No one was quite sure what to expect when AMC debuted its “The Walking Dead” companion series six episodes ago. However, “Fear the Walking Dead” proved with its Season 1 finale it’s a zombie-survival drama all its own.
After the dramatic reveal of the National Guard’s “Cobalt” plan during last week’s episode, the remaining survivors of the Los Angeles safe zone had to find a way to escape before the military “humanely terminated” those it couldn’t protect or evacuate. That’s where the Season 1 finale kicks off, with Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curits) frantically packing canned food and supplies to carry out their original plan of retreating east to the desert to wait out the apocalypse. Unfortunately, there’s the small matter of the three members of the group essentially kidnapped by the military and brought to a compound outside the safe zone.
To solve that problem, they turn to Andrew Adams (Shawn Hatosy), the soldier Daniel (Ruben Blades) kidnapped and tortured for information about “Cobalt.” Salazar is ready to execute his prisoner, believing he’s outlived his usefulness, but Travis protests. Adams mentions he’s the only one who can help the group figure out where they’re going in the massive compound, so they agree to take him as a prisoner. However, once he’s alone with Travis, he’s able easily to convince the soft-willed character to free him on the promise his instructions on the compound are legit.
Daniel is furious to learn what Travis has done, but they move forward with their plan undeterred. Salazar casually strolls past the compound’s gate with a pack of the undead that’s arguably bigger than anything Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the group on “The Walking Dead” ever have dealt with. Now that the National Guard is distracted and horribly outnumbered, Travis, Madison, Daniel, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) manage to slip inside with relative ease. Unfortunately, their prison break isn’t going to go as well as they think.
For one thing, the Salazars are there to rescue Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spindola), whom the audience knows died at the end of episode 5. Meanwhile Liza has secured a place on an evacuation helicopter for her, Chris and Travis, but the walker attack on the compound forces the choppers to bug out of the area without collecting the survivors. Finally, Nick has finally launched his daring escape from the cells along with his new friend, the mysterious suited man known only as Strand (Colman Domingo).
Travis and company leave Chris and Alicia in the parking garage with the cars while they go off in search of their missing family members. It’s not long before the cars are discovered by a group of soldiers, who yank the children out and demand the keys. It becomes clear the soldiers have abandoned their duty and just want to escape the compound while there’s still time. They get a little fresh with Alicia, which forces Chris to take a swing at them. He gets knocked out and Alicia hands over the keys.
Meanwhile, Nick and Strand’s escape plan goes south after they stumble upon the soldier Strand was bribing to drive him out of the area providing lunch for a walker. Instead of an armored vehicle driving them out of danger, they find themselves with their backs against a locked door and a crowd of walkers descending. It looks like the end for the duo until, by sheer coincidence, both Liza and the Travis-led group stumble upon the door. Liza gets it open with her key card and they narrowly escape the hallway. For the first time since being kidnapped, the group was all together -- save one huge exception.
During a lull in the action, Ofelia and Daniel ask Liza about Griselda. The nurse delivers the bad news, practically crushing the spirits of the remaining Salazars once and for all. Fortunately for both the remaining survivors and the audience, there wasn’t much time to dwell on her passing as they were still in terrible danger. With walkers still at their backs, they make a mad dash for the upper level to see if they can provide help to any of the remaining sick. Previously Liza’s friend, Dr. Exner (Sandrine Holt) offered to stay back and care for them while the rest of the staff made a break for it. As they walk in, it becomes clear Exner’s plan to handle things was simply to euthanize all of the sick with a humane shot to the head. She informs the group that there’s a way for them to safely get back to the parking garage before turning the air-powered execution gun on herself.
The gang manages to get back to the parking garage without incident, but they quickly discover their second car had been stolen. Fortunately, Chris and Alicia are fine and they can simply pile into the back of Travis’ hatch-back and drive away. Before they can take off, another shocking coincidence brings Adams back into the fold. He pulls a gun on Daniel and it looks like he’s about to shoot him in an act of revenge for the torture. However, it turns out that peeling the flesh off his arm isn’t as big a crime as rejecting him as a lover -- so he shoots Ofelia instead.
Luckily, he’s a terrible shot, and Ofelia suffers a superficial wound. Adams isn’t so lucky. As soon as the first shot rang out, Travis tackled him to the ground and completely broke his character up to this point by giving the soldier a vicious beating. He leaves a bloody and gurgling Adams on the concrete and they drive out of the compound, headed for Strand’s home.
Throughout the episode, Strand has been promising he has safety for them if they head west, and he keeps talking about someone named Abigail. They take the mysterious con man to his swanky mansion, complete with a fancy gate and a multicar garage that’s filled with sports cars. He tells the people to make themselves at home while he packs a bag. He reveals to Nick he has to keep in constant motion to survive. However, he tells him who -- or rather, what -- Abigail is. He shows him a luxury yacht anchored just off the shore near his mansion.
While the group is recovering from the long night, Liza slips down to the rocks by the water. Madison goes to see if she’s OK, and the nurse reveals she was bitten on the hip while they were escaping the walkers in the compound. She convinces Madison to shoot her in the head, but Travis comes by at the exact wrong time to take over the job himself. The season finale ends with Chris cradling his mother’s dead body and Madison cradling a hysterical Travis.
With the survivors all in one place, a nautical theme being set up for the characters in Season 2, which premieres in 2016, fans put the bold companion series to “The Walking Dead” to rest -- well, except for “Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462,” that is.