarter than that. We do know that the military guys are in complete disarray, and are ready to steal as much to eat and drink as they can and get gone. Which seems like a perfectly sane reaction, doesn’t it?

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Stray observations

  • Fear The Walking Dead was originally going to be called Cobalt (or maybe The Walking Dead: Cobalt), so perhaps the conflict between military and civilians will be at the center of the story moving forward.
  • AMC is not providing screeners for next week’s season finale, so the review will be up later than normal.
  • “I can do anything I want, I got guns!” RIP Moyers, you dick.
  • “We all start finding out how the neighbors taste.”
  • “The man with the blade and the man in the chair; they’re not different.”
  • Oh lord, is Chris going to have some unrequited crush on Alicia? Maybe that will replace Nick’s quest for heroin as the time-waster for each week.
  • “That kid turns, it’s your ass.” “You think he’ll stop there?”
  • “When do we leave?” “Not you, just us.”
  • “We return to the old rules. The people with the grande lattes…are about to become the buffet.”
  • After next week’s season finale, Fear The Walking Dead will be back in 2016 with 15 more episodes. The Walking Dead will return October 11. If AMC keeps this up, there will be almost no zombie-free TV weeks in the future.

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