[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
It's no secret that Fear the Walking Dead's first season had some issues. Whether suffering from prequel-itis or the innate lack of dramatic stakes that comes from having a virtually zombie-less zombie show, the show's first six episodes were at times tough to get through with a straight face.
But, not surprisingly, when Sunday's Season 1 finale unleashed a horde of walkers, the show became the kind of riveting television deserving of The Walking Dead franchise's huge audience. In fact, by the time Travis (Cliff Curtis) collapsed on the beach beside Madison (Kim Dickens) after having just killed his infected ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez), I found myself overlooking some of the show's missteps and almost wishing the beautiful final shot of the ocean was the capper on a prequel miniseries.
Alas, a second season has already been ordered, and this journey will continue. And while I am cautiously optimistic after the finale, I can't get Dr. Exner's (Sandrine Holt) words out of my head. "You can get out, but there's nowhere to go," she tells Travis and Madison as they ask her how to escape the military compound the successfully infiltrated to retrieve Nick (Fank Dillane) and Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez). (RIP, Griselda!) Indeed, this show can keep going, but where exactly will it go to avoid repeatedly falling into the same traps?
Here's some things we'd like to see the show do in Season 2.
1. Keep the zombies coming! This one is a no-brainer, but, again, the conceit of this show forced the undead to stay off-screen for far too much of this season. Even if all the show's other problems remain, many of them can be glossed over with legit scares and high-octane action sequences like the walker siege on the compound. That obviously wasn't an issue in the finale, but if the show intends for our heroes to spend an extended part of next season at sea on Strand's (Colman Domingo) boat, I fear wanting to throw most of the characters overboard very quickly.
2. Do something with the kids. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Christopher (Lorenzo James Henrie) didn't have much to do this season. (They did sneak into a neighbor's house to play dress-up and trash the place, but I'd prefer to never think of that rather ridiculous side plot ever again.) In the finale, they were basically glorified chum in the water that we were supposed to be afraid for, and if they remain helpless and inactive, my patience will wear thin. Christopher should have some emotional stuff to play now that his mom is dead. Here's hoping the actor is up to the challenge and the writers can find a similarly emotional story for Alicia.
3. Give Nick some new clothes. Yes, this is silly, but why is he still wearing an old man's wardrobe? I get that he was a junkie who was wearing whatever his mom could find in a closet at the beginning of the season, but he's had days to find something else to wear! In all seriousness, I appreciated his final scene with his mother, where he noted that, for him, the horror of the world ending started long ago because of his heroin addiction. "I've been living this for a long time. Now everyone is catching up with me," he says. I hope the show follows this thread, rather than flip-flopping between him using and fighting withdrawals.
4. Find ways to outsmart the audience. This remains the show's biggest problem. Because we've spent five seasons watching The Walking Dead, we're smarter than pretty much every character on the show. As such, it wasn't much of a shock when Travis' decision to cut Andy (Shawn Hatosy) loose without killing him — one that was underlined as a bad idea by Daniel (Ruben Blades) — turned out catastrophically when Andy came out of the shadows and ended up shooting Ofelia (Mercedes Mason).
Similarly, watching Travis, feeling the guilt of his mistake, beat Andy into a bloody pulp as he finally embraced his dark side didn't quite land with the emotional power the producers might've hoped. The episode's title, "The Good Man," telegraphed that Travis' season-long resistance to accepting the new world order would finally crumble. And Liza's tearful hug with Christopher before she snuck out of Strand's house told me she had been bitten long before she raised her shirt to show Madison. These are all perfectly valid story choices, but we've seen all of these tricks before on the original show. Season 2's success may very well hinge on how well the writers find ways to surprise viewers.
What did you think of the Fear the Walking Dead finale?