NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Even during its midseason finale, Fear the Walking Dead just can’t seem to pull itself up enough. “Shiva” had a strong ending that provided a welcome shake-up for the show’s group of survivors, but sadly, getting there was an extraordinary chore at times. Yet again, the series’ usual flaws of bad writing, dogged pacing and forced drama continue to plague this latest episode, and the fact that this is the note that the show is going out on before taking three months off and returning in late August, only adds insult to injury.
After Strand’s actions last week, Celia is eager to kick the entire group out of the community, which starts to divide them. This occurs on top of Chris deciding that he’s going to scuttle off and continue being a creeper, leading to Travis wandering off to go and find him, while Madison tries to figure out how to deal with Celia, and her questionable interactions with Nick. All the while, Daniel seems to be gradually losing his mind, cracking under flashbacks from his war-torn past, which comes so conveniently when Madison’s group and Celia’s group are experiencing major strain.
Once again, one of the major Achilles’ heels of Fear the Walking Dead overall is its horrible pacing, and that really came into focus in this episode, which simultaneously felt like it was both rushing and dragging its feet. Despite the drawn-out conflict of Celia trying to give the boot to our protagonists after Strand kills Thomas and doesn’t take his own life, the rest of the character plots have virtually come out of nowhere this week. Sure, there was some buildup with Chris and Nick, but even then, why has Chris suddenly completely lost his mind and run off? Why does Nick suddenly have this eerie connection to Celia? Yes, Strand somewhat tries to explain the Nick situation, but frankly, Strand’s explanation makes little sense. It makes some sense, but it would have made more sense, had there been more actual buildup to Nick wanting to go with Celia instead of his family.
By far though, the most rushed and contrived story arc in this midseason finale was Daniel’s, with Daniel’s mental cracking coming completely out of nowhere. This was very frustrating, since Daniel is one of this show’s better characters, and is generally one of the only characters that’s actually easy to sympathize with and root for. As with the Nick arc, Daniel hallucinating and losing his grip on reality would have been a good arc too, had the show actually spent the proper amount of time building it up! Instead, it just stinks of narrative contrivance, and works solely to both eat up screentime, and create some final moments that will attempt to get fans buzzing for the next several months, though it’s more likely that many viewers will meet them with a shrug.
Also, Chris continues to be a horrible, horrible character, and at this point, it feels like the show has given up on him, at least for this season’s front half. This week, after he runs off, Travis manages to track Chris down, only to find him holding some kid hostage, and trying to get the boy’s father to make Travis go away. Uhhh… What? First of all, why in blue hell would Chris threaten some strange kid’s life just because he doesn’t want to talk to his father? Second, how did Chris know that the boy’s father wouldn’t just blow him away with a shotgun as soon as he walked in? Lastly, why would Travis blame himself for the fact that his son is clearly just acting out and being an aggressive moron? It all just served as a very laboured, forced way to separate Travis and Chris from the rest of the group. Hell, Nick even finds them, and Travis just tells him to go back and pretend that he never saw them, because Chris needs his father. Jesus, Travis, grow a spine! He was actually doing a decent job of that this season, but sometimes, it seems like the show forgets it whenever it’s convenient for the storyline, and goes back to portraying him as a spineless wimp.
Obviously, there’s lots of frustrating instances of just plain awful writing in this episode, though to be fair, there were some good points too. Madison’s interactions with Celia were nicely tense and had the proper effect, and Madison shutting Celia into her Walker cage was an effectively bold move, and one that could have big consequences later, especially since Celia appears to survive and get out. Even Daniel burning down Celia’s Walker farm was pretty cool, and frankly, he still could have done that without his pointless episode of dementia. Why exactly did Daniel need to be losing his mind to decide that Celia’s Walker hoarding is bad, and he needed to do something about it? As much as the scenes with Daniel being tormented by his past were solid on their own, they just largely served to waste time in this episode, and the show would have been better off just having Daniel be of sound mind, acting normally, and saving this material for a future episode down the line.
So, when all is said and done, Travis and Chris have split into their own group for now, Madison, Alicia, Strand and Ofelia now comprise another group, Daniel is missing (it’s very doubtful that he died in the fire), and Nick is off with Celia’s group. That seemed to be all that, “Shiva” wanted; An excuse to separate everyone as a cheap drama ploy for this midseason finale, because everything else in this episode was contrived, boring and mostly pointless. AMC has struggled with these midseason finales for their Walking Dead shows lately, but despite that, even by Fear the Walking Dead’s standards, this was a disappointingly weak episode that laid its designs too bare, and failed to make its ideas interesting, or even logical. Instead of being pumped for the show’s return in August, many viewers will strain to wonder why they should care at this point.
- Madison shutting Celia in the Walker cage
- Welcome shake-up to the group at the end
- Daniel's mental cracking is a good idea in theory
- Daniel's mental cracking is contrived and rushed
- Chris's latest horrendous, illogical actions
- Nick staying with Celia this quickly feels forced