The penultimate episode of Fear the Walking Dead gives us more insight in to what is going outside of the fences that contain our protagonists (or at least until the National Guard decided to take them away that is). Just as Madison saw last week, the outside world is not exactly a pretty place to be in. Despite their apparent control over things, this week’s episode shows that the military is not quite the well-oiled machine that Travis thinks they are and that in actuality they are just as unsure and frightened as anyone else.
This point is made especially clear when Travis joins some soldiers en route to the facility where Nick, Griselda and Liza are now located. When they get redirected to a building full of walkers, Travis is made to remain in the vehicle whilst his travel companions join the conflict inside. This was a very well-shot scene in which the increasing threat of the zombie horde is well conveyed without ever having to show a single walker. He is made to listen to the gunfire and the screams through the radio inside the vehicle and Cliff Curtis’ expressions here perfectly expressed the horror of a danger that is not seen, but that is most definitely heard. When the soldiers return to the vehicle without their commanding officer, they seem more human than they ever have before, throwing their military roles out of the window and vowing to return to their families. After this scene, Travis surely knows that the military aren’t on top of the outbreak to the extent that he had believed they were and therefore he must now finally open his eyes and see the world for the chaotic thing that it is.
That being said, Travis is one of those characters that has become increasing one-dimension as the series has progressed. Earlier in the episode, the soldiers tasked him with taking out a walker with a sniper rifle. From the off it was entirely predictable that he wouldn’t be able to do it due to his aversion to guns and his almost cliché belief that the dead are merely sick. It would have been much more of an interesting scene had he shot the walker and perhaps struggled to come to terms with it afterwards, therefore allowing for some character development, but instead they chose to keep him on the exact same path that he has been following for the past few episodes. Hopefully after the experience in the field with soldiers that followed later in the episode, we will now see his character grow in the series finale.
Oddly enough, ‘Cobalt’ also saw some of the poorest utilisations of two of its arguably better characters: Nick and Madison. The former hardly spoke a word this episode and spent most of his time sitting (not even cowering) in the corner of his cell, whereas the latter was equally silent and predictably conformist to Daniel’s plans to torture the soldier. Nick has been the centre-piece for some pretty dynamic moments throughout this series, but this week he felt more like a tool for introducing the new character, Strand (Colmon Domingo). Don’t get me wrong, Strand’s introduction was very entertaining, but Domingo and Dillane’s chemistry just didn’t work and it felt like the former was dominating the scene. Similarly, Madison wasn’t much of a presence in the scenes and Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) cast a large shadow over her. It’s completely fine for different characters to take the spotlight at different stages of the series, but there’s something questionable when two of the leading cast members fail to make an impact.
Despite these minor criticisms, ‘Cobalt’ was a truly thrilling episode from start to finish and has paved the way for an exciting series finale. It will be interesting to see where they decide to leave the show at the end of its first series, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any clear-cut point of departure as of right now. We have now had our first main character death in the form of Griselda Salazar, but I seriously doubt that she will be the only one to meet her untimely fate and that another of the big players will be joining her in the grave during the series finale.