(Photo: AMC)

With its midseason finale, Fear The Walking Dead scatters its “heroes” to the wind. “Shiva” grew on me when I rewatched it, though I’m not sure the execution was on par with its loftier ambitions. The resolution to “Hershel’s Farm 2: Electric (Somehow, Despite The Apocalypse) Boogaloo” certainly felt like a retread of the conclusion of that chapter from FTWD’s predecessor, dividing the Angelenos into smaller factions as it did. But beyond that, the episode felt fractured—several characters made conscious decisions to strike out on their own, but they did so because they were misled or just plain ill-informed.

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The story’s taken a spiritual or philosophical bent: Characters like Celia and George Geary (from “We All Fall Down”) have been much more abiding about the walker outbreak, viewing it as a more natural occurrence than everyone else has taken it for. Their beliefs about the exact nature of said occurrence differ, though. George thought of it as Earth’s equal and opposite reaction to being pillaged by humanity. Celia, on the other hand, hasn’t looked at the events as punitive. She believes that death is a part of life—the next part. She doesn’t look at the walkers as monsters, or even as that far removed from the living.

Celia’s way of thinking is obviously dangerous to herself and her loved ones, and it’s just a matter of time before it goes horribly wrong. My own lack of belief in anything divine or otherworldly aside, I’ve struggled with Celia’s distortion of a tradition that pre-dates Catholicism in the New World (it absolutely pre-dates it; the folk saint referred to on Talking Dead last week was the result of religious syncretism). Her devotion to her undead son has truly put a new spin on the old saying “a face only a mother could love.” But it’s not just that Luis looks different—he wants to kill her and everyone around her, right?

Well, not exactly. As Celia tells Nick, the walkers have an insatiable hunger, so all of the death is really just incidental. She believes the undead are more pitiable than anything, which is a part of the “truth” that only she and Nick are capable of grasping at this point. After he rounds up Luis for her while drenched in walker camo, Celia tells Nick that they’ve broken free of the cycle of life and death, that neither exists now that the dead walk among us. Celia basically tells him that his family is too judgmental or prejudicial to live in this “new world.” She asks him who the real monster is—his “intolerant” family, or the mindless beings who only know an unbearable craving?

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I think this scene should settle the debate about who the walkers symbolize in this particular story. Maybe their slog through the devastated world mirrors that of Rick Grimes and other survivors on The Walking Dead, but when combined with the following scene, FTWD attempts to draw far more parallels between Nick and the undead. When Madison approaches her son after his latest risky escapade, he gets offended by her disdain for the dead. He rejects her concern, telling her she should empathize with Celia’s desire to “get her son back.” Nick yells at Madison for talking like he’s “using again,” but is he? When he describes his walks along the beach with the dead, he talks excitedly about feeling like they can’t touch them. He basically tells her he feels invulnerable, and it’s a sensation he seems to enjoy and pursue.

Madison’s worried that she’s losing her son, whether it’s to the high he’s found to replace drugs, or to Celia. Despite the truce that Nick brokers with Celia, Madison doesn’t think they’ll be safe on the Abigail compound, so she’s working on an escape. She tells Nick and Alicia to gather what supplies they can and prepare to leave once Travis finds Chris, but she already looks ready to leave with just her kids at this point.

Getting the hell out of undead Dodge (Photo: AMC)

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Families have been pared down during the show’s run—the Manawas lost Liza, and the Salazars lost Griselda. Maddie’s worried about Travis and Chris, but she also fears what Chris might do to her and Alicia. And although Travis and Chris are like family, they aren’t her flesh and blood. These kinds of distinctions seem cruel, but they’re increasingly common in this world—redefining your necessities includes rethinking just how big you want your family to be, it seems. She might regret it, but she’ll find a way to live with it.

This idea of living with your bad deeds (or sins, if you prefer) came to the forefront this week, with Daniel serving as its avatar. Mr. Salazar was starting to unravel back on the boat, as evinced by his auditory hallucinations. But he seemed to really lose his grip on reality when he had to hand over his weapon in order to enter the Abigail home. By the time “Shiva” rolls around, he just wants to be reunited with his wife in the afterlife, who admonishes him for making her bear his sins with him. But ghost-Griselda also appears to forgive him, as she acknowledges that he was really the first victim.

As guilty as he feels, Daniel won’t ’fess up to Celia, who once again taunts him about his fear of his dead. She’s correctly intuited that he had some blood on his hands last week, when she told him that he was a killer. It’s a nice parlor trick, but not one that does much for the story, because they both meet their ends this week (or do they?). Daniel’s guilt and his need to protect Ofelia drive him to set the compound on fire, which is a terrible idea for several reasons, including the fact that he doesn’t even know where his daughter is at that moment, so he couldn’t have known that she wouldn’t be hurt by the boozy blaze (all the vats and barrels indicate the Abigails had a vineyard). But who cares, because ghost-Griselda beckons him, along with the ghosts of his victims.

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Maybe Daniel just knew that Madison would find a way to look after Ofelia who, along with Strand and Alicia, is the only person to make it out of the inferno in a truck. Nick’s fully bought into Celia’s idea that his family, or maybe humanity as a whole, is just plain rotten, and he ditches them to walk among the undead, who seem to be the only people who “get” him. The show’s laid the groundwork for Nick to empathize or sympathize with the walkers, but I’m not sold on the idea that he’d run off to be on his own. True, he did find a way to scrape by without a family when he was an addict, and we’ve certainly seen that there isn’t necessarily strength in numbers, but this is just another ill-advised decision. He might have found a kindred spirit in Celia, but he was in her thrall for less than two days. I just think Nick is smarter than that, which is why his disillusionment with Madison doesn’t ring true.

(Photo: AMC)

Finally, we have to talk about Chris, and how everyone hates him, and whether or not he’s a monster. He didn’t do himself any favors this week, running away from his dad and TAKING A CHILD HOSTAGE, among other things. When Travis sees what his son’s become—a “monster,” in Chris’ own words—he doesn’t turn from him. Like Madison and Celia, he doesn’t love him any less for struggling right now. And just like Madison and Celia, Travis decides to try to save his son by devoting himself to Chris, thereby letting go of his own “new world” with Madison and her family.

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Stray observations

  • I’m not entirely certain Celia is dead. Although it seemed her fate was sealed when Madison locked the door to the cell, we didn’t see her die. Although FTWD has been far less bloody than its predecessor, it seems a strange choice to have her die offscreen. The walkers were noshing on something before Celia entered, and the blood stains on the ground just didn’t look, uh, wide enough.
  • Ofelia peeling off her skin in Daniel’s opening-scene nightmare gave me the willies.
  • The Abigail family business was wine. How ’bout that?
  • Madison was responsible for Celia’s death, but why not just tell Nick that Daniel set the place on fire? There was enough time for her to stand silently in front of his accusing stare, but not to spill that bit of info?

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