‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season Finale Review: ‘The Good Man’ Is Intense, Emotional
Recap and review of Fear The Walking Dead – Season 1 Finale – The Good Man:
Much of Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 has been about building to a breaking point, gradually removing the freedoms and liberties of civilized life, and replacing it with fear, tension, and violence. Before long, everything was going to fall apart. People were going to have to die, and good men would have to break in the process. And that’s exactly what happens in “The Good Man”, a season finale that allows Fear the Walking Dead to finally realize its potential.
Whereas the previous five episodes have been about the buildup of tension, and the gradual collapse of civilization in the wake of the zombie outbreak, “The Good Man” is basically balls to the wall for much of its runtime. This, despite how quickly and easily the overall story itself can be summed up: Daniel (Ruben Blades) releases walkers from the facility as a distraction so they can sneak into the military medical compound and rescue their loved ones. That’s the first half of the episode, whereas the second half involves their escape from the neighborhood altogether. And that’s pretty much it. It’s that simple. But it’s glorious in its simplicity, and its narrative efficiency, since we get a lot of different storylines coming to a head over the course of this hour. For one, the soldier whom Daniel tortured for information about the Cobalt operation ends up being released by a sympathetic Travis (Cliff Curtis), and shooting Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) in the shoulder in order to get back at Daniel. This prompts Travis to finally snap, unleashing the resentment that’s been mounting over the past several weeks, as more and more demands are made on his patience and his faith in the possibility of civilized society reclaiming its former lucidity. Of course, the irony in all of this is that Travis seems to hold out the hope that society will go back to the way it was, yet he’s part of a plan that unwittingly condemns his neighbors to death. Then again, I’m not exactly sure what they could have done to contain the threat once Daniel released the walkers, particularly since Daniel has been proven to be someone who really only cares about his family. It’s this latter point that makes his reaction to news of Griselda’s death all the more poignant, since this look of failure just washes over him and carries into his body language, as if Daniel were wondering if he committed atrocities in El Salvador and bent morals here for nothing. It’s a tremendous performance from Blades.
That said, while Ruben Blades’s performance as Daniel has been the highlight of this season, in my opinion, Curtis does an amazing job with Travis’s transformation. For too long, he’s been the voice of reason, and that self-appointed role comes with its own self-appointed pressures. In trying to keep everyone sheltered and safe, and distracted from the fear and dread of it all, Travis hasn’t really taken any time for introspection himself. By trying to be all things to all people, he’s hardly taking care of himself at all. He’s not talking to people about the concerns he’s having, because he’s trying to convince himself he doesn’t have concerns at all. Sure, he has doubts about how the military is handling this, but he ultimately seems to trust in their authority. But that goes out the window when Ofelia is shot, as Travis completely leashes out in a moment representative of his loss of faith in the possibility that things can return to the way they were. It’s a stunning, brutal moment, and one of the big highlights of the episode, overshadowed only by the dramatic death that was basically promised, as Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) ends up getting bitten, putting Travis in the unenviable position of having to put her out of her misery.
The scene was pretty emotional, even though the show hadn’t done a whole lot to invest us in the Travis/Liza relationship. In fact, they pretty much spent the entire first season at odds, arguing over one thing or another. Travis’s relationship with Liza is the same relationship he has with Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), which is the same relationship he has with Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). In short, he has these combative, at-odds relationships with virtually everybody who isn’t Maddie (Kim Dickens), because his self-appointed job is to be the big man of the situation, the moral authority who tries to do the right thing, even if it means going against expectations. This is why, a few weeks back, Maddie made Liza promise that, if she should ever turn, Liza would put her out of her misery, because Travis having to do it would break him. While Maddie isn’t the one who dies here, the death of Liza shows that Travis is a very different man now. Instead of allowing Maddie to kill Liza and fulfill her end of the deal, Travis steps up and does his duty, finally accepting that this outbreak is a problem that isn’t going to go away. The walkers aren’t people anymore, and they can’t be turned back into what they once were. And so he can’t let Liza become that. He needs to do for Liza what he couldn’t allow Maddie to do for her neighbor. It’s poignant and also momentous, because of the change it triggers in Travis.
But each season finale needs a strong hook for the next season, and that’s what we get in the form of Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), the man who escapes with Nick. In the finale, we learn that the Abigail he’s so intent on meeting up with on the outside is, in actuality, a boat. And that is, ultimately, where the group decides to head, leaving open the possibility of a Walking Dead franchise season set out at sea. That’s an exciting possibility, although I’m not sure, exactly, how it would be accomplished. Regardless, I’m open to seeing what this show can do in its second season, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to say a few weeks back. “The Good Man” is a damn good season finale, and Fear The Walking Dead, while far from perfect, manages to show promise once again.
But what did you think of the Fear The Walking Dead season finale, “The Good Man”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Fear The Walking Dead, read up on the new FTWD web series, Flight 462!