This review contains spoilers.
2.12 Pillar Of Salt
There’s an interesting phenomenon at play in Fear The Walking Dead. It feels like our characters are hundreds of miles apart, right? Nick’s in his world, Maddie and Alicia are in their world, Travis and Chris are in their world, and Ofelia is streaking through the desert in a stolen pick-up truck looking for gasoline to siphon, right? Well, yes and no. Once upon a time, most people lived and died within a very small radius of the place where they were born. To travel fifteen or twenty miles is a completely different world; look at the variety of accents in England for more proof of just how different things can be in the next town over (let not even consider the ramifications of that local flavour on a country as vast as Mexico).
Honestly, the scale of life in post-zed Mexico hadn’t occurred to me. These journeys felt like they’ve been taking days or weeks in the case of Nick, and yet he’s… what, fifteen miles away from his mother or less? At the end of the episode, we see that Travis is only a few miles from the hotel where Maddie and Alicia are holed up, and they’re merely across town from the gangster-ruled big-box store that the Colonia trades Oxy for water with.
At times during the episode, it feels very coincidental that they’re all there together, but at the same time the farthest one away is probably Ofelia, because she’s the only one with a consistent car. The others have been wandering around in circles (at best). It makes sense that they wouldn’t be too far away from where they all started. It’s hard to shake off the idea that a trip across town would take hours on foot, rather than minutes by modern transportation methods, so even if they all went in different directions once the Abigail hacienda caught fire, they won’t be very far away from one another, which helps start the process of bringing them all together.
The Colonia is bleeding members; people like their scouts keep abandoning them, water is low, drug supply is lower, and things are getting a little worrisome for Alejandro, who seems to be losing some of his ability to charm the people as his worries get heavier on his head. He’s even lashing out at Luciana and Nick, two of his most loyal scouts. They have a drug delivery to make, and when they don’t make it, Nick knows that the gangsters they’ve been dealing with won’t take kindly to that; he’s right. However, they serve a purpose; they supply water for the colony, and they have plenty of drugs with no street value for the folks at the hotel.
As it turns out, Maddie’s attempt to meld three groups together into one is working, but not totally. Sure, they’re building walls and farming and learning how to surf, but Ilene—the mother of the late bride whose zombie was killed by Strand last episode—isn’t quite on board with the whole “killing zombies” thing and she responds to Strand with violence. Specifically, she stabs him with a kitchen knife, then goes wandering off while Maddie, Alicia, Elena, and Hector have to get him medical supplies while arguing about what to do regarding Ilene’s use of violence against one of their own.
The trip to the cartel market also brings up another issue; Maddie is willing to risk everything to get Nick back, and when confronted about just how stupid she’s being by turning on all the hotel’s lights in the middle of the night, she just asks Alicia to trust her without any real reason to do so. It ties back in neatly to a previous scene in which Alicia and Strand discussed how Alicia is something of an invisible child, but it feels inconsistent with previous characterisations of Madison. Is she so blinded by possibly getting Nick back that she’s willing to put her child and everyone else at risk? That seems more like a Travis move (cutely, turning on the hotel lights doesn’t get Nick’s attention, but it does get Travis’s attention).
It’s all a bit too cute, I think, and Carla Ching’s script is stuck doing a lot of the characterisation that we haven’t seen in the last couple of episodes. Still, the hotel makes a pretty nice beacon against the night sky, and Gerardo Naranjo is able to get good performances while creating a little tension as we watch unknown characters skulk around trying to avoid thugs in pickups.
Still, it’s not a particularly exciting or memorable episode. Aside from Strand’s stabbing and the cracks beginning to show both at the Colonia and at the hotel, there’s not a lot to hold attention here. Certainly, there are times in the run of a show that characters have to be fleshed out, and we’re learning a lot more about all the non-American folks involved in the events of the season, but it’s a little too talky in spots. While Strand is bleeding in bed isn’t a time to discuss a code of justice; similarly, charging into a violent interrogation in a drug den should have actually just seen Madison and Elena killed on the spot, rather than giving Maddie a chance to scream at random Mexicans in English.
Your impression of this episode will depend a lot on how much you care about, primarily, Ofelia’s back story. We heard the story, and now we’re getting to see it live for some reason. Here’s hoping that it will pay off in something interesting later on in the season.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan tried his best to remain interested, but it was a little too much talk and not a whole lot of intrigue. It wasn’t quite Season 2, but it was close. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.