This review contains spoilers.
Everyone has something interesting to do in Teotwawki (short for The End of the World as We Know It); and it looks as though Fear The Walking Dead is narrowing its focus (for now) to the Clarks—how they come together, stay together, and measure up against their more seasoned counterparts, the Ottos. The latter may be fully prepared for the TE part of Teotwawki but the Clark family was caught unawares at world’s end, struggling daily for survival. So is it any wonder that the relative safety of the ranch holds such appeal for Madison? Losing Travis has caused her to rethink her priorities, though Nick and Alicia are a bit removed from her thinking in this regard. After all, they have their own set of concerns.
For Nick, he’s rightfully worried about Luciana’s safety. Her admission into the ranch in last week’s “The New Frontier” led to an unexpected standoff at the gate. Citing her injuries is convenient enough for Troy to put her down. But the reality here wasn’t her injuries, it’s that she’s Mexican. No, this was never explicitly stated by anyone, but if you recall the infomercial that opens Teotwawki, father Jeremiah’s voiceover somberly intones, “Cities are overrun with foreign nationals.” This sentiment is paired with footage of people climbing fences and packed into an overcrowded boat. Immigrants and refugees—in addition to a host of other ills, like capitalism and drugs—these are the things that are bringing the country low, at least in Jeremiah’s eyes. Hence the hawking of forward-thinking survival buckets (pocket constitution included) and the existence of Broke Jar Ranch itself.
We quickly learn that brothers Jake and Troy are products of the ranch, having grown up not knowing much of the world beyond the ranch’s borders. They may be prepared for the fall of society, but they are not well-versed in the daily realities of said society. This has had a more adverse impact on Troy, whom Jeremiah believes truly came into his own after TE. Now, as leader of the ranch’s militia, he’s useful, and important. (Chris believed he was well-suited for the apocalypse, too—and look at what happened to him.) And, as we know, Troy’s responsible for killing innocents in the name of so-called research.
When Madison looks at Troy, however, she sees a case of arrested development, someone without the steadying hand of maternal influence, a young boy who once upon a time retreated from domestic instability into his own dangerous thoughts. Which is why we see Madison playing up her motherly instincts—whether it’s telling Troy to make the bed or even just placing a napkin in his lap at mealtime. It feels wrong because it is wrong—she’s mothering him not out of love, but as a sort of con. She doesn’t trust or like him, so she’s playing him. She’s not doing this to be cruel; rather, she’s doing this to ensure her family’s survival at the ranch. Even if it means volunteering Alicia for teen bible study.
This is truly where the episode gets interesting. Not only is bible study anything but, we’re also introduced to an interesting variation on the Governor’s head-filled aquariums on The Walking Dead. Of course, I’m talking about Geoff (or Geoff-the-Head, as he’s billed in the closing credits). Geoff isn’t your average zombie, in the sense that he’s a zombie head kept by a bunch of stoner teens in a birdcage. Like Troy, many of these kids have been sheltered from the real world, especially since the zombie outbreak. They’re full of questions for Alicia, who’s cool in the way new kids generally are. For once, she’s enjoying herself in a way we’ve never seen before—laughing and acting her age.
But things turn serious when she confesses to having killed someone. When asked how it feels to kill a man, Alicia’s response is chilling: “Easy,” she replies without missing a beat. And I guess that’s the bigger issue for Alicia—not the murder itself, but the ease in which killing came to her—it was instinctual, after all. She was trying to save Travis. And in the end, to her mind, surviving in this fashion is a fate worse than living death.
As for Madison, she spends much of the episode insulting her hosts. Fear’s writers understand she’s a prickly presence, that she’s abrasive—and this is amped up in Teotwawki. Her coarseness is presented as an asset here, as a strength. Even though I like her more this season than last, I do find that Madison is pushing her luck with Jeremiah and his sons. Jeremiah strikes me as patient—overly so, but everyone has their limits. Still, he takes the time to show Madison the bunker below his home. The bunker holds Chekhov’s gun to the nth degree. So how likely is it that the Clarks will eventually use said armory to wrest control of the ranch from Jeremiah? (I’m thinking pretty damn likely.)
Just a few closing thoughts.
– Strand has a way of getting himself into pickles, doesn’t he? Dante may seem like an old friend—even an ally, but Strand learns the hard way that old grudges don’t just die hard, they come back from the dead. The mistakes of the old world, the selfishness and the greed and the pride are not so easily forgotten. Dante isn’t loyal to Strand, but he was loyal to Thomas.
– Unlike Colman Domingo, Danay Garcia still hasn’t had much to do this season. Right now, she exists more as a plot device than a fully fledged character. A shame, given how much agency she had last season. Hopefully she’ll have more to do this season, assuming she doesn’t get killed. To wit, Troy’s response to her condition? Not that she’s on the mend or much improved. No, Troy simply states Luciana is “still alive,” which sounds more like a threat than a diagnosis.
– It’s good to see Rubén Blades’s Daniel again—and I’m curious to learn what he’s been up to since burning down the vineyard in season two. And, hell, if he survived—does that mean Celia survived, too?