Go watch the episode, then read this.
The Good Man.
Who is he? Is anyone good anymore?
The season finale of season one of Fear the Walking Dead hits with wrenching blows, hard choices and one mantra--embrace the madness.
I think the title of this episode is a sneering rejoinder to the idea that anyone can remain good in the face of the zombie onslaught. Everywhere in this episode you see the collapse of society, of civil order, and of the resistance of the survivors to the dead who have begun to form herds and consume the living.
You can see that the choices have become more stark. Where we were looking at ethical choices in the first few episodes, now we're looking at a small band of survivors that cannot save everyone and isn't about to try to do so. The soldiers have abandoned the compound and so Travis and Madison make their move to save Griselda, Nick and Liza. They don't know that Griselda has died but they have extracted information from the soldier that Daniel expertly tortured. They know they have to kill him but Travis argues that he needs to be left alive. And, in this show, whenever you leave someone alive, that choice comes back to bite you. So much for being a good man.
It's interesting to see that the California National Guard has effectively evaporated and retreated. There are forces at Edwards Air Force Base, and they can still send a Chinook, but how long can they hold out?
The answer is, however long their perimeter holds and however long their soldiers can still keep putting rounds down range. Once the logistics of all that catches up with them, it's every man and woman for himself. In this episode, you see how that is going to look in Season Two. The soldiers have the weapons and the vehicles and supplies, so they are taking advantage of that and leaving everyone behind. The heartbreak of driving past families still in their homes around lanterns, still hoping for normalcy, rings out in this episode. The dying are left to Dr. Bethany Exner, and she uses the captive bolt gun to ease their suffering. This breaks her, and so she pulls her own version of the Season One finale of The Walking Dead, also known as Dr. Jenner's decision to remain in the CDC. That's a nice overlap, but wait. Do we get to see Exner finish herself off? Nope, and I suspect she'll come back as a character in Season Two.
In fact, we will probably see her hooked up with troubled teenager Tobias and we'll probably find them leading their own group of survivors--who knows? Some of the military personnel will come back as well in some form or another. We know that the dead present one problem, and the living present another one entirely. Season One has to have its own version of Merle, so I suspect that will be one of the military personnel who either abandoned the civilians or tried to abduct Alicia.
The loss of Liza is the kick in the gut here--the group is safe, they're at Strand's opulent home on the ocean (there are, literally, thousands and thousands of these homes now, and they'll make great locations next season because they face out to the ocean), and there's a chance to collect themselves and look at their options. Strand is going to get on his boat--he is missing someone but we don't get to see who. But Liza is bitten so she has to walk down to the ocean and do herself in. She delivers the logic that will now guide the show, filling in for Dr. Jenner at the CDC in The Walking Dead in this case when she tells Madison and Travis that everyone is infected and everyone will turn when they die of a scratch, a bite, or an injury. Liza tells them that she will die and she will come back, so she asks Madison to finish her off. Travis appears, and you can see where it goes from there. The helplessness of this scene and the loss of Liza informs the direction of the episodes to come.
Is Travis the good man? He goes from pacifist to killer fast. He gets blood on his hands. He basically arrives where Madison has been for a while (neither of them are ever going to go as far as Daniel) and he breaks down on the beach. You see the wonderful effects shots--the abandoned city, the fires that burn unattended, the cars stuck on the freeways, and the first inkling of herds of zombies becoming a menace. You see no living people, but they're out there. The effects work alone has been worth watching. Ever wondered what a dystopian Los Angeles would look like? Now you have a clearer idea of what happens to society.
Daniel has been transformed into his old self--a torturing follower and a man with no ethics. How this plays out is anyone's guess. He has lost his wife and now his daughter Ofelia knows what he is. How can they have a future?
Chris now has to face life without a mother--something Nick and Alicia already know because they lost their father years before Travis appeared in their life and helped to create this blended family. The last thing you see Madison do before she leaves her house is touch where she and her husband once stood to mark their heights in the house where they raised their children. To leave you home is a new reality, and to leave your loved ones behind is what makes this such a compelling show. No one is safe, and, as Strand says, you must embrace the madness.
Is Travis the good man? Is Strand? Who can honestly say? The madness must be embraced, and that won't leave the good man, whoever he is, with any options.
There's still a lot to process about this season, but it's over and done with. The first block of shows is done and now we get to wait until The Walking Dead makes its run through Season Six. The webisodes for the Flight short story is on the way--that's probably how we'll end up meeting Strand and how we'll find out how he ended up trapped in custody with Nick.
I'll start recapping and analyzing that piece of the puzzle as well as The Walking Dead because this is the most fun I've had on the old blog in years. Stick around, and stock up on supplies. A trunk full isn't going to get anyone very far.