This review contains spoilers.
2.11 Pablo And Jessica
The stand-out characters of Fear The Walking Dead‘s first season were pretty obvious. Nick, the stringy, nervous junkie trying to scratch out a life on the edges, is a great survivor because he’s used to living rough. Strand, the mysterious man in the suit, is a cool and dangerous customer, a great survivor because he knows how to read people and how to use their greed and weakness to his own advantage. They’re a great pair. Strand and Nick are both experts at feeling their way through dangerous situations, Nick with drug dealers and Strand in boardrooms and hotel bars.
While Madison and Travis and others not named Tobias have been forced to shift on the fly and find some new way to live, Strand and Nick just have to put their skills to use. Like Chris last episode, they have the potential to be gods in this new landscape, and like Chris has in recent episodes, they put their unique skills to good use in this episode. Nick’s got to figure out a way to buy the Colonia a little bit of time and to stretch their supplies out to make trading easier, and Strand’s got to help make peace between the hotel staff and the remaining wedding guests, with a little help from Maddie.
It’s interesting to see just how closely Fear The Walking Dead parallels the parent series. It took them ages to work out that slopping a bunch of zombie gore on yourself keeps you safe, and they rarely if ever use it on the main show, except when they need to. However, on Fear, they seem to coat themselves in zombie blood every two episodes. I don’t think we saw anyone play zombie rope-a-dope on the original series until Alexandria’s overflowing zombie quarry, and here they are leading zombies out to a watery death, making great use of the natural world to solve their zombie problem (sadly, there were no zombie shark fights).
It’s always nice to watch Strand do what he does best, as Colman Domingo does a wonderful job of allowing Strand’s smooth voice and charm do their work while not minimising the actual emotion he feels about the death of the Abigail family. He might put on the perfect face and say all the right things, but inside he’s still hurting, and Domingo does a great job during his scene with grieving widower Oscar when Strand goes up to take care of the last zombie in the hotel’s tower: Oscar’s wife, who died in the wedding massacre that turned the wedding party against the hotel’s staff in violent fashion.
The stand-out moments of the episode, particularly Strand and Oscar’s conversation and Nick and Alejandro’s bonding, are courtesy of Kate Erickson’s well-crafted script. The conversations feel natural, and when Madison starts giving a speech to the wedding survivors about how they all need to work together, Kim Dickens knocks it out of the park and the speech itself makes perfect, logical sense. After all, she’s seen what happens when two groups clash and put the safety of a whole society in peril, and, quite frankly, it’s using her conflict resolution and school counsellor skills in a whole new way, showing that she’s adapting to the new world thanks in no small part to Strand’s influence and Alicia’s growth as a person. She’s changing in ways that Travis isn’t.
Of course, talking is all well and good, but this wouldn’t be a Walking Dead property without some sort of cool zombie scene, and the plot to clear out the hotel is pretty brilliant, both in execution and in the way it’s shot. Any scene of the crew wandering through the hotel’s twisting and turning hallways is tense, especially when there’s a zombie train following in the wake of the groups. That train is only more impressive once the other conspirators sneak off to hide and leave Madison to guide the hundreds of zombies along the pier and over the edge into the ocean riptide. It’s cleverly staged by director Uta Briesewitz, and it looks great, particularly as the zombies fall over the edge of the pier in small groups and pairs like lemmings.
Once again, Fear does a good job of pairing up story lines. Nick and Luciana bond over their lost family members; Strand and Oscar bond over their lost lovers. Old skills find new uses, and communities slowly embrace outsiders who prove themselves useful. As Nick and Alejandro discuss, there’s a finite amount of time allotted to the communities in these new places, but if you can sneak a few minutes of peace out of some baby formula, so much the better.