You think you know a guy. You think he works all day cutting hair at his bland business and goes home to his uninteresting average family and that he’s just an unassuming character who won’t amount to anything. Then you open the bedroom door and you find him standing there, holding a big shaving knife and covered in blood, next to a soldier he kidnapped who’s had his arm torn open in an effort to extract information out of him. And you say, “Mr. Salazar, I had you pegged all wrong. We have GOT to get together for a backyard barbecue sometime.”
Now think about this: Mr. Salazar is the only reason any of the main characters on this show are going to live past Season One. If he hadn’t come along, they never would have found out what was really going on, and wouldn’t have escaped in time. Then you consider the fact that the barbershop just happened to be the closest building to hide inside. If they’d picked the medicinal marijuana dispensary instead, they never would have someone on their side who would do something like this. And they’d be dead. The More You Know.
But rewinding a few dozen minutes, this show opens in a previously unseen location: the place where they’re keeping all the humans they believe are “sick.” Or something. It’s hard to judge how much the National Guard really knows. They know the bodies walking around are Undead and no longer the people who occupied them. But they also haven’t made the bite = infection connection yet and apparently think there are other ways to contract it. Or maybe some of them know by now, but others don’t? It’s all unclear.
Anyway, Crazy Nick is in a cage now, confined alongside some other guy who’s now his best buddy. He trades his watch and cuff links to the guard standing by in an effort to keep Nick, who’s running a withdrawal fever, from being carted downstairs where I assume they’ll kill him. We’re just led to believe downstairs equals bad. Later on the man reveals to Nick the key he stole, and that he has a plan to bust out. More next episode.
Mrs. Salazar and Liza are also gone: one was carted off for treatment due to her injured leg (by “treatment” they mean they plan to cut it off), and Liza went along voluntarily to keep watch and make sure Mrs. Salazar stays healthy.
After the sight he got on the roof last time, Travis has serious questions about what the Army has been doing outside the perimeter. To shut him up, they agree to let Travis join them on their daily patrol and show him just what it’s like out there and what they do. The entire time he rides in the tank, Travis’s nerves do not look reassured. He sits there curled in a ball with bugged-out eyes while all the bros in camo-suits bark macho dialogue and shoot Walkers they come across.
They invite Travis to take his own turn shooting a zombie donut shop worker, but when it comes down to it, he just can’t pull the trigger on something wearing a name tag, no matter how dead it already is. Even though Travis didn’t look happy, this whole day might have convinced him the Guard was on their side, if not for Mr. Salazar.
What Alicia did this episode is something you never see people do in apocalypse shows, even though it’s the first thing most people would think of doing: going inside the house of a person who was richer than you and trashing their stuff. Why are Alicia and Phil Miller The Last Man On Earth the only two people who think of this?
She’s partying with Chris, the kid who was making rooftop videos last week. There’s a fair amount of sexual tension here, such as a scene where Chris takes a private peek at Alicia removing her shirt. One, remember that boyfriend Alicia loved so much she stuck a needle into her own arm to permanently tattoo her feelings forever? That was just one episode ago, and presumably the previous day. She sure got over him fast, and now she’ll be stuck with that tattoo.
Two, you kids know your respective parents are seriously dating, right? If they marry, things are gonna get veeeeerry awkward for the both of you.
And here’s about where we got the pivotal moment of the season. What Mr. Salazar finds out is that the title of this episode refers to a special protocol that’s just gone into effect. “Cobalt” means the Guard is going to pack everything up, retreat to a special base and then they get to wait safe and secure while everything else goes to pot. As for the people they were “protecting,” they will all be disposed of. This all takes effect at 9 AM tomorrow morning. Holy Cliffhanger, Batman!
The last scene in the episode was rather unusual. Liza spent her time today looking for where Mrs. Salazar was being held, and when she finally found her, it was too late — Mrs. Salazar had gone into septic shock, was hallucinating, and was very near death. We got about a minute of her spouting some kind of incoherent mumbo-jumbo before instantly passing right at the most dramatic moment. This is the kind of scene you always see on supernatural shows, which Fear The Walking Dead is the opposite of and should never be. Why was this here and why did it get last-moment-of-the-episode special attention? Her rant wasn’t actually prophetic, was it? No prophecies in Robert Kirkman shows, please.
Five episodes in, where does the Careometer stand? Chris’s bar rose last week, but this was up from nothing. Despite taking part in a good scene, my ability to care about his life has not increased or diminished. Crazy Nick continues to slide; once again he just sits there and acts crazy while everybody else has to bail him out of trouble. Generally, we care about characters we want to know in real life. Does anyone really want to know Nick? He’s approaching bottom.
Alicia hasn’t changed. Liza is Liza. Madison has become a better character than she was during the pilot, but Travis has yet to really do anything that would make me interested in him. But BOY, look at the Salazars GO! From near nothingness in Episode 2 to the series’ most pivotal characters in Episode 5, their Careometer is soaring, especially Mr. Salazar’s contributions. We did lose a Salazar in this episode, but it was the bedridden one. If the patriarch goes, it’ll be a sad day.