Nick, the Beautiful Mess, in FTWD “Grotesque”

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BG Blogger discusses how the Mid-Season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead reflects the artistic tradition of the grotesque

 During the Italian Renaissance, artists became interested in showing more than just the stylized, idealistic forms of human beings that were common during the classical age and the Middle Ages. The beauty of ugly things began to be appreciated.

A grotesque fresco from the Uffizzi in Florence

A grotesque fresco from the Uffizzi in Florence

By showing people in their basest cstate, artists strove to show the beauty of the human condition, and artwork that reflected this was called “grottesche” or “grotesque” in English.

Since the time of the Renaissance, grotesques have remained popular subjects for artists to tackle. Some verge on showing the cruder side of humanity. Others are downright repulsive, vulgar and difficult to look at; however, there is still a certain beauty to them. As flawed and raw as they are, they are compelling, so much so that you cannot look away.

And I personally had that same experience watching the Mid-Season Premiere of Fear the Walking Dead this past weekend.

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The name “Grotesque” could not have been more perfect.

At the beginning of the episode, we saw him set off on the walk to Tijuana with plenty of water and supplies. But after a run-in with the baseball bat-brandishing lady I like to think of as Negan Lite, he ended up with nothing but the clothing on his back.

Dying of thirst, he tried in vain to drink from a cactus and vomited on camera. He was reduced to drinking his own urine. He was bitten by a dog and then had no choice but to eat the leftover meat from the same animal.

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He walked alongside the walkers in such bad condition that the men with guns nearly shot him along with them.

Yet despite everything he had to survive, he told the doctor at the Tijuana camp that:

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Nick is in many ways the hottest of hot messes and was even before this episode. His on-again, off-again relationship with sobriety had pushed Madison to her wit’s end and placed a strain on the entire family. Even now that he is clean, Nick is prone to reckless behavior, taking off alone on more than one occasion.

Still, for all that he is, there is something beautiful about the way he sees the world. Injured as he was and alone without his family, he lit up with a moment of joy when he kicked a ball back to the children playing in the community.

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He has an uncrushable spirit that just seems to shine through like the underlying beauty of a grotesque masterpiece hung on the wall of a museum. Nick’s story can be impossible to watch at times, but equally impossible to tear your eyes away from lest you miss those fleeting moments of beauty.

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps being away from his family will ultimately prove to be the best thing for Nick. Maybe he is not unlike what he said to Gloria about the theme of the book his father gave him:

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In all of her attempts to make Nick’s life better by keeping under control, could Madison have been making matters worse? Will he flourish without the effects of her good intentions? We’ll have to keep watching to find out.

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Bicycle Girl

Freelance writer from Pittsburgh. May or may not be a walker whose bicycle was stolen by Officer Friendly.

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