Fear the Walking Dead’s “Date of Death” picks up a short while after the final scene of the last episode, with Travis now at the gates of the hotel along with a small crowd of other trying to get in. On whole the rest of the episode is mainly a giant flashback that focuses on how Travis ended up there alone and why Chris is the worst.
Certain episodes are climatic episodes – ones you’ll be talking about for days, weeks – and others are more building-block episodes – ones that get you to the climaxes…Fear the Walking Dead’s “Pillar of Salt” is the latter. It is all about loosely stitching the fractured Abigail crew together and building towards whatever major events are coming next.
Before I knew anything else about Stranger Things, I knew that Barb deserved better…I knew it before I even knew who Barb was. It was the first thing anyone who saw the series said – “poor Barb…Barb deserved better…Justice for Barb!” – and, after I watched the series, I absolutely agreed. Barb totally deserved better. That part isn’t really at question; what is, is why has everyone remained so attached to the character? There are plenty of characters across pop culture media who deserved better than what they got, but Barb is the first I’ve seen receive an almost nationwide outcry for justice. …Why? What’s so special about Stranger Things’ Barb?
More than anything Fear the Walking Dead’s “Pablo and Jessica” focuses on how characters react after the loss of loved ones. Even the opening scene speaks to this as Madison takes a page out of her “lost” son’s playbook in killing and gutting an Infected, then covering herself and Strand in the blood to escape the overrun hotel bar. Once outside they find their truck gone; Strand presumes Alicia and Ofelia fled, forcing Madison to again face the possibility of losing someone she loves. Something she stubbornly refuses to do as she insists that, unlike Nick, Alicia wouldn’t just leave, and is relieved to be proven correct when she finds Alicia (along with Elena and Hector) banging on the other side of one of spa’s doors.
Over and over I saw articles discussing the wonderful manner in which Stranger Things subverted the “bad-boyfriend” stereotype with its character, Steve Harrington. Steve starts as the typical 80s jock who’s kind of a jerk, but still cute and popular enough for sweet and brainy Nancy to turn her back on what she cares about – good grades, doing the right thing, her best friend, Barb – in order to be with him. As the show progresses Steve seems to increasingly play into his archetype until…he doesn’t. Until he stands up to his nasty friends and helps both Nancy and his romantic rival, Jonathan, fight off the Demogorgon at risk to his own safety.
…But “Bad-Boyfriend” Steve isn’t the only stereotype subverted. In truth, the magic of the show lies, in no small part, in all the archetypes and tropes it sets up and then slowly tears apart across the episodes.
The opening scene of Fear the Walking Dead’s “Do Not Disturb” is a flashback to the wedding the hotel had before the world fell apart. As the bride and her father dance he collapses, dies, then comes back to bite his daughter in the face as she tries to give him mouth-to-mouth. After that the hotel manager promptly locks the entire wedding party and their guests in the ballroom. …Thanks show writers, I needed another reason to instinctually dislike weddings.
This episode mainly bounces between Alicia and Chris, each of them showing off their respective survival skills in this new world. Given we start with the wedding flashback, I’ll stick to the hotel side first. Alicia is tucked in a room, counting off undead with clicks of a butterfly knife, before she finally feels it’s clear enough to make a run for it. Sadly, she’s wrong and quickly finds herself trapped in an elevator shaft trying to hold on as Infected fall below in their blind efforts to grab her.
Her savior comes in the form of a woman on the floor above who, when Alicia is close enough, grabs and pulls her to safety…only to throw her against the wall and demand: “Where is he?”. The woman is Elena, the hotel manager who locked all those guests in the ballroom and came up with marking Infected-occupied rooms via “Do Not Disturb” signs. “He” is her nephew, Hector, who disappeared on a food run within the hotel itself. Elena believes the last few survivors of the wedding party took him in effort to get the hotel’s master key, thus giving them free reign of the hotel and the power to oust (if not outright kill) Elena and Hector. Alicia states that her only wish is to get back to her mother, but that if they work together perhaps they can get both their loved ones back.
After lure-and-contain tricks with the Infected and badass, stories-high, wall-climbing Alicia and Elena make their way back down to the lobby. Here they come across another ballroom of trapped Infected and the wedding party survivors led by the late bride’s mother – a.k.a. “Braless Wonder” Sue Ellen Mischke from Seinfeld – holding Hector hostage. Elena was right, they want that master key. Elena relents to get her nephew back, but before the guests can do anything else Alicia releases the trapped Infected on them and the three escape. After some searching, a Mom-is-Infected scare, and dash through a super creepy underground tunnel Alicia is, finally, reunited with both Madison and Strand. …Add to that potential new allies in Elena and Hector and Alicia’s doing pretty well surviving the new world if you ask me.
Meanwhile hopelessly naive Travis and hopelessly kill-happy Chris try their hand at survival. They start on foot, Travis hobbled and Chris worried, until they reach a small gas station/store where they have the opportunity to grab a car and supplies. The car is fairly easy thanks to Travis’ willingness to at least smash a window and hot-wire a car, the supplies are up to Chris…and, as such, it involves theft, Infected-killing, and abandoning other survivors as the pair dash into the great unknown.
For some reason Travis decides to teach his son to drive for the first time in the middle of the night with random Infected roaming about, but it goes pretty well. Chris manages not to crash and is able to avoid hitting an Infected before the car runs out of gas. They set up a small campsite and share their beliefs on how to best handle the future: Travis is keen on finding a secluded location where there might be a cabin in the mountains just waiting for father and son to live in until things blow over. He also seems to hope they’ll be reunited with Madison and the rest and everyone will pretend like nothing ever happened. Chris, rightly, sees this as a pipe-dream.
Eventually the group Chris both saved and robbed find them. At first they hide, but Travis comes out after he sees his son’s instinctual reaction is to go for a weapon. The three Dude-Bros (I don’t remember their names) are Americans who’re trapped south of the border after coming down for Spring Break. Despite being a long way from home all three seem to be doing pretty well for themselves, killing and robbing their way through the Mexica countryside. As they chat Chris sees great potential for an alliance while Travis sees danger, most especially for his son’s moral being as the Dude-Bros compliment Chris’s badassery of theft and a high Infected kill count.
After some haggling the Dude-Bros agree to at least drive Travis and Chris to the next town, but they soon detour when Chris spots a seemingly abandoned farm. While Travis insists this is a place he and Chris can hunker down and live at, Chris is more interested in the barn full of chickens (much better than a barn full of Walkers). Soon the barn is full of squawks and the delighted cheers of Chris and Dude-Bros as they try to catch a meal, which calls the attention of Travis and then the farm-owner. The last of his family, the farmer threatens them all with a shotgun. It goes bad, fast: Travis tries to translate/negotiate, Dude-Bros pull their weapons, a Dude-Bro kills a chicken and the farmer shoots said Dude-Bro in the leg, and then Chris shoots the farmer in the chest, killing him. Unsurprisingly, Travis is horrified and, as his son tries to give him a hand in getting up, Travis looks at him the same way Madison and Alicia have in the past…horrified and disgusted.
…The show ends with Travis turning away from his son, back to the dead farmer, and with me wondering why no one’s given the farmer a finishing shot since he could come back at any moment.
Can someone explain to me how in the hell the mother of the bride survived?! She was right next to her bite-happy undead husband and face-bitten daughter when Elena locked them all in the ballroom. I wanna know how she made it out of there alive, with body parts intact.
This has to be the first time Chris has felt like he belongs since the beginning of this show, period.
Ofelia’s still missing and I haven’t a clue where she might be. She could be dead, but that’d be almost too easy. I’d honestly be disappointed if she just winds up dead. She could’ve run away, but why? To what end? There’s also the option that, like Hector, those wedding guests snatched Ofelia, but she wasn’t mentioned by any of them when the Hector-for-master-key showdown occurred. So…still a mystery.
Hate on me all you want, but between Travis and Chris in this episode, I’d pick Chris. For this world, Chris’s way of thinking is simply going to get you farther at the moment. Hiding out on a farm isn’t going to work; Infected will soon roam in herds that can tear a farm apart (remember Hershel’s?) and there will always be those like the Dude-Bros who are more than willing to take you out for what you have…especially if you’re on your own like the farmer was, like Travis wants to be.
…Dude-Bros reminded me of Baby Negan and The Saviors. I imagine this is how Negan started, with himself and a few loyal followers roaming around, taking what they needed however they could, recruiting more likeminded folks along the way. Chris even called the leader his savior, if I recall. I must confess, if that’s how this progresses, I’ll be very interested in Chris’s storyline. I’ll also be very worried for Travis’s safety, but unless he wises up that won’t matter much because I’ll always be worrying about his safety…or hoping he dies, depending on how much of a killjoy he is in the future.