(Photo: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The last two episodes of Fear The Walking Dead have opened with similar “regaining consciousness” scenes that show just how far from home Nick has strayed. In “Grotesque,” he woke post-compound blaze to find a dead couple in the same room with him; and last week, his roommate was a sick, elderly Mexican woman. So things are sort of looking up for Madison’s wayward son, though his latest encounter with the bastardization of Mexican culture might not offer the kind of solace he’s looking for after all. If the focus had remained on Nick this week, who knows where we might have seen him wake up—maybe a nice B&B?—but it’s time for season 2B to catch up with the Manawa men, as well as reveal whether Madison and Strand’s bender would lead to something far more painful than a hangover.

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When Travis chose Chris over his blended family, it wasn’t clear whether he ever expected or desired to be reunited with the Clarks down the road. He seemed awfully disappointed in Madison’s reluctance to help him save his son, especially since he’d scoured Los Angeles on multiple occasions in search of her son. And that was before the outbreak, and doesn’t even include the daring rescue he helped pull off in “The Good Man” (which, by the way, might have been the last time Travis looked truly capable of surviving in this walker world). So Travis is definitely disillusioned, but if he hasn’t forsaken Chris, I don’t think he’s given up on Madison, either.

He might feel a bit differently if he knew that Madison hadn’t spared many a thought for him since splitting up, though she did suggest in “Los Muertos” that he had offered some respite from her hyper-vigilance about the men in her life. Madison went on about the people she couldn’t save in her past life, including her late husband Patrick. She hasn’t felt quite the same obligation to look after Travis, though that might be due to a lack of concern rather than confidence in his abilities. But he and Chris are still alive and wandering the Mexican countryside, where Travis hopes to wait out the end of the world, while Chris wants to take more decisive action.

(Photo: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

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Here we see one of the common zombie-apocalypse arguments play out. Which is safer/smarter—staying put or staying mobile? Travis’ plan to hunker down in the mountains, with a vantage point and a water source, isn’t a bad one (as I type that, a collective shudder goes through viewers at the thought of just watching the Manawas making dinner and strained conversation). It’s probably what a lot of parents would think to do, rather than hit the road with their only child. You may only have each other to rely on, but you can watch who comes and goes, limiting your interactions with anyone who might do you harm. But, as so many of you are probably already pointing out, even that scenario only offers the illusion of control—look at what just happened at the Abigail compound.

Travis is holding out hope that living in isolation will somehow “reset” his son—or maybe just prevent him from hurting others. Chris is already far too adept at (and eager about) taking out any threats: “I’m good at this,” he tells Travis, who replies “That’s what worries me.” For both their sakes, Travis needs to develop more of a plan than just “get away,” but even though he remains somewhat optimistic, he isn’t really much more prepared for this new world than his son is. (So much for your theory, George Geary). Chris is forcing his father’s hand, because he needs Travis to prove to him that killing Liza served some purpose other than eliminating Madison’s competition and depriving him of his home. It’s a lot for Travis to live up to, in part because it’s not really accurate, but also because he hasn’t been written as much more than the occasional flash of ingenuity and morality.

Denying that times have changed is just questionable as falling too quickly in line—and probably more dangerous—but Travis’ desire to establish some normalcy for his traumatized son is what’s most important to him at the moment. So he tries to enjoy the father-son time, including a driving lesson and some camping under the stars, which Chris can’t help but mention that Liza hated. What Chris does omit is the meet-cute he had with some marauders at a restaurant, who have now either tracked them down or just happened to run into them.

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This creepy new trio is really interested in Chris, who’s shown the same inclination for lawlessness that they possess. They all commend the teen on his walker-killing skills, and Travis can tell he’s losing his son. When Travis tells him the trio’s dangerous, Chris just shrugs and says “maybe that’s what it takes.” He’s fallen under the sway of Brandon, the trio’s leader, who brags about how “the end times made [them] gods,” but he needs little prompting. He figures the best way out of the awkward, tried-to-kill-my-sort-of-stepmom phase is to reinvent himself as the exact kind of person they’ve been avoiding this whole time.

When Chris kills the Mexican farmer, the only fear that’s motivating him is the possibility that someone else might beat him to it. Travis is shaken and unable to take his son’s hand, but the cold-blooded murder feels almost routine. It’s the clearest marker for someone’s loss of humanity, so it was bound to happen. Chris’ descent has been so precipitous that even this major slip hardly registers. There are certainly some people who would welcome the breakdown of civilization, and the idea of having such a person in your group—in your own family—could make for an interesting story. But too often it feels like the show’s writers are working their way back from such a revelation without leaving breadcrumbs to find their way forward again. “Why is this kid such a piece of shit, again?” is something they should probably ask themselves more.

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Chris isn’t the only person to commit some deplorable action this episode. “Do Not Disturb” introduces Elena, the manager/concierge of the oceanside hotel that Madison & Co. believed they’d found refuge in last week. A flashback at the top of the episode reveals that Elena chose to “contain” the outbreak or whatever she thought had prompted the father of the bride at the wedding the hotel was hosting to take a bite out of his daughter (poor Schuyler Fisk). Aside from the nods to REC3: Génesis, this scene also provides a little more of the pre-breakdown history. The mother of the American bride receives some “insider info” that makes her want to run to the border with her family, which suggests/confirms that the wealthy and influential always had more knowledge about what happened. (The show can’t really handle anymore characters, but it certainly feels like this scene is setting up the wedding party remnants for a return.)

When Elena locked down the reception, she did so out of concern for the rest of her guests, as the resort had been booked to capacity. She’s now one of a handful of survivors in the hotel, who are all playing a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse-and-walkers. Elena’s knowledge of the resort’s grounds has kept her one step ahead of the vengeful wedding guests, but she has to strike a deal with Alicia to try to get her nephew back. There’s the briefest tense moment as a group of walkers presses against the sliding glass doors in the room that Alicia and Elena trap them in, but there’s no real concern for either character.

This story doesn’t add much aside from an escape for Alicia—who was John McClane-ing it in the elevator shaft while searching for a depressed Ofelia—and some more poorly-conceived Mexican characters. Elena’s no monster or Governor, but she’s already morally compromised, which means she won’t last long. The show simply has too many other characters to redeem (or justify) at this point to spend any time on Elena, so this all feels rather pointless, even though Alicia seems to have taken a shine to her. This might have just been a ruse, because Alicia was also looking for Madison at that point, but her line that “we’ve done worse” suggests she wasn’t judging Elena. She really is growing up.

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Stray observations

  • The show treated Madison and Strand’s miraculous survival as an afterthought, and so did I.
  • But seriously, how did they manage to get out of that Shaun Of The Dead-esque scenario? They don’t even look any worse for wear.
  • How did Alicia know that someone was on the other side of that door at the end? Elena was leading them to the kitchen, which was near the bar that Madison and Strand were drinking in, but I didn’t hear anyone respond to Hector’s attempts to knock the door down. So why was Alicia asking someone to let them in?
  • I’m disappointed that the show couldn’t work in a single “Sue Ellen Mischke/O. Henry Bar heiress” reference, despite the fact that Brenda Strong seemed to be playing a woman of means.
  • I’m sure I’ve said it before, but teen rebellion looks very different in the post-apocalyptic world.

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