If Fear the Walking Dead is good for nothing else (and I'd argue it's good for a lot of things, because it's a very good show), it's answering burning fan questions about the post-apocalypse world of The Walking Dead. How did the apocalypse start? Check, sort of. Why doesn't everyone smear themselves with zombie-concealing blood all the time? Well, in this show, they do.
And on this week's episode, one more huge fan question was answered... Though whether the answer was what fans expected, or even wanted, is up for debate.
Spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead past this point.
Things pick up soon after last week's episode, when Madison (Kim Dickens) turned on the light of the Rosarita Beach Hotel in order to summon her errant son Nick (Frank Dillane) home. Instead, Madison brought refugees like flies to a bug lamp... Including Madison's lost husband, Travis (Cliff Curtis).
And it's (mostly) Travis' episode. We find out that his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) continued his path to Bro-inspired villainy by helping his new Bro friends kill one of their other friends. We find out that Chris left with them, and Travis' last words to his son were, "Goddamn you, Chris," which are also Fear fans' first, middle and last words to Chris.
But most importantly, even after all this, we find out that Travis still has his irrational hope that everything is gonna turn out just fine. Or at least - and this is the most crucial turning point for the character since he was left sobbing in the sand at the end of last season - his hope is morphing into something far more spiritual.
The question, by the way, that I teased earlier is: if there are no phones, no communication, and no real ways of tracking people down... How do the survivors of the post-apocalypse keep finding each other? The simple answer is, if they didn't it would be a much more boring/weirder show with everyone off doing their own thing, not interacting with anyone (though "Grotesque" earlier in the season is a good argument for that style of storytelling). The more complicated, in-show answer is the one that Travis throws out to Madison towards the end of the episode: "What are the chances?" he wonders aloud back at the hotel, referring to the odds of losing Chris, looking over the horizon, and immediately seeing Madison's hotel lit up.
Madison doesn't believe it's fate they all keep meeting up (or at least she doesn't openly embrace Travis' newfound, possibly hunger-fueled fervor); and I'm sure neither does the audience. Other than the undead monsters roaming the Earth, the world of Fear and The Walking Dead is relatively grounded in reality. But maybe Travis is right? If you ignore the fact that a writer created and crafted these characters and plots, in the world of the show it's bizarre that the Clark/Manawa family keeps finding each other.
There's Travis finding Madison, of course. But there's also Madison almost crossing paths with Nick, and then the Bros showing up at the end of the episode, stunned looks on their dirty faces and sans Chris. There's the fact that the farmer Chris killed a few episodes back has the same birthday as him. Add in all the times on Walking Dead characters randomly run into each other while wandering through the woods, and it definitely makes you think that there's some other power at work than coincidence.
...Or maybe things are simpler than they seem. Take the other thread that pops up late in the episode, with Madison confessing to her daughter Alicia (Alycis Debnam-Carey) how her father really died. It wasn't a car crash the same day Nick was coming home from rehab, a seemingly impossible event caused by some puppetmaster in the sky. It was suicide. He was depressed. And he left a simple note: "I love you all, but enough's enough."
While Travis is looking for big answers, some sort of explanation as to why this is all happening - 'this" being everything from finding Madison, to the zombie apocalypse - sometimes the real answers are simultaneously easier to learn, and harder to understand. Sometimes, a person kills themselves because it's "enough," just like Travis happened to be in the right place to see Madison's light, or the undead are just a part of the world now. There's no purpose, no spiritual reason: they just are.
In a meta-textual way, the writers of Fear are commenting on our unrelenting need for the prequel (remember, this show is set in 2010! I forgot!) to answer the source of the zombie apocalypse, our need for an understanding of a greater plan in place. Instead, FTWD is just presenting people who are grappling with living, right up until enough is enough.
We'll just have to see whether Travis is able to accept this before the season is over.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.