There is no greater sign things are about to go horrifically wrong in a zombie-genre piece than when it opens on children and this episode of Fear the Walking Dead opens on a bunch of them. Choir boys and little girls in pretty dresses all going to church and taking communion along with a priest and small handful of other adults before they all grab weapons and prepare for war. They don’t seem to be gearing up just to fight the undead, but instead they’re after a certain woman, Celia, because of what she’s done. Just as they’re ready a truck flies up and Strand’s lover, Thomas, gets out to beg them not to do what they’re about to do. …Then everyone but Thomas starts bleeding from the eyes.
Back on the Abigail Travis tries to have a heart-to-heart with Chris over everyone’s suspicions that he killed Reed when he didn’t have to, name dropping Madison specifically as having these suspicions. Even in the best of times this seems a pretty unwise move on Travis’ part given he wants the two sides of this big family to be a cohesive unit. Family (un)bonding time is interrupted when the Mexican border patrol starts to approach and everyone except Strand and Luis are forced to hide in the engine room.
Daniel translates the basics of the exchange between the two sides before things escalate into a firefight and the patrol men and Luis end up sprawled across the deck, all with mortal wounds. When asked what happened Strand merely states that someone said asshole in Spanish so, clearly, never call anyone an asshole in Spanish at the border. They continue on to Mexico as Daniel goes to work putting the men down lest they return. Only when he gets to Luis do Ofelia and Nick beg him to let the still-speaking man get out his last wishes before dying of his own volition. Luis’ requests include something to the effect of telling his mother that he loves her and giving her a small trinket with the face of an owl. Ofelia and Nick are confused, but agree, while Daniel seems to understand its meaning and promptly tosses the thing in the ocean. Hate to say it, but Daniel’s a bit of a pendejo (asshole in Spanish) on that one.
The group hits dry land and are almost immediately sieged by the now Infected townspeople with the bleeding eyes who, very conveniently, left their weapons in a neat pile to grab up and kill them all with. Not that immediate access to weaponry means immediate victory on the part of the group. Nick nearly ends up in tears at having to crack open the skull of a little Infected girl and Daniel starts having flashbacks of his hands around some other child’s throat while fending off an Infected choir boy so that Ofelia has to kill the kid to save her father. Madison is somehow overrun by one, falling back as the Infected jumps her so that she too needs to be saved by her daughter. More interesting, and troubling, though is that Chris sees Madison overrun and simply watches with a “just let it happen” look akin to Shane watching Rick struggle with a Walker…and Alicia sees it all. In the midst of this Strand, finding Thomas’ truck still by the church, is left in desperate search for him with no results.
They reach the villa and find it in good standing as Luis’ mother and Thomas’ longtime caretaker (of the grounds and himself), Celia herself, greets them with warm smiles and kind words before offering food. Another housekeeper requests they turn in all their weapons and my mind goes to every single time this has ended terribly in The Walking Dead…Still, even Daniel gives up his blade and gun in favor of some kind of locational stability and safety.
Alicia immediately returns to doing her teen thing by sitting on a couch, covered in blankets, mindlessly watching TV. But you know what? I’m gonna let her have this one. After all the craziness she’s been through vegging out wrapped in blankets is probably just what she needs to decompress and what a lot of people would do. Of course her attempts at relaxation are short lived when Chris comes in and she confronts him on not helping Maddison during the Infected Townspeople attack. Things get tense quick as Chris states that she can’t tell and he doesn’t want to hurt anybody in a tone that says he’s totally ready to hurt anyone he has to in order to keep what he did (or didn’t do) quiet. Naturally, this scares Alicia and she promptly tells Madison who in turn tells Travis, who doesn’t seem to get Chris’ new tendency to threaten and kill (directly or indirectly) isn’t the same as Nick’s pre-apocalypse addiction. Needless to say this Brady Bunch is unravelling fast.
What’s left of the Salazar family is holding up only mildly better. Ofelia’s appetite has returned, which apparently means her infection’s cleared, but Daniel’s appetite and mind are both on a downturn. Not only will he not eat, but he’s begun talking to his dead wife on top of hearing and seeing things that aren’t there. Ofelia is understandably worried and turns to praying at a tree with the same creepy owl symbol carved into it that Luis had on his trinket. (Do owls symbolize death in Mexico?) In effort to keep his demons at bay Daniel pokes around the villa looking for something dangerous. On the plus he’s not crazy to think something’s wrong as he ends up finding a whole basement full of Infected.
Meanwhile Strand finally reunites with Thomas only to find the man dying of an Infected’s bite. Their reuniting and story from then on is probably the most compelling aspect of the whole episode (for me anyway). Strand finally drops his guard completely and is, honestly, sweet. He’s emotional, he’s gentle, he cares for Thomas in every way he can, and it’s all genuine. As Thomas struggles to stay alive Strand tells him it’s okay to let go and that he will join him because, with Thomas gone, he’s got nothing to live for anyway. Thomas seems to find the gesture touching, but not what he wants for Strand. In fact, Thomas even asks Maddison to watch after Strand when he’s gone, to which Madison agrees. Who is pro-Strand’s romantic gesture of suicide is Celia, but she’s keeping Infected in a basement and the entire town wanted to kill her so she’s not really a voice of reason anyone should be listening to.
The episode ends with tensions pretty high. Daniel confronts Celia about poisoning the town and she’s creepily chill about it, which lets you know she’s not done killing. Chris sneaks into Madison and Alicia’s room and picks up a knife before a gunshot’s heard, startling him and waking the ladies. Both Madison and Alicia start screaming at him and he bolts. The gunshot, we find out, is Strand putting Thomas down permanently before leaving the room without partaking in Celia’s suicide wafer. (Yay, Strand lives!)
“Sicut cervus” means “like a deer”, which could sum up the main characters on the show…poor little deer in the headlights of the apocalypse. For this episode it probably refers more to Psalm 41:2 which says (translated): “As the deer long for the springs of water, so my soul longs for you, oh God.” Many of the characters this episode long for something desperately – Nick for an end to the killing, Ofelia for her father’s return to mental health, Travis for a cohesive family, Chris for understanding and acceptance, Strand for a life with Thomas – though it seems the longing continues or ends tragically for all.
I can’t tell if Celia is diabolical, crazy, or just ignorant a’la Hershel Greene. The last option seems unlikely since Hershel never killed anyone he put in the barn; they were people who got infected on their own and he either knew or found that way. Celia, on the other hand, is actively killing people to turn them into Infected/Walkers. That she’s only too happy to make Infected, but doesn’t seem to be overly hands-on once they turn – it’s left to the boy to care and feed them (that was a tiny animal, not a baby, right?!) – I’m leaning towards diabolical. Maybe she’s always been the murderous type or sees it as a way to having a villa to herself in the apocalypse, but feels the need for a belief system to justify the murders to herself and others? Whatever it is, I’m interested to see how it shakes out and then want her to die because she’s not remotely safe to have around.
Speaking of unsafe to have around…Chris is going full Shane. Never go full Shane, Chris. No matter how much more interesting you are, it never ends well when you go full Shane.
Is Nick seriously buying Celia’s “they’re not dead…they’re the next step” statement? I know he wants a way past the killing and stating Infected aren’t dead (thus don’t have to be re-killed) is a way to get there, but he strikes me as smarter than that. Sometimes he seems naive, even childlike, but he’s always shown himself to be a far quicker and better read of people and situations than he first appears. Yet, in next week’s promo, he seems to be drinking every last drop of Celia’s Kool-aid, which makes me worry he might also be up for eating some suicide wafers…
(Translation of “sicut cervus” and the Psalm as a whole found here.)