Fear the Walking Dead has been accused of a lot of things: not having enough zombies, moving too slowly, and generally not matching up to the cultural dominance of The Walking Dead among them. But one other aspect that hasn't really been focused on is the show's lack of a villain.
Where Walking has introduced multiple groups focused on destroying the Grimes Gang, not to mention charismatic, iconic leaders like The Governor (David Morrissey) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Fear has not. Until now. And happily, it's a character most fans of the show already hate.
Spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead past this point.
But first, let's set the scene. As of Sunday's episode, "Do Not Disturb," we seem to be settling into a routine for the second half of Season 2. A flashback to the start of the zombie apocalypse for the cold open, then thematically-related A and B stories that don't physically cross paths. In the latest episode's far more interesting B Story, Alica (Alycia Debnam-Carey) learns more about the 1-star Yelp-rated hotel (I assume, what with all the hungry undead infesting it) in which most of the Clark/Manawa clan is hiding out.
Turns out, the hotel is run by a former concierge named Elena, who is still paying psychologically for the sin of locking a wedding party in the hotel with one of the infected, back at the beginning of the apocalypse. Along with her nephew Hector, she's used the hotel as a safe(ish) haven for about a dozen normal humans... who proceed to betray her, leading Alicia to free the zombies who terrorized Madison (Kim Dickens) and Strand (Colman Domingo) in the last episode, so they eat the angry hotel guests. Alicia and Co. escape, only to bump into Madison and Co., who are hiding out from the zombie hordes.
And happily, this plot showed off what fans of Debnam-Carey (who kicks so much butt over on The CW's The 100) have been begging for, for a while: Alicia fights the undead, she swings on an elevator cable, and generally takes charge in the best way. More of this, please.
Meanwhile, Alicia's story is contrasted by the B story, with Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) meeting a group of carefree, slightly menacing tourist bros. Despite the fact that everything the bros say drips with weird subtext, Chris befriends them. So when the bros decide to steal some chickens, and a farmer threatens them with a shotgun, Chris kills the farmer. Travis, upset, refuses to look at Chris.
Aside from the usual naïve Travis monologue about how everything is going to be juuuuuust fine ("It'll come back to the way it was. They're working on it. I don't believe this is the end. I can't. I won't. Neither should you. We can get back what we lost"), what's most notable about these scenes is how Chris' arc is progressing. Where Alicia seems super cool and smart for murdering half a dozen people to save Elena, a woman she just met; Chris is demonized for killing one man.
It's a little more complicated than that, though. Alicia is motivated by the same things as the rest of the "good" guys on Fear, and the Grimes Gang on Walking Dead: they want to keep their family, whether it's real or adopted, safe no matter what the cost. Chris is killing people because he likes it.
This is something that's been bubbling all season, and clearly needs to come to a head by season's end. Back in the first half of Season 2, Chris ended up killing a hostage when that man was injured and tied to a chair. Ostensibly Chris did it because the guy not only taunted him, but threatened to kill his whole family. But Chris lied about it (most likely, the event happened off-screen), and said that the hostage had already died and returned as an infected zombie.
Then he threatened Alicia and Madison... or at least, they thought he was threatening them, when he was just holding a knife in their rooms, staring at them while they were asleep. In a, you know, super innocent way.
Exiled from the group, Chris is on the road with Travis. But clearly, while Travis wants to settle down and bond with his son, Chris has gotten far too comfortable in the new world. When asked by La Turista Bros how many undead they've killed, Travis defers, while Chris rattles off his count ("Seventeen") without hesitation. And when Chris kills the farmer, something that was totally unnecessary what with Travis trying to talk both groups down, he has a satisfied, mildly titillated look on his face.
There's being comfortable in the zombie apocalypse (think Frank Dillane's Nick, who doesn't appear in this episode), adapting like Madison and Alicia, or ignoring the changing world like Travis. But Chris is something else entirely. He may lapse back into being a nice, normal kid by season's end. But as of right now, something else entirely has been released inside of him. His choices, his instincts... everything about him screams villain.
Isn't that kind of necessary for this sort of drama, too? Having Chris break bad will force Travis to confront how much the world has really changed, if his son is turning evil. It will force Madison and/or Alicia to make a very hard choice between taking down Chris, or being destroyed to keep Travis semi-innocent. And the evolution of Chris from also-ran son to villain ascendant would push his character forward dramatically. Not to mention, it would address fans' frustrations with Chris as an otherwise useless character by giving him a vital, plot-motivating purpose.
Wherever this goes, it's exciting to see Fear at least attempt to go down the route of creating what may be a classic, tragic villain.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays, 9/8c on AMC.