Fear The Walking Dead S02E13 “Date Of Death” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on AMC Global, Mondays
Writer: Brian Buckner
Director: Christoph Schrewe
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously on Fear The Walking Dead! Bro’s! Travis being incompetent! Chris being murderously awful!
- Aaaaaand we’re back. With a seething mass of very alive humanity pushed up against a gate and on the other side?
- Madison and Team Hotel.
- In fairness, Madison does have a, “WOW, turning that sign on was a just STAGGERINGLY bad call,” look on her face.
- They try and reason with the mob as Madison’s team, with TOTAL justification, bitch at her for being an idiot.
- Then she sees Travis and…
- We flash back to bro’ farmhouse and as Chris goes to the dark side we see Travis finally realise that his son is monstrous. The bro’s are panicking because James, the tiniest bro’, is bleeding. Travis goes full competent, runs for medical supplies and finds enough stuff to MacGyver something together.
- It is not going to be pretty or fun but James absolutely has this coming. He and his idiot manchild chums are all chestbeating and posturing until it becomes apparent that being shot actually hurts slightly less than having the wound treated with whatever the man you just murdered had lying around the house. Again, GOOD.
- Travis builds the farmer a headstone and buries him next to his family. Chris, we can only assume, is doing colouring in or staring blankly at a wall wondering if he can shoot it at this point.
- Later that night the bro’s are cooking chickens and James is resting. Travis checks in on him and James lies about how much pain he isn’t in. Travis tells him he can’t help him unless James is honest and takes Chris off for what will assuredly be the worst family talk in a long history of terrible family talks.
- Chris is completely unaffected by the fact he’s a murderer. Travis slaps the beer out of his hand and tries to get him to face what he did. Chris feels no remorse and tries to reassure his father that because he saved James he’s a “hero”. Chris warns his dad to be careful and…
- We’re back at the hotel where Travis is let in but no one else. Hurrayyy! Team The Worst Reunited! And we’re sure there will be no bad consequences!
- Maddy and Travis try and reconnect. This mostly consists of Maddy trying to get in touch with Travis’s emotions and Travis shutting her down. They are obviously traumatised and trying to work through. Maddy tells Travis where Nick is; Travis walks off, overcome with emotion, when she asks where Chris is. And then says, “I had no choice.”
- Back at Littlest Bro’ On The Prairie, everyone is woken up by the truck moving into the farm. It’s been a week which is presumably why everyone, other than Chris, has really terrible moustaches.
- James is clearly in agony and unable to move but claims he’s fine. The other two shut down Travis’s objections and pesky annoying logic and Chris, because did we mention CHRIS IS SO SO AWFUL, goes along with them.
- Travis wanders through the farmhouse of the man his son murdered, looking at a huge and storied and well-lived set of lives. He finds what he was looking for; the man’s name and carves it on his tombstone.
- Chris comes to find him because the Bro’s want to go. Travis asks what the date is and Chris claims he lost track of time.
- They put James in the back of the truck. He’s still bedridden and clearly in agony. Chris and Travis ride with him as they head out. Travis, seeing the agony the young man is in, tries to get them to stop the truck. They ignore him even after the littlest bro’ passes out. He’s seriously ill and they have no choice but to go back.
- That night Travis overhears the other three talking themselves into killing their wounded friend. Travis confronts them and points out they have food, shelter and everything they need.
- Then for no good reason at all, Travis pulls a gun from one of the bro’s. There is a deeply rubbish standoff in which Chris sides with the bro’s and the episode cuts away to Travis standing guard over James.
- James explains they used to have a fourth friend, Troy, who got sick. They knew he’d die and turn and they agreed to kill him.
- Brandon tried to kill him but couldn’t, and as Troy started begging, James took the gun and did the job. Travis tries to tell him this is different but he knows how his friends will be.
- The next morning there’s a knock at the barn door. It’s Chris who’s brought his dad food and to talk. He tells his Dad the others had gone off to kill Walkers on the road. Chris claims he gets it, that life still matters. He mentions that despite the fact Travis doesn’t like James he’s risking his life to save him and that’s helped Chris realise the truth. Chris hugs his dad and…
- …tackles him, screaming for the others to come in. They hold Travis at gunpoint as James begs but is executed.
- The bro’s pack out and Travis, somehow, tries again to reason with Chris. He tells him the farmer’s name was Elias and he and Chris shared a birthday. He tells him that this is forever if Chris leaves.
- Chris explains he’s adapting. He’s better now. He also says how odd it is that Travis found it in him to execute Chris’ mom but then lost it.
- The bro’s roll out and Travis follows them, still pleading, with Chris in the back of the truck.
- Chris leaves.
- Travis is alone
- He buries James and walks out into the wilderness. He does this with no supplies and no weapon. Because Travis is an idiot.
- But hey, at least this time he remembers shoes.
- At the hotel, Travis explains how guilty he is for leaving his son. Madison reassures him and does, kind of okay, but Travis is convinced he’s a terrible, failed father. Madison tries to convince him that he did the right thing but Travis isn’t having it. He brings up the vineyard and what Chris did. He says they are parents first and their responsibility is to their kids and Travis failed.
- Travis gives this huge and actually really nice speech about how he wishes he told Chris he’d loved him and what a nice child he’d been and how much danger they’re all in. It’s the single moment in two seasons where they let Cliff Curtis take the brakes off and it’s brilliant.
- And at no point does it feel… entirely honest…
- Madison leaves him to settle and finds that they’ve let 43 people in. They’re housing them in the parking structure; their resources are shot. Madison finds Alicia helping out at the impromptu clinic and takes Alicia out on the pier.
- Madison comes clean to Alicia, giving her the information we discovered a while ago; her father wasn’t killed in an accident. He committed suicide. She does this presumably because of what Travis has just told her. It does, however, play like another Awful Decision™ by the Clark side of the Clark/Manuwa family.
- Alicia demands to know what was in the note and Madison tells her:
- I LOVE YOU ALL BUT ENOUGH’S ENOUGH
- She explains Nick is the reason why she kept it secret because of how similar they are. She explains she was always afraid of Nick ending up like his father and begs Alicia to believe she never loved her any less. The Clark women reconcile, again.
- Meanwhile Travis is showering in the manner of a man who is guilty of something far more than letting his son go and more people are heading for the hotel gate. Including the surviving bro’s…
Well that went about as well as a Chris centric episode could be expected to at this point.
Let’s get the good out of the way first. Cliff Curtis is amazing and he’s somehow managed to turn a character so stupid that he forgets shoes are a thing into something workable. And yes we know we go on about the shoe thing but in a show where the stupid piles pretty high at times that is the undeafeated all-time champion.
Curtis’s Travis is like the anti-Rick. Where Mr Grimes got progressively ruckier as time went on, Travis is doggedly sticking to his ethics and principles. It does not make him a fun character, frequently puts him in difficult spots but it’s at least consistent. One of the best moments here is where he’s tending to James. He can’t stand the kid (he’s not alone) but he’s hurt so Travis helps him. That’s just what he does. Once a teacher always a teacher.
There’s a lot of evidence this episode that Travis didn’t leave Chris with the bro’s; he left him dead or to die. It’s all in Curtis’s performance: unsettled, guilt-ridden and haunted by what he might have done. It’s intriguing and dark and maybe – just maybe –signals something incredibly horrible and interesting in the show’s imminent future.
That’s actually really interesting, in a way that no Chris plot has ever ever been.
Unfortunately, pretty much nothing else is.
The bro’s are awful. The fact the episode arbitrarily jumps in time over the week Chris, Travis and the bro’s hole up at the farm is worse. Chris is so, so awful that there need to be new words invented for it.
They try and treat James’s wound, they bicker a bit, Travis tries to warn Chris, Chris ignores him. It’s like the Morgan solo episode from last season of The Walking Dead with no Aikido, no personality and no pace. Instead we just get the show’s five least interesting characters sitting in a farm for a week slowly bickering at each other in a manner that, next episode, might even be proved to be completely fabricated.
Nothing happens. Or rather nothing happens that hasn’t happened before. Chris is AWFUL, the Bro’s bro, Travis means well, Madison remembers she has other children and apologises to Alicia for being awful. Again. Even the addition of the lots of other guests at the hotel just feels like window dressing and we can only imagine most of them will be dead by the end of the season.
There is stuff to enjoy here. Curtis is great and Henrie continues to do excellent work with the awful character he has but there’s no pace, no energy and no stakes. Chris may be dead. Chris may be alive.
- “I just thought you were alright.”
“I had to be.” Best line and best characterisation the show has ever done. Please don’t kill Alicia.
- “He didn’t leave me any choice.” That really does sound a touch murder-y
- Travis carving the name of the man his idiot sociopath son murdered on the tombstone is pretty much the best thing he’s done so far.
- The pacing may be terrible this week but the cinematography is brilliant. We especially love what must be a drone controlled zoom into Travis and Maddy’s hotel room.
- “My man can take the pain.” OH SOD OFF
- “I’m going to get us out of here – everything’s going to be okay.” The best Christmas Watford will ever have!
- The bro’s. Terrible characters who have gone full reaver in, what – three weeks into the end of the world? We don’t get inside their heads; we don’t see Chris bond with them in any way that makes sense. They’re just the people he’s decided to stand next to now.
- Chris. This is looking more and more like his exit lap. But the moment where he used his dad’s love to enable SOMEONE ELSE’S MURDER means we’d really like that exit lap to end. SOON.
- The pace. The format seems supposed to raise questions about what Travis is saying. Instead it just kind of meanders.
- Madison continues to be awful about and to her family. But at least she means well.
- NO STRAND! ALL THE BOO-ING!
And the Random:
- So we think Chris is dead.
- We also think it’s way more complex than Travis has led us to believe. Here’s the evidence:
• “I had no choice.” Travis could have hopped in the truck. Chris is dead.
• Travis’s entire demeanour; he’s traumatised, sure, but he’s way more traumatised than leaving his son with two sociopathic if competent tourists would lead us to believe. Chris is dead.
Bro ’and Bro’ showing up at the hotel does absolutely nothing dramatically unless Chris’s absence is something that’s known to both them and Travis. Plus Travis is acting so shadily we’re laying money they’re claiming he killed Chris or left him to die and then we get an entire episode of, “Who do we trust? Or indeed like? Or perhaps tolerate?”
- Oh and there’s this theory but instead of leaving you excited to find the answer, this episode just leaves you hanging.