Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 5 Review: “Cobalt”

Fear the walking Dead

There are several limitations of a six-episode season. The most important and obvious is the sheer fact that six episodes is far too short. Well, for some shows at least. Six episodes can be well executed when the writers plan accordingly, but otherwise we can have back-to-back slow episodes which leaves some viewers wondering “What was that?” That was how I felt watching tonight’s Fear the Walking Dead.

I thought for sure after last week’s slow episode we’d get an episode full of the hospital, revealing the horrible truths of an organization trying to micromanage the living and the dying. Honestly, I was hoping for an another round of Beth in the last season of The Walking Dead. Those were some quality scenes with a decent subplot. Perhaps Fear the Walking Dead isn’t ready for that quite yet, but I certainly expected much more from Nick in “Cobalt,” and we received virtually nothing.

“Cobalt” introduces a mysterious man, Strand, who torments Travis’s nervous neighbor and eventually watches as they take him away, to who knows where. Later he exchanges expensive items (but of no use in the apocalypse) to the soldiers so that Nick can remain in his cell. Strand tells him that he needs Nick’s knowledge of “the meaning of necessity.” Strand reveals that he has the key and plans to escape when the soldier evacuate the hospital. This begs the question as to why Strand is there at all. People are sent to the hospital with a variety of problems, and they range in severity. Who knows what sort of trouble Strand has caused elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Ofelia brings her army boyfriend to her father, not knowing that he will torture him to get the information he needs to know about Operation Cobalt. Daniel’s history becomes even more interesting as he reveals that during the wars in El Salvador he was not on the “good side.” He tells Maddie that he did what he did to live, and it’s clear that those methods are necessary once again. He succeeds in learning the nature Operation Cobalt: a command code to activate evacuation. The scene feels far more sinister than the soldier’s conversational tone, which is exactly how the writers want to build up the season finale of Fear.

On the flipside of leading men, we have Travis. He is much more a man of peace and reason, but those qualities don’t really match up to the apocalypse. I’m happy to find that both Liza and Maddie are taking the truth as it comes and not fighting it so much, but Travis has yet to grasp the reality of the situation. He threatens the leading officer that if Nick and Griselda don’t come back soon they will have more than just him to deal with. If he’s referring to Daniel, they should be scared. Travis is no Rick Grimes, and that’s fine, we need different and complex characters, but I definitely wish someone who was more like Rick would step up to the plate. Daniel has shown that he is capable of gruesome things, so I’d love to see Daniel and Maddie team up against the zombies and evil people alike.

Travis sees that the zombie outbreak outside of the fence is more than out of control, and the army is losing men rapidly. They rush him back to the quarantine area after an unsuccessful trip to the hospital.

Liza faces every challenge in the hospital head on. She’s taking things so well, and I wonder if she will enter a state of shock eventually. Dr. Bethany makes it clear that they do really need more capable people like Liza, but from what Daniel learns from that soldier, there may be no hope if Operation Cobalt begins.

Bethany tells Liza that they amputated Griselda’s foot and that she is in recovery. The shock of several people entering the hospital with bite marks distracts her for some time, but eventually Liza finds Griselda in a dark fenced in room, unconscious. Bethany tells Liza that “sometimes all we can do isn’t enough,” which is sad but true. Together they watch Griselda give a terrifying confession in Spanish (it is especially revealing after we learn Daniel’s position in the war). Griselda dies and Bethany readies her gun; she explains to Liza that it’s the only way to prevent a person from turning. This was a nice parallel to when Travis could not kill a zombie from a long distance away. Not only does Liza learn the hard truth that however a person dies they will return as a zombie, but she kills a woman she knows. Travis could not kill a stranger with a name tag. Perhaps the finale will truly separate the strong from the weak.

Alicia and Chris notice the army trucks are not patrolling but driving to a specific location, and Daniel travels to an area which is just outside of the quarantine zone. The soldier told Daniel that the troops were at the area, shooting at everyone because they couldn’t tell the infected from the uninfected. He says that in the end they locked the doors to the area and fled. Before Daniel can make it to the top step outside of the arena, the doors jolt forward and loud growling noises comes from inside. All that’s missing is “Don’t Open, Dead Inside,” and we’ve got our new Rick Grimes.

I cannot wait for the finale next week. Fear the Walking Dead has a lot of work to do to bring this short season to a fantastic end. “Cobalt” did little to help the series decide if it is going to stand apart from its parent series, or become The Walking Dead: West Coast. I think a big reveal of information unknown to The Walking Dead characters would bring Fear into a good place. The Walking Dead could continue as is, but with a little more dramatic irony in favor of the audience. There really has to be a reason to show this half of the zombie apocalypse, and so far, Fear has yet to establish that. I’ll wait in anticipation for next week’s finale Fear the Walking Dead.

Favorite line from my favorite character: “When (Ofelia) was born I knew I was looking at the only pure thing I will ever have.” This is how you write a morally ambiguous leader, and Daniel will forever be the golden star of this so-so show.

[Photo via AMC]

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