The Labor Day weekend break that interrupted the most recent episode of Fear the Walking Dead did little to help maintain any momentum that was generated in the second episode. The show is still in a developmental phase; establishing relationships seems to be its main priority right now, and though that can make for some tedious television, it is creating some tense dynamics.
One wouldn’t say that Liza and Chris are necessarily welcome in Madison’s home. There may not be many dirty looks being thrown around but there is certainly no warmth between the respective sides of Travis’ families. Chris attempted, in the most genuine way possible, to help Alicia as she was being pulled back into the weird backyard maze by a recently-turned Susan. His generosity was rewarded with a sharp “Get off me!” and an elbow to the face that resulted in a bloody nose. Liza also made an attempt to be civil by extending Madison an olive branch in the wake of all the chaos: “We should support each other, you and me.” Madison, on the other hand, ignores her peace-offering and commands Liza to put her down should she turn out like Susan, citing it would “break” Travis if he had to do it.
This episode, while slower in its action than the last episode, reminds us of the emotional connections that were still present before the outbreak. The Walking Dead is sustained by the relationships between its characters, but it’s of a different nature. Madison has time to mourn Susan, a lovely woman who watched her kids and took care of her after her husband died (that last bit is a telling piece of information). They’re feeling the kind of sadness that one would when attending the funeral of a close friend; it’s an undercurrent of grief that with time one will be able to overcome. Anyone lost in the present time of The Walking Dead, however, is a devastation. Not just because of the bonds that have been forged in the apocalyptic circumstances, though that’s obviously a large part of it, or the often grisly way someone dies, but simply because there are so few people left. Madison doesn’t want Travis to have to put her down should she become a walker, but she’s underestimating the resilience of the human spirit. Maggie and Sasha are now bereft of any semblance of their original family, and while they may be suffering on a pretty substantial emotional front, they’re both still standing.
The way that Daniel treats Travis and company exemplify the trust issues in the fight-for-yourself mentality that will soon be pervasive in this world. His reason for not going with them is that “they’re not family,” which evokes a harsh reaction in one that knows the familial relationships the characters have formed on The Walking Dead. (It’s easy to forget that there are no completely in-tact family units left on that show.) Rather than stick together and utilize everyone’s strengths for the betterment of the group, Daniel sees Travis’ hesitance for guns and violence as a weakness and would prefer to navigate this world without him. But where weakness will come in is through a lack of cooperation amongst this group, because if they don’t start to see each other as family when society officially collapses, they’re in for a real shitty time.
And society is collapsing quickly. The police trying to contain the riots in the center of the city did little but exacerbate an already precarious situation. Their solution was to kill any walking threat in broad daylight, when, while a reasonable endeavor, was not an attempt at subduing the real problem of how these people are becoming undead. This inept tactic escalated the stakes so quickly that the military has now been forced to get involved, which is also creating a counterproductive way of dealing with the situation. They’re quarantining anyone who may have gotten walker blood on them, as they believe that’s what’s causing the spread of the “infection.” Madison may not know much, but she does know that that can’t be true. Susan was alone and had not a drop of blood on her, and she still turned when she died. Madison smartly toys with the soldiers who ask her what the fresh mound of dirt was in the backyard after inquiring if anyone in her house had come in contact with a walker: “Our dog died.” Her slick skills of perception will likely come in handy in the future.
Fortunately, from an audience’s perspective, the way the police and military react to what’s happening is feeling less like we know more than these people and increasingly more like dramatic irony. They’re both heading in wrong directions about how the malady spreads and how it affects people, but society is already degenerating so rapidly that their first reactions are the best courses of action at this point. There is simply no time to perform tests or studies to determine the cause of the outbreak, though ultimately that would be the most beneficial thing to do. It’s impossible to not jump to conclusions that blood is the carrier of disease when an event as unprecedented as a zombie apocalypse is unraveling at such an accelerated rate. We know this new militant state is ultimately going to be unhelpful, but at least it isn’t dull to watch them take all the wrong turns. It’s actually funny to hear Griselda claim that she and Daniel have been through worse situations than this, or Travis say, “The cavalry’s arrived. It’s going to get better now.” For all his stubbornness, at least Daniel is one who understands the dire state of things: “It’s already too late.”