Desperate times call for desperate measures. Or so the old adage goes. Well it seems the characters of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD will have no trouble getting there when the time comes, demonstrated as much in this, the 5th and penultimate episode of its debut season, an episode titled ‘Cobalt’.
These men, women, boys and girls, are willing to do some very ethically grey things, none more so than kidnapping a soldier under the most mild of circumstances — mild given the dyer straights they will soon find themselves in. In order to get back the people that were taken from them, Madison, Daniel and Ofelia, take it upon themselves to get what information they can from the hapless soldier who has a thing for Ofelia. If these people are willing to go to such lengths as these, at this very early moment in time, while still living in their homes and without a walker in sight, god knows what this group will be capable off down the road.
THE WALKING DEAD has shown us characters that discovered their strength, that have grown into people who are able to perform the nasty, the visceral, and the heinous acts that might get you by. The stars of FEAR seem to be quite capable already of getting to that point.
In this world it isn’t always what you’re willing to do but what you are willing NOT to do. Madison displayed a perfect example of this when Daniel told her of his plan to torture the solider for information, a plan, given the current climate, that is preposterous, an action that will be a non event in the future but right now is a little crazy. So Madison’s willingness to let this happen right now, even though she was reluctant to do anything herself, really shows the type of person she is and will become.
Keeping up this season’s parallel storylines of its two leads, Travis found himself in a similar situation, a situation where he had to weigh up a comparable problem. After convincing the soldiers to take him to where Griselda and Nick were being held, they stop off on the way as Travis is told to kill a walker they find lurking the barren streets of LA. Travis — in keeping with his character — was unable to pull the trigger, demonstrating his weakness or unwillingness to do what he will soon have to in order to survive. Unlike Madison whose decision to let something happen was one that showed a desire to do what is necessary, to make the tough choice, Travis’ decision not to act was quite different. By not killing the walker, the soldiers would have executed the zombie anyway, so his decision not to act really didn’t change anything.
Madison on the other hand, if she wanted, could have ran and told someone what was going on, she could have stopped what Daniel was planning to do. Travis’ decision was inconsequential, the only way he could have proved something to us and to himself was by pulling the trigger. These tests keeping coming his way but unfortunately he keeps failing. This does not bode well.
The more immediate plot point to this episode and what seems like will be the big moment for this season, was the revelation that the army are planning to abandon the people of Travis’ community. Via Daniel’s interrogation of the soldier, we learn that they are on the dawn of skipping town and leaving these folk to fend for themselves. If Daniel wasn’t willing to do what he did and if Madison wasn’t willing to let him, they wouldn’t have found out about this plan, and the further detail that the military are planning to execute the sick at the medical facility. Daniels actions and Madison’s inactions were fully vindicated in this regard. They are now able to prepare.
Imagine if Madison and Travis had reversed places this episode. Would Travis have let Daniel torture that young man? I don’t think so. Madison is on a path, and is constantly in the right place at the right time in order to move along it. And one can tell that every word Daniel speaks in her presence is affecting her, changing her, moulding her into the person that she will become. These are crucial moments in this woman’s life and I am starting to feel — actually kind of hope — that this is a villain origin story for Madison. It’s interesting to see her take in all that’s around her and see it visibly mould her.
The military have added something very interesting to these early moments, something that I don’t think many were expecting. It’s easy to hate them, they are on one hand keeping our heroes safe but on the other they are the obstacle which they must overcome. From our point of view, being on the side of the every man, the common folk, the people, we see the military as the bad guys, the control, but what they are doing is perfectly reasonable given the circumstances. This is what they would have to do if something like this happened. They would make these havens, these perimeters, and they would create these medical outposts, like the one we visited this week as Griselda succumbed to her wounds, and as Nick found himself caged up like cattle along with many others.
It’s super easy to hate those responsible but the truth is you can’t afford to take chances in a situation like this. If someone looks sick; you separate them. It’s the sensible thing to do, and if things are beyond the point of no return — which we know they are — you clean up the mess and move on. This is a tactic Rick and his group have employed many times on THE WALKING DEAD, but when it’s the government doing such a thing it’s suddenly not quite so palatable. It’s something worth thinking about.
‘Cobalt’ was another fascinating episode. Fascinating is really the word that best fits this first season. It’s perhaps not as exciting as its parent show, or as gruesome — both of those aspects will come in time — but right now it is undoubtedly interesting.
Furthermore this is a show about atmosphere and ambiance, a show that takes its time to present to you its themes. It’s not perfect. Sure, there is fat that can be trimmed, but on the whole it’s an intriguing ride that is building to some potentially great things.
There is one episode left now and with the army about to leave, things are going to get hairy quick, and we will see if Madison can take what she has learned and put it into practice, and if Travis will be able to reveal a side of him that wasn’t ready to come out, or if he is just one of those people that doesn’t have what it takes. All will be revealed of course, meaning next week could be quite special. Here’s hoping.