Spoiler Alert: Do not read until you watch “Fear the Walking Dead,” season one, episode 6, titled “The Good Man.”
Sunday’s season finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” pulled out all the stops with a dynamic episode that delivered powerful character moments, cinematic visuals, and a welcome dose of undead carnage. The result was the most intense installment yet of the zombie spin-off series.
Titled “The Good Man,” the episode opens with ghostly images of downtown Los Angeles, devoid of life and pitch black, except for a few burning buildings still raging out of control.
With the deadline for Cobalt only a few hours away, the Clarks are busy packing for an emergency escape to the desert. “I thought we were winning?” Alicia asks, still clueless about the “humane termination” headed their way at the hands of the National Guard.
Desperate to reconnect with their missing family members, Travis turns to Daniel for help. Together they force the captive Adams, who’s still tied up in the basement, to lead them to the compound where Nick and Liza are being held.
Under cover of darkness, the core group of survivors make their way toward the military compound. Pressed for time, they’re unable to alert their neighbors of the horrors that await them.
Meanwhile at the hospital, Dr. Exner is preparing to transport her patients and medical staff to Edwards Air Force Base. While getting ready to leave, she gives Liza a choice of who she wants to bring with her. Under pressure, Liza chooses Chris and Travis. When push comes to shove, Maddie and her children are expendable.
In perhaps the most cathartic moment of the series, Daniel approaches the fortified compound on foot while a squad of armed soldiers aim their weapons at him. “You should save your ammunition,” Daniel quips, as a massive zombie herd converges all around them. Apparently the Arena full of walkers he discovered at the end of the previous episode served a purpose after all.
While the battle between the soldiers and zombies intensifies, the survivors make their move to free Nick and Liza.
In the holding cells, the sound of automatic weapon fire signals that it’s time for the enigmatic Mr. Strand and Nick to make their escape. In the first of many ice-cold moves, Strand ignores the pleas of his fellow captives and leaves them behind. Under the circumstances, it’s hard to blame him.
With Travis, Maddie, Daniel and Ofelia busy searching for Nick, a team of soldiers discover Alicia and Chris waiting in an underground parking garage and demand their car keys. This is easily the weakest moment in an otherwise stellar episode. There’s a vile and wholly unnecessary threat of sexual assault to Alicia by one of the soldiers that adds absolutely nothing to the scene. Thankfully, the next time we see Alicia and Chris, the soldiers are gone and the moment is forgotten. Why it was included in the first place is anyone’s guess.
Amid the bloody chaos raging outside the compound, a soldier gets bitten by one of the walkers and stumbles directly into the path of a helicopter’s spinning tail rotor. It’s a gory visual reference to a similar helicopter death in George A. Romero’s original “Dawn of the Dead.”
At this point, the episode follows the multiple parties as they navigate their way through the eerily lit compound in an effort to escape with their lives. Strand’s running commentary during this suspenseful section is a welcome relief in a series that’s often lacked humor. His addition to the cast was a genius move by the show’s writers and producers.
Eventually, everyone converges in a violent attack scene, with even the pacifistic Travis joining in on the action.
Having fought their way to safety, Liza tells Daniel that his wife Griselda is dead. The fact that she leaves out the minor detail about shooting her in the skull with a captive bolt pistol is understandable. Some things are better left unsaid.
Although the group has been planning to head for the desert, Strand suggests they travel to the ocean instead. “I have a home on the water,” he says, mysteriously.
Complications ensue when Adams suddenly appears and wants some payback for the torture he suffered at Daniel’s hands. Instead of killing the razor-wielding barber, however, he shoots his daughter Ofelia! This proves too much for Travis, who goes psycho and beats Adams to a gory pulp. Who knew the gentle English teacher had it in him?
As they drive toward the ocean, Maddie and Strand develop an interesting rapport with each other. Though they seem oddly mismatched, these two just might share a curious bond in the next season.
As dawn breaks, they arrive at Strand’s impressive home near the water. It’s an architectural marvel that further adds to the mystery surrounding this fascinating character.
With Liza’s medical help, Ofelia’s gunshot wound turns out to be survivable.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Liza herself. It turns out that she was bitten by a walker during the battle in the compound. With no one else to turn to, and terrified at the prospect of turning into a zombie, Liza begs Maddie to shoot her. But in the end it’s Travis who does the deed.
It’s a powerful ending to a season that struggled at times to find its footing, but ultimately captured the intensity and drama that made “The Walking Dead” such a hit.