This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 3 Episodes 9 & 10
Fear the Walking Dead began its third season with a lot of promise. The open water was left behind as the action moved farther inland into the parched Mexi-Cali region. Racial tensions were brought to the fore, and we were quickly introduced to a host of new characters and locales. For better or worse, the one constant throughout this sea change has been the Clark family. Better, if you’re a fan of Madison, Nick, and Alicia; worse, if you find these people difficult to root for. It’s interesting that Troy warns Nick that in supporting him, he may have backed the wrong horse. The same could be said of anyone who considers themselves Team Clark. Which is a shame, because up until the mid-season finale, I was a fan of the Clark children. Now, after the two-hour mid-season premiere, not so much.
As for Madison, she is a very difficult character to like, much less root for. In short, she’s a chronic meddler, constantly putting her own self-interests before that of the greater good. She never seems to suffer any consequences for her me-first attitude, but those around her continue to suffer greatly for her dangerous myopia. The more this happens, the more Fear continues to strain its credibility. For a zombie drama to truly work, it needs to be built upon a believable foundation and be stocked with sympathetic characters.
As of now, with “Minotaur” and “The Diviner,” the show is already struggling mightily on both counts. And, of course, a key ingredient for any successful zombie drama is obviously its zombies. Fear is lacking in this regard, too. The undead continue to pose less of an immediate threat to the living. The undead are less of a threat than the living, too. This is not a new concept for either of AMC’s zombie dramas. What sets Fear apart from The Walking Dead, however, is how the Clark family continues to fall upward as society continues to crumble around them. Why does the world seemingly revolve around these people? How are they able to bend others to their will with so little effort? Again, this is a credibility problem.
Relocating the entire Black Hat tribe to Broke Jaw Ranch also runs high on the unbelievability index. With tensions already running so high between the ranchers and the Nation, there’s no way this arrangement could ever work. Or to borrow from Clark family parlance, there’s no way this situation wouldn’t “go sideways.” And go sideways it does. That Jake would ever readily hand over full control of the armory to an outsider like Walker would immediately get him killed by his own people. The same goes for the ranchers handing over their guns to their perceived enemies. This essentially leaves Madison and Walker in charge of the ranch. Which begs a question that came up last season: Why are newcomers/outsiders in positions of authority? This kind of power structure is not only totally upside-down, it’s frustrating as hell to watch.
It’s the same story with Nick. What’s left of Troy’s militia turns over the ranch’s one free gun over to Nick. In their eyes, he’s a hero, but this isn’t the most convincing motivation. He’s still an outsider. I would think someone like Coop is more deserving of an undocumented firearm than Nick. Sure, Alicia calls her brother out on this, just as Troy forces Madison to check her privilege, but both mother and son seem incapable of changing their spots. And why should they? They’ve managed to survive the apocalypse this long despite (or because of) their moral blind spots.
The same could be said of Daniel and Strand, who seem to continually defy the odds even as they embrace the apocalypse’s seedy underbelly. Both are capable enough people, getting by on ruthlessness and street smarts. Luck plays a big part of their survival. Were it not for the kindness of strangers, these ne’er-do-wells might have perished long ago. Through them, though, we are introduced to new communities, like the dam and the bazaar. Bouncing between these locales helps to keep things fresh back at the ranch, but there’s not a lot of depth to either Daniel’s or Strand’s story. This is a problem, considering Fear is deep into its third season. We have six episodes left, so there’s still time for AMC to turn things around. Until then, I’m rooting for the zombies. And maybe Alicia. But mostly the undead.
Some closing thoughts:
Nick and Ofelia’s talk of guilt is a little odd, and a bit contrived, too. I can’t imagine civil discourse between these two, given that she nearly killed Nick with anthrax. Sure, he poisoned himself with drugs prior to the apocalypse, but this is different. This was attempted murder. At least, it would have been in the old world. Now, anthrax-laced coffee is just business as usual.
In a post-Jeremiah Otto world, Troy seems hell-bent on martyrdom. Nick and Madison rob him of this inglorious end, however, and now the prodigal son has been exiled from his own people. He’ll be back to cause trouble, of course, both for the Nation and for the so-called “White Witch of the Apocalypse” (an apt description for Madison if ever there was one).
And speaking of Madison, telling Alicia “You’ve always been the strong one” is a backhanded compliment. Alicia knows the score, though. Growing up, she experienced more of the tough part of her mother’s “tough love.” The apocalypse has only turned Madison’s parenting style into “tougher love,” widening the gulf between mother and daughter. Alicia has one of the mid-season’s best lines when she reminds Nick of his favored status: “What a burden it is,” she tells him, “being mom’s favorite.”
Strand has a few good lines, too. “God’s a feckless thug” is a fair sentiment if you’re caught in the middle of an apocalypse. How capricious the whims of the universe must seem, if the dead are roaming the earth. Later, he tells Madison “the whole world is lost.” It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but she needs to understand there’s more to the end of the world than Team Clark’s uncanny ability to survive it.