First, and foremost, we are less than a month away from San Diego Comic-Con 2017, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to see AMC confirm on Twitter yesterday that, indeed, both The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead will be returning this year for the event. Yay. Of course, The Walking Dead has been the highlight of SDCC for the past several years, and so, the announcement isn’t really a surprise. However, it still feels great to see it in black and white so that we can officially start counting down to the biggest Walking Dead fandom event of the year.
However, I’m going to be honest with you. While I think most of us were focused on The Walking Dead last year at SDCC because of the highly-anticipated Season 7 Lucille premiere episode, I’m actually more excited this year for FTWD. With just 4 episodes into season 3, Fear The Walking Dead has really raised the bar, and some critics have said it has now become better than the mothership. I’m not sure if I entirely agree with that assessment, but I will say that the writing thus far this season has really revived my interest in the series, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what next they have in store for us.
And, perhaps one of the best parts of the season has been the return of Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades). Last week’s bottle episode was perhaps one of the best of the series, and while Daniel does share airtime this week with the other characters, he most certainly steals the show once again. As would be expected, Daniel’s top priority going into Sunday’s episode is to continue his mission of searching for his daughter. So, taking Strand’s (Colman Domingo) word at face value that Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) is, indeed, at the hotel, the 2 men embark on a road trip which we all know will end badly. Of course, if Strand had any brain at all, he would have come clean, told the truth about Ofelia, and, then face the consequences of his actions. But, oh no, he continues tap-dancing around the truth, telling lie after lie, and stalling until he can stall no more.
They finally arrive at the hotel, and things get ugly really fast. The hotel is dark, the gate is down, and when they go inside, nothing but walkers. Of course, by now Daniel is certain Strand is lying, and so, Strand has no choice but to tell the truth. Ofelia left Alicia high and dry, stole their truck, and took off by herself. And, what does Daniel do? Well, he doesn’t beat Strand senseless or kill him like I thought he would, and in my opinion, does something even better. Daniel rings the bell at the front desk, prompting all of the walkers lurking in the back to come out, and then, takes off in Strand’s car, leaving him to fight them all without even as much as a single weapon. I do like Strand, but man, oh man, he so deserved every bit of that. After all, Ofelia is Daniel’s daughter, and you don’t lie and play games when someone’s child is on the line.
MAMA’S BOY VS. DADDY’S BOY
Ever since episode 3.03 “Teotwawki” when we finally learned the tragic backstory of Troy (Daniel Sharman), it’s become increasingly clear that Madison has been evolving into somewhat of a surrogate mother for the Otto family’s “lost boy.” As a child, all Troy wanted was his mother’s love, and all his mother was concerned with was herself and where she was going to get her next drink. Even when his mother got sick and Troy bathed and took care of her, she still didn’t love him, and as much as we want to hate Troy, we can’t help but feel a little sad. However, what we end up seeing tonight is somewhat of the flipside when it comes to Nick (Frank Dillane). While Nick has always had his mother’s love, even to the point of Madison (Kim Dickens) neglecting Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), we learn tonight that it’s his father’s love that Nick has always longed for.
The episode opens with an elderly man, Russell Brown, waking up in the middle of the night because he hears a strange noise. He gets up and finds his wife, Martha, standing in the corner of the room, and when she turns around, he realizes she has turned (apparently she just died in her sleep). He opens his arms, and she comes to him, tries to bite his neck but then, we see her dentures in a glass by the nightstand. The elderly man then reaches for his gun, shoots himself in the head, but when he falls, the kerosene lamp is knocked over and the house catches fire. We then learn that the house is actually on the ranch, as everyone comes running with buckets of water, trying in vain to put the fire out.
By now, Luciana (Danay Garcia) has fully recovered and insistent that she and Nick leave immediately. So, Nick being caught between a rock and a hard place, visits the burnt-out house of the Browns and has an idea. It’s actually something that Luciana had said earlier in the episode that gave him the idea.
I heard people talking about the old couple. It’s both sad and beautiful. They were together until the very end — Luciana to Nick
Nick’s idea is to restore the house and make it a home for him and Luciana. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be theirs, just like it had been Russ and Martha’s for all of those years. We also learn that Nick’s father had been a contractor, and while he was working on the renovation of their home, he taught Nick a thing or two. As it turns out, the renovation was never completed, presumably because of his father’s suicide. That is about when Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie) shows up, and even though the two have had some rough patches, they eventually form a bond.
How the West was won. This is a beautiful gun — Jeremiah
Isn’t that a contradiction? — Nick
The craftsmanship that went into this piece here. A God-damn work of art. You think you could do better than that? — Jeremiah
I don’t think guns are works of art — Nick
The economy of design. Tools are beautiful things — Jeremiah
Is that what you taught Troy? That guns are tools — Nick
Troy is trying to understand himself. You know who you are? — Jeremiah
I have no idea. I know I’m not that — Nick
That’s not what I asked son — Jeremiah
Again, a very rough start, but after that bumpy conversation, Jeremiah offers to help Nick restore the cabin. If you’re thinking there’s a father/son type relationship developing here, I think you would be right. We all probably remember the flashback last season with Nick being in rehab and Madison coming to tell him that his father had been killed. Remember how hard Nick took the news? It’s pretty obvious that Nick had a very strong relationship with his father, and his death could be why Nick spiraled so badly and started using drugs even more.
Regardless, I think Jeremiah and Nick found exactly what they needed. Jeremiah was longing for a son who was strong, who was a fighter, but who also has a good heart. This is in stark contrast to Troy who while strong, was a very unstable young man with a black heart. And while Jake was a good, strong man and a son that made Jeremiah proud, he was also a “bleeding heart” who longed too much for art, poetry and the things of the old world, instead of focusing on and defending what they have left in the new world.
Now, what about that house that Nick worked so hard to fix up for Luciana? Does his plan work and is he able to convince Luciana to stay at the ranch? While I do believe she is very touched by what Nick tried to do, she ends up leaving anyways, and Nick is left with only a note. The big question is will Nick go after her? Under normal circumstances, yes, probably so. However, we are about to learn that some major trouble is coming in the direction of Broke Jaw Ranch, and they’re going to need as much help as they can get, and that definitely includes Nick.
KARMA’S A BITCH COURTESY OF THE INDIANS
Even before the premiere, Showrunner Dave Erickson made clear that this season was going to be “politically charged” and would drive home some issues that have come front-and-center in our current volatile political environment. It actually began in last week’s episode “100” which was done completely in Spanish with English subtitles, except for the brief conversation between Daniel and Strand. With our current President claiming that “all Mexicans are criminals and rapists” and his die-hard supporters constantly objecting to anything on television that isn’t 100% English — the language of America they would say — it’s not surprising that the episode polarized the fandom somewhat. Most fans and most critics (including myself) rated it a top-shelf episode and gave it a perfect 5-star rating, regardless of the Spanish. However, as would be expected, there were plenty of haters that crawled out of the woodwork, and if you spent just a few minutes on Twitter while the episode was airing, you could quickly find them.
Well, as it turns out, it’s actually tonight’s episode that really delves into the political issues, and in all honesty, makes last week’s installment look like child’s play. First, as I had mentioned, Luciana decides to leave the ranch in the middle of the night, and in the latter part of the episode as the sun is rising, you see her looking up at a 10 – 15 ft. high wall skirting the entire border between America and Mexico.
Wow. Wow. Wow!! I guess in the world of Fear The Walking Dead, President Trump managed to get his border wall built before the fall of civilization. The Super Bowl commercial depicting a border wall caused a huge backlash, and I’m sure this scene will go over like a lead balloon with certain groups of people as well.
However, that was just the beginning of the political commentary. As I screened the episode for the first time earlier in the week, the song “Beds Are Burning” from the 80’s rock band Midnight Oil came to mind.
The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to them
Let’s give it back
While the song was about the Australian aborigines and their being forcibly removed from their land, the connection with tonight’s episode is quickly made apparent. Change the theme to that of the American Indians and Mexicans and their land being ripped away by greedy, cruel Americans, and I think you’ve got the foundation for at least the remainder of the first half of the season.
As you may recall from the ending of 3.03 “Teotwawki,” Troy, Madison and several others were forming another search party to retrieve the downed helicopter. The trip begins somewhat bumpy, with the men questioning Madison’s skills and of course, the usual tension between Madison and Troy, but they continue on and finally arrive at the crash site. And, to their surprise, no helicopter. There are bootprints everywhere, and it’s obvious someone moved it. Uh oh. Yes, I’m sure you’re thinking what I’m thinking. You’d have to have a very large bad-ass group with a lot of resources to be able to actually move a helicopter. They finally track the group to a camp, where they also find the people from the first search party — all dead (and, sorry, no sign of Travis… not even a corpse). Well, all of the men are dead except for one. The apparent leader of the search party is strapped to a chair out on the rocks, mumbling complete nonsense. When Troy and the rest of the group approach to take a closer look, they are appalled at what they find. The man is mumbling because the back of his skull had been removed, thus exposing his brain, and crows have been eating away at it for no telling how long. One of the guys loses his breakfast, and Madison is the one who has to walk up and put the poor guy out of his misery.
Ultimately, the group’s leader — an Indian by the name of Qaletaqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes) — steps out from behind the curtain, and yes, these people are bad news, but from the sound of it, their actions are warranted. He admits they shot down the helicopter and basically says it’s payback time.
Tell your people it’s time for justice. The land you live on is to be returned. Abandon the ranch — Walker to Troy
Walker’s statement could be taken 2 ways. First, everyone knows the story of the Indians and how the Americans ravaged their land, killed their people, leaving them with only small reservations, and even our current President Donald Trump is trying to encroach on the remaining reservations to the sole purpose of building pipelines. As Jake explained to Alicia, Troy would make fun of people and call them “bleeding hearts” for having sympathy on the Indians and the Mexicans because “every last bit of land has been conquered over and over again,” but still, it’s a tragedy. And, it’s also just like an apocalypse and the fall of the American government to give the American Indians the opportunity to get the upper hand and take it all back.
On the other hand, the conflict between Walker and the folks at the Otto ranch also felt very personal — that is, it may not entirely be about Indians vs. Americans. Walker shows no malice towards Madison and actually seems apologetic that someone in her group was killed on the helicopter. In fact, the focus of his rage appears to be directly at the Otto’s. If that’s the case, why? Think back to Jeremiah Otto’s conversation with Nick earlier in the episode about the origin of the house that burnt down. He said the house was there on the land when he got arrived, “built centuries ago when the land belonged to Mexico, and before that, Spain.” That being said, did the ranch and its land originally belong to Walker and his people, and the Otto’s forcibly took it from them? It sure sounds that way, and that’s where I’m placing my bet.
In the end, Troy and Co. are spared, but it’s obvious there’s going to be major trouble coming to the folks at the ranch very, very soon. Jeremiah, you always said you had prepared for the low lives who would come and try to take what you have. Well, get ready because that’s about to be put to the test. Oh, and for those with a very keen eye, you may recognize Walker from the below early promo photo released prior to the season 3 premiere.
Recognize who’s in the photo with him? Oh yes, that’s Ofelia! To the average viewer, Ofelia is still MIA, but judging from this photo, it appears she is fighting with Walker’s group, which means she’s now at odds with the Otto ranch, and thus, Madison, Nick, and Alicia by association. Oops! I have a feeling things are about to get really interesting, and I certainly don’t think this will be the reunion Daddy Salazar had in mind.
Fear The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A-
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com