Fear the Walking Dead: Cobalt

The traditional gift for the fifth episode of a spinoff series like Fear the Walking Dead is “Cobalt,” but I’ll forgive you if you want to forgo it this time. I certainly don’t want to be on the receiving end of it!

The previouslies remind us that the neighborhood military types are not the best people to share secrets with, and we open this week in what must be The Facility. How can I tell? It has that homey “temporary detention center set up to deal with people plucked from disaster and put into an even worse situation” feel, like all the best sinister facilities!

Doug the hapless joyrider cries into his beard while a black man, whose name I did not catch once in dialogue or captions during the episode but who I will call Rico Suave because he seems to be both, rubs it in how awful the world is now. Rico knows Doug is doomed. Doug and his — he confirms, creepily — still-hot wife, both. Honestly I stopped listening to most of this because I didn’t expect Rico to make it out of the scene, let alone the episode alive. Doug, sobbing, flings himself at the fence of the cell they’re in (see, so homey!) and the soldiers take him away. Rico Suave turns to his next conversational partner and asks, “So, who the hell are you?” Nick does not say, “Johnny Depp gone wrong much earlier,” but he could. He totally could.

In the neighborhood, Ofelia berates the neighbors for not standing up to the soldiers. She yells that she wants her mother, and Shawn Hatosy jumps in to dissuade a fellow soldier from shooting her. The soldier isn’t any happier with treating civilians like this than anyone else is, except the commander, Moyers. Another soldier attempts to desert. I don’t think anyone will give him good odds.

At the Idiot House, Chris tries to be involved in the adult discussion, proving that he’s completely mature enough to be so involved when he snots at Madison about not interrupting the man-to-man talk. I said it last week and I’ll say it again: bless this show for the realism of the teenage characters, at least. Travis escorts him none too gently from the room. As a guidance counselor, I expect that Madison has plenty of practice in holding her eyerolls until the kid’s out of view. Which is good, because the reason Chris is being a jerk is because he’s scared about his mom, Liza, leaving the group. Travis tries to get him to apologize to Madison, but he storms from the house instead.

In The Facility, Liza stitches up a wound and talks to the doctor about the situation. It’s … not good. They’ve lost half their medical staff — some to operations, some to not operations. Liza asks about Griselda, who has had her foot amputated, and Nick. The doctor makes no promises that Liza can see either of them and reminds her they have work to do.

Madison makes a bed and finds Susan’s letter. She goes next door, looking for Alicia, and hears a thump from downstairs. Grabbing a knife she goes to investigate and finds Ofelia and Rubén Blades and Shawn Hatosy, who’s tied up! With a gag! He’s a captive!!

The group reminds us that Griselda and Nick were taken away by the soldiers and they’ve had no information since. Shawn Hatosy promises he’ll help. Ofelia and Madison storm out, and argue about the terrible plan to trade the soldier for their loved ones. Rubén Blades tells Madison to keep Ofelia away. Madison says she doesn’t want the soldier to be hurt, and pointedly does not answer when Rubén Blades asks if she’d rather he be unhurt or just not know about it when he is hurt.

Travis talks to Moyers, who revels in the 82 “skin bag kills” they’ve already racked up. Travis, only slightly deterred, keeps trying to get his family back. He ineptly threatens to bring more neighbors down to tilt the scales and Moyers agrees to take him to The Facility. The soldier from earlier, who didn’t want to shoot a civilian, tries to talk Moyers into taking a different squad with him — the one Moyers wants is pretty demoralized. Moyers is unmoved! He’s also a massive jerk, surprise!

Rubén Blades and Shawn Hatosy talk a little about Ofelia, and Rubén Blades is as menacing as I have ever seen him before as he removes his shirt and readies his tools. His barber tools. His torture tools. Shawn Hatosy tries to give up enough information to get Rubén Blades to stop pulling out blades. Is there any such possible threshold he can reach? Nope. Nooooope.

Travis is in a Humvee with the soldiers, who needle him about riding to the rescue of his ex. Moyers orders the driver to stop so they can set up to shoot a zombie wandering about inside a diner. He sets up the gun, asks how many difficulty points he’ll earn for the shot, and is disappointed to hear it’s only three. He doesn’t pull the trigger for less than a touchdown! (Whether that’s with a kick or a conversion is not specified, missing out on a great branding opportunity with the NFL.)

Oh, but Moyers has a great idea: Travis can take the shot! Yep, Travis can do it. Everything’s all set up for him. No room for objections, no sirree. Moyers is absolutely not going to take no for an answer, not from this civilian hippie who’s been a pain in the ass for a whole episode and a half now. With no way out, Travis steps up to the gun, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Moyers doesn’t cackle but you can tell he really wants to.

Two wounded soldiers are brought into The Facility. The doctor sees that one of them has bite marks, and that soldier is isolated. Liza turns back long enough to see that a corpsman is prepping some mysterious piece of equipment as the medical team abandons the bitten soldier. The doctor explains that anything that looks like a bite mark is a bite mark, no ifs ands or buts.

The Humvee speeds into a parking lot and all the soldiers pile out. They run inside a building. There’s a ton of gunfire, screaming, more screaming, more gunfire, more screaming. Travis, in the Humvee, looks like he can’t decide whether to puke or pass out first.

Back at the Basement of Blood, Rubén Blades tells another heartwarming tale of his past. This time, about another torture facility, with a man with a blade and a man in a chair. He was brought into the room, he says, and given a choice about which man he will be. Shawn Hatosy begs him to stop. Both the torture and the story, I’m guessing. Rubén Blades shifts into interrogation mode and asks, point-blank, the same question everyone’s been asking since they saw the episode title: “what is Cobalt?” Shawn Hatosy starts crying and looks down at his disgusting tortured arm. If he answered the question, I missed it in all my retching.

In a tonal shift so sharp Rubén Blades could use it in the basement, we meet up with Alicia and Chris hanging out on an abandoned street. They break into one of the rich houses in the neighborhood, to play with all the toys, try on all the clothes, have an awkward and charged half-dressed encounter which Chris quickly flees.

We return to The Facility where everyone is being scanned for fever — those who have one are separated from the rest. Nick, who is sliding into withdrawal again, has one. He’s dragged away. but not before Rico enters into negotiations with the leader. In exchange for a very flashy cufflink (or two), Nick is returned to the cell.

Travis for some reason decides to get out of the Humvee as a much smaller group of soldiers comes out of the zombie-infested building. Moyers, he’s told, has been detained. The last two soldiers drive away, promising to drop Travis off near enough to the neighborhood to get himself home.

Madison is startled awake by a scream. She rushes next door where she finds Ofelia, who is so horrified by something she rushes outside without speaking. Rubén Blades carries a bowl of blood to the sink. I think how lucky we are that there are no head chunks in this episode. Rubén Blades explains that he never told her daughter about his real role in the war they fled in their home country, and breaks down when he asks Madison if Ofelia can possibly understand how necessary men like him are. Madison just asks, “Did he tell us what we need to know?” Damn.

Back in the rich house, Alicia and Chris do what I can’t believe it took someone five episodes to do and smash the crap out of everything in the house: vases, champagne bottles, dishes, paintings, chandeliers, pillows. The scene is maybe a minute long. It could have been the whole episode!

Travis walks home and finds Ofelia, who is cringing in the yard. He stomps into the house and finds out that Madison knew what Rubén Blades was going to do to the soldier.

In the Basement of Blood, Shawn Hatosy is not dead! I definitely thought he was. Instead he’s finally telling what he knows about the outbreak, and about the 2,000 freshly turned zombies who are imprisoned in a nearby arena. Travis bursts in to rescue him but Shawn Hatosy explains to him about Cobalt instead. It’s the command code to start evacuating Los Angeles. Not everybody will be evacuated, though. The military will, that’s for sure. But everyone else will be … humanely terminated seems to be the preferred term. (Why bother, I wonder? Why not drone in some firebombs or whatever instead of going house to house shooting, which seems terribly inefficient? I honestly don’t know if I’m more horrified by Cobalt or myself.)

Nick welcomes us back to The Facility by vomiting on the floor. Thanks, Nick. He asks Rico why he saved Nick from the soldiers. Rico corrects him: that wasn’t an act of salvation, it was an act of obligation. Nick owes him now, and Rico’s got just the job for him. The soldiers are leaving, soon, and Rico’s plan requires an assistant. He shows Nick a key.

On their way back to the Idiot House, Alicia and Chris see that the soldiers have pretty much already given up the pretense of doing their jobs. One of the Humvees that speeds past them is packed with cases of beer.

In The Facility, Griselda is lost in her memories. She’s dying of septic shock and rambling in Spanish. She flatlines, and the doctor pulls out the same mystery equipment the corpsman had earlier for the bitten soldier. She charges it — it’s a pressure bolt pistol that’s normally used on livestock, or by badly coiffed assassins in Coen Brothers movies. Liza takes the pistol and uses it on Griselda herself.

A convoy of military vehicles speeds away from the aforementioned arena, while Rubén Blades jogs up the steps toward the bolted and padlocked doors. The bolted and padlocked doors that nevertheless bulge and jump outward from the pressure of the growling horde trying to get out. Ha ha ha, what a great find, I’m so glad you’ve come here, Rubén Blades, what a terrific location that absolutely will never haunt me in crowded public buildings for the rest of my life.

The camera pulls back. The guitar throbs. The show ends. Next week is the final episode of this first tiny season! Hope to see you then, from our separate and isolated and vigorously fortified and defended locations!

  • I had such high hopes after last week ratcheted up the tension again, but this episode was about as thrilling as watching cheese melt. It doesn’t seem fair to judge the show on so few episodes, especially given that the mothership series took a while to find its feet. But six episodes is all we have and we spent one of them getting a handful of info nuggets that could have been dispensed in a few lines of dialogue?
  • During the episode I imagined a lengthy fantasy sequence in which characters from brisk and efficient network procedurals stepped in and tried to get the information they wanted. Let’s just say: everyone please sign my petition to get Detective Munch crossed over into this show and teamed up with the dearly missed Tobias!
  • Seriously, though, they did actually name the newest black guy, right? He has an actual name that no one bothered to put in the script?

Photo Courtesy of AMC

About Lisa Shininger

Lisa Shininger spends way too much time thinking about fictional characters but, somehow, it's never enough. She co-hosts Bossy Britches, and yells about pop culture at lisashininger.com and on Twitter @ohseafarer.