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Sweatpants & TV | Fear the Walking Dead, Season 2: Episodes 14 & 15, “Wrath” & “North”

By Matt Berry

We May Be Through With the Past…

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Nick gets stomped, Alejandro gets chomped, and Travis shows the Bro-Dudes who put the Bomp in the Bomp-Sha-Bomp-Sha-Bomp! All this and World War III breaks the hell out on Fear the Walking Dead’s fence smashing, face bashing, car crashing double elimination season finale!

Fear the Walking Dead, Season 2, Episodes 14/15: Wrath / North

When last we saw the Grand Snoozefest Hotel, the Bro-heimers had just appeared at the front gates minus their new bestie Chris, and a large portion of Wrath is dedicated to finding what truly became of him. Before that ugly truth comes out, however, the Dudes enjoy annoying the hell out of their fellow refugees who are already in a tiz, and rightly so, ‘cause they’re being forced to live in a parking lot shantytown a hundred or so odd feet from a giant, empty fucking hotel with, like, rooms and showers and Strand’s liquor stash. So right away we learn that adding two American douchebags to a potentially volatile international crisis is a very bad idea. Sorry, Trump and Pence, but you’re not getting anywhere near Mexico.

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Maddie uses her keen, Angela Lansbury-like detective skills and realizes that the dead friend the two scrotes keep talking about is actually Chris (the only teen boy in the history of Los Angeles who never got a driver’s license). Once she determines that these are the greasy little chicken pluckers that Travis lost his son to and that it does appear as though they “let” Chris get killed, she decides that the best way to sneak them out of the hotel (parking lot) before he finds out they’re there and loses his paternal shit is to announce in front of the increasingly disgruntled refugees that these two American dipshits who’ve been annoying the hell out of everyone are going to be moved to the top of the list for medical care for the one dude’s kind of dislocated shoulder. So, of course, an angry mob forms to accompany the marching of the boys through the compound. This exercise in subtlety, of course, gets Travis’ attention.

 He eventually crashes the Bros’ sequester and demands to know what became of Chris and how it befell him. When they try to sell him a story about a car crash and a “jacked” neck, something doesn’t sit right with Trav. So he dishes out his own Patriot Act-style truth extraction and finally hears what he has dreaded all along, since the moment he and Chris encountered these cavalier man-children, since they drove away with Chris’ body and soul sinking slow into the decay of the bed of that stolen pickup, since the little monsters appeared alone at the hotel, and since they began their tale of tragic endings. Chris was injured when the truck went into a series of rolls across the highway, and like Baby James and another “friend” before him, he was executed at point blank range for committing the sin of being dead weight. That’s when Travis gets medieval.

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Even as they tell their version of the tale, Travis can see it as it must have happened: Chris lying helpless on the ground, pleading to be spared their ridiculously brutal code. It’s a heartbreaking detail that Chris’ pleas are muffled to a mute in their retelling because they didn’t care to acknowledge them in their heartless determination to move on without him, but Travis sees and hears his son’s cries in his own envisioning of the event. Travis had to, in that moment, feel the waves of regret that drove him to try and make a go of it with his son – just the two of them – when he left Maddie and family at Cecelia’s compound in the first half of the season. He made a conscious effort long ago to help Madison focus on saving Nick and just as she carelessly shelved her daughter, he too emotionally abandoned a son who was already showing signs of moral decay before the end of the world broke out. Even in the pilot episode, Chris was filming an act of brutality in the LA streets with the detached amusement of a sociopathic six-year-old pulling wings off butterflies. In the end, Travis abandoned his boy, and now he feels he did it again by letting him disappear with the dudes. All those years’ worth of anguish come roiling to the surface when he is confronted with the final result of his choices. And the boys standing before him represent the culmination of that long-coming bullet to the head. So Travis takes everything out on the ones who actually pulled the trigger.

He beats them to death (and Oscar, too, just for being in the way) in a savage outburst of retribution and self-loathing. We’ve seen Travis lose his cool and administer a beat down before, but this time it was positively Grimes-ian in its lack of restraint and lack of want for restraint.

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While no one at the hotel likely shed a tear for the jerk store Americans, the collateral killing of Oscar does not go over so well. Travis has broken Maddie’s “No Violence” rule and the other Hotel Cousins want blood. In the ensuing melee, Alicia ends up killing someone for the first time before she, Maddie, and Travis haul ass out of there. Strand, who facilitated their escape by showing up with a gun in one hand and a scotch in the other, declines to join their escape club. Strand, of course, would never leave his liquor stash, and I don’t blame him one bit. I did appreciate that, as a final Fuck You, the Clark family drove through the gate protecting the compound from the Infected outside. That’ll teach ya’ to enforce the rules I made!

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Something similar occurs in the Colonia when Carlo and his men make good on a threat to show up and take the place over. Alejandro had been trying to convince his congregation to stay and fight, but Nick believed they were simply lining up for the slaughter. This caused tension between Nick and Lucia until Alejandro (after being bitten by an actual Infected) admits that he’s a fake, that he’s not a chosen messiah immune to the plague but rather a lying liar religion-talking guy who was bitten by a nappy-haired drug addict named Nic…errr, that OTHER drug addict kid who was always hanging around his pharmacy, and Lucia finally loses her faith in Alejandro calling all the Dead Tolerating shots.

In the end, Nick leads the Colonia’s people away while a dying Alejandro stays behind to spring a final surprise on Carlo’s Narcos. Just as they begin to gloat about taking the compound without having to fire a single shot, a near-death Alejandro drives the bus away from the hole in the fence, allowing a sea of Walkers to invade his former Jonestown.

Nick, unfortunately though, has led their people into the waiting arms of some ‘roided up Grand Theft Auto characters from a nearby “refugee camp” (even without the benefit of having ever seen an episode of the original Walking Dead, Nick should still already know that any place that looks even remotely welcoming is the last place you want to go). They open fire on Nick’s group, and the last we see of Nick and Lucia is that she’s been shot and they’re both being beaten by cargo vest-loving assailants.

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In the finale’s third story, we finally see more of Ofelia as she continues her way to and across the U.S. border. After finally making it back into Texas, she is of course immediately greeted by a casually racist, trigger happy NRA member. The only upside is that, in the end, my sweet Ofelia is still alive and kicking, and that said NRA member is played by another Deadwood alum who will hopefully, eventually next season, join Kim Dickens onscreen for a full-on Joanie Stubbs / Charlie Utter reunion.

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The saddest thing about these episodes is that in the end, after all that’s happened to their children; the moment they’re free of the hotel drama, Madison and Travis immediately turn their attention back to Nick and rescuing him wherever he may be. After forsaking Alicia’s emotional stability and Chris’ mental health and, ultimately, his life, they fall right away back into the same pattern that caused so much trouble in the first place and that has defined them (badly) as parents. In a way, their inability to reflect on the sins of their pasts (of which apparently, Madison has plenty) is reflective of the show’s continued inability to mine enough depth from its plot and myriad subplots. Even the flashbacks – so effective at rendering resonance and poignancy when done well – rarely serve to add anything new, surprising, or relatable about the characters on the show. Just as the show fails to build a relevant connection from past to present, Maddie and Travis tread almost instinctively back to old patterns without any effort to find a better way.

So, despite the fact that he chose to leave (as he always did in the days before the end of the world), everything resets to being all about Nick once again, and it’s almost as though the entire sojourn through Mexico never really happened. So as our characters make their way (somehow or other) back toward the U.S.A., we’re left with the hope that they – and the show, for that matter – will break the chains of the past and forge into new territory both as survivors and, as always, a family.

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