This recap contains spoilers for the Season 3 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.
The zombie drought is officially over. Fear the Walking Dead has returned, and with it a very different vision of the apocalypse than its parent series, The Walking Dead.
Granted, like its predecessor, Fear the Walking Dead brings death, destruction and hoards of the living dead that want nothing more to snack on people. But there’s a hope to this show, even in death, that is undeniable. That was never more evident than in the two-hour Season 3 premiere, which included the loss of a main character that’s been at the center of the series since the pilot.
The premiere did a lot of world-building when it comes to what fans should expect from the new season. In no time at all, viewers were introduced to new characters and locations, all of which will play a major role in the coming episodes.
Perhaps most importantly, they met Troy (Daniel Sharman) and Jake Otto (Sam Underwood), the sons of Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie) the survivalist/doomsday prepper who runs the ranch where Madison (Kim Dickens) and her family will live for the foreseeable future. The group didn’t end up here without a fair amount of drama and terror, though.
Troy and Jake essentially run Jeremiah’s militia, going on missions for him and patrolling the border between the Unites States and Mexico. They’ve also set up shop at a spot that was once a military depot. There, Troy clearly the more unstable of the two brothers is leading a group of his own troops to kill the living and seeing how much time it takes for them to resurrect. They claim it’s for science, but there’s no doubt about how devious and depraved these men have become.
It’s there that Madison, Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) are reunited with Nick (Frank Dillane) and Luciana (Danay Garcia). As Travis joins the two in line to be killed, Madison and Alicia are separate. It doesn’t take long before all hell breaks loose though, with Madison attempting to scoop out Troy’s eyeball with a spoon and a very angry horde of walkers infiltrating the depot, forcing both sides to work together.
Then Jake and Troy learn just how formidable Madison and her family are when it comes to surviving. While they get separated Travis, Luciana and Alicia with Jake in a helicopter, Madison and Nick driving away in a truck with Troy they survive. Unfortunately, that’s when the major loss of the night comes.
As the helicopter takes on fire from an unknown source, a bullet strikes Travis in the neck. As he goes into shock, he undoes his seatbelt and reveals that while they got out of the zombie attack alive, he’s been infected. From there, Travis gets a hero’s goodbye as he lets himself fall out of the helicopter to his death.
This was the final act of a man who has already been through too much. After killing the two people that murdered his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) in Season 2, Travis took a very dark turn. He no longer feared dying and instead finally accepted that the world was never going to be what it once was. He didn’t have to let it change him, though. Even after knowing he was infected, he soldiered on to save his family.
Now it’s up to them to keep that spirit alive; to adapt and thrive in their new environment. That’s where Jeremiah’s ranch comes in. This place, self-sustaining and in the middle of nowhere, could be a clean start for Madison and her family. Almost immediately they show they won’t be pushed around thanks to Nick putting a gun to Troy’s head and in a community full of people that haven’t seen the things this family has, they are a force to be reckoned with.
That’s why, even in death, Fear the Walking Dead has delivered hope. Madison is clearly torn to shreds by the death of Travis and she has every right to be. It won’t stop her, though.
“We’re going to stay here. We’re going to make it our home,” she tells her children after grieving the loss of Travis. “Even if we have to take it over.” (She and Rick Grimes would probably get along great, don’t you think?)
While some, including her own daughter, may think the notion of overthrowing an entire armed community is “insane,” Madison sees things differently. “It’s our fate. We suffered to get here. Travis died getting here,” she explains.
While Madison is the hero of Fear the Walking Dead, she’s shown time and again she’s willing to do anything, including tapping into a much darker side, to survive. This is no different. To her, it’s not about rebuilding society or bringing out the best humanity has to offer. Instead, it’s about keeping her family safe, no matter who has to pay the ultimate price.
It wasn’t just Madison and her family that were revisited in the Season 3 premiere, though. At the end of Season 2, Strand (Colman Domingo) chose not to join them as they left the hotel. While his path remains unclear, one thing’s for sure: He’s left the hotel behind in a brand new car. Meanwhile, there was no sign of Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), leaving her character in flux.
Their stories will come in due time. Given the impact that Travis’ death has on the show, it’s appropriate for the premiere to largely focus on his family as they come to terms with that loss and, furthermore, become empowered by it. The only question is what kind of resistance will they come up against in their fight for survival?
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.