NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead”, including a major character death, are present in this review
With everyone cornered at the dam by the Proctors, Season Three of Fear the Walking Dead closed out with no shortage of intense drama. Of course, as with the previous season finale episode, whether or not that drama was wholly effective tended to vary. “Sleigh Ride”, the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead’s two-episode season finale event this week, at least does a solid job of closing out the season, whittling away the last futile grasps at safety and security that Madison and her family would make, even if not every story turn managed to fully satisfy, or even make logical sense.
Immediately, Alicia’s separation from her family proves to be moot, as Proctor John quickly brings her back to the Clark party, who are inevitably found and captured before long. Even Strand seems to have officially run out of excuses, as Proctor John also runs out of trust during the questioning, leading to what should be a pretty inescapable death sentence for our protagonists. Of course, we already know that a fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead is set to air next year, so the Clark family is bound to escape whatever happens here, even if it’s with the aid of some pretty transparent Deus Ex Machinas.
The final stand at the dam is really cool on paper, especially as it’s complemented by a very effective, very twisted and very haunting set of dream sequences with Madison, who imagines a Christmas dinner with several of the season’s fallen characters at Broke Jaw Ranch. Strand and Daniel are also a part of the visions, though Nick drives off with Luciana and a mysterious baby, presumably symbolizing Madison’s last shot at witnessing the next generation of her family being taken away. Alicia is also among the litany of graves that litter the space outside, seemingly speaking to Madison believing that she’s officially lost her daughter. These surreal sequences were easily the best part of this episode, and definitely the most memorable, as Madison must confront what she’s become, while facing the decisive failure to find refuge for her family in the new world.
It’s too bad that the rest of the episode had to frequently strain to move its story forward though, contriving all sorts of excuses for the protagonists to improbably survive against a threat that should be unstoppable. This starts with Lola, who temporarily leaves Daniel to go find Efrain, whom we saw die during the previous episode. When Lola discovers that Efrain is dead, she goes on a shooting rampage against the Proctors, and quickly gets a bullet in the head for her troubles, making her the latest character casualty in a fairly bloody season finale for Fear the Walking Dead. Disappointingly though, Lola’s death and Daniel’s injury don’t seem to amount to much in the end, since Daniel simply picks himself up, takes out several Proctors like it’s nothing, and eventually makes his way to the top of the dam with relative ease, leaving one to wonder why the show even bothered injuring Daniel in the first place.
Another Deus Ex Machina, and probably the biggest one, is Walker and Crazy Dog grabbing a sniper rifle and picking off Proctors for Nick, after he swipes the C4 detonator from Strand, and holds the entire dam hostage. Nick seemingly sacrificing himself to allow Madison, Alicia and Strand to get away is fairly dramatic, and would have made a nice end for his character, if he was indeed to die here. As you soon see though, the fate of almost every lead character on the series ends up being ambiguous, since Nick blows the dam as promised, though Madison, Alicia and Strand are unable to escape the floodwaters, thanks to a conveniently sputtering boat motor. I guess that’s yet another Deus Ex Machina to add to the pile, since they really should have had plenty of time to get away, but I guess that would have disturbed whatever planned direction Season Four of Fear the Walking Dead is going to feature next year.
So, we end up with quite the cliffhanger to cap off Fear the Walking Dead’s third season, as the dam is destroyed, and water flows freely to various surviving Mexican citizens. The fate of most of the lead characters is unknown, though one that definitely survives is Madison, since she wakes up underwater and manages to swim to safety. This explains the effective dream sequences that Madison has throughout the episode, and Madison’s final metaphorical moment of being ‘saved’ by the ghost of Travis was a nicely dramatic way to have her fighting for life again. The fates of Nick, Alicia, Strand, Daniel, and even the Proctors are currently unknown for now however (though Walker and Crazy Dog are obviously living to fight another day too), presumably waiting to be answered in Season Four next year.
As far as season finales go, “Sleigh Ride” is a decent one, though it is annoying to see Fear the Walking Dead coasting at the finish line to an otherwise great season, namely due to the sheer amount of overly convenient plot turns that it pulls out of its rear end in order to get the protagonists away from certain death at the Proctors’ hands. Madison obviously made it out of that whole mess unscathed, but it looks like we’re in for yet another Clark family separation to begin Season Four, and I really hope that doesn’t mean that Fear the Walking Dead is going to start repeating itself there. I doubt that Alicia or Nick will be killed off, since family is a core theme of Fear the Walking Dead, and since Strand and Daniel are two of the show’s best characters, I don’t imagine they’ll die either. As it stands however, this show will have to come up with one hell of an excuse to explain how everyone got away from explosions, flooding and a whole mess of destruction, since these characters’ increasingly unlikely survivals are really starting to add up.
- Effectively haunting dream sequences with Madison
- Nick attempting to make the sacrifice play
- Promising scenario of a dam stand-off
- Alicia's separation from her family ultimately means nothing
- Tons of Deus Ex Machinas throughout the story
- Lola's death feels forced and unsatisfying