With Fear the Walking Dead still in its infancy, it’s hard to theorize about where it’s going without looking toward The Walking Dead. And, for those already skeptical of the title of this article, just stay with me for a little bit.
In The Walking Dead, the characters that we see as villains often truly believe their actions, no matter how depraved or socially unacceptable they seem, will lead the way to peace and a new beginning — even if it’s one free from people like them. In Serenity, the final chapter to Joss Whedon’s terrific Firefly saga, Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Operative mentions that the “new world” has no place for “monsters like him.” It’s a variation on the idea that for good things to happen, bad things need to occur.
In the tattered, walker-filled world of The Walking Dead, it’s those same thoughts that drive the more notorious characters. In season four’s “Live Bait,” we see The Governor (David Morrissey) sift through tortures, mutilations, and mass killings in a quest to either justify or condemn his actions. When he realizes that interim camp leader Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) lacks the ability and cold-hearted ambition to protect the camp, he murders him, all while screaming how he “doesn’t want this,” a reference to his perceived need to commit inhumane acts to protect those in his faction of survivors.
We’ve seen this kind of motivation with others in Robert Kirkman’s world: the cannibals at Terminus — at first, victims themselves — a crazed Morgan (Lennie James) willing to dispatch walkers and humans alike. At the end of season five, even Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had reached a place where he seemed willing to kill innocent residents of Alexandria in the name of the greater good. It would make sense for The Walking Dead, and Fear the Walking Dead to introduce different perspectives and characters who look beyond violence to solve problems — even if they’re villains. One alternative could come in the form of Travis (Cliff Curtis).
Consider what we’ve seen of Travis so far: He’s not completely convinced that walkers cannot be cured, something that likely played a part in his refusal to shoot the infected woman in episode five. He’s also not fond of weaponry, disapproving of Daniel’s (Rubén Blades) attempts to teach his son the mechanics of a rifle. His faith in the military also ranks higher than others, and despite agreeing that the torture of Andrew (Shawn Hatosy) resulted in important information, he’s above sponsoring mutilation to acquire knowledge.
Travis is a highly idealistic man, a man that stands by his convictions much the same way The Governor did and Rick now does. And, much like with The Governor, those convictions could have ugly ramifications if taken to extremes. Where Rick and The Governor use guns to convey their message, Travis, given power, could go the way of the American justice system, imprisoning those deemed violent and unworthy of merging with society. Travis’ penchant for passive measures could also lead him to wrangling local walkers with the ultimate goal of waiting out a cure for the infection. His wholesome values might convince early survivors that his way is the best, and with natural leadership qualities, he’d have little trouble gaining a strong following.
How would this set up Travis as the ultimate villain of Fear the Walking Dead? His measures, good in theory, are just not meant for this new world. Rick and The Governor actually have the right idea, even if the latter followed it into the depths of depravity. The way of the gun is the way of the new world. The only difference here is that Rick, long before the apocalypse, understood that force or the threat of force was sometimes needed to maintain order. The Governor’s ascension to the position of unhinged despot seemed a foregone conclusion that only needed a catalyst. But, for Travis, when his world ends, when his seemingly humane solutions fail, and when his loved ones die at the hands of his proposed utopia, there’s no telling what kind of man he would become. The worst kind of evil comes from watching all that is good burn to the ground. Should that happen to Travis, there’s no telling how deep his hole of despair will go, or just how many people will fall into that chasm with him.