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AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 1, Episode 5: “Cobalt”
Directed by Kari Skogland (Fifty Dead Men Walking, The Stone Angel, Vikings)
Written by David Wiener
* For a review of the next episode, “The Good Man” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Not Fade Away” – click here
This episode begins with Doug Thompson (John Stewart) in a National Guard holding cell of sorts. Maybe even worse than dealing with the so-called patriotic troops, he’s stuck in there with Strand (Colman Domingo), whose mouth never seems to start running. Though, Strand absolutely appears to have his head on at least most of the way straight. Oh, and Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) is huddled in the corner, surely awaiting more of the junkie withdrawals.
Strand proves useful later in the episode – apparently he deals with the guards, trading for things. He gives up what look like some diamond cufflinks or something, all in order to keep them from taking Nick away to the basement; they see his fever is up. But Strand knows Nick is coming down, only detoxing, and this guy might prove to be a strong ally for the young man. Or will he? Could Strand simply be doing a kindness, or is it a way to make sure he’s got his own ally, under his thumb, once things get crazier? We’ll find out soon enough, I’m sure.
Back in the old neighbourhood, Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason) appears as if she’s riling everyone up. Her mother, Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) is off with the National Guard somewhere, with doctors, but she has no idea what’s going on. Luckily as the troops move in on Ofelia, Andrew Adams (Shawn Hatosy) her boyfriend steps in to sort things out.
At the Clark house, Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) are having a ton of trouble. Chris Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) isn’t exactly happy with his dad, making things even worse; he’s concerned about his mother, Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez).
Chris meets up with Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and they dress up in one of the deserted houses, trashing the place. Some real chaos; is this what their generation will become now?
Meanwhile, Liza is off helping Dr. Exner (Sandrine Holt) whose sympathy for the situations of others doesn’t really run very deep. Liza wants to know how Griselda and Nick are, she wants to call her son Chris, but Exner whisks her around to help all the patients.
Madison goes looking for Alicia, finding the note she’d left for Russell. She ends up finding Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) and his daughter Ofelia: they’ve taken Adams hostage, tied him up, duct taped his mouth. The father-daughter duo have decided to use Adams as leverage, as a trade, to try and get back their loved ones; Griselda, Nick. But Daniel wants to know all the information the National Guards know, so therefore he plans to extract any and all information from Adams.
I love how the character of Daniel has seen this sort of military response before. He’s aware of what the government and the military can do. So this is a bit of an interesting angle, which fuels the paranoia he continues to display.
Lieutenant Moyers (Jamie McShane) has a little chat with Travis Manawa. He’s worried about what’s going on, obviously, after seeing the snuff job at the end of “Not Fade Away“. Eventually, after a bit of back and forth, Travis ends up getting to go downtown, to visit the doctor and find out what’s been going on. However, things seem dark, or at least to spell trouble because the soldiers are worn out, yet Lt. Moyers pushes them further and further. You can almost feel something about to happen.
On their trip, Moyers makes a stop and sets up a tactical sniper rifle. He wants Travis to take the shot on a woman down the street in what looks like a coffee shop; she is not human, it seems, rather a walking dead. After a bit of yelling, and taunting from Moyers, finally Travis picks up the rifle and sights the woman – her name tag spelling out KIMBERLY – and tries to muster up whatever’s needed to put her out. He can’t do it, though, and Moyers cockily steps in. I guess his point was that Travis willingly lives under the National Guard’s protection yet wants to criticize how they do things, while unable to pull the trigger himself when/if needed. I understand, but still – dick move. I do not like Moyers at all while I do absolutely love McShane; he does good work in almost every show you’ll see him in.
Afterwards, the National Guardsmen all pile out of their vehicle towards a building, as Travis waits in the truck, instructed not to move; no matter what happens. Then all the screams and shots and screeches ring out of the vehicle’s radio. Intense scene, very well shot. Plus, Cliff Curtis is a solid character actor who I always enjoy seeing onscreen. He gives Travis life here, and the intensity on his face in this scene shows he is solid. Real effective stuff.
Down where Daniel has the soldier Adams held up, it seems things are getting very, very bad for the military man. Daniel gets serious; there will be no talking here. He continually asks Adams – “What is Cobalt?” – and also cuts the poor man’s inner arm, slowly lopping off pieces of skin and going deeper into the wound. It’s a real torturous moment, as we witness pure torture; hard to watch, even for the hardened horror vets such as myself, seeing his gaping wounds and the blood even for a brief few seconds is a gut punch. Great horror moment.
Even better is when Daniel goes back upstairs, Ofelia having seen his handiwork, and Madison encounters him in the kitchen. An amazingly tense scene between the two, which ends as Madison proves she’s one tough woman; I think both she and Daniel realize how terrible things are beginning to get, how fast the world is spiralling out of control and into oblivion. All she has to say to Daniel is: “Did he tell us what we need to know?”
In the end, Adams gives up the goods. He tells everyone Cobalt is the code which commences evacuation of the Los Angeles area. This also includes procedures for the “humane termination of….“, you guessed it. At 9AM the next morning, things are supposed to get pretty damn rough.
Nick Clark and Strand have a conversation after the former finishes a fresh vomit. Turns out, Strand needs a man with Nick’s sort of talents – whatever that means exactly I’m not so sure; I guess being a junkie automatically lends itself to being sneaky – when he decides to get going. He has a key, and no doubt will have escape on his mind.
The National Guard is starting to pull out of the whole area – from the hospital they have setup, from the neighbourhood, from Los Angeles entirely. Things are starting to get scarier now, more and more ominous, each scene more foreboding than the last.
Poor Griselda Salazar is starting to die, she had complications after the foot she injured was removed. As Liza and Dr. Exner tend to her, she passes on. Exner breaks out the hydraulic cattle gun and advises Liza, though the time varies from person to person, everyone turns into a zombie, the living dead. Liza does what’s needed and an understanding sets in.
A chilling end to this penultimate Season 1 episode, with Daniel walking up to the doors of what looks like a big stadium almost, or a similar style complex – the doors are all bared with boards through the handles, chains and locks across their fronts. And inside the sound of hungry, angry, raving zombies. Really great finish.
No doubt the next and final episode, “The Good Man”, will show us some wild stuff! I know Kirkman and Co. will want to go out with a bang, which will set up a great second season. Though others are not so keen, I’ve been a big fan of this series since the opening episode. People expected tons of zombies, but this is a lead-up, building towards where we’ve already gotten to in The Walking Dead. For what this series is meant to be doing, it is incredible.
Last episode is directed by Stefan Schwartz whose directing credits include episodes of Luther, Spooks, House, The Walking Dead, Dexter, Low Winter Sun, The Americans, The Bridge, and more. Stay tuned, Walking Deadites! Close out the season with me next week.