It’s fair to say AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead isn’t the show many long time fans of the popular franchise were hoping for. Critics are luke-warm to it, while fans seem to howl everytime its name is mentioned. But with Season 3 kicking off and a heap of news coming from the show – there’s a lot for fans to finally get excited about.

Fear The Walking Dead has always had niggling issues tied to its main cast of characters. Compared to Rick and his band of survivors exploits over on the main show – Travis and his flock of explorers have never really clicked. They seem to actively make bad decisions or go out of their way to feel slightly dumber than they should. Case in point, Season 3 opens with the whole gang being carted into a military base.

But where Fear The Walking Dead of last year might have drawn this out – the opening two episodes really knew where to throw its punches. We got a great mix of action, suspense and a heap of intense moments – topped off with one absolute shocker that might make some fans recoil in horror. The shows found its footing – and I hope that this is a sign of things to come.

In particular, I really like Troy’s introduction to the show. They wasted no time in labeling him and his cronies as the villains – and the show excellently had them get to work. Within minutes, the audience is left in no doubt just how bleak the Clark family’s prospects really are – and there’s some great moments born from this. The uneasy alliance Jeremiah tried to broker felt all too late considering the effects of Troy’s handy work; and it gives the rest of the season a real sense of impending tension.

Sure he’s a bit two-dimensional; but he’s foil for the characters to entangle themselves in. He’s a nice shade of evil that the audience will probably be waiting desperately to see get brought down. That was another major issue Season 2 suffered from, a lack of clarity over whom the audience should be rooting to see get eaten. At least with this season, Fear The Walking Dead has a broader target for audiences to hate.

His presence also gives Madison something to stew over. She had a lot to ponder through these two episodes and by the end – it was clear that she herself was set for a big arc this season. From her spoon gouging (Jesus) through to the emotional lead weight that smacked her at the end of the episode, this was a hugely important two episodes for her character – and the roadmap ahead. She’s always been a touch too preachy for my liking – maybe now the show will finally let her have some fun.

I also loved that Nick wanted to abandon Brokejaw Ranch; but Madison had already begun scheming how to overthrow the natives and claim it for themselves. Maybe it’s just because of the nature of the two-part opener, but it’s good to see the characters in a Walking Dead show actively aware of their situation. They’re at rock bottom now, but they’re also arguably at their most interesting point.

Speaking of Nick, he got a few good moments in himself. Holding a gun up to Troy and teasing taking him out – only to be brought back on board was delightful. I’m still not keen on him as a character – but I am hoping that the stage being set for the season can help to ground his character more in a likable area.

But of course, the real big moment of the two episodes came from Travis – and his abrupt exit from proceedings. Travis’s death was a huge surprise and really underlines the shows desire to draw a line in the sand. Some might feel his death had an air of anti-climax to it – but I ultimately applauded the guts it took to kill him off. In particular the guts to kill him off when he’d just survived the zombie pit not 15 minutes earlier. I’ll miss Travis on the show, if only because he was getting a lot more enjoyable to watch – and it seemed like the writers had finally figured out where they wanted him to go. Turns out that destination was out the side of a helicopter.

His absence (if permanent) serves to grant the show a chance to break free. The biggest issue up to now with the show is how the Clark family dynamic has been the core of the shows plot – and what a snoozefest that’s been. Towards the end of episode 2 though, it became very apparent that Nick, Alicia and Madison were finally staggering towards common ground. Hopefully with grief binding them together, they can actually do interesting things. Madison is free of her Travis shaped chain while Nick will actually have to take responsibility. Knowing this show though, they could easily spend the next dozen episodes mourning Travis – so let’s not get too excited.

Meanwhile Strand was still stuck at the resort. His B-story was very forgettable and while I hope this season gives him a neat direction, I do worry that he may end up being “that guy” the A-plot throws the ball to when it needs a quick 5 minute break. He pretended to be a doctor this week and helped out, only to get ejected. At least he got a nice set of wheels from the whole thing.

Fear The Walking Dead hit the ground running with this two parter. I don’t think this will convert any of those fans who’ve already abandoned the show; but it might help keep those around who’ve stuck with it. The shake-ups made in these episodes will ultimately bear fruit down the line – as we have an interesting setup and arguably a show that knows what it wants to be.

Impressive first outing.