This review contains spoilers.
2.6 Sicut Cervus
One of the problems that Fear The Walking Dead is going to face is that it’s several seasons behind the parent show. That gives the spinoff a little more breathing room to include some luxuries, like television and electricity/water, but it also means that it is going to have to work harder not to accidentally recycle plot lines form the original series. Or, in some cases, they can recycle the plot but do it better than in the original series.
The second season of The Walking Dead is the farm season. The gang spent a whole season just hanging out on Hershel’s farm while looking for Sophia. Well, in case you’ve forgotten, Sophia was there on the farm with them, but she wasn’t alive; she was stuck in a barn full of walkers that Hershel was keeping just in case a cure could be found. (I’m not sure how you’re supposed to cure death, but I’m not a veterinarian, so what do I know?)
Fear The Walking Dead takes a slightly different tactic for this basic idea, weaving it into existing Mexican culture to find a more interesting reason for otherwise sensible people to keep a whole bunch of dead people in the basement. In Mexican culture, there exists the Day of the Dead, which is a day in which the dead are honoured with favorite foods, feasts, sugar skulls, and all sorts of other goodies designed to make the spirits happy and to commune with lost loved ones. It makes sense that, given the persistence of the tradition, that people might take one look at their formerly-dead family and decide that Uncle Conrad and Aunt Ginny aren’t really dead at all, just among us in a different form. After all, as Celia (Marlene Forte) says, since her son wasn’t shot in the head, he’ll find his way back home eventually.
I have to give a lot of credit to Kate Dennis, director of tonight’s episode. She took a pretty standard apocalypse trope—suicide by poison of a whole group—and found a way to make it interesting. As it turns out, it wasn’t suicide; the whole group was murdered by Celia’s poisoned communion wafers. They were hunting down the zombies and killing them, like they were monsters. Of course, to us, they are monsters, but to Celia, they’re friends and family. And the people she killed, well… they were going to be coming back, but Strand and the rest of the Love Boat crew showed up and bludgeoned, axed, knifed, and crowbarred them all to death. Err, redeath. The staging of the scene was very well done; the use of the choir of creepy children as background music, the sermon of the priest as he decides to bring about a call to arms, and then the slow realization that they were betrayed as, one by one, they all fall over dead. That’s a fun way to set up a surprise appearance by a bunch of zombie choir boys, and a great way to show us that Strand’s group is a little more capable than one might expect given their dysfunction.
However, the dysfunction is there, and it’s quickly becoming a problem. The Manawa-Clark family has clearly been having problems even before the world fell apart, and Brian Buckner’s script makes it clear that rather than coming together, they’re fracturing even farther apart. Nick immediately becomes friends with Celia instead of his mother, Travis and Maddie are fighting more, and Chris is either A) trying to leave Maddie to die or B) actively threatening to kill/trying to kill Alicia. Even the most capable person in the group, Salazar, is having difficulties with his past coming back to haunt him at the worst possible times.
These are all incredibly flawed people struggling through unspeakable losses, and it’s not surprising to see the group start to fray. Even Strand had to shoot his boyfriend in the head to keep him from coming back as a walker. Given that the compound is nominally controlled by Celia, I can’t help but wonder how this is going to play out. Chris is proving to be dangerous, like a cross between Shane and Carl’s psycho killer phase, Nick’s drinking the Kool-Aid of Celia’s cooking, and Travis and Maddie have gone from a couple to a “she’s my daughter, he’s your son” situation. Gone is the Maddie who wanted everyone to stick together, who needed Travis on her side. Now she’s looking out for her daughter against his son, and not offering Travis as much help as Travis gave her every time Nick did something underhanded and dope-fiendy. I can’t help but think these divisions are going to make it hard on the group, especially when their host wants to keep the walkers in the basement.
The only question is, who is going to be the Shane willing to throw open the barn door and start shooting down rotters to prove a point to Celia and the rest of the people on the compound that the only good zombie is a dead zombie? Nick was of a good choice, but he’s on Celia’s side it seems. Chris is too busy trying to stick a knife in his stepsister’s back. Travis and Maddie are squabbling. It seems as though only Strand has the guts to do what needs to be done, and I can only imagine what he’ll do when he figures out that Celia’s been feeding dogs to walkers in the basement.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Captive, here.