Warning: Major spoilers for those who have not seen the Season 3 premiere
Yes, everyone, THAT just happened. For those who just watched the season 3 premiere of Fear The Walking Dead, you know exactly what “that” is…as you down one bourbon shot right after another and start to pull your jaw up off the floor. For those who haven’t watched, let me walk you through the events that ultimately leads to tonight’s shocking death of a main character and fan favorite.
When season 2 ended last year, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam Carey) had reunited with veritable husband and step-father Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), a man overwhelmed with rage and grief in the wake of his son’s death. Meanwhile, Madison’s son Nick (Frank Dillane) and girlfriend Luciana (Danay Garcia) were surrounded by armed gunmen at the U.S.-Mexico border. Even farther up the road, Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason) ran into a mysterious figure played by new series regular Dayton Callie, with whom Erickson worked with on Sons of Anarchy. As we learn in tonight’s premiere, Callie portrays a man named Jeremiah Otto, who is the leader of a community of survivalists who were already well prepared for the apocalypse before it hit.
After a wait that seemed like an eternity, Fear returned tonight with a 2 hour and 10 minute premiere, and by the end of the 2nd hour, our heroes will end up at the survivalists’ compound dubbed Broke Jaw Ranch. This is put in motion by Travis, Madison and Alicia being captured in the opening sequence by a group of militiamen, who also happen to be part of the same group of armed gunmen that ambushed Nick and Luciana in the season 2 finale. They are taken to what appears to be a military base, and Travis is quickly separated from Madison and Alicia by the man who seems to be in charge, Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman). Yes, for those with a keen eye, Jeremiah and Troy have the same last name and are indeed related, with Jeremish being Troy’s father. This is where things start to get a little weird. Travis is taken to some type of holding cell where his height, weight and other measurements are taken and written on his body with a black sharpie. Um, WTF? Also in the background, you can hear screaming in Spanish, gunshots, and then, laughter afterwards. We later learn the gunfire, as well as the subsequent laughter, is coming from some of Troy’s men. All of this seems “off,” and you’ll quickly get the sinking feeling that something sinister may be going on at this base. The good news is Travis does find Nick and Luciana in that same holding cell, and so, they quickly begin plotting their escape.
In the meantime, things get just as weird with Madison and Alicia. They are locked in an office, and eventually, Troy drops in to “process” them. This entails interviewing them, with Troy focusing most of his attention on Madison, to the point where it begins to feel almost creepy. As in Norman Bates and Mother creepy. Troy also dodges Madison’s questions about Travis and instead encourages her to leave the base with his group of men, which reinforces the suspicion that he’s developing an abnormal attachment/attraction for Madison. When Troy finally leaves the room, Madison immediately begins looking for a weapon, but Alicia steps up and tells her Mom she doesn’t need to — then, proceeds to pull out a knife she has hidden in her boot. Given that Alicia had just killed a man to save Travis back at the hotel, Madison is somewhat rattled by Alicia’s seemingly nonchalant attitude about killing and promptly takes the knife from her. However, she goes on to say that they’ll do whatever it takes to survive, which may include killing — except this time, it’ll be her doing the killing instead of Alicia.
Back at the holding cell, Travis and Nick finally figure out what Troy and his men have been up to. Apparently, Troy’s group had been sent to the base by his father to gather fuel to take back to the ranch, and somewhere along the way, Troy decided it would be fun to kill some Mexicans. Well, not really “killing” Mexicans according to Troy — instead, they were being used as guinea pigs for “science” to study the time it takes to reanimate based upon body weight, height, and yes, even race and nationality. So, basically, they are using science as an excuse to get their rocks off by killing people they don’t particularly like — in this case, Mexicans. Lovely group of guys. The upside is another one of the prisoners, Steven, takes an interest in Travis and Nick and says he can get them off the base through the sewers if Travis can somehow leverage his large size and get them out of the holding cell. Since they’re running out of time and don’t really have any other options, Travis decides to go with Steven’s plan.
Well, it works… sort of. There’s a big confrontation with the militamen, and Travis offers himself up as their next “guinea pig,” which should please Troy since he seemed more than a little intrigued by Travis and wondered how long it would take a human with American Indian descent to reanimate. So, Troy’s men take the bait, Travis attacks them, and this gives Nick, Luciana and Steven the window they need to escape. They actually do make it to the nearest manhole, but Steven is shot by the militiamen as Nick and Luciana make their way down into the sewer. However, remember these guys are sadistic bastards, and so, they slit Steven’s throat and throw his corpse down the manhole, all while yelling and laughing, “Happy hunting!” However, that’s not the end of it. Troy is beyond pissed with the shenanigan Travis just pulled, and what’s more, one of Troy’s men was killed by a walker during the escape (actually, the walker was one of their “guinea pigs” that had reanimated. Ha, I call that Karma!). So, in Troy’s mind, Travis has to pay, even though he had promised Madison that Travis would not be harmed.
This is when everything starts to come together, and all of our survivors begin to converge on the path to being reunited. As payback for helping Nick and Luciana escape, Troy throws Travis into a walker pit they have at the back of the military base. Is it just me, or is it concerning that this group of militiamen actually built a walker pit? Keep in mind that the apocalypse is still in its early stages and probably began only about a month ago. It really makes you wonder how many other men before Travis met their demise in that pit and all for the amusement of these asshole pricks. But, hey, these assholes hadn’t met a guy like Travis before. Still fired up after killing the 2 boys that murdered his son, Travis whips through all those walkers like it’s child’s play — and, that’s including the dozens more that were unleashed on him after he had taken out the ones in the pit. Travis, that man’s a beast!
At about the same time, Madison decides to take matters into her own hands to save her family and attacks Troy when he returns to the office they’re locked in. Troy does manage to disarm Madison of the knife Alicia had given her, but then, in a scene that screams Deja Vu of the Governor and Michonne from the mothership The Walking Dead, Madison grabs a spoon and stabs Troy in the eye. Ouch! She drags Troy outside, still with the spoon in his eye, and effectively holds him hostage until the men return her family to her. Oh yes, this Mother Hen means business! The entire situation is quite volatile, but fortunately, and just in the nick of time, Troy’s older brother, Jake (Sam Underwood) AKA “The Good Son” as I call him, shows up and is able to talk Madison down off the ledge. He promises he’ll find the rest of her family, but she’s got to let his brother go.
So, we finally have the big reunion of our survivors. Travis is brought out where he is very dirty and very bloody from the walker pit but alive. The men also locate Alicia who saves Nick and Luciana from walker Steven by throwing her knife down into the sewer. Madison really doesn’t trust these people and wants only to leave and be on her way with her family, but as she learns, that may not be such a good idea right now. Remember, Luciana is shot and needs medical attention — she can get medical help at Jake and Troy’s ranch. However, the big thing is while Nick was dodging walker Stevie down in the sewers, he opened a latch and inadvertently unleashed a horde onto the base. Unless they want to become walker chow, they need to leave NOW, and so, Madison reluctantly agrees to take her family to the ranch. With Travis, Alicia and Luciana in a helicopter with Jake, and Madison and Nick in a truck with Troy, they are now on their way, and while the situation may not be ideal, at least everyone is alive and safe. Of course, this is the apocalypse, and that can all change in a flash.
This puts us at the end of hour 1 of the premiere. And this is also when you should probably bring out the Tequila. Seriously, because you’re definitely going to need it. However, before getting into that, let’s touch on other notable events from the 2nd part of the premiere. The only other character we visit with is Strand (Colman Domingo) who quickly gets himself in hot water with Elena back at the hotel. Well, of course he does because otherwise, Strand really wouldn’t be Strand, right? More and more people — many of whom are sick — are piling up at the gates of the hotel, and the entire situation quickly escalates. They grab Elena, but Strand is very quick in thinking on his feet and diffuses the situation by doing what he does best — playing a con. He announces he’s a medical doctor and would be happy to treat everyone. Okaaaaay, Dr. Strand, we’ll see how this plays out.
Well, in Strand’s defense, it does work, at least for a while (heck, he even manages to deliver a baby!), but Elena is pretty pissed. She tells Strand that the people will eventually discover his lie, and then, they’ll turn on all of them. As a result, she orders him to leave — no vehicle, nothing at all, just on foot. However, Strand does end up leaving with a pretty sweet ride, but this time, not as a result of a con or anything shady. As some of us may have forgotten, the mother of the bride, Eileen (Brenda Strong), is still at the hotel, but she’s not doing very well. She’s isolated herself in her room, refuses to eat, and so, Hector asks Strand to talk to her before he leaves. This is when Strand learns the hard way that he’s definitely not a doctor. Eileen isn’t angry like she was before, and in fact, apologizes to Strand and even gives him the keys to a car that was supposed to be a wedding gift. What Strand doesn’t realize is that making amends and giving things away are often telltale signs of a person about to commit suicide, and so, he doesn’t think twice about opening the balcony door, which had been stuck. Strand thinks he has actually helped Eileen, but that is shattered when she nonchalantly steps on the balcony railing and jumps, just like that. Strand’s successful day as a doctor just turned into a horrific one, but at least he now has a shiny new BMW to leave with and “in just my style and color” as Strand said himself.
Now, back to the opening to the 2nd part of the premiere, which turns out to be the mother of all shockers. The helicopter carrying Jake, Travis, Alicia and Luciana are heading to the ranch, and as I said earlier, while the situation may not be ideal given that Troy’s crew tried to kill them, at least they’re all alive, and they’re together. It should also be noted that Travis’ taking out all of those walkers in Troy’s walker pit gave him an appearance of invincibility and that nothing could touch him. Well, as it turns out, that was just a well-played trick by the writers. Out of the clear blue sky, someone begins shooting at the helicopter, and Travis is hit in the neck. There’s not a great deal of blood and so, I don’t think it hit the jugular, but Travis is still disoriented and begins to go into shock. He unfastens his seat belt and starts to open the helicopter door, and that’s when Alicia runs to his side and grabs his shirt, thus preventing him from jumping.
Well, that’s when she sees it. On Travis’ side, there is another massive injury, and while it could possibly be another gunshot, it looked more like a walker bite to me. That also jives with how much Travis was sweating at the beginning of the scene. Above is a picture of the injury, and so, you can be the judge. Does this mean that Travis isn’t as invincible as we had thought and actually was bitten in that walker pit? I’m not sure if we’ll ever know, but it does stop Alicia in her tracks. She looks intently in Travis’ eyes and then, as if those eyes were able to tell her something, Alicia lets go. Travis then falls backward out of the helicopter and presumably to his death, with Alicia looking on in horror. So, now, we all can say it together — OH. MY. F*CKING. GOD!! If you’re like me when I first watched the episode, you’re probably thinking, “Did that really happen? Did they really do THAT in a premiere episode?! No f*cking way!!”
Besides the utter shock of the sequence, I also want to give props to everyone involved in designing the scene because it was sheer perfection. The somber music as Travis is losing consciousness and then, subsequently falling from the chopper. The unspoken words between Travis and Alicia telling her what she needs to do and that it’s OK. And, of course, that raw emotion following the event with Alicia realizing the gravity of what had just happened. That lone tear that falls down her cheek says it all, and you can bet this will haunt her for a good long while.
Well, given that we know Daniel will be back later in the season, I’m sure there will be plenty of fans who will question whether Travis is really dead. As the saying goes, someone’s not really dead on this show if there’s no body. And, while that may be true, if Travis somehow manages to survive all of THAT, then he is the Iron Man. I mean, come on. The shot in his neck seems to have been the least of his injuries, but that huge gash on his side and most importantly, that massive fall from the chopper. And, this is all assuming that injury on his side wasn’t a walker bite because if it was, then all bets are definitely off. Yes, folks, while I love Travis (he’s actually my favorite character!) and want nothing more than for him to magically show up at Broke Jaw Ranch, I really don’t think that’s going to happen. RIP Travis Manawa, you will be sorely missed!
Wow. Wow. And Wow. Now that’s what I call a kick-ass, mind-blowing start to the season. Up until now, I had always felt that this show never really took risks, with the only major character death since the beginning of the series being Chris Manawa — and I think most of us saw that one coming anyways. Heck, even Daniel Salazar’s “death” fell flat because Erickson spilled almost immediately that Daniel was still alive and would be back, most likely in season 3. I’m not the only one who feels this way, either, and I think Erickson and the writing team finally got the memo. The premiere is terrifying, it’s gruesome, and then, when everything settles down and you begin to think all of our heroes are finally safe, BOOM, and those sadistic bastard writers pull the rug out from under the entire fandom. <Shaking fist> Oh well. As much as it hurts to lose such a beloved character and in such an unexpected way, one thing is for sure. FTWD just grew some beach ball-sized nuts, and Negan would most certainly approve.
Fear The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com