The Fear the Walking Dead Finale Tells Us the Number One Rule for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

Monday, 05 October 2015 - 10:06AM
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Monday, 05 October 2015 - 10:06AM
The Fear the Walking Dead Finale Tells Us the Number One Rule for Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse
Last night's episode of Fear the Walking Dead was tellingly called "The Good Man," which immediately told me that we would find out what happens to a "good man" in this brave new world of the zombie apocalypse. In other words, Travis needed to get with the program, or he would be swiftly killed off. Luckily for Travis, he handily learned the show's number one rule for surviving the zombie apocalypse: leave people behind. (It's no double-tap, but we'll take it.)

Travis has been marked for death for several episodes now, as he simply couldn't reconcile himself with the reality of the new world order. He couldn't accept that walkers were no longer human, that the authorities are just as fallible as everyone else, that protecting his loved ones would require some ruthlessness. Even in this episode, he let Andy go out of compassion, knowing full well that there might be dire consequences for his family. Madison defends him, telling Daniel that Travis "did the right thing," but she still doesn't seem to agree with him. The "right thing," meaning the compassionate choice, is a luxury they no longer have. And when Andy comes back and shoots Ofelia, Travis sees that his trust in the military, and in other people in general, was misplaced, and beats him half to death. Madison, who is stone-cold when she wants to be, has to pull him off.

That scene is a turning point for Travis; he didn't just snap, he came to a realization of what needs to be done to survive. He spends the rest of the episode brutally killing walkers, and he finds it within himself to mercy kill his ex-wife when she's bitten by a walker, which he wouldn't have been able to do a few episodes ago. But the most striking illustration of this change is arguably when he pulls Liza away from Dr. Exner, telling her "she's lost." They probably could have tried a little harder to convince her to come with them, but Travis has accepted that in order to survive and protect your loved ones, you need to leave everyone else behind. After all, Dr. Exner was the one who told Liza to "be brutal" when deciding which characters counted as family members.

The notion that other people are essentially dead weight pervades the episode. Liza chooses to protect Chris and Travis and leave Madison, Nick, and Alicia out in the cold, and then ultimately dies because she was trying to help other people. Nick and Strand leave all of the other prisoners behind, because as Strand says, "helping them could hurt us." (And let's face it, if anyone typifies the "person who survives a zombie apocalypse," it's probably Strand.) Madison briefly feels guilty about not warning their neighbors that they should get out of dodge, but ultimately doesn't let that slow them down. You can't save everyone, so stick to "your own."

This isn't exactly revolutionary, as The Walking Dead has explored this notion many times before; it's almost as though Travis has Rick serving as the angel on his shoulder and Shane as the devil. But the one interesting part of the episode came when Daniel basically sealed the coffin of the zombie apocalypse by releasing 2,000 walkers. He may not be solely responsible for the apocalypse, and for all we know the military never would have managed to control it anyway, but he made it much less likely that the infection would be contained for the sake of his and Ofelia's own survival. As a result, Fear the Walking Dead illustrates the paradox that selfishness and brutality are desirable traits for an individual's survival, but ultimately an undesirable trait for the species as a whole. Maybe if people had learned to control their "fear" (see what they did there?), the infection would have been contained and the world of The Walking Dead never would have existed.
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