Fear the Walking Dead is only two episodes in and already viewers are reeling from a major character’s shocking death. ‘The Eye of the Beholder’ and ‘The New Frontier’ aired as part of a double-sized premiere that was both intense and emotional.
Season 2 of Fear the Walking Dead left much to be desired but it appears the writers have heard the viewers pleas and this premiere shows it as from the get-go, this episode sets out to be something different from prior seasons. The whole Manawa/Clark family were joined together at the military base in last season’s finale, but rather than the hope Nick (Frank Dillane) thought it would provide, the base turns out to be more like a slaughterhouse.
In ‘The Eye of the Beholder’, the first episode of FTWD’s double-episode, viewers were invited to meet (and hate) Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman), the cocky unit leader of a group of soldiers who were slaughtering Mexican survivors. Troy claims to be killing in the name of ‘science’, an attempt to study and observe resurrection rates. Travis (Cliff Curtis), Nick and Luciana (Danay Garcia) are imprisoned in the basement where all these tests are being conducted, whilst Troy tries to sweet talk Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Madison (Kim Dickens) into joining him.
‘The Eye of the Beholder’ is an intense hour of action. Troy is set up to be a brilliantly, creepy antagonist, while the main characters are forced to find a way to survive his plans. Travis and Madison both shine in this episode, their desperation to bring everyone together fuelling them into more and more desperate actions. We see Travis boldly face down a soldier (played by guest star Neil Fisher) while Madison takes on Troy in his office, ending in her shoving a spoon through the back of his eye, easily one of the more gruesome moments of the episode.
That is another thing that this episode does great as it brings back the gore and makes zombies scary again. The viewer is constantly treated to haunting vistas; from a field littered with dismembered and bloody corpses, to a sewer opening up onto a crowd of zombies, and in the final moments as a horde of zombies bears down on the escaping survivors. Zombies are back and they are still a threat.
The strongest part of ‘The Eye of the Beholder’ though is Travis Manawa. Ever since the death of his son, Chris, in season two, Travis has been slowly spiralling into a more violent lifestyle and never has this been more clearly expressed than in this first episode. Travis was forced into a pit where he had to fight zombie after zombie and he flicks between his fists, rebar and bricks to take them down until he is rescued, only to be thrown headlong into a horde of zombies. He narrowly escapes this with Alicia and Troy’s brother, Jake Otto (Sam Underwood), in a helicopter.
That’s why, after showing how much of a force Travis is, ‘The New Frontier’ shocks with his sudden death. As a mysterious shooter strafes the helicopter, Travis is hit and goes into shock. His dying words, a repeated mantra of “help me”, are chilling and haunting sticking with the viewer as he heaves himself out of the helicopter.
After starting on such a tense moment, the second episode of the premiere has a lot to live up to. This episode slows down on the action and continues the setup for the first arc of the third season. It also brings about the return of Strand (Colman Domingo) who is currently at the hotel in Mexico.
Strand’s parts, although short, were very refreshing. Viewers got to see him in full survival mode, using all his skills to survive and help the hotel. This mainly involved using all his confidence in scamming the assembled crowd into believing that he was a doctor. This all culminated in the hotel forcing him out in the belief that he would be caught out in his lie. Hopefully going forward this means that he will meet up with the others at Broke Jaw Ranch, though for now he seems to be a long way from anyone.
‘The New Frontier’ began to explore where this season is headed. Nick and Madison began to discover the ranch and get to know its owner, Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie), while Alicia trekked back to the ranch with Jake. It was good to see the dynamic between Jeremiah and Madison, both people on the same path, that of parent’s trying to protect their families, but approaching it in different ways. It was also good to see a reaction to Travis’ death that felt real and genuine, Madison on her hands and knees crying and throwing up after hearing the news.
Overall, the first two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead’s third season make it feel as though the show is on a stronger path. It remains to be seen whether Jeremiah Otto will be a proper villain for Madison and co. but that is part of the potential for season three. Madison’s final words, eerily close to something Rick Grimes would say, show a stronger, more determined Clark family than in season two.
With strong performances by all the main cast, particularly Cliff Curtis and Daniel Sharman, in the new role of Troy, the season premiere got off to a good start. The only fears for the ongoing season will be if they get stuck in the same cycle: find a new place, be threatened by others, have to leave the new place. With the season already off to a running start, viewers can only hope the show doesn’t slow things down from here.
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