This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 4
My favorite moment in “Blood in the Streets” is a fleeting one—Nick dribbling a basketball up a deserted street. Never mind that he’s drenched in zombie blood and viscera, or that the world has just recently begun to devour itself. No, Nick is a carefree soul, a child at heart, alone in a strange new world. Of course, this scene only works if you happen to like Nick, as I do. If not, the idea of his laissez-faire attitude might indeed rub a lot of viewers the wrong way. Maybe I really liked this moment because it provided a quick reprieve from the rest of the episode, which, admittedly, was incredibly problematic. I have been a fan of this show from the start, but “Blood in the Streets” is not Fear the Walking Dead’s finest hour.
Aside from Nick and that basketball, there’s not a lot that worked in this episode. While I’ve been curious to know more about Strand, the more we learn, the less I like him. Which is too bad, given how he was such a fascinating character when he was introduced toward end of the first season. A lot of Strand’s appeal stems from Colman Domingo himself. He’s a compelling actor with an incredible screen presence. But what also made Strand so interesting was that we knew so very little about him beyond the fact that he was involved in real estate. Mysterious, dapper, wealthy—what’s not to like? One thing that always bothered me about him, though, was why he found saving Nick so vital to his own survival. This questionable motivation was then compounded when Strand left dozens of prisoners behind in quarantine but brought Nick and everyone else back to his luxury home. As presented, Strand is simply too practical and too mercenary to show charity to such a large group of people. And taking them all with him on his yacht is even more baffling.
As for why he needs Nick, this still hasn’t really been answered in this new season. We do see a lot of friction between Strand and the people on his boat. If he could so easily maroon Alex and Jake (the survivors of Flight 462) in the middle of the ocean, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Travis, Madison, and the rest are destined for a similar fate? Yes, Travis has proven himself handy by repairing the yacht, but pretty much everyone else has been nothing but trouble for Strand. Especially Alicia, who, as we know, befriended someone she met over the radio. It’s this chance encounter with a random person on the radio that serves as the crux of this episode. But more on that in a bit.
First, let’s talk about this weird moment between Ofelia and Chris, awkwardly flirting topside when they’re supposed to be keeping watch. Their discussion is about everyday things (dating, school, awkward childhoods) from a world that no longer exists. This is small talk at the edge of the apocalypse. Their chat is interrupted by unexpected guests. Which leads me to ask, how could an approaching raft go unnoticed? Chris’s first impulse is to shoot these strangers, but he hesitates. “We’re good people,” they insist, but at this point everyone should realize being a good person isn’t a good enough vouchsafe. And, in the end, it’s all a ruse. It’s Jack, from the radio. The Abigail has been boarded by hostiles. In an episode that’s light on zombies, any kind of conflict is welcome, even if it’s of the human kind. This is not to say that I enjoyed this turn of events, but, you know, any port in a storm.
Strand flees by raft in the ensuing confusion, which says a lot about his priorities. Travis, Madison, Daniel — they’re all expendable. Strand only cares for himself and that house in Mexico. And, of course, he cares for his boyfriend, Thomas Abigail. We learn about this relationship via a series of flashbacks that takes us all the way back to Louisiana, post-Hurricane Katrina. This is when Strand and Abigail (the man, not the yacht) first meet. They’re both real estate moguls—with Abigail on the rise even as Strand’s assets are literally underwater.
Now, like I said, what made Strand work so well as a character was that we knew so little of the man. I myself believed there was more to him than just a desire to gentrify. I even speculated in Den of Geek’s weekly No Room in Hell podcast that Strand might have been some sort CIA operative, but no. I’m all for the idea of Strand trying to get back to his lover, but I just didn’t buy their relationship.
What was equally problematic about this episode wasn’t the hostage situation back on the Abigail, it’s the idea that FTWD is immediately presenting humans as the biggest threat to survival. I just feel like it’s too soon to introduce the idea of This Season’s Big Bad. We’ve seen that almost every year on The Walking Dead, and even there the formula has begun to wear thin by the sixth season. What bothers me the most about this isn’t that the group is split up, it’s that Connor’s group has a base of operations back on land. Why make a big deal about this season being set on the water if the group has been on land in every single episode so far? Well, the real reason is clear—because there just aren’t going to be any zombies in the middle of the ocean.
Some closing thoughts:
So it would seem that about four weeks has passed since the zombie outbreak. It seems like a lot less than a month, though. But the passage of time has always been hard to track in TWD universe as a whole.
I like the idea that Strand’s contract, Luis, has been so out of touch since the outbreak that he cares whether or not his luxury car remains clean.