Because of the pace of Fear the Walking Dead, I decided to write a final review on the last two episodes, and to do things a little different. As usual, I will give an overview and analysis of the episodes and the final rating, but I also hope to inspire a discussion with The Walking Dead Fans in San Angelo and the surrounding area. Although I would have liked to do this earlier in the week, news takes precedence over LIVE! Thought, but better late than never in my opinion.
The Final Analysis
I have spent many years studying the issue of violence in contemporary literature and film; and because of the nature of violence in the TWD series, especially when it comes to man versus man and man versus nature, I wanted to see how those themes would play out in FTWD; the writers didn't let me down, especially in the final two episodes.
In my prior review, I discussed how the military appeared to be the antagonist of the show because of its handling of the apocalypse and of the people, and that turned out to be correct. After the finale of FTWD Sunday, one of the writer’s appeared on Talking Dead and confirmed the military were the more dangerous threat to the characters rather than the walkers this season, but when we think about war and how things take place in the show, the actions of the military are understandable.
Before I explain further, I have to clarify that we witness both necessary and unnecessary violence repeatedly in American culture, and this goes back to what theorists refer to as the Cowboy Myth. According to the myth, the great American hero has to engage in necessary violence to defeat the savage enemy, even if we don’t agree with those actions. Unnecessary violence occurs when the savage commits acts of violence simply for the thrill of it or because it’s part of his or her nature.
By the end of the show, we learn the characters and the military both engage in necessary violence, but their ideas of how to handle that violence creates conflict. Because of that, they fight amongst one another to the point where man becomes more dangerous than the savage, which in this case includes the zombies. This conflict reveals the flaws of human nature and what happens when chaos ensues.
For example, we know the men and women in uniform are trained to do whatever is necessary for the good of the county and to defend U.S. values and interests. That includes engaging in violent acts. War is violent obviously, and in every war there are casualties. People in the military understand this, but they have a mission; and regardless of the cost, they have to fulfill it.
In FTWD, the mission is clear. The military officers have to fight an unknown threat while at the same time keeping people from learning the truth; a truth that could cause mass chaos; because let’s face it, people can’t handle reality at times, especially when it involves reanimated corpses. However, not knowing the truth also creates fear, and although the citizens look to the military for comfort and attempt to go about their lives as if everything is okay, they remain suspicious.
Despite this suspicion, however, they do go about their daily lives while the men and women in uniform have to confront a harsh reality on a daily basis, which explains the intolerant attitude of the commander in charge and why the officers barge into Madison’s house to take Nick, Griselda and Liza. Their methods are viewed as harsh and violent, but to the military, that violence is necessary to keep the possibility of death and chaos at bay.
The only person to truly learn what the military has to face is Travis thanks to his outing with officers in the penultimate episode. When Travis sees the woman in the shop, who is now no longer a woman, he has a hard time killing her because of her name badge. He sees her as a person, but she’s not, and that’s the reality many people wouldn’t accept if they knew the truth. Travis has no choice but to accept reality though when he witnesses the military officers die fighting in a building full of zombies.
Now that’s not to say that some of the officers don't take advantage of people’s fear, as with the cufflink exchange between an officer and Strand, but that’s expected during times of war, or in this case, the apocalypse. There are good and bad in all groups. However, nature has a way of coming back, and that officer meets a violent death in the last episode.
Additionally, we learn that Daniel wasn’t the victim of government violence, but rather the perpetrator. Like the military men and women, he too had to engage in what he perceived as necessary violence. In times of war, that violence remains a means to an end and there’s no going back, which is why he takes the officer, Andy, captive and tortures him for information.
In fact, after Ofelia learns what he did both to Andy and in El Salvador, she is heartbroken and disillusioned. Madison walks in during their confrontation, and Daniel tells her, “I told her about the violence. What was done. How we suffered. I told her everything except which man was me. Do you think she would understand that it was necessary then to survive? That it is necessary again?”
If it hadn’t been for his actions, the group would have never learned that the military planned on deserting the area and the people, nor would they have made it to the military camp in time to recover Nick and Liza. They also would have never discovered that Griselda gave into her wound. Dr. Exner and the officers were right when they took her because they knew she would die, and they knew what she would become.
Travis, who appeared the weak humanist in the beginning, also has to loosen his moral compass by the end of the first season. After witnessing what he did in the city, he begins to reveal a strength not seen before, but he does falter in the last episode by letting Andy loose. He didn’t agree with Daniel’s method of violence, and he couldn’t understand how Madison condoned it, but in the end, he learns. As a result of his lack in judgment, Andy sets out for violent revenge against Daniel, and shoots his daughter. Right after the gun goes off, Travis gives in to the violence and slams himself against Andy and begins to pummel the man with his fists. When he’s done, it’s unclear whether the man is alive or dead because the group leaves him on the floor.
Although some people might refer to Travis’ actions as unnecessary, he stopped the now deranged man from causing further damage. Revenge is unnecessary violence, so the officer turns savage in the end, and it’s up to the cowboy or the hero to eliminate the savage other with necessary violence. It’s also up to the cowboy/hero to provide mercy killings when necessary, so although Travis isn’t a violent man, he has to accept the responsibility of ending his ex-wife Liza’s life with a bullet to the head. Even though she was the woman he once loved and the mother of his child, he has to take charge and keep her from becoming the savage.
As we would expect with the apocalypse, the show ends with unnecessary violence as the walkers overcome the military camp and savagely kill anyone in their path. Walkers are no longer people but savages, animals with no logical thought process. They only know the concept of survival and that means they have to hunt, kill and eat. That’s nature in a nutshell, and nature itself is violent because it does what it has to for survival.
The Final Rating
Fear the Walking Dead, as a spin-off show, portrays an interesting perspective TWD fans didn’t have before. We get to witness how the end takes place, and although things were a bit slow in the beginning, the unraveling of the apocalypse appears real in a frightening way because things we see taking place today cause humanity’s downfall.
The first season does leave viewers wondering the following:
- What would happen if life as we know it came to an end, and how would we react?
- How would our government and military react, and how would they protect us against a threat they themselves have never come up against before?
- How do we fight an unknown threat, and how would we treat one another?
All in all, FTWD does leave viewers questioning our humanity, and it does a good job showing how our depravity causes our demise, but on its own, it would not survive in the way TWD has, which is why San Angelo LIVE! gives the show a B rating overall.
Final Thoughts and Questions for Discussion
Now that the first season is over, I have to admit I’m still not sure how I feel about the series. As I stated, I like the themes of the show, but I don't care about the characters like I do in TWD. I imagine that was intentional by the writers to show our weaknesses as a society today, but I can’t say I’m at the edge of my seat rallying for a second season. In a way, I would like to see how the characters develop more now that the end is here, but I feel we get that with TWD, so I’m a bit conflicted.
With that being said, I would be okay if AMC produces a second season of FTWD, but I won’t lose sleep if the network doesn’t. What I do know is I can’t wait for the sixth season of TWD, and I would lose sleep if that series ended.
How about you, the fans in San Angelo? Do you think there should be a second season? Why or why not? Also, what would you say is the best episode this season, and what are your thoughts on the characters? How would you rate the show overall?