Something I’ve been thinking about lately is whether or not we need these fill-in-the-gap flashbacks on Fear the Walking Dead. For example, after Alicia reunited with her mom during the hotel’s walker attack, the next episode showed us how Madison and Victor were able to get to safety. Did we really need to see that? Was that time well spent? Would one or two lines of explanatory dialogue sufficed instead of a 10- or 15-minute-long flashback?
I consider this question again in “Date of Death.” Thanks to Madison’s impulsive move to switch on the hotel lights last episode, a crowd of locals amass in front of the hotel gates, pleading with the group to let them in. They make the harsh decision to keep the gates closed, but then Madison sees Travis among the refugees.
The title credits roll to make way for Travis’ flashback to Chris and what led to their split. We pick up seconds after Chris shot Mr. Suarez, the owner of the farm they invaded. Travis is still kneeling down and staring into the man’s lifeless eyes, while James is screaming from the bullet in his thigh. After a beat, Travis snaps back to reality and leaps to the boy’s aid. He notes the bullet went clean through the leg, so they don’t have to fish it out, and he’s soon sprinting towards the house to find any supplies.
He comes back with a needle and thread to stitch up James, who is shrieking in pain but jokes that he can handle it. His screams get louder when they turn him over, and Travis does what Alicia said in the previous episode she never needed: He sugarcoats the situation, promising James will recover.
Shortly after, Travis is burying the body of Mr. Suarez in a grave dug next to those of the other deceased family. He even hammers together a cross to mark it, but confesses, “I don’t even know your name.”
Night falls and Chris, Brandon, and Derek are palling around a campfire as they drink beer and cook chicken. Travis is sitting in the barn next to James, who’s lying on a mattress and joking that he’ll take any part of the chicken except the thigh. Travis asks about his level of pain, but James seems to be lying when he says it’s low. Travis whispers that he can’t help if he doesn’t know what’s really going on.
He then walks out of the barn to have a talk with Chris. He first tells him to wipe off the grease from his face. “You killed a man,” he says, “least you could do is let it affect your appetite.” When his son goes to take another sip from his beer, Travis smacks the can out of his hand and lays into him.
He asks what he’s thinking — if he’s even thinking anything at all — and calls the other boys savages. Typical of an infuriating teen trying to stand on his own, Chris retorts that he, too, is a savage. When asked about his remorse, he replies with a more chilling answer: “There is no more good, there’s no more bad, right or wrong. It’s us or them, kill or be killed.” It’s almost comical when Travis offers the reality check that Chris has only known these boys for two days, and his son, in turn, says (almost verbatim), “Sorry, not sorry.”
Chris then recalls his time in middle school, when he hid every day to dodge the football jocks who bullied him. He recalls how his dad told him the best way to deal was “to play along and to try and fit in.” But Travis notes Chris isn’t really acting, he’s becoming one of them. Becoming more cold to his father, Chris pleads with Travis to not rock the boat (to play along, if you will) because now he’s proven his worth as a medic. He says they need the guys. Travis believes otherwise, so he clarifies, “I do.”
NEXT: Putting a name to a face