This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 11
It’s no secret I’m a Frank Dillane fan. By virtue of good character development and a lot of inspired acting, Dillane’s Nick is winning the apocalypse with an infectious combination of charisma and joie de vivre. We saw this a few episodes back in “Grotesque,” and Nick’s been in a groove since then, stealing pretty much every scene he’s in with his goofy affability. He’s no clown, though. Nor is he reliant solely on the kindness of strangers. Nick is the most fleshed out character in a series with a large ensemble cast. This is quite a feat, especially given how FTWD keeps adding new characters every week. Sure, most of them are being brought in to serve as Red Shirts, but the show lowers the stakes considerably for the main cast by doing this. No cast should ever be too big to fail; FTWD needs to start killing off core characters—just not Nick. Not yet, if ever. (I know, I’m a hypocrite.)
There’s more to this show than Nick, of course. “Pablo & Jessica” picks up where “Do Not Disturb” left off, delving deeper into Alicia’s thorny, complicated relationship with her mother. Madison is at odds with her daughter’s self-reliance, which she perceives as more of a liability than something to be celebrated. She’s very black and white when it comes to her children: Nick is the flighty, impulsive child who leaves; Alicia is the grounded child who stays. This is a very reductive view, of course, one that demonstrates a lack of trust not only in Nick and Alicia, but in her own abilities as a parent. This is not a complaint, this family dynamic. If anything, this dynamic demonstrates that the show is gaining confidence in itself and in its characters, who are becoming more fully realized individuals. Driving Travis and Madison’s blended family apart in the middle of the season has helped, causing them to reassess what it means to be parents in this new world. Driving lessons are one thing, but really listening to what your children have to say could one day save your life.
To wit, Alicia ignoring her mother’s pleas not to wade into the surf. Madison is being overprotective yet again, but Alicia isn’t being willful or stubborn—she’s formulating a plan for purging the dead from the hotel. Had she listened to Madison, Alicia’s plan may never have come to fruition. It’s a good plan, part Psygnosis game Lemmings and part Pied Piper of Hamlin. It’s also one of those plans that’s so crazy that it actually works. Yes, the zombies are corralled out onto the pier where they then plummet into the riptide. And yes, Madison survives the ordeal unscathed. But surely the hotel isn’t completely zombie-free—what would be the fun in that? Plus we’ve seen zombies wash ashore before, so who’s to say that couldn’t happen again on this beach? Nitpicking aside, Alicia’s plan was a terrific set piece in an episode that was actually pretty heavy on zombies (though not zombie-killing per se).
As for Nick, the one who leaves, he’s definitely settled into his new life in the colony. Not only has he earned Alejandro’s trust (and gotten himself his own home in the process), he’s also thawed Luciana’s icy heart. Both these moments are earned. We want Nick to be taken seriously, to be valued—more so than Chris, in my opinion. Nick actually has more in common with Travis than Chris does. They’re both lovers more than they are fighters. They both have big hearts, and care for their fellow men. Nick takes this a few steps further, disarming strangers with a preternatural magnetism that Travis simply doesn’t possess. My guess is Alejandro would be wary of Travis, who telegraphs moral superiority. Nick, on the other hand, draws people out of their shells. Why else would Alejandro recount the tale of the local junkie who was rounded up with the infected? The subtext to this story is Alejandro’s way of acknowledging that the bite in his shoulder came not from the infected, but from the junkie. In other words, there is no miracle—only faith in the illusion of a miracle. It’s this illusion holding the colony together, bringing temporary hope to people in desperate need of optimism. Alejandro is a shrewd observer—which makes him an effective leader. He understands Nick needs to chase his high, even if it means going beyond the colony’s walls and walking among the dead. Whatever the case may be, Nick is not only an asset to Alejandro, he’s an asset to FTWD, too.
Some closing thoughts:
Did Ofelia take the truck? Does it even matter? We don’t even know if her father is still alive.
Nick had some interesting moments with Luciana. He was genuinely sorry to learn of her loss—and she was genuinely surprised to learn that he had any family to speak of. Nick may wear his heart (and the occasional zombie blood) on his sleeve, but he still manages to keep a lot to himself.
Is it weird for anyone else to see Seinfeld’s Sue Ellen Mischke, the braless Oh Henry! heiress, make an appearance on this show? I for one would love to see her slay some zombies.