As usual this post contains spoilers from Fear the Walking Dead season 2 Episode 3. If you haven’t seen the episode please come back later.
This is not a recap but a discussion of how we can learn from the successes and failures of storytelling from popular media and improve our own writing.
I’m going to begin today by saying this episode is by far the best in the series. Once again, it is the teens that set things in motion. Even Strand, as shady and suspicious as he is, could leave us all dead in the water with his desire to remain isolated.
At this point Nick is my favorite character with Chris and Alisha tying for second. Sure, staying safe is what we would all desire in a situation such as the zombie apocalypse. That isn’t why we watch this show. Kids doing dumb things, like walking up to a zombie while covered in blood, is far more fun than watching Travis and Madison argue.
A lot happened in last night’s episode, but I want to focus on character intentions, which go hand in hand with motivation and core beliefs. To set a character in motion, we first need to know why and their plan.
Core Beliefs: Important values and beliefs that guide a characters
Motivation: what a character desires.
Intentions: The plans a character makes to meet their motivational or belief core goals.
Motivation and intention can also cause conflict, either when two characters are at odds or a character is forced situations that go against their core beliefs. We get to see this in action a couple of times this episode. Core beliefs are very important to your character, because it will dictate their behavior. Putting them in situations where they have to choose between their core beliefs and survival are great for causing conflict.
We started off with the Abigail sucking a zombie into the engine. This forces our survivors to anchor while Travis attempts to fix the problem. We all know it’s also because with Strand on board we need reasons to force the boat to stop. (At least this one is plausible.)
Let’s look at the different motivation and intention combinations of the evening.
First we have Alisha who at her core wants to be helpful. This drives her motivation to go to shore and her intention to find supplies.
Next we have Salazar. He has two motivations. The first is to take control of the Abigail away from Strand, who is not trustworthy. The second is to protect Ofelia who is out of antibiotics. For the first motivation he reveals the Mexico destination to Madison, his intention is to win her to his side. For the second motivation he offers to escort the teens ashore with the intention of finding antibiotics.
Madison’s core is to keep the teens safe and help others. Her every move is dictated by these two motivations. These core motivations come into conflict when she confronts Strand about Mexico and he reveals he has a safe place in Mexico. In order to keep her kids safe, she will have to keep Strand happy. In order to keep Strand happy, she can’t help others. This has already been true, but now she has a solid reason not to argue when he tosses newcomers overboard.
One of the most important things about intentions is that they will not always work out in a character’s favor, and this drove the action of the episode. Finding supplies in the wreck was not an easy task. Much of the luggage was destroyed by fire or water. Although Salazar found some medication, he didn’t find antibiotics. Salazar’s plan to increase Madison’s suspicions about Strand was also a failure, because to meet her motivation her intentions have shifted.
All of these motivations and intentions are building toward a greater conflict. Following this dynamic, you can create deeper characters who act for a reason rather than doing things merely to move the story forward. They present consequences, both positive and negative.
The highlight of this episode, of course, is when Salazar encounters Charlie from Flight 462. We met Charlie, Jake (who is severely burned,) and some others at the beginning of the episode. The others are gone, and only Charlie and Jake remain. What happened to them in between is a mystery.
Now we come to the next set of motion/intention. Arriving back at the ship, Strand once again is unwelcoming of newcomers Charlie and Jake. He doesn’t want them on the boat. This time, Madison flounders because she is caught between her core beliefs and her desire to keep Strand happy. Instead of doing so grudgingly as we saw in the past two episodes, this time her motivation and reasoning is clear.
Strand has one motivation, which is to get where he’s going with as little “dead weight” as possible. His intention is to ensure the other survivors do not hinder this plan. For a minute as I watched him struggle I thought he might crack. I thought he might feel guilty. If he did feel guilty, he ended it by cutting Charlie and Jake free from being towed, leaving them to die.
Hopefully they return in future episodes, and Charlie’s speech about this being the hardest day will bring about consequences to our survivors.
My favorite scene was when Nick was drenched in zombie juice and “communicated” momentarily with a walker.
Chris’ character development will hopefully take an interesting turn now that he’s suffered the trauma of a mercy killing.
Will Ofelia die of infection and become a zombie?
Hopefully the next episode will continue the trend of action and conflict. Thanks for reading and if you have anything to add, please feel free in the comments.