Every single member of the cast elevated each other and themselves with their acting this episode.
Celia's beliefs. She is antagonistic in the way she executes them--but her faith is so painfully human.
The breakaway from the standard "slow until the last section" formula.
Despite Cliff Curtis' acting, I can't stand for Travis' lack of development despite everything he's seen and done.
Still no Michelle Ang...here's hoping she returns after August 21st, somehow. I mean, they're on a boat again.
After a juddering road, Fear the Walking Dead revs the engine at its mid-season finale as everyone takes drastic action.
What is your faith?
Do you think of Shiva as the Hindu god of death and destruction, beyond the power of death itself? Do you think of Shiva as the mourning period of first-degree relatives? Or do you simply think of Shiva as a word?
Fear the Walking Dead’s mounting storylines—often frustrating to wait for at times—turned its ugly, surprising head as Strand (Colman Domingo) was ostracised and sent away from Thomas’ house by Celia (Marlene Forté), for not letting him turn. It allowed us insight into Celia’s beliefs—ones we should’ve caught onto from episode four, when Luis (Arturo Del Puerto) said confidently:
Death is the start of a new life. – Luis Flores
As Strand’s time runs out at Thomas’ mansion, Ofelia’s (Mercedes Mason) worry for her father was proven right as Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) frantically tried to escape the compound. Haunted by the ghosts of his past, including his beloved wife, Salazar had been slowly crumbling from the inside-out. Familial ties were also shattered this week. Chris’ (Lorenzo Henrie) descent into fearful, near-madness caused him to scarper, as Travis (Cliff Curtis) chased after him and found him. Father and son scrabbled into a fight as Travis tried to recover the old Chris but…is there anything to recover?
Nick’s (Frank Dillane) seemingly eternal closeness with Madison (Kim Dickens) was hollowly ripped apart too, as he sank into despair. Last week he near-tearfully confessed to Celia he was just tired of all the killing. With Celia’s belief that the undead were still people—just not in control of their minds—Nick slowly clung onto that idea, almost obsessively, almost like an addict would have…and it utterly ruined him. It changed his perception of what they were doing: surviving in the midst of an apocalypse. He painted a self-portrait of a murderer, convinced he would never die for he could walk among the Walkers in ‘Blood on the Streets’.
As Daniel Salazar, repenting for his sins, his love—set the compound on fire, Strand’s car came back to rescue the Clark family—with Travis and Chris still missing. With the residents pouring out of the compound with weaponry, we’re left at mid-season with Salazar’s fate uncertain, Nick heart-breakingly turning away from his mother—and his always-close sister (Alycia Debnam-Carey)—and Travis and Chris still to be found.
Daniel Salazar’s layers weren’t just peeled back: his devolution had been a long-time coming and ‘Shiva’ tore into his mind.
The level-headed, war-experienced, one-step-ahead strategist kept a cool facade and fell apart simultaneously in ‘Shiva’. Having lost faith in Catholicism, perhaps with the horrors of the Salvadoran civil war of the eighties, this was perhaps his punishment as his victims back then—numerous soldiers—and his wife, Griselda, who he couldn’t find to bury—came back to haunt him. From the very beginning, Salazar had a nightmare—that his beloved daughter Ofelia would meet a similar fate to Griselda, and he desperately tried to escape, held back by residents and tied up and bound by Celia.
Your friend. He won’t rest. He’ll come back to you. – Daniel Salazar
As he was coerced unsuccessfully to confess his sins by Celia, declaring he has no sin to confess in the first place—we all knew how wrong that was. In hallucinating Griselda, we got a look into what haunted Daniel Salazar’s old and protective soul, more vulnerable than he’d ever show. Griselda lamented over the sins Salazar had told her of, since her death, and how she’d carried them for him…except one. And that was his first kill victim.
What about the one that haunts you now? – Griselda Salazar
[Chuckles humourlessly] I don’t know. There are so many. – Daniel Salazar
The first one. Do you remember? – Griselda Salazar
I told you about that man. My first victim. What they made me… – Daniel Salazar
No, my love…The first victim was you. – Griselda Salazar
It inspires his Junta training to escape his rope-bounds and ‘find’ his wife, as she requests for him to set her free—and Salazar, trailing petrol all over the compound as he douses a ring of fire for Griselda to step into, does exactly that. He sets the mansion alight, with his fate uncertain at the end and maybe, just maybe, Daniel Salazar is truly at peace now—dead or alive.
Faith: as some remain devout, religiously, it’s Nick’s faith in humanity and their capabilities that dissipate.
Nick’s disillusionment with the rat-pack’s journey so far had been evident to see. Juggernauting from actively protecting his family, to helping Strand, to being a casual source of comfort and friendship for both Ofelia and Chris, as well as his loving sister Alicia, this episode his uncertainties caught up with him. Tired of killing, he ventured into the wilderness of the outside and brought back a zombified Luis Flores, Celia’s son—arguing with Madison that she would’ve empathised. Wouldn’t she want her son back, monster or not? And how do you define the word ‘monster’, in a zombie apocalypse where there’s no differentiation? Does killing something inhumane render you excusable? Or does it indeed make you a monster—as the gang have been calling the Walkers?
She was right about us. – Nick
What? – Madison
Celia. She knew what we are. – Nick
What’re you talking about? Get in the truck! Nick! – Madison
We destroy everything. – Nick
It was a huge turning point for Nick’s character—who everyone expected would be the best-equipped to cope in the zombie apocalypse and kick ass. Maybe he still is—for he believed, almost fanatically, that he could walk among them. Is Nick finding some kind of twisted faith to hold onto? Is he finding Celia a mother-figure to cling onto? Or is he just a very young soul thrown in a violently dissipating world; an addict seizing onto a harmful belief; a turn of self-hatred as he realised, among adopting Celia’s stance, that he was a monster for all he’d done. Most would’ve called him a hero. When he saved Alicia’s life by killing the zombie, was he a hero for saving Alicia’s life? Or a monster for killing a zombie unable to control itself?
This is not apocalypse. This is the beginning, Nicholas. The end of death itself. Life…eternal. — Celia
Will Nick realise that whilst his actions came with dire consequences, that necessities override disenchantment and monsters—in an apocalypse or not—exist among the very fabric of humanity?
Fear the Walking Dead is no longer just a familial drama amidst an apocalypse—everything has slowly been building towards this: a complete flip of the table.
With Daniel Salazar finally believing he’d served his wife justice, perhaps reaffirming to a religion he lost—that maybe he was hiding from—and Nick abandoning his beloved family believing the world had turned them to monsters, turned him into a monster, it brings us to our last point: Travis and Chris.
Chris’ actions in ‘Shiva’ were of no surprise. Lorenzo Henrie’s depiction of a troubled teenager trusting the wrong people and acting on impulse and intense emotion—sent him spiralling down a path of aggression and violence. Chris was in no way supported down this slippery path, and the culmination of all of this—a mad punch-up with his own father—proved that. Chris hadn’t been okay ever since his mother’s death. He was no longer the trigger-happy, angry, bitter teenager at the beginning of the season. He was full-out destroyed by the on-goings of this season, and unlike Daniel Salazar—visibly so. Travis, still somewhat naively believing in him and so desperately wanting his son back—sprinted after him, and found him—but really, how does Travis think he can honestly save Chris now? Is everyone salvageable? Is Chris only teetering on the brink?
Their fate’s uncertain (will Strand’s truck find them?) but so is Salazar’s, and so, most heart-breakingly, is Nick’s. In the very first episode, in which the Clark family rediscovered a hospitalised Nick, he promised Alicia it wouldn’t be ‘like this’ anymore—i.e. him disappearing to shoot up. And now, with him walking away not only from his mother, but his always, always close bond with Alicia—who watched in wordless, quiet despair as Nick went back to the mansion (after yelling, pleading with Nick to get in the car)—Alicia loses Nick once more.
Final Verdict: This was honestly the first episode of the season in which I was constantly gripped. Fear the Walking Dead’s formula of slow-burn and an insane last twenty minutes was thrown out of the window in this tense mid-season finale.
Perhaps the only criticism I have of ‘Shiva’ is Travis. Whilst wonderfully played by Curtis, Travis’ naivety and his belief in goodness in everyone (even ignoring Alicia who flat-out told him Chris had been stood over her in her sleep, in the dark, with a knife) was ultimately frustrating. Travis’ devotion to Chris and his overwhelming need to care for him since he was the one who pulled the trigger on Liza is understandable—but as everyone has truly evolved over these seasons (especially Alicia, Nick and Strand) it’s Travis who remains frustratingly immovable. Perchance, that may provide interesting conflict—but Travis needs to wake up and face reality at some point, and it was disappointing it didn’t happen, even after ‘Captive’.
The entire cast of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ deserves a standing ovation for this episode. Every single actor brought their absolute A-game to the beautifully crafted episode—with particular standouts in Frank Dillane and Ruben Blades. Their performances were across the board absolutely sensational. In a shake-up of Fear the Walking Dead’s usual formula, the episode writer David Wiener must be praised for meshing such an incredible and tense set of story-lines together that kept us gripped the entire way through—not just until the end. It didn’t call for a massive zombie battle—it called for the perfect culmination of story arcs, shattering relationships, excellent dialogue, masterful direction by Andrew Bernstein, and call-backs and parallels to so many past episodes that it was truly beautiful to behold.
Questions and comments to ponder:
- Fates yet to be known: Daniel Salazar, Travis and Chris. Travis and Chris make for an easy plot turnaround—Strand could drive to them—but what about Salazar? And when Nick returns and inevitably finds out he started the fire…what happens then?
- I just wish that—whilst Nick and Madison’s bond started to crack—there had been more scenes between Nick and Alicia doing the same. Debnam-Carey and Dillane are electrifying together, and the last shot of Alicia staring at her brother—losing him again—was heartbreaking.
- Back on the boat again. Any guesses on the next destination?
- In fact—any guesses on any deaths this season? Surprisingly, I don’t want to say Chris—I think Lorenzo Henrie’s done a great job—but his head’s on the chopping block for me. I refuse to say Daniel Salazar because noo!
- Madison’s ruthlessness in locking Celia in the cage was a wonder to watch. Kim Dickens is a genius.
- I wouldn’t mind if Travis and Chris hot-footed it onto a spin-off father and son comedy, actually…
- I will pray like a raging bull for an emotional reunion scene between Nick and Alicia that makes me cry for roughly five hours.
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD returns on Saturday, August 21st at 9l8c on AMC.
Fear the Walking Dead Review [2×07]: “Shiva”