The first-season finale of Fear the Walking Dead, “The Good Man,” layered in a lot of what has been missing from the series through the first five episodes, while repeating many of the series’ previous mistakes. In one of the episode’s final moments, however, it finally achieved what it had originally set out to do: Become an emotionally resonant family drama, albeit one set against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse.
That moment came with the death of Liza (Elizabeth Ortiz). It often takes a moment of agony and of sacrifice for viewers to invest in the characters, and Liza’s death fit the description, providing a tragic bonding moment for both the characters and the audience. One of the chief complaints the series has had in its first season is that the characters have not resonated with the audience. They frequently make dumb choices and argue over petty matters. There was a nagging sense that this family wasn’t particularly fond of each other because they hadn’t fought for each other, they’d only fought with each other.
That changed dramatically in the season finale, when Travis and Madison allowed Daniel Salazar to unleash a stadium full of zombies on a military base in order to save four people. We know from The Walking Dead that characters have to be ruthless to survive, but it’s surprising to see the Fear characters learn that lesson so quickly and brutally. Salazar’s decision to lead a zombie horde onto the military base resulted in hundreds of deaths. It’s the kind of cold, brutal decision that Salazar used to make as a soldier in El Salvador. I understand that you have to do whatever you need to do to survive, but this early in the outbreak and a few suburbans are already going to unleash 2,000 zombies onto a military base to save a couple of family members?
All things considered, it was a bad plan. Why would you bring 2,000 zombies inside an area where you’re trying to save people? It might distract the soldiers, but it also puts the very people you’re trying to rescue in the direct line of attack! That’s madness. However, the contrivance did increase the zombie quotient on the show by a thousand, and for those starving for walker mayhem, the season finale finally paid off by bringing in the zombie action that many were missing. For Salazar, however, it was all for naught. He lost his wife anyway, and he got his daughter shot, to boot. That’s hubris for you. Bites you in the ass every time.
However unnecessary they were, the action sequences were cool (especially the suicide by helicopter blade), but it was the smaller moments that made the episode work. It was Chris manning up to protect Alicia from the potential rapists (an unnecessary plot turn to vilify the military). It was Strand’s smiling response to Nick stealing his key. It was Nick looking through the window in the door and telling his mother to save herself and run. It was Travis finally reaching his breaking point and beating the hell out of Andrew for shooting Ofelia.