With 'Cobalt,' 'Fear the Walking Dead' Finally Delivers a Tense and Intriguing Episode
***Spoiler Warning: Plot details of last night’s episode discussed below. If you’re not caught up, back on out.***
For its test first season run, Fear the Walking Dead put out only six episodes. Up until last night’s “Cobalt,” I was thankful for that — nearly ready to write off the series. The series however, reversed course: “Cobalt” finally delivered some intrigue and enough tension to keep us hooked.
Let’s start with the good.
Behind the Curtain.
They didn’t drag out the mystery of where Nick and Griselda were taken, and as we (and Daniel) might have expected, it’s not exactly the usual hospital. Turns out Nick and that wackadoodie neighbor, Doug, are in some kind of holding facility (aka jail)/treatment center, and after Doug meets up with a most excellent new character, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about his crying anymore.
Hey, how about that new guy?
Who Is Strand?
Played by the charismatic Colman Domingo (Selma, Lincoln, The Knick), Victor Strand immediately became the series’ most intriguing character. Described as “mysterious, smart and sophisticated,” this dude is sharp — and sharply dressed. I guess my dark side is coming out, because some sick part of me enjoyed Strand pushing Doug over the edge. Even more interesting is that Strand immediately recognizes that Nick has qualities that’ll make him an important ally during the (zombie) apocalypse. Strand is a very welcome contrast to some of the stupidity we’ve endured so far. I loved his line about “…people with grande lattes and frequent flier miles…are about to become the buffet.” Of his character, Domingo will only say, “My character is kind of a spoiler — well, it’s definitely a spoiler!”
Turns Out Daniel Salazar Is a Modern Day Ramsay Bolton?
As he’s alluded to in previous episodes, Daniel Salazar survived a major, traumatizing event, but what could have happened that created an expert flayer? Turns out Daniel was less victim than perpetrator in El Salvador’s long civil war, known for its horrific violence and atrocities against civilians. Unlike Ramsay, Daniel’s torture has a purpose, and like it or not, his method gets the goods from Corporal Adams: The military is about to implement operation “Cobalt,” aka evacuation of the area, and the “humane termination” of Daniel and everyone left in town. Of course, this news comes at just the right moment (0900 the next morning is Cobalt-hour) and will be the driving force behind getting the rest of the main characters on the move.
Shout-outs to Dawn of the Dead and No Country for Old Men.
Alicia goes full-Francine, and Liza puts down Griselda Chigurh-style, albeit with better hair and less ceremony. I’ll officially (mostly) reverse my opinion of Liza, since she clearly is taking responsibility for her actions, while trying to keep an eye on Nick and the facility goings-on. She may well turn out to be the woman to watch, especially since …
Maddie Has Apparently Lost Her Ability to Speak, and Why Did Kim Dickens Take This Role?
It feel like every episode we get a hint of some strength behind Madison’s eyes, but then she inevitably goes wandering down some dark hallway alone (at least she brought a knife?). I’m not getting this insistence for her character to be mute, refusing to have a real conversation with Travis, and giving her opinions more with what she doesn’t say than what she does. I’m trying to give Dickens the benefit of the doubt, but so far the series lead role is a bit of a dud.
And speaking of duds …
Travis Is Useless.
What is there to even say about Travis? He’s useless to his partner (Maddie), his kid, and I can’t for the life of me tell what Lt. Moyers — Jamie McShane channeling Robert Duvall — sees in this guy. Travis, dude, you’re going to have to buck up, else just lie down and die. The whole wishy-washy, can’t even kill a walker because she’s still wearing a doughnut-store nametag thing is getting old. You’re quickly becoming Fear’s Father Gabriel, in that I can’t wait to see you put down.
Next week finishes out the super short season with “The Good Man,” centering on Madison and Travis trying to figure out how to keep their families safe. Good luck with that. Will they bring along Daniel, or be too worried he’ll turn on them? What about Ofelia — does she break off with the others, and will Daniel go full Morgan Jones? Speaking of, Daniel’s too smart to open those chained doors, right?
I’m curious whether we’ll get an explanation of exactly why the military is carrying out operation Cobalt. Is it just too much trouble to move the live people out of the area? And will anyone one return for a second season of Fear?