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Fear the Walking Dead ended its second season with two episodes on Sunday night. The verdict: After two years, it’s still hard to care deeply about most of its characters, and the show still seems to lack the nightmarish impact of its progenitor, The Walking Dead.

But the second season at least managed to build some logic, direction and a few moments of genuine horror into its story line, all sorely lacking in season one’s episodes. The characters are now hardened warriors who know what’s up, and even if this series never becomes as great as the original, it has at least managed to become an honorable “B” story to fill in the gaps between Walking Dead seasons.

The first finale episode, Wrath, was a vehicle to tie up the hotel and Chris saga. The second, North, focused more on the colonia where Nick became a key player, a place which was under siege physically and spiritually.

Together, the conclusion left several cliffhangers for season three, as our characters are again on the road and in search of safe havens.

*** We open with Ofelia driving down a dirt road in the back country of the U.S. She’s apparently on her way to try to find her former fiancé in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but the truck she’s driving breaks down. After fighting off a few stray walkers, Ofelia abandons the truck and begins hiking through the desert to avoid another horde of walkers on the horizon. She’s no longer the frail waif protected by her Alpha dog father. She’s been transformed into Sarah Connor, complete with cut-off sleeves and sunglasses, fighting her way across the wasteland.

*** Cut to the colonia, where Nick has gone to see the banditos who control the food and water that supply his village. There, he’s told that the banditos no longer are in need of the oxycontin that the colony provides. Instead, they plan to attack and take over the colony. There’s no deal to be had – they simply give the colonists the choice of leaving or dying. When Nick returns with that news, the initial reaction from Alejandro and Luciana is that they will stay and fight, much to Nick’s horror.

*** Travis is still shell-shocked from his split with son Chris. But there’s a bigger surprise in store – the two young men who took off with Chris in tow have arrived at the hotel, sans Chris, but still arrogant. Maddie discovers their identity, and Victor Strand urges her to get rid of them so Travis can still have some hope that his son is alive, hope being a sustaining trait in this dystopian world. Back in his hotel room, a numb with depression Travis is somewhat resigned to Chris’s departure, conceding to Alicia that his son was sick. Maddie tries to bring him back, telling him that Chris is safer with people he trusts, and that Travis has fulfilled his promise to his late wife to watch over the boy. He delivered him to where he needed to be, she tells him. Now it’s time to move on.

*** Madison takes action against Brandon and Derek. She summons some muscle and is hustling Brandon and Derek out of the hotel, much to their protest and much to the anger of the others sleeping at the hotel, who think the two are being shown favoritism when, in fact, they’re being shown the door. But Travis sees the bum’s rush, and although there’s a wailing mob of angry people between him and the boys, he manages to part the human sea and confront them. They bring them back into the compound for interrogation.

*** Their initial story – Chris fell asleep while driving, causing the truck to flip. Chris was killed by being thrown through the windshield. But Travis picks up on an inconsistency in their story – they’ve said that they pulled Chris from the truck and also that he was thrown through the windshield. Knowing that they routinely have killed others who they felt were burdens, Travis hustles everyone else but Oscar out of the room and locks the door, proceeding to beat the crap out of Brandon and Derek to get to the truth. Their final version of the story – like their former comrades, Chris was too injured to continue, so they put him down with a bullet. Travis proceeds to kill them for their trouble, in the process knocking down and injuring Oscar, who was unable to stop the rampaging Travis.

** Back at the colonia, someone who was sick in the infirmary unexpectedly turns and attacks. In the chaos of the moment, Alejandro is bitten on the arm. He has a fearful reaction as he treats the wound, a strange demeanor given that he’s allegedly immune, thanks to his faith. When Nick confronts him, he admits he’s not immune, but still wants everyone to stay in the colonia rather than leave before being slaughtered. The logic of that position escapes Nick, who packs and leaves, unable to convince Luciana to rally the people and come with him. “I’m not committing suicide for a fraud,” Nick tells him.

*** Ofelia is on foot for a while, but manages to find a hole in the U.S. border fence and slips into the country. After walking a while, she’s suddenly shot at – she crouches behind the lone cover in the area, a scraggly tree, when the rifleman approaches. He asks for her knife and welcomes her to the U.S., but we don’t learn his identity.

*** As the North episode starts, we see a virtually catatonic Travis being escorted into custody. Because big-mouthed Maddie had to insist that the mother who assaulted Victor Strand a few episodes ago needed to be confined because of her attack, so now Travis will suffer the same fate, even though the circumstances are different. But Maddie manages to use the leverage she has as a hotel leader, and gets them to agree to let her, Alicia and Travis leave in the morning. She fought for them, so they’re willing to give her that deal.

*** As Alejandro is heating up from his bite wound, Luciana cleans him up and has him address the colony. In a scene reminiscent of Independence Day, Alejandro tells his people that they will not give up their home, and instead will fight with every tool available, even though they are seriously out-gunned. Luciana has lost some faith after learning that Alejandro is a false prophet, but the colonia is the only home she and others have ever known. She needs the figurehead that they have believed in to rally the troops and her waning confidence.

*** At the hotel, Oscar has swelling on the brain from his tussle with Travis. They need to cut open his skull to relieve the pressure, but the tactic causes his death. They blame Travis, and even though there’s a deal in place, they race into the room where the family is staying to exact some vigilante justice. At gunpoint, Travis tells Maddie and Alicia to leave, as he’s resigned to pay for his actions. But Alicia stabs Hector, and Victor Strand appears with a gun, allowing everyone to vamoose. They’re on the run, and Victor has set up a truck for their escape. But he’s not coming with them. The hotel is now his haven, and he’ll be all right, he says. They drive off, heading into the unknown.

*** Back at the colony, Nick apparently has second thoughts about leaving. He returns and informs Alejandro that he’s seen a refugee camp in the distance. That’s where the colonists can go, so there’s no need for everyone to die. Alejandro senses that he’s right, and realizes it’s time to let his people go, and go they do. But Alejandro has stayed behind, so the next morning, when the banditos arrive, he has a surprise for them. As they walk through the camp and gloat that everyone has left, Alejandro makes his way to the bus that has blocked the area where a mass of walkers shuffles along. He fires up the bus engine and moves it out of the way, allowing the walkers to swarm into the compound. The banditos initially try to fight back, but there are too many walkers and not enough ammunition. They are paying for their bravado, as Alejandro has triumphed.

*** As Travis, Maddie and Alicia are on the road, they discover the bodies of a family that previously said they saw Nick. Maddie fishes through their pockets and finds an address, so they head to the colony. They discover that everyone save the dead has left the building, but they discover the still-alive but close to dying Alejandro in the bus. He manages to communicate that Nick was indeed at the colony, but now is heading toward the border. Having accomplished one last good deed, he slips gently into that good night, and Maddie dispatches him before he can turn.

*** As Nick leads his colonists through the streets of Tijuana, they see the refugee camp in the distance. But as they cross the border, they’re fired upon by men in camouflage outfits. The brief but powerful firefight manages to separate Nick and Luciana from the rest of the colonists, and as a wounded Nick crawls toward his love, a man with a gun kicks him viciously. Evidently, the warm welcome of the refugee camp will have to wait.

Look for Fear the Walking Dead to return in the late spring/early summer.

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