‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Episode 5 Recap: What’s the Plan, Dan?

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Fear the Walking Dead’ “Ticking Clock” Sets Up “Deadliest Episode of the Season”.

It’s taken a while — perhaps too long, for some viewers — for Fear the Walking Dead to trot out some of the powerhouse actors that have been waiting in the wings. That’s the situation in which the Clark clan finds itself at the end of “Cobalt,” tonight’s penultimate episode of “Fear the Walking Dead.” It is easily the best episode yet.I don’t think we learned his name in the episode, but according to IMDb his name is Strand – he’s played by Broadway veteran Colman Domingo – and he is just absolutely awesome.

A few things are immediately evident about this man: he knows how to get into people’s heads, he knows how to work this system (at one point bribes a guard with an expensive cufflink to save Nick from being hauled off), and he has (or had) some form of loved ones on the outside (particularly someone with the first initial “A.”) The same can be said for Liza, who is still shadowing the doctor who convinced her to hop aboard the truck last week to help her treat the sick in what is apparently the creepiest and most unsanitary looking hospital in the world. So far that has amounted mostly to people getting shot without dying, the National Guard being uncool and Travis, as the blundering symbol of civilization’s faith in its structures, being idiotically optimistic. Instead, this installment spent an unwelcome amount of time rehashing the TV torture debate, an exhausted plot device that should’ve ended with the series finale of “24” back in 2010. Season one’s penultimate episode also dealt the group its first major fatality when Griselda fails to survive having her foot amputated and Liza has to put her down. The revelation of the latter comes only after a gruesome and efficient bit of torturing by Daniel Salazar, the most violent barber since Sweeney Todd.

This week Liza learned that you have to shoot people after they die during the zombie apocalypse, and while it was a horrifying prospect, she woman-ed up when it came time to off Griselda, who ended up dying of septic shock. Not only did the team get caught in a zombie ambush along the way (Travis waited in the car, of course), but Travis got to show everyone what a wimp he is when he refused to shoot a zombie from long range.

Titled “Cobalt,” the episode was an anxious, nervy hour that resisted overwrought obviousness — the Achilles’ heel of “The Walking Dead” — in favor of shaded musings on the moral relativism of the survival instinct. Colman Domingo, the Obie-winning co-star of the rock musical Passing Strange (and Tony-nominated for The Scottsboro Boys), kicks off this episode with what could be called a “reverse Patton” speech. One man was ready for the collapse: Daniel, who, with Madison’s tacit approval, channeled his experience as a punisher in the Salvadoran Civil War as he extracted intel from Ofelia’s boyfriend, slice by expert slice. The hour also drove a deeper wedge between Madison and Travis, the latter of whom turned to the Guard with a plea to return the community’s 12 people taken for treatment in a bid to safeguard the healthy. Under the shadow of a backwards American flag, seated in a government holding-pen, Domingo’s character Strand saps the will of his cellmate, one needling insult at a time.

Strand is taking care of Nick, who is going through serious withdrawal in a makeshift cell in some giant holding pen somewhere in downtown Los Angeles. Ofelia and Daniel made a major power move in their quest to reunite with Griselda: They kidnapped Andrew (Shawn Hatosy), the soldier Ofelia had gotten cozy with. Travis finally faced something like reality, pressing his good buddy Lieutenant Moyers to show him the loved ones who’d been snatched away to headquarters.

This is Strand (played by Colman Domingo), a stylish operator who’s busy getting inside the head of Doug Thompson, the unbalanced neighbor who mysteriously disappeared last week. It’s best not dwell on the bloody, horrific detail, but let’s just say it involved using a barber razor for a very different use than what it was intended for. Ofelia was pissed at her dad about this, and when Travis returned from his failed mission, he was horrified as well — even moreso when he realized that Daniel acted with Madison’s consent.

At headquarters, Liza got a crash course in apocalypse nursing, listening to Griselda rave her way into the grave and then putting a bolt into her cranium, à la Anton Chigurh. This introductory scene plays very much like an audition for “Glengarry Glen Ross,” with Strand taking on the role of smooth-talking salesman Ricky Roma.

Strand is supposed to be a malevolent force, but when he saves Nick from going “downstairs”, where surely those about to turn into zombies are taken, Strand makes a bargain with one of the guards to keep Nick in the cell. They are very prominently outside the fence now, and though there are references to patrols, it seems they’re spending most of their time outside the fence. To drive the message home, he even refers to himself as “a closer” at one point, and as anyone familiar with David Mamet’s incendiary drama knows, coffee is for closers. Must have blubbering skills.) Soon enough, he’d weeded him out of his cell and decided that Nick, with his gold-standard addict status, could be an asset in the crumbled world to come. “I’m going to require a man of your talents when I make my move,” he said, flashing a key. He gets his first FTWD “written by” this week, after serving as a co-executive producer on the first four episodes (and working on The Killing and Last Resort previously).

He’s just like the devil, offering people what they really want, but for a price somewhere down the road, one that is surely going to twist them up morally inside. The “Cobalt” of the episode title, which we caught crackling on a walkie-talkie every time a soldier passed by, referred to the military operation that would evacuate the troops from the occupied zones and “humanely terminate” those left behind. (I doubt it’s standard operating procedure to repeat the name of an operation every five minutes, but it worked dramatically.

Moyers to see about getting his people released from custody. “If the ones you took don’t come back soon, you’re gonna have more than me to worry about,” Travis threatens. The atmospheric echo of the name created mystery and suspense without smacking you over the head about it.) The show’s metaphorical critique got a bit more specific, as well. Don’t sell yourself short.”) Strand really calls attention to the theme of this episode, that the world has changed and those who aren’t willing to sacrifice will die. We realize that this complicated man is now being revealed to be someone who was something of a monster in his own right back in the day, and now his daughter has to deal with that realization She grew up thinking that her parents were somewhat backward, Griselda doesn’t know any English and they didn’t assimilate.

Daniel Salazar is definitely willing to do what it takes, and I like how the slow introduction of details about his life in El Salvador has created someone really conflicted. He asks whether he would be the man with the knife or the man in the chair and while he says he suffered for his decision, once he’s flaying the skin off the soldier’s arm it’s clear what his decision was then and what his decision is now. There’s too much going on for her to take apart the false history in the finale, but going into the next season, she’s going to have to relearn who her father is and come to terms with it — and see if she can accept him. The irony is that in season two, she’s in a situation where she wishes her father were the kind and benevolent person she thought he was, and she’ll realize that as she continues to face the new world, that person she thought Daniel was is not helpful to our group. Meanwhile, Alicia and Chris, bored and angry at their parents, break into an empty home and bond by playing with their neighbor’s expensive toys and clothing. “These little bastards are having the childhood we deserve!” Alicia says.

The father-son, father-daughter, mother-son dynamics and this larger, blended family — there will be a lot of identity shifts over the course of the show. Fans of classic zombie cinema might notice a striking visual parallel between Alicia primping in a mirror and a nearly identical shot of actress Gaylen Ross playing dress-up in George A. When she finds out that Daniel is torturing him she asks: “Did he tell us what we need to know?” They did get very good information out of the soldier: that “Cobalt” is about to take place. This was suggested most obviously after Ofelia recoiled from his actions but was conveyed in more interesting, Gothic fashion later, when Griselda cryptically rambled as she slipped away. “I saw the devil’s face; it’s the same as yours,” she said, perhaps to some fevered vision of her husband. “Take my flesh piece by piece if that’s my penance. I loved who I loved.” By the time Daniel climbed the steps to the rattling arena, I expected his karmic comeuppance to come bursting through the doors to feed on his guilt (as well as everything else).

We’re not going to end the season exactly at the moment where Rick came to and went out to explore and find Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl (Chandler Riggs). These last two episodes have been functioned as their own mini-drama, illustrating Travis and his makeshift family’s dawning awareness that there’s no law any more, and thus no reason to trust people in uniforms. There’s always next week, I guess — I don’t think those doors are going to hold. • I was happy to see Travis lose the rose-colored glasses, but was equally glad that the show didn’t suddenly turn him into a warrior.

We also learn that the army locked a bunch of walkers in the LA Coliseum alongside a bunch of people who weren’t sick yet, essentially sacrificing them as they join the undead, or at least become an all-you-can-eat zombie buffet. Moyers makes that clear to Travis when he explains why some people get to travel at will and others are stuck behind fences. “I said you couldn’t do that,” he grunts. “I can do anything I want. The whole thing lacks tension, since we get the impression that he could easily be convinced to tell Daniel everything he knows with just a little bit of coaxing. It was yet another subtle sign that the commander had lost the support of his men. • A commenter last week noted that we knew Lieutenant Moyers was bad news when we saw him hitting golf balls. Instead, we’re treated to the ugly sight of a formerly interesting, sympathetic character reduced to recreating scenes from Eli Roth’s “Hostel.” It’s a major letdown.

The episode is littered with choice lines: Strand responding to Nick’s puking by saying, “I was wishing we had something to mask the smell of urine… you saved the day,” or a soldier declaring “I got a new mission: Operation Gettin’ My Ass Back To San Diego.” Even the steely Dr. Regardless of his motivation, the zombies pushing against the door to break free and eat his smooshy little brains were frightening enough to send him back a few paces. But so long as the writing and the characters can stay as strong as they are here —so long as the show can keep bring in a Strand or a Moyers occasionally, to give amusingly articulate little lectures about what it means to survive — then Fear’s future looks bright. When he finally gets his courage up and confronts Moyers about taking him to the LA base so he can check on Nick and Liza – but mostly Liza, to shut up his sniveling son, Chris – the trip into town goes disastrously wrong.

The episode ends with Daniel somehow walking all the way from the fenced-in East L.A. neighborhood to the Los Angeles Arena (that’s at least seven miles on foot in the dark), where the soldiers have chained 2,000 zombies inside. Moyers makes a very persuasive case for killing her, saying that if Travis won’t kill her, he must think that there is something human about her, which there clearly is not.

There are two things going on: she’s failed her patient —this woman that she cares about — and she’s getting this massive download about the fact that whatever this contagion is, it’s something that has spread completely. She soon goes into septic shock, and dies, not before a long deathbed confession about her husband, saying he was the devil incarnate, and a host of other things. He’s still transfixed by the humanity of her name, thinking about who she must have been and trying to honor the life she had by letting her reanimated corpse go hunting for a meal that is far warmer and more deadly than a chocolate glazed. No suit and tie, no sir — today, on what was the third and final day of his trip, he was dressed for adventure in black outdoor pants, a gray pullover and a black Carhartt jacket. He was heading north to Kotzebue, a village about 30 miles above the Arctic Circle, which is suffering from a climate-disaster trifecta of melting permafrost, rising seas and bigger storm surges.

In perhaps the starkest language he has ever used in public, Obama warned that unless more was done to reduce carbon pollution, “we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: submerged countries, abandoned cities, fields no longer growing.” His impatience was obvious: “We’re not moving fast enough,” he repeated four times in a 24-minute speech (an aide later told me this repetition was ad-libbed). He’s going to be rocked by Griselda’s death but he will persevere because he still has Ofelia and now that she knows what he is — or what he was — he needs to atone for that. Obama’s trip to Alaska marked the beginning of what may be the last big push of his presidency — to build momentum for a meaningful deal at the international climate talks in Paris later this year. “The president is entirely focused on this goal,” one of his aides told me in Alaska.

For Obama, who has secured his legacy on his two top priorities, health care and the economy, as well as on important issues like gay marriage and immigration, a breakthrough in Paris would be a sweet final victory before his presidency drowns in the noise of the 2016 election. “If you think about who has been in the forefront of pushing global climate action forward, nobody is in Obama’s league,” says John Podesta, a former special adviser to Obama who is now chairing Hil-lary Clinton’s presidential campaign. (One recent visitor to the Oval Office recalled Obama saying, “I’m dragging the world behind me to Paris.”) Policywise, the president didn’t have much to offer in Alaska. Basically, she’s telling Liza the same thing that Moyers is telling Travis: let go of your attachment to these people, because focusing on the details is going to ruin the big picture.

On one hand, temperatures in the state are rising twice as fast as the national average, and glaciers are retreating so quickly that even the pilot of my Delta flight into Anchorage told passengers to “look out the window at the glaciers on the left side of the aircraft — they won’t be there for long!” The very week of Obama’s visit, 35,000 walruses huddled on the beach in northern Alaska because the sea ice they used as resting spots while hunting had melted away; in the Gulf of Alaska, scientists were tracking the effects of a zone of anomalously warm water that stretches down to Baja California and which has been named, appropriately enough, “the blob.” On the other hand, the state is almost entirely dependent on revenues from fossil-fuel production, which, thanks to the low price of oil and exhausted oil and gas wells on the North Slope, are in free fall — the state is grappling with a $3.7 billion budget shortage this year. Chris remains the absolute worst, first insulting Maddie to her face and then refusing to apologize, like some petulant child. (Oh wait, he is a petulant child.) Then he starts crushing on his future stepsister Alicia, which is gross.

We wanted to introduce a wealthier character that you don’t see that often on the original show and see how they interact with our blue-collar family. With the economy faltering, he pushed through an $800 billion stimulus bill that jump-started the clean-tech revolution in America, financing investment in wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy. He uses them to open up Adams’s arm, to gouge deep inside, to torture the poor kid into telling them everything, especially the meaning of a word that keeps popping up on the radio: cobalt. Rather than confront them and use his bully pulpit to build political momentum for action on climate change, he essentially went dark on the issue for the rest of his first term.

If you had to pick one thing that this episode is about, it’s very much a Madison-Travis divergence and following different paths to get their people back. That changed in the second term. “I think his 2013 inaugural address was a turning point,” says the president’s senior adviser Brian Deese. “He wrote it more or less himself, without policy people, and it really marks a change in his thinking.” In that address, Obama makes the case for immediate action: “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” And he made good on that. In June 2013, he unveiled a detailed 75-point Climate Action Plan, which essentially redirected the entire federal government to begin taking climate change seriously.

With the help of Podesta, whom he brought in as a senior adviser in early 2014, Obama launched a series of executive actions that circumvented Congress but still allowed him to demonstrate that he was serious about cutting America’s carbon pollution. Finally, earlier this year he introduced the Clean Power Plan, which will use the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority to cut power-plant CO2 emissions by 32 percent by 2030. Nearly all of Obama’s policies have focused on reducing demand for fossil fuels; when it comes to shutting down supply, he has been far less ambitious. This reflects a seemingly deliberate philosophy that reducing demand is a more effective way to wean our economy off fossil fuels than shutting off supplies — which, in a global market, will just be provided elsewhere.

Just a month before the trip began, the Department of the Interior approved a permit to allow Shell to perform exploratory drilling this summer about 75 miles off the coast of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea. And that’s why, after going through that horrible experience when Travis finally makes it back home, he sees Ofelia and realizes what Daniel did and the true horror for him is this realization that the woman he loves [Madison] knew that Daniel was torturing this poor kid and did nothing.

As the ice vanishes, a whole new ocean is opening up — and one that contains 30 percent of the known natural-gas reserves and 13 percent of the oil. And the Russians aren’t the only ones with eyes on the Arctic — as we were flying toward Kotzebue, five Chinese warships were cruising in international waters below. And off to the east, the Canadian military had just wrapped up Operation Nanook, an annual large-scale military exercise, which, according to the Canadian government, was “to assert sovereignty over its northernmost regions.” Before we crossed into the Arctic, we touched down in Dillingham, a small town on Bristol Bay that is the heart of the salmon fishery in Alaska. Kivalina is the poster child for the havoc that climate change is wreaking on Alaska Native villages along the coast, where the thawing permafrost is destabilizing the soil, causing houses to collapse and allowing the rising sea to wash the island away. About 400 people live on Kivalina, and their way of life is doomed — relocating the village to higher ground on the mainland will cost an estimated $100 million, which, so far, neither the state nor the federal government has been willing to pay for.

The president was greeted on the tarmac by Reggie Joule, the mayor of the Northwest Arctic Borough, then we climbed into our assigned vehicles in the motorcade for the short drive to the high school. You could sense the hardship of life in a place where it gets down to 100 degrees below zero (including wind chill) in the long, dark winters and where the nearest road to civilization is 450 miles away. He said he was envious that Warren Harding spent two weeks in Alaska during a trip in 1923, but then explained that he had to get back quickly because “I can’t leave Congress alone that long.” When it was over, a White House aide guided me into a nearly empty classroom with a large round table in the center and two blue plastic chairs. He spoke in measured tones, but with a seriousness that suggested that he believed — not unjustifiably — that the fate of human civilization was in his hands. In 2008, on the day you received the nomination for president, you said, “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children . . . this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” It’s been seven years now.

And we started with the clean-energy investments that we made early on through the Recovery Act, the work that was done in conjunction with the automakers — in part, frankly, because we were helping them out a lot during that phase — to double fuel-efficiency standards and to look at what we could do administratively in terms of regulatory standards that would create greater efficiency. Probably as importantly, we’ve been able to lead by example in a way that allowed me to leverage China and President Xi to make their own commitments for the first time, to have a conversation with somebody like Prime Minister Modi of India or President Rousseff of Brazil, so that they put forward plans. So my strategy has been to use every lever that we have available to move the clean-energy agenda forward faster, which then reduces the costs of transition for everybody — in fact, in many cases, saves people money and saves businesses money — so that we’re reducing what is perceived as a contradiction between economic development and saving the planet. And natural gas is a fossil fuel, but the reason we’re not seeing coal-fired plants being built in the United States is not just because of the clean-power-plant rule — because we just put that in place. But part of my job is to figure out what’s my fastest way to get from point A to point B — what’s the best way for us to get to a point where we’ve got a clean-energy economy.

And somebody who is not involved in politics may say, “Well, the shortest line between two points is just a straight line; let’s just go straight to it.” Well, unfortunately, in a democracy, I may have to zig and zag occasionally, and take into account very real concerns and interests. Al Gore once told me that he thinks that everyone who cares deeply about climate change has had what he called an “oh, shit” moment when they realized what’s at stake. There are traditions that are very close to the land — in Hawaii, the water — and you have an intimate awareness of how fragile ecosystems can be. But, as I said, the good news is that the kind of complete skepticism you had around the science that you saw even two or three years ago, I think, has been so overwhelmed — that we kind of cleared out that underbrush. And the last few reports have gotten everybody feeling like we’ve got to get moving on this, and to see what kinds of tools we can use to really have an impact.

Well, it wasn’t just that they were trying to eliminate solar subsidies — that’s the spin they put on it after I made those remarks down in Nevada — they are actually trying to influence state utilities to make it more expensive for homeowners to install solar panels. And by the way, they’re also happy to take continued massive subsidies that Congress has refused to eliminate, despite me calling for the elimination of those subsidies every single year. And what’s been fascinating is the coalition that you’re now seeing between the green movement and some members of the Tea Party in some states, saying, leave us alone. So far, Russia has been a constructive partner in the Arctic Council and has participated with the other Arctic nations in ways that are consistent with the rule of law and a sensible approach to the changes that are taking place in the Arctic. Given that much more of their country and their economy is up north, it’s not surprising that they see more opportunities and are more focused on a day-to-day basis on what’s taking place here than Washington has been.

The icebreaker announcement was just a concrete example of the need for policymakers, starting from the president on down, to be mindful that this area is changing and is changing faster than policymakers thought it was going to 10 years ago, or five years ago, or last year. In fact, there have been arguments that, for example, what’s happening in Syria partly resulted from record drought that led huge numbers of folks off farms and the fields into the cities in Syria, and created a political climate that led to protests that Assad then responded to in the most vicious ways possible. It will manifest itself in different ways, but what we know from human history is that when large populations are put under severe strain, then they react badly. I’m less concerned about the precise number, because let’s stipulate right now, whatever various country targets are, it’s still going to fall short of what the science requires.

And the key for Paris is just to make sure that everybody is locked in, saying, “We’re going to do this.” Once we get to that point, then we can turn the dials. In the encyclical, the pope talks about what he calls the “myth of progress.” And he basically argues that greed and materialism are destroying the planet. If you look at human history, it is indisputable that market-based systems have produced more wealth than any other system in human history by a factor of — you choose the number. What I do think is true is that mindless free-market ideologies that ignore the externalities that any capitalist system produces can cause massive problems. And pollution has always been the classic market failure, where externalities are not captured and the system doesn’t deal with them, even though it’s having an impact on everybody.

How do you handle this responsibility of avoiding a potential catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions that will affect all of humanity — and within your daughters’ lifetimes? If you talk to people in Washington state right now, I suspect, after having tragically lost three firefighters, and seeing vast parts of their state aflame, that they understand it better. We’re spending about a billion dollars a year on firefighting, and the fire season extends now about two and a half months longer than it did just a few decades ago. You wish that the political system could process an issue like this just based on obscure data and science, but, unfortunately, our system doesn’t process things that way.

So if I’m going to get him to have an aggressive plan to keep emissions down, then I’ve got to be willing to pony up strategies for power that aren’t polluting. On this trip, I witnessed all the trappings of presidential power — the jets, the helicopters, the Secret Service agents, the obsequiousness of local politicians.

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