We’ll Leave A Light On For Ya’

Maddie pioneers a whole new way to choose Nick over Alicia, Strand takes one for the team, and we finally get at least a hint of the Ofelia-centric episode I’ve been writing all those letters to the producers about. All this and five other things happen in…

Fear the Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 12: “Pillar of Salt”

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Life in the Grand Rosarito Hotel is like life anywhere. It’s all fun and games ’til your former yacht mate gets stabbed by the angry mother of the dead bride-turned-zombie whose skull he shoved a screwdriver through the night before. That old chestnut. Strand learns this lesson the hard way when Eileen decides to go Norman Bates on his gut with that missing kitchen knife from The Night Of.

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Madison has the blade-wielding mom thrown in Hotel Jail and threatens anyone else having stabby thoughts with the same punishment. She then takes fast charge, formulating a Save Strand campaign that is light on celebrity-packed benefits but heavy on listing things that former med school attendee and recently widowed Andres can help to gather on yet another goddamn supply run (these characters spend more time shopping than the LOST characters spent running back and forth through that old whispery jungle). Elena suggests going to see  a gang of outlaws that her other nephews ran off with at the onset of the apocalypse. Turns out, they run a delightful little mom & pop shop just a few miles up the road.

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When Maddy & Elena make the run (with leftover wedding reception fish in hand to barter with), they overhear the outlaws speaking of a ratty-haired gringo who deals drugs and quotes Taking Back Sunday lyrics. Madison knows right away that they’re describing either Robert Smith of the Cure or her sweet little Nicky who wouldn’t hurt nobody, ya hear me? Nobody! And per usual, when it comes to Nick, Maddie immediately loses her fucking mind. She storms the meeting of the Benevolent Order of the Zombiepocalypse Banditos demanding to know where this disgustingly-coiffed lad may be found. As banditos are wont to do, though, they don’t say nothin’ about nothin’, leaving Maddie to wonder; never knowing for sure if the rotten apple of her eye is indeed lingering and whining about his place in the world someplace nearby.

Meanwhile Strand bleeds to death…probably, I’m not sure, I got kind of bored by episode’s end. He’s…no, he’s probably okay, though. I’m sure he’s fine.

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Nick, in his snore-inducing story line, has a lot of conversations about…stuff…and things. I think, if the random bits of dialog from these scenes that managed to pierce my hazy wall of sleep are to be believed, that Nick is determined to make his planned drug run despite the fact that Alejandro has decided to invoke the Berlin Wall privilege of his dictatorship by locking the Colonia down. Much to Nick’s chagrin, his new flame, Luciana, sides with her best friend Alejandro. So Nick smacks her around and says no damn dirty woman tells Nick Clarke what to do! Or not. Probably not. He probably just pouts, shouts a line from “Disintegration” at her, and runs off in a huff to make his drug deal anyway.

And, proving that there is so a God, we finally catch up with the lovely and now independent survivor Ofelia as she journeys up the Mexican highway toward the U.S. border and down memory lane recalling the time she was engaged, but gave her romance up to take care of her parents. And wouldn’t you know it? Old ‘Felia’s a romantic at heart, making her way back to her former fiancé’s last known whereabouts. After all her talk with Alicia about having no hope, Ofelia appears to have changed her tune and plans to fight her way, tooth and nail, back to her long-lost love. Even though he is likely staggering around the greater Albuquerque area like Walter White after a visit to a local skinhead hangout.

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In the end, as Ofelia heads North and Nick prepares to make his Oxy delivery, Madison and Elena return to the hotel where Madison turns on the gimongous light atop the building in hopes of drawing in Nick, as well as every murderous scumbag in a fifty mile radius. But mostly Nick. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Alicia, who was just beginning to enjoy the spoils of being an only child but who now sees her mother once again losing her cool and good sense at even the slightest whiff of her prodigal junkie being back in the mix.

It does, in the end, draw the attention of Travis (who appears to be alone). We can only assume at this point that things on the road with Chris deteriorated even further after the shooting of the farmer in the barn and that Travis is looking for a return to the company of a saner group of human beings. It’s a nice reminder at episode’s end that a recurring theme in the WD universe is that no matter how lost in the dark one gets, there’s always the possibility – the hope, the sliver of a chance that if you keep going – there may be a light; a beacon of humanity just over the next hill. Or the one after that.

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The Best Bits

The Walking Contradiction That is Madison

Madison’s story packed the most wallop this week, and she continued the streak of positively Grimes-ish maneuvers beginning when she locked old Cecelia in that jail cell full of Infected. When Strand is treated to the business end of Mommy Dearest’s Pampered Chef letter opener, Maddie takes decisive action and asserts her leadership position. Her experience as a high school guidance counselor clearly has prepared her well for the role of crisis manager in a world gone mad, but as quick to make decisions as she is when it is needed, she is also just as quick to bad decisions.

First she drives a van with the hotel logo stenciled large as life on the damn side of the vehicle to the hideout of a gang of thieves, advertising for all to see that she and her group and all their fresh fish are located in a virtual palace that is being run by a woman who would drive the van with the logo on it right the hell up to the front door of a hideout for a gang of thieves! Then she risks she Elena’s and her life by charging at the bad guys (who are in the middle of demanding to know where one of the Colonia member’s home base is) just on the off-chance this ratty-haired boy being mentioned is Nick. Okay I’ll admit, there’s no one else that description could possibly fit, but still.  The capper, of course, of her dunder-headedness is that she turns that huge, bright sign atop the hotel on, which might as well say in glaring neon fire “bring us your huddled masses, your poor, your murderous, your pillagers, your yearning to call themselves a “Governor”-types. She also, in her heated fit of Nick-mania, also appears to have forgotten that she actually has another kid who may not benefit from Madison inviting every Tom, Dick, and Serial Killer in Tijuana to their unprotected sanctuary.

I was just starting to like Maddie without Travis and Nick around, and it’s frustrating to see her backslide so quickly into old habits at the mere mention of the kid who chose not to be with her any longer. Especially when it’s at the emotional and physical expense of the kid who chose to stay.

Baby’s Got Backstory

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As much as I loved seeing Ofelia get a story line of her own that didn’t involve crying, getting shot, or healing from a bullet wound, and as much as I appreciated her character having solo screen time (not to mention giving Mercedes Mason some actual acting to contend with), I am never too pleased with the show’s use of flashbacks. Unlike LOST, where flashbacks were used to create ironic contrast with the present day Island story and to add layers of motive and meaning to the characters, FTWD’s use of the form is a less-than-perfunctory time fill where we generally see things we’ve already been told about in prior conversations, and that often have very little to do with the rest of the episode. On Fear, the flashbacks are…just kind of there. Only the Strand-centric episode in the first half of the season made good use of the past revelations narrative and wove them into the main plot in a way that didn’t seem clunky and contrived. But, if the producers want to give us more Ofelia and a more heroic Ofelia looking to become who she really is on her own in a world on fire, I’ll take it any way I can get it.

Fuck Shirts!

First of all, Nick does not seem to know how to dress himself when Madison’s not around. He had some major shirt issues in the pilot episode (when he ran away from home), and in this week’s episode he is also stuffed into a shirt in the most awkward way possible. Look at a YouTube video for chrissakes, kid. It’s not that hard.

And in other shirt-related news, I enjoyed the shriek that came out of Strand when his shirt was ripped open in the process of treating his stab wound. I especially liked that he sounded more pained about the loss of his buttons than he did when actually stabbed. To be fair, though, that shirt was fetch.

So About the Whole ‘Covered in Blood & Guts’ Trick

So apparently everybody everywhere eventually figures out the thing where being covered in Infected innards allows you to move freely among them. So…why doesn’t everyone just stay covered in that gunk, like, twenty-four-seven? Yes, it’s unpleasant and smells icky, but it can’t be more unpleasant than living in constant fear or actually being, you know, chewed on.

I’m Goin’ Surfin’

The hotel apparently still offers surf lessons to its guests. I hope this means the show is moving toward a more Surf Nazis Must Die kind of aesthetic and that we’ll someday see an episode directed by John Carpenter where Alicia surfs monster waves while fighting seaworthy Walkers with a rifle and crossbow.

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