By Jaylyn Cook
After a relatively slow start to the first two seasons, Fear the Walking Dead seems to have kicked it up several notches based on the intensity of the two-hour premiere of its third season.
Both “Eye of the Beholder” and “The New Frontier” were episodes packed with enough drama, action, and brutal zombie deaths to keep even the most fickle FTWD fan interested for another go-around, but it also raised one very important question by the time it was all over: Where do we go from here?
Before we can fully get into that discussion, let’s start the action right where left off last season. (Spoilers ahead, obviously).
In “Eye of the Beholder,” we find that the Clark-Manawa family has been captured and transported to a military base near the border by a group of mysterious, gun-toting men in fatigues.
Travis is roughed up and put in a murky bunker underneath the base, where he reunites with Nick and Luci – both looking fairly worse for wear since we last saw them. Madison and Alicia, on the other hand, are contained in a quiet room above ground.
While there, the pair is greeted by Troy Otto, the charismatic leader of the men in uniform. He explains the reasons for his actions: they have to “process” everyone who crosses their path around the border. You know, for safety reasons.
When Madison grills Troy on why Travis was processed separately, he basically admits that it’s because they (incorrectly) thought he was from Mexico based on the color of his skin. You know, because of prejudice.
In Travis, Luci, and Nick’s case, “processing” means that they and a handful of other people in the bunker will be killed one-by-one by Troy’s men in order to see how long it will take for them to turn into zombies based on certain factors – like race, or weight, or height. They claim it’s all in the name of science, and knowing the unknown. Travis calls them out and accuses them of murdering people just because they can.
It’s the truth, but of course, none of them are just going to outright admit that.
Nick and Luci are ultimately able to escape the bunker after Travis creates a distraction by volunteering himself to be the next one to be killed. While Nick and Luci make their way through the sewers, Travis is thrown in a pit full of walkers and left to die. However, he quickly proves that the walking dead are no match for him as he dispatches several zombies with nothing but his bare hands, some rebar, and a few cinder blocks.
Meanwhile, Madison and Alicia try to break free from the holding room by attempting to gang up on Troy. At first he seems to have the upper hand on both of them, but that changes the moment Madison stabs him in the eye with a dull spoon. It’s a violent method, but highly effective, as they force their way outside by using Troy as a human shield.
In exchange for Troy’s life, his brother Jake tells the crew to reunite Madison with her family. Jake explains that he had no idea that Troy was conducting his “experiments” down in the depths. In exchange for Troy’s life, he quickly reunites Madison with her entire family.
Everything looked as if it would be okay … that is, until the show returned from commercial and “The New Frontier” began.
A horde of zombies swarms the base, and forces Madison, Travis, Jake, Troy, and all the others to pack up and head toward Jake and Troy’s family ranch. After a brief moment of calm, the helicopter carrying Jake, Alicia, Travis, and Luci begins to take heavy fire in the night. It is unknown who was shooting at the chopper, but the attack ultimately lead to the most shocking and surprising death in the series’ history (so far).
Travis is shot in the neck, and instead of allowing himself to die and become a walker, he jumps out of the helicopter and falls to his death. Yes, Travis, a character who has been a part of the show since the very beginning, and was arguably the leader of his family of survivors, is dead. Just like that. We know that death is a part of life – even more so when zombies are involved – but still, it’s hard to believe that anyone saw that coming.
On the Otto family ranch, Madison and Nick adjust to their new surroundings and have a long conversation with Troy and Jake’s father, Jeremiah, who sets them up with a place to stay. Nick is wary of the entire situation, and rightfully so since it wasn’t that long ago when Troy tried to kill them. But, Madison insists that they accept the current situation until something better comes along.
Jake, Alicia, and a nearly-dead Luci finally make it to the ranch a day later after they were shot down. Nick wants Troy and his people to help Luci, but he refuses out of fear that she’ll die and turn any moment. After a tense standoff between Nick and Troy, Jeremiah orders them to take Luci to the infirmary. Madison, after learning of Travis’ death, breaks away from the group and mourns him alone. Jeremiah finds her, offers his condolences and a few words of support, and leaves her to it.
It’s unclear in what direction Fear the Walking Dead is going after relocating to a seemingly safe location and killing off one of its central characters, but one thing is true: if the rest of the season is as thrilling and unpredictable as the first two episodes, than we’ll be in for quite a ride.