Fear the Walking Dead’s first season ended this Sunday, and while I liked some parts of it more than others, I really loved it overall. A few characters are fairly unlikable, as are some of the writing decisions, but it was still a fun first watch, and I enjoyed seeing what happened at the start of the apocalypse. I also really enjoyed that, once again, Rick wasn’t in it.
Spoilers up ahead.
When I last reviewed Fear the Walking Dead, I talked about the Manawas and the Clarks. Travis Manawa divorced his wife and is now dating Madison Clark. Sadly, his attempts at reconciling with his son and merging their families have produced less than favorable results. However, the impending end of days forces them all to live together and get along. Also along for the ride is the Salazar family, and despite having clearly different ideals and goals, all three families do manage to work together in their quest for survival.
Over the course of our six episodes, our characters lived under martial law, letting us know what happened in the early days of the apocalypse. Unfortunately, they discover that the military are not all they seem and they are not there to protect innocent civilians. Daniel Salazar, who was born and raised in a war-torn El Salvador and escaped from the country with his wife back in the 1980s, recognizes what the military is doing long before anyone else does. After his wife, Griselda, and Nick Clark are forcefully taken away for medical treatment—Nick for his drug addiction and Griselda for an injured foot—Daniel fears that he will never see his wife again, and rightfully so.
Daniel then conspires to kidnap and torture one of the soldiers for information. This is something that both Travis and Madison grudgingly go along with, after they realize that the soldiers are murdering people. Travis sees someone killed from a distance, and Madison finds murdered bodies that were never infected. It turns out that the military has a protocol called Cobalt—when places get overrun, they start murdering their own citizens.
Our three families band together to save Nick and Griselda. Also missing and trapped in a military compound is Liza who, due to her medical knowledge, was able to get clearance to follow our kidnapped characters and work the military’s makeshift hospital. Unfortunately for Griselda, her injured foot goes septic and she dies. Despite this loss, our families still manage to break into the compound and save both Liza and Nick. They also run into a man named Strand, who takes them to his beach house afterward, since he has a boat they can all be safe on.
Not everything is well and good, though. We learn that Liza suffered a bite during their escape, and she begs Madison and Travis to kill her so she doesn’t turn. The first season ends with her death.
As I said earlier, there are a lot of things I really liked about Fear the Walking Dead. We learn more about Nick’s drug addiction and relationship with his family—it’s strained, to say the least. At one point during the season, when Madison discovers that Nick has been stealing morphine, she abuses him by slapping him repeatedly across the face. This abuse, though, leads to a heartwarming moment between Nick and his sister Alicia, where once again, Nick reveals himself to be vulnerable and emotional while his sister comforts him. Alicia’s character is still nowhere near as developed as I want her to be, and neither is Chris Manawa. We don’t really know all that much about Alicia other than her relationship to Nick and her step-brother Chris. The show doesn’t delve into her resentment of Nick all that much, and the same is true for her interactions with Chris. When the season starts, she and Chris hate each other.
Then, after the military takes away Nick, Liza, and Griselda, Alicia and Chris are pretty much left alone while everyone else tries to figure out what to do. We see the effect everything has on them as they try to work through their resentment together. Eventually, they break into an abandoned mansion and vandalize the place. Juvenile delinquency aside, we watch their relationship grow from hostile to supportive. This would have meant more to their characters had we known why they disliked each other initially. Chris seems to hate the Clarks for stealing his dad, but why does Alicia dislike Chris?
Furthermore, I could have done without the attempted sexual assault. Some of the soldiers make passes at Alicia and threaten
her. When Chris stands up to them, they beat the crap out of him. Then for some reason, the soldiers just leave without continuing to assault Alicia like they implied they were going to. I feel like this was included to just further make us realize what horrible people the soldiers are, but we already knew they’re horrible—they’re committing murder. On top of that, there was just no point to any kind of sexual violence. Afterward, we don’t see Alicia too freaked out about what happened, and Chris seems perfectly fine as well, except for a gash on his cheek. If we never see the characters react and grow from these incidents, they end up seeming like instances creators put in just to be “edgy”.
There was a sexual assault in The Walking Dead just like this, between Carl and the Marauders. And once again, it had little to no negative consequences for Carl. We see a scene or two afterward where he’s clearly shaken, but by the time the next season rolls around, he’s more or less fine. Comparatively, in Season 1, after Shane assaults Lori, we see her struggle with that in all her future interactions with him. I never liked Shane nor Lori, and I would hardly say the show did the best job handling it, but at the very least, The Walking Dead was committed to exploring that conflict.
My other big complaints about Fear the Walking Dead’s first season are between Daniel and Liza. Daniel Salazar is not very likable. That said, he is still an interesting and developed character. Learning about his history puts his current actions into perspective, and I can say that the narrative doesn’t completely condone everything he does—torture, murder, etc. I found Daniel’s character unlikable, because he can pretty much shut off his own morality in order to get stuff done. In the finale, his actions result in the deaths of numerous people, and this is something that everyone else just goes along with. I don’t mind Daniel being morally reprehensible, though—it makes sense for his character. That said, it makes less sense for someone like Travis, who’s so against violence that he won’t kill a walker, to punch the aforementioned tortured soldier to death. Both Travis and Madison start the series as decent people unwilling to sacrifice their morals, even if that compromises their safety. This turn about for them and going along with everything Daniel did felt rushed.
As for Liza, she suffers from a particularly shitty trope. “Mercy killings” are pretty common in The Walking Dead universe, and in some ways realistic. Getting bit results in a slow, painful death. Following that, death results in reanimation, and an infected character not wanting that for herself makes sense. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead universe doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it becomes a problem when two of our prominent female characters—Madison and Liza—talk about it and plan to mercy kill each other in the event one of them gets infected, so that
Travis doesn’t have to do it and have massive manpain. They both agree that it would “destroy” him. When Michonne mercy kills Andrea, I didn’t think much about it. Yeah, Michonne is sad, because she’s losing her friend. But in the end, Andrea’s death was about Andrea, not the other characters. Their time for mourning came later. That’s not true for Liza’s death. Liza’s death was about Travis even before she died, and that was something I could have done without.
As I said, I still really loved the first season, and it had a lot of characters to
introduce and develop over the course of six episodes. I feel as though some of its failings come from not having enough time to flesh everything out. It looks as though Fear the Walking Dead has already been renewed for a longer second season, so I guess we’ll see how everything turns out next year.