NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Fear the Walking Dead has had its fair share of issues since it debuted last year, but at least it was mostly avoiding the irritating fake-outs and cheap audience tricks that plague the main Walking Dead series more than ever, as of its most recent sixth season. Sadly, “Do Not Disturb” started taking a page from the main series’ book, and not in a good way, as it started pulling the same shenanigans by needlessly withholding information from the audience, and that in turn led to a bit of this latest episode suffering in its storytelling.
Fortunately, the part of the episode that counts most, the reunion with Travis and Chris, was the part where the episode was at its strongest. Travis actually had his best episode in a long while this week, as he’s not only given an opportunity to bond with Chris while the other survivors are separated from them, but also has to try and pull Chris back from the dark abyss that he seems to be teetering towards. Chris is getting a little more unhinged every week, and he seems to be the one fully embracing the Walker apocalypse at this point, much to the worry of Travis.
This episode should be commended for how boldly it pushed this idea with Chris forward too. Chris had no problem stealing supplies from survivors this week, even if it did lead to the surprising respect of the people he stole from, who give Travis and Chris the opportunity to travel with them. That sounds good on paper, though Travis naturally doesn’t trust this new band of survivors, a bunch of happy-go-lucky frat boys who also seem to be embracing the Walker apocalypse to a worrying degree, especially when they start rubbing off on Chris, and making his apocalypse-happy ways worse than ever.
Sometimes, Travis stubbornly refusing to abandon his principles in a do-or-die world can be annoying and illogical, but in this episode, it really worked to the character’s benefit. Travis is still desperately trying to hold on to the world he once knew, but for once, he didn’t come off as a naive fool, and genuinely sounded like the voice of reason. That was refreshing, especially when this new group rounds off the episode by coming onto a farm, which happens to still be inhabited by a farmer. Seeing Chris murder the farmer to take the property with the other boys at the end of the episode was effectively shocking, and made for a decent way to end the episode, at least for this main story arc.
Disappointingly though, this week’s subplot was more of a drag, and felt kind of ill-conceived. The subplot revolved around Alicia, who is still hiding inside her hotel room, trying to avoid the Walkers wandering around the hall. Ofelia is still inexplicably missing, and most frustrating of all, we don’t know what happened with Madison and Strand when this story picks up, making last week’s needless cliffhanger all the more annoying. Instead, we have Alicia trying to get back to her mother, using what are admittedly some pretty clever tricks to get the Walkers trapped in an elevator shaft, in fairness, though this further highlights that Ofelia’s disappearance seems related more to plot convenience than actual organic drama.
Alicia meets the hotel manager, Elena, who was the one conveniently luring Walkers into rooms and putting ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs on the doors with dead inside them. Elena’s nephew, Hector has been taken hostage by the other guests, whom the Clark party somehow avoided running into in a pretty eyebrow-raising bit of contrivance, and these guests are foreshadowed by a cold open that shows Elena trapping them in the wedding room after the father of the bride turns and bites the bride. This cold open was an interesting idea, and it does explain the wedding area glimpsed in the previous episode at least, but it doesn’t really show any ‘horror’ that we haven’t seen before, making it kind of a tedious opener, honestly.
Making matters worse is that the guests being so hostile to Elena feels a bit forced. It’s not completely illogical, but the episode conveniently doesn’t explain how they escaped the locked room, nor how they got ahold of Hector, nor why they haven’t gotten to Elena already, especially since they heavily outnumber her, even considering that Elena can move around easier. This is what I mean by a lack of information, and it makes the show suffer from that irritating contrivance that’s eating at the main Walking Dead series more than ever lately.
That’s not even the worst part either! The worst part is that Alicia and Elena hand over the master keys to the guests in exchange for Hector, then unleash the Walkers on the guests so that they can find Madison, who appears to have become a Walker! Wow! What a twist!… Except it’s a pointless fake-out, because Madison somehow put her shirt on a Walker that looks a lot like her, then somehow got away with Strand, then somehow avoided attracting the attention of Elena or the other hotel guests. Really? We’re not going to clarify any of this? Granted, next week’s episode is supposed to shed some light on Madison’s and Strand’s escape, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a very tacky, needless fake-out that, yet again, is not even explained in this episode. It’s just a cheap way to get a rise out of the audience, and, as I said during the many times I chewed out the main Walking Dead series for this, it’s a sign of AMC treating this show’s audience like they’re stupid, and that they’ll fly into a frenzy at the most obvious of tricks. It cheapens the show, it ruins the re-watch value down the line, and it’s just embarrassing anyway, so cut it out, AMC! Fear the Walking Dead has enough issues without adopting that one from the main Walking Dead series.
Still, at least the show has yet to return to true tedium once again, so my cautious optimism about the second season’s back half hasn’t been broken yet. The continued descent of Chris into violence is pretty solid material, and Travis actually had a pretty great storyline this week too! It’s starting to look like either Chris or Travis might not survive the end of the season, since Chris is starting to become pretty irredeemable, and that means that either he’s going to be a villain that kills his father, the last remaining link to his humanity, or Travis is going to have to put Chris down because he’s too far gone. Either that, or the show will find some ridiculous excuse to sweep Chris’ growing psychosis under the rug later, so it doesn’t have to get rid of either character. Regardless, the Travis/Chris storyline did pretty well this week, even if the Alicia subplot was noticeably less interesting. The unexplained story elements at the hotel need to start getting resolved next week though. That storyline is starting to lose its grip on logic and sense, simply because it won’t tell us what the hell is going on.
Fear the Walking Dead gave an effective spotlight to the separated Travis and Chris this week, even if the events at the hotel are starting to get more contrived.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Travis and Chris' bonding moments
Travis actually sounding like the voice of reason for once