The third episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “The Dog,” finds our blended family divided. Madison and her kids Nick and Alicia are hiding from the zombie neighbor in their East LA home. Travis, his ex-wife Liza, and their son Chris are waiting out the riot in downtown LA with the Salazar family: Daniel, Griselda, and daughter Ofelia. All of them are in terrible danger from those just outside their doors.
It’s obvious that the rioters on the streets of downtown LA are only going to worsen the infection both by allowing themselves to become attacked and by wasting emergency resources. Of course, a public health warning might have helped to mitigate this reaction, but then again, it might have caused more chaos and panic. When you’re on the edge of the apocalypse it’s hard to know what the right policy decision is. In East LA the situation does not appear so chaotic, but it certainly is dangerous, with at least one infected neighbor roaming the streets. The experience Travis and Madison have already had with the infected gives them just enough fear to keep them safe.
Travis, Madison, and Daniel each have their own ideas about how to keep their families safe, which are not always aligned. Travis doesn’t want to believe they have no choice but to kill the infected, while Madison has yet to tell her husband about what she had to do at the school. Daniel, meanwhile, seems to have had some experience with surviving dangerous situations and realizes that Travis’s reluctance could put them all at risk.
A Family Divided
Madison gives Nick his meds, which he insists on his crushing and sniffing to get the effect faster. Madison tries to create a feeling of normalcy, as much as a person can after seeing one neighbor attack another and doing nothing about it, by playing Monopoly with her kids. As they wait for Travis to come home, Alicia is reminded of waiting for her own father, when he had died in an accident.
At the Salazar’s downtown barbershop the chaos is right outside their metal security door. People are rioting in the streets. Chris sees something else, too, when one of the infected looks through the metal doors right at him. Out on the street there is fighting, cars being destroyed, and storefronts being smashed. It doesn’t look like a place anyone would choose to go, but when the fire alarm next door goes off and the walls start to get hot, it’s clear they need to leave. They all make their way outside in an effort to get to Travis’s truck. They see looters, police, and what appears to be at least one infected policeman attacking another officer. As they try to make their way to the truck, Griselda’s foot gets trapped under a collapsed scaffolding. Travis comes back to help, and once they get her foot out he carries her to the truck. Despite the clear hostility between Daniel and Travis, it’s evident that they need each other to get their families through this—at least right now.
On the truck radio they hear that eleven states have declared states of emergency and asked for federal help to quell riots and protests, and that the FAA is expected to ground air traffic. Griselda needs a hospital, but once they get to one, they find the hospital sequestered by police. The police are shooting anyone who tries to leave without being checked for infection. Daniel realizes that all the hospitals will be inaccessible. Travis unkindly asks where else he can drop him. Daniel suggests they go together to Madison’s house, and his cousin will come and pick the Salazars up. Travis and Daniel really seem to rub each other the wrong way. They are two strong fathers trying to protect their families. From above the city, they can see the lights in downtown LA start to go out.
Alicia hears something outside. She and Madison keep shining their flashlights on the windows, despite Nick’s warnings. Nick tells his mother that they need to tell Alicia, but Madison responds, “No—she hasn’t seen anything yet. She might not have to.” Yeah, that’s wishful thinking, mom. They hear a noise outside the sliding glass door and Nick opens the curtain to find their neighbor’s dog trying to get in. It seems crazy to open to door to anything, particularly a blood-covered German Shepherd, but who can resist a terrified dog desperate to get inside. They realize the dog is covered in blood, and it’s not his own. The dog runs to the street side of the house, where their infected neighbor is heading towards their house. Despite Madison’s insistence they do nothing as their neighbor is attacked in the previous episode, “So Close Yet So Far,” she is willing to follow Nick’s plan to get the neighbor’s shotgun to defend themselves. The three go together, with teen Alicia actually following her family’s lead with no resistance. The neighbors are gone, but they find the gun.
They can hear the dog, still back at their house, begin to bark. They look outside and see Peter lumbering into their yard. Someone save the dog! The dog cries out and stops barking. In the worst possible timing, Travis’s truck drives up to the house. Rut Roh! Travis and his family find the neighbor Peter eating the dog. It’s really horrible. We would rather see a person get killed any day of the week. Peter looks up and sees Travis, then attacks him. Madison arrives with the gun, but it’s Daniel who must take the gun and shoot Peter. From their drive past the hospital, Daniel seems to have learned that it requires a gunshot to the head to stop the infected.
Alicia had gone back next door to get the rest of the shotgun shells that they left in their rush to help Travis. She can see that someone is still in the house and runs out as fast as she can. As she tries to get back over the fence, Alicia is grabbed by her infected neighbor Susan. Travis’s son Chris runs out to the yard and yells for Alicia to give him her hand, but she’s panic-stricken. Chris finally manages to pull her over the fence, and Alicia shoves him after they fall to the ground. Chris yells, “I was trying to save you, Alicia!” We’re wondering what’s the backstory between these two. Travis, Madison, and Nick come outside, where they can all can see their infected neighbor Susan through the fence. Alicia asks what’s wrong with her:
Madison: “She’s sick.”
Travis: “Was she bitten?”
Madison: “I can’t tell.”
Nick: “She’s not sick. She’s dead.”
Alicia starts to freak out, realizing that her boyfriend Matt will turn into something like Susan has become. Travis asks Nick why’d he say that, and he responds, “’Cause it’s the truth.” Yeah Travis, we’re halfway through the 6-episode series, it’s time for you to face the facts.
Travis comes to check on his son Chris, who is examining his injured nose. Chris asks his dad what’s wrong with the people who attacked them. Travis tells him, “People are getting sick,” and tries to reassure his son that they’ll all be all right. Though Travis is certainly downplaying what is happening for his son’s sake, it’s less clear if he believes the infected are coming back from the dead.
They all talk in the living room. Daniel says his cousin will pick them up the next day. Travis tells Madison that their own family will also wait until the next day to leave. Madison wants to leave right away, telling him, “Travis, this thing’s getting worse, not better. It’s not safe.” Travis points out that it’s dark and they don’t even know if the freeway is passable.
Travis drags Peter’s corpse outside and Daniel suggests burning the body to stop the infection. Travis isn’t willing to take such measures, telling Daniel, “We don’t know how it spreads.” Everyone seems remarkably unconcerned about how exactly the illness does spread, particularly since Peter’s infected blood is splattered all over the sliding glass door.
Liza and Travis talk about Griselda’s foot, which was crushed. Griselda will need an operation or she’ll develop blood poisoning. He says it won’t come to that, and Liza responds, “Who’s gonna stop it, you? Can’t fix everything, Travis.”
Upstairs in the bedroom, Ofelia argues with her father, insisting that they must go with Travis and his family. Daniel tells her, “This is the wrong time to be in someone else’s debt. They are not family.” Ofelia calls her father out for pretending they have a cousin, when they have no family who can help them, because any family they had died back in El Salvador.
Madison tells Travis she got the pills for Nick from the school, but doesn’t explain that he had to crush her zombie boss’s skull. Travis apologizes to Madison for Daniel shooting Peter. She tells him, “He had to.” Though he‘s certainly trying to protect his family, Travis doesn’t yet understand what lengths he will need to go to in order to keep them safe.
Liza finds Madison watching her neighbor Susan. She tells Madison: “We should support each other, you and me. The kids need it. They need reassurance right now.” Madison asks Liza to kill her if she ever turns, so Travis won’t have to, adding, “It would break him.” It seems that everyone is aware that Travis isn’t as tough as he thinks.
Travis takes out the garbage, though we suspect the garbage truck will never come again. He sees a neighbor taking out the trash and they give each other uncertain glances. Seems like it was a bad night for more then a few neighbors.
Daniel: “The more the boy knows, the safer he’ll be.”
Madison: “I didn’t see the harm, Travis.”
Travis: “You know how I feel about guns.”
Hopefully his attitude about guns will change, or else he and his family will probably die. Of course, they might anyways.
Madison stands outside by the fence, contemplating killing Susan with the hammer she holds in her hand. She’s worried Susan’s husband will come home and get attacked. Travis comes out to see what Madison is doing:
Madison: “She’s dead.”
Travis: “We don’t know that.”
Madison: “We do.”
Travis: “We don’t know anything yet. Even if there’s a small chance she can be helped. It’s not your call.”
While Madison is considering her responsibility to others as they get infected, Travis remains somewhere between hopeful and naïve. In Daniel’s eyes, his actions make Travis weak.
Nick asks his mother for his medicine and realizes that much of it is gone. She tells him she’s given it to Griselda. The past, and concerns about the future, seem to underlie their conversation.
Ofelia scolds her father for refusing to join them on their way to the desert. She tells him that Travis and his family are good people. Daniel responds, “Good people are the first ones to die.” Rick Grimes couldn’t have said it better himself.
Meet the Calvary
Travis takes Liza and Chris in his truck, while Madison, Nick and Alicia are packed into the car. As they begin to drive down the street, past the bloody bouncy castle, Madison sees Susan’s husband come home. She rushes back, trying to stop him from being killed by his zombified wife, shouting, “That’s not your wife.” Just as Susan is about to attack her husband, she’s shot by soldiers who have suddenly appeared in the neighborhood.
The soldiers gather information about who’s in each of the houses and warns everyone to stay inside. It’s about time. Travis includes the Salazars in their house count, indicating a reluctant acceptance of the family’s continued presence. Madison asks the soldiers where they took her neighbor Patrick. They say he was covered in infected blood. She asks if the blood is contagious and a soldier responds, “You or anyone in this house been exposed?” She tells him, “No.” When he asks about the freshly dug grave, he seems to accept her explanation that their dog died.
Nick tries to break in to a neighbor’s house, but is spotted by a cute neighbor girl and quickly gives up. He sees a plane fly overhead. The plane indicates that people, at least certain people, are seeking refuge elsewhere, and that the disease is probably being carried to other locations.
Travis says to Madison: “Calvary’s arrived. It’s going to get better now.” Of course, we know that isn’t true, but we can see why he might believe that. On the other hand, Daniel doesn’t have the same reaction. He looks outside and sees the National Guard spray painting an “X” on the house across the street, and turns to his wife to say, “It’s already too late.” He knows the government forces aren’t always a protective force, and their presence can be a sign of bad things to come. Salazar’s experience in El Salvador gives him a perspective and insight that Travis and Madison lack.
In “The Dog,” Fear the Walking Dead gives us a moment of respite with the presence of the National Guard. The National Guard seems to have a better handle on the situation in East LA than the police do downtown. It’s interesting to be in the situation where the audience knows that their rescue is only temporary and that many bad things are still to come. Fear the Walking Dead gives us a variety of responses to both the infection and the emergency response, through the reactions of Travis, Madison, and Daniel. “The Dog” was an exciting episode, leaving us with a lot to explore both in terms of the interaction between the characters and how the government will deal with the epidemic. As we reach the mid-point of the season, we’re looking forward to last three episode Fear the Walking Dead.