A massive walker attack leaves 'Fear's' core cast irrevocably changed.

By Jonathon Dornbush
October 05, 2015 at 07:39 PM EDT
Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC

Have you been feeling like Fear the Walking Dead’s first season played out more slowly than you anticipated? “The Good Man” heard you. Were you disappointed by the lack of walkers in the last few episodes? “The Good Man” heard you. And were you disappointed while couch quarterbacking Travis through the zombie apocalypse as he seemed to just let things happen around him? “The Good Man” definitely heard you.

Yes, the finale to Fear the Walking Dead’s first season felt almost engineered to respond to the problems many viewers have had about the show. And if you were a fan of the show’s pace or its walker-free outings (which, in many respects, I was), “The Good Man” offered an exciting change of pace that leaves the characters we know going into season 2 in practically a different emotional and physical world from where they began.

So let’s start with the title, “The Good Man.” (You could make a case for several characters being referred to and what place, if any, a good man has in this apocalypse. I’ll be focusing on Travis, as a few of the finale’s biggest, key moments seem centered around his development.) All season, Travis has been trying to do what he thought was good or right, believing things would get better, even if that meant not taking the actions viewers, who have much more experience with this zombie apocalypse, would want. It’s created an inherent frustration to the character, even after his most self-aware moment with Doug in “Not Fade Away,” when he told the fellow father to promise his family their predicament would improve because that was his job as a father.

“The Good Man” sees Travis again trying to do what he believes to be right, but he pays the price for one intended act of nobility and is forced to reckon with that decision. Before touching on that climactic and brutal moment, let’s back up to Travis and his family at the start of “Man.”

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The entire family is packing up to leave now that they know the soldiers’ intentions. They’ll follow the original plan and head east, but first, they’re going to make a pit stop and pick up Liza, Nick, and Griselda (who they still believe is alive at this time). But they have an extra number among their ranks — Andy the soldier, currently tied and bound in the basement — who Daniel plans to kill now and be done with him before they leave.

But Andy makes a deal: He’s the only one who can help them navigate the military compound they’re heading to, and he’ll do exactly that for them if they keep him alive. Daniel agrees, but Andy knows it’s a temporary solution to a persistent problem, as he explains to Travis. Daniel is going to kill him. It’s an inevitability so long as he remains in their group, so he strikes another deal: If Travis lets him go, he’ll tell the desperate father everything he needs to know about making it through the compound and finding their family members.

Travis wants to be a good man. He wants as little death in this deadly world as possible, particularly if it’s a death he can prevent. So he lets Andy go, though the rest of the group only discovers his absence once they’ve reached the compound. And by then, all hell has broken loose. Daniel the Walker Whisperer leads an arena full of walkers to the military base startling the few guards on patrol at the gates. The guards begin unleashing a storm of bullets on the walkers, but it’s like hitting a T. rex made up of dozens of mini T. rexes with a rock. There are hundreds of walkers approaching the base, and it’s only a matter of time before they break through.

But they prove a more-than-sufficient distraction for the guards while Travis and co. make their plan in the nearby parking area. (If you doubted how far Daniel was willing to go to save his loved ones even after he tortured the soldier in love with his daughter, let his willingness to kill an entire base with the undead put those doubts to rest.) Chris and Alicia will stay behind with the car, and though Daniel is furious about Andy being let go, there’s little he can do about it now. So they proceed with the plan and break into the facility.

The easiest part of the plan goes awry, however, when Chris and Alicia’s “wait and see” mission is scrapped with the arrival of a few soldiers. Everyone is fleeing the base, and a group of soldiers are looking for an escape vehicle. They break into the car and demand the keys from the two teens. Chris refuses at first, and one of the soldiers makes creepy advances on Alicia after she hands over the keys. It’s enough to send the stepbrother (who may or may not have a crush on his stepsister) into an indignant rage, throwing down with the soldiers until one of them drops him with a punch to the face. They commandeer the vehicle and leave the two to fend for themselves.

NEXT: Not everyone makes it out unscathed

The rest of the base is in a panic mode as the sea of walkers descends upon the place. Exner wants to evacuate all of her critical patients and makes plans to do so, but the evac helicopter recognizes the trouble brewing and refuses to land. Even as she radios for help to assure that all is fine, she’s turned down with the promise of the help she expected.

So she tells her staff to flee. She’ll take care of the patients, but they should all escape while they can. Liza is worried and wants to help, but Exner has accepted her fate, so she urges Liza to run. She does just as the compound is in a state of utter chaos. She bounces around the facility, discovering the horrors around her as the gates and guard towers come crashing down. She sees a bitten guard run head first into the blades of a helicopter to avoid being turned.

The base is in utter disrepair, and the man in the suit, whose name we later learn is Strand, decides it’s time for he and Nick to make their move. He has a plan, though Nick stealing the key Strand stole was not part of it. The move proves his new compatriot is certainly someone worth sticking by, though, and the two begin fleeing, leaving the other penned up residents of the base behind.

They make their way through the building, coming upon the soldier Strand had previously been making deals with. He’s on the verge of death, and Strand…decides to take back the cufflinks he traded him. He leaves the watch as a good-will gesture, though. Unfortunately, that guy was also his escape plan, and their improvisational exit leads them to a dead end of a hallway. The doors in front of them and to their sides are locked shut, and a smaller herd of walkers is approaching them down the hall.

It looks like their end, until Nick spots Madison, Travis, and the rest on the opposite side of the locked double doors. After having broken free some of the gated up community Nick and Strand left behind, they rush to the doors and try to break them open, but the locks won’t budge. Luckily, serendipity being a hell of a thing, Liza also appears with her keycard. Of course, it takes many, many swipes to finally work, at which point the walkers are inches away, but everyone escapes seemingly unscathed.

Their numbers now bolstered, the group begin their escape through the facility. Despite a dangerous scuffle in the kitchens, everyone comes out alive, but the pain of their situation sets in. Liza reveals to Ofelia and Daniel that Griselda is gone, lost to infection. Ofelia bursts into tears, wanting to see her mother, but Liza tells her there’s nothing left to see. It’s over for her, but they can still make it out alive.

It’s also over for Exner. The group makes their way to the medical wing, where Madison begins hoarding supplies, and Liza attempts to convince Exner to come with them. She’s lost to this place, though. She killed all of the patients in the room to ensure they never turned, but she sees no escape. They could technically leave, but she believes there’s nowhere for them to go. Safety is an illusion at this point to Exner, and Madison has to pull Liza away. She knows a lost cause when she sees one, and to her, Exner is a textbook case at this point.

The entire crew leaves the facility, daylight having risen and the chaos having settled. They re-enter the world to find piles. Piles of burned bodies and ash, the military’s work that Daniel brought to an end with, well, more death. Ofelia again breaks down, Daniel remaining stoic by her side as they survey the destruction in their wake.

But there is still trouble to come as they return to the parking lot. They find Chris and Alicia alive, the former injured and his mother not so happy about that, and though their ride is gone, they at least all have their health. Until Andy appears brandishing a gun.

The ghost of Daniel’s recent torturing past comes back to haunt him, as Andy points his gun at his former captor. Ofelia tries to talk him down, and rather than shooting her father, Andy puts a bullet through Ofelia’s shoulder. It’s not Daniel who strikes back, however. It’s Travis.

NEXT: The Good Man becomes a very different man

Yes, after episodes of peaceful resistance, trying to prevent violence rather than incite it, Travis enters a blind rage of flying fists, pummeling Andy into submission. It’s days, weeks of pent up anger spilling forth from a man who has tried to, at every step of the way, be the good man, and how is he repaid by being good to Andy? Seeing one of his allies shot. Travis can’t sit idly by, can’t let his actions have resulted in an innocent life possibly being taken, so he leaps to action after restraining himself for so long. It’s a spark of change for Travis that will undoubtedly have repercussions in season 2. And even in the episode’s final scenes, the Travis we see is very much a product of that moment. It’s difficult to believe that the Travis who does what he does at the finale’s cliffside is the same man who stopped Madison from killing an already turned neighbor for the sliver of hope that she might still be human.

What cliffside? Well, after Madison pulls Travis off of Andy, they heed Strand’s advice and head west, not east, specifically to his seaside, unfairly gorgeous mansion. Yes, Strand is not just an eccentric oddity — he’s also loaded, with an envy-inducing home, a luxury boat, and probably many other secrets we can only begin to imagine.

While there, the family settles into a surprising bit of comfort and quiet. The only sounds in the distance are the waves and cries of seagulls, not the groans of walkers or the fire of military rifles. Liza patches up Ofelia, who should make a full recovery with the right care. Chris and Alicia treat themselves to some Popsicles, while Madison shares a sweet moment of apology with Nick.

“It’s like I’ve been living this for a long time, and now everyone is catching up with me,” Nick says, which, sure is a bit of an exaggeration since he hasn’t been battling flesh-hungry, undead hordes for years, but it’s an interesting mission statement for the character going forward. It implies as the world descends into struggle around him, Nick will probably be one of the most calm and collected going forward.

And he’s found a comrade in assimilating into that mad world with Strand. “Only way to survive a mad world is to embrace the madness,” Strand tells Nick as the latter asks what the plan is. Strand doesn’t want them staying there, and he’s going after Abigail, which is not a person but a vessel. He shows Nick his swanky ship out on the water, away from shore, offering some sort of goal heading into the next season.

One person who won’t be along for the ride, however, is Liza. She tearfully hugs her son Chris as they share a moment in the kitchen, but they aren’t tears of joy. They’re sadness, which Madison recognizes, following Liza out to the nearby cliffs.

There, she reveals her walker bite from the kitchen tussle, and Liza, knowing what’s to come for her, wants to be dead before she turns. And she asks Madison to do it for her because she can’t bring herself to point the loaded gun at her own head. Madison at first refuses, but Liza throws Madison’s words right back at her. Travis’ new love asked his old one to kill her should the time ever come where she had been bitten. Now, Liza is asking the same, so that Travis doesn’t have to do it.

But Travis has followed the two of them out there, and discovers the scene as Madison has the fated gun in hand. He doesn’t ask Madison to pull the trigger, though. This is a Travis who takes responsibility, even if that responsibility is bloody. After sharing one last tearful moment with Liza, the gunshot rings out around the idyllic landscape so that everyone hears it. Chris and Alicia come running, the former finding his mother’s corpse with a bullet in its head, as Travis heads down to the beach, the moment overwhelming him. Madison chases after and goes to be with him, the two of them alone on the beachside as the camera pulls out to reveal their small place in a much bigger picture. This death has shattered Travis for the moment, but it likely won’t be the last difficult decision he is forced to make. After all, in one direction lies a continent of disaster to contend with, while the open seas await in the other, and neither offers a particularly easy future.

So the season comes to an end with a finale that felt like a jumpstart to the entire series. “The Good Man” began with views of Los Angeles sans power, the light being the only light we see. But now in the light of day, the titular good man can’t be afraid despite the horrors he’s seen and committed because there are likely many more to come.

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