Fear the Walking Dead: The irony of Chris’s innocence in accepting the violence

Christopher Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) in S2E14Photo credit: Richard Foreman/AMC, Fear The Walking Dead
Christopher Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) in S2E14Photo credit: Richard Foreman/AMC, Fear The Walking Dead /

Chris Manawa on Fear the Walking Dead made a quick transition from bullied, pacifist teen to almost villainous, rebellious, killer with the outbreak.

The character of Chris Manawa on Fear the Walking Dead had quite a few flip-flops in his adapting to his family situation and then to the situation with the outbreak. He had an innocence and a rebellion in him even before the outbreak that he carried with him in many ways once the infected arrived.

When Chris was a bullied kid he was told by Travis to try to fit in–to act as if. Travis was a well meaning father, but that might not have been the best advice he could have given his son. Who knows how Travis grew up to make him the peacemaker that he is and think that is the way to get along.

Travis tried to make Chris act as if and fit in with his new step family, but Chris wasn’t doing that anymore. He rebelled. He rebelled in the safest place to rebel–with his family. You know (or at least have the hope) that your family will love you even when you act like a jerk.

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When the infection hit, we saw Chris’ tender side. He was outraged at the protests in the city. He wanted to document the experience on video for people. He was haunted by the light in the window when he thought there could be life outside that the guard hadn’t found.

Then something happened. He watched his mother choose others over him when she went to help at the hospital. Travis had chosen others over him in the step family and in helping the community. He was a mini-Alicia. Everyone just ignored his needs. With Alicia they thought she would be okay, so they left her alone. Chris made himself unlovable and annoying to see if they would come to him anyway, but they still left him alone.

Christopher Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) in S2E13 Photo credit: Richard Foreman/AMC, Fear The Walking Dead
Christopher Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) in S2E13Photo credit: Richard Foreman/AMC, Fear The Walking Dead /

He might have grown out of it and into himself if given the chance, but the apocalypse steals that time from you. His mother was taken from him before he could grow up and apologize. His mother and father both took away his opportunity to say goodbye and to process the event because they were protecting their child and didn’t have the time help him grow up and process the event themselves.

So Chris decided to grow up on his own. To face the ugliness of his grief by facing the ugliness out there. To become the ugliness out there. But he was still really innocent Chris. He was innocent to believe that ugliness and violence was the answer. That no rules means happiness. That’s a teenage point of view.

When he first left the hacienda. I believe he was broken and lost. I believe he wasn’t violent. He was hurt. He didn’t think his family trusted him or loved him. He was alone. He had made mistakes that cost them. He let those pirates on the boat. He let himself get taunted by the leader when he guarded him.

I am innocent in many ways, too. I don’t think Chris was trying to kill Alicia and Madison in their sleep. I think he was trying to apologize and he was hurt that nobody trusted him. He thought he was a problem for his family so he left. Then it hit him. He had to cut himself off from his family and give his dad a chance and just accept this new world that he had started to see when he was killing the walkers at the island.

Those things were slowly starting to sink in. This is it. There is an exhilaration and a power to taking control and killing the walkers. He had killed the man on the plane so he knew what had to be done to his mother was difficult and that Travis had done something that was hard for Travis.

Brandon (Kelly Blatz) in S2E14 Photo credit: Richard Foreman/AMC, Fear The Walking Dead
Brandon (Kelly Blatz) in S2E14Photo credit: Richard Foreman/AMC, Fear The Walking Dead /

He was sick of being around all these people who looked at him like he didn’t matter. It was one thing being ignored or pitied or overprotected. But now these people didn’t even trust him and thought he was dangerous. He didn’t need that. He was better on his own and they were better without him.

This was another innocent move. Like a kid running away with a little suitcase packed. The kid doesn’t have a full grasp of things. The enormity of time and future aren’t fully formed in the kid’s mind. But subconsciously there are things at work. When you think you’re going to be without someone and you are afraid of that separation, your brain helps you out with some coping mechanisms.

Remember Carl acting like a brat in that house on the way to Terminus. He was so scared that his father would never wake up and he would be alone. He was trying to prove to himself that he could handle the walkers. He was angry for being left alone and had nobody to take his anger out on but his own father.

That’s a temper tantrum. A 2-year old has a tantrum and is upset and lashes out at the same parent that they need to be comforted by because the only one to receive the anger and provide the comfort are the same person.

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I’m not downplaying Chris’ nonchalance with violence or anything that he developed into during the time he became what he became. What I am saying is that his innocence remained in his decision-making.

Even people who were annoyed with Chris seemed to think he was ahead of the game by thinking that there is no right and wrong anymore and being able to accept the killing. Chris was wrong. There is still right and wrong. They are just different and not always constant. As Morgan said, “it’s the wrong that doesn’t pull us down.”

Chris chose many wrongs that pulled him down.

One of the biggest ironies in Chris was that he reverted to trying to fit in again. He stopped rebelling and trying to figure things out for himself. He felt powerful that way, but instead he was really being bullied in a new way.

In one of his final acts with his father, he foreshadowed his own death by telling his father that those boys had been with Baby James since kindergarten and they were willing to kill him, what would they do if they found Chris useless when they’ve only know him a few days.

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Chris was punished by his own thinking. By his own innocence. By the clock. By the infection. By bullies. Bullies from his past. Bullies from this new world. And the bully he became.

As subdued and understated as Chris’s death was on-screen because we knew about it ahead of time when the boys told Travis, much of Fear the Walking Dead seems to take place in our hearts and heads and not on-screen.