Make Peace with Your Dead
To quote Bill Murray from Zombieland Ed Wood: “May-hee-co…was…a disaster.” Nick finds religion, Salazar finds Herschel’s barn full of walkers, and Alicia finds out that Chris has turned into the world’s worst passive-aggressive teen-age grudge-holder since Kylo Ren. All this and plenty more happened in…
Fear the Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 6, Sicut Cervus
Darkness falls over the group’s mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being as they finally cross the border into Mexico. Once they reach Hershel’s Abigail’s Farm, they finally have a chance to rest and feel secure for the first time since the outbreak of the infection. Their first opportunity to stop running, though, as is usually the case, gives them the unfortunate luxury of ruminating on what they’ve been through and all they’ve done. Under the weight of this contemplation, the group’s men, in particular, begin to lose themselves in confusion and despair.
Given the existential nature of the cloud engulfing the group, it’s no shock that religion looms large in the episode’s thematic preoccupations. Men who are lost in a hostile wilderness tend to do the one thing even more dangerous than battling their surroundings; they go looking for meaning. As in life, in the zombiepocalypse, religion can appear an illuminating light in a relentless darkness. And that light turns easily combustible, lending itself in a heartbeat to waste laying fire. For our characters, the possibility of the latter is strong indeed.
Upon arriving in Baja, the group’s pilgrimage nearly complete, they encounter the aftermath of a church house slaughter worthy of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. In dealing with said aftermath, Chris nearly lets Madison die as payback for not believing his bullshit cover story for the cold-blooded murder he dished out to Reed on the yacht. Maddie comforted Chris in the moments after he pulled the trigger and lied about why, but he feels betrayed when he realizes she doubted his alibi to Travis. So, when he sees Maddie besieged by a toppling walker, he freezes up, content, it seems, to stand by and watch her die, and Alicia witnesses his nearly lethal apathy. Things only get worse for the lad from there.
Once on the farm (the haven of Thomas Abigail), Strand discovers that Thomas has been bitten and is dying of the infection. The rest of the group, meanwhile, becomes acquainted with Celia, mother of the fallen Luis, mother figure to the charming Mr. Abigail, and Madonna figure to the entire Branch Davidians Compound Abigail Farm Community.
This is when the fellas start to lose it. Daniel, who was already hearing errant voices on the yacht, now seems to be having full conversations with dead wives or eight-foot tall rabbits or the ghost of Tyler Durden. In any case, somebody who ain’t exactly there. With the immediacy of fighting to survive settled for the time being, the former black ops agent, haunted by past sins both recent and from another life, finds himself searching.
What’s happening to Chris is maybe not what it appears to be. Yes, he freaked out a little when Travis told him Maddie had questioned his cover story, and yes, he subsequently stood by while a particularly pushy walker was fixing to make her his lunch…but the boy is only a few days into having lost his mother (the only constant in his life) along with the rest of civilization, and now he feels that this surrogate mother, who was so quick to comfort and protect him after the Reed incident, has betrayed his feelings. And I don’t know if you know any teenage boys, but betraying their feelings is not something you never hear about again. What’s even more ambiguous is his reason, after several tense altercations with Alicia, for sneaking into the room where she and Maddie are sleeping and picking up a knife from the night stand before being caught looming. In that scene, he doesn’t appear angry or distraught, and he does try to awaken Alicia before grabbing the knife. My theory is that he’s in a very tumultuous defense mode and took the knife for fear Maddie may use it to drive him away before he can talk out all this Psycho Boy nonsense with his step-sis. I don’t believe Chris has truly gone to that dark, murderous place. I think he’s angry, growing paranoid and isolated, and like Nick and Salazar, he’s searching for some kind of salvation and is increasingly alarmed at his inability to find it. Is he really just the repeated victim of a series of unfortunate misunderstandings, though or is he actually transforming, giving into hate and fear, and slowly morphing into the man-boy who will become Darth Hoodie.
Nick, too, as I mentioned, is on that search as well. Tired of the killing and non-stop violence, Nick is looking for a chance to rest, reboot, and rethink this new planet. As a consequence, he begins shying away from the group, the family, and the need for clubbing little girl zombies in the head. Even his developing connection with Ofelia is not enough to distract him from being distracted by the awfulness of what his life has become.
Nick’s salvation, at the moment, seems to lie in Celia. Like most religious leaders or cult leaders, she possesses an air of having things figured out, a calmness in a storm of chaos and uncertainty. Her belief that the Walking Dead are simply some new development in human spiritual evolution gives Nick hope, and her ability to relate to him and to soothe his aching chi has the potential to pull him closer to her and even farther from his hard fighting family. But in the end, Nick may choose that glimmer of hope over everything and everyone else, because without it, nothing else may be worth saving anyway.
In the end, our lost men find reasons to go on. Daniel discovers Celia’s cellar full of walkers, and this I believe will give him the purpose that he seemed to lose the second the group hit the Farm and had their weapons taken away. Strand, after finally losing his lover to the sickness, seems to find a reason to live in the prospect of taking on Celia and her control of the Farm. And Nick, again, may have found the rebooting he so desperately needed in Celia’s Santeria.
So is religion and spirituality the answer in a world where the dead roam the earth and humanity is wearing its worst traits on its sleeve? Will Jesus save the group and deliver them to safety and security as one big, happy family? Only time will tell, but ultimately, maybe it’s the next best thing to having Rick Grimes on your side.
The Best Bits
Strand by your man
The story of Strand taking care of the ailing Thomas is a tender affair and one of the most genuinely emotional moments in the series. It also gives Maddie a chance to see Strand, for the first time, as a fully fleshed out human being, which bodes well for the bond that is already developing between the two headstrong heroes.
Strand’s promise to Thomas to join him in the cellar may have been the ultimate con, but he did it to ease Thomas’ suffering and to allow him to let go and end his suffering. In the world of the Walking Dead, that’s about as sweet a pillow talk as you’re likely to get.
All the best cults ply you with pozole
We’ve all heard that old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Well, the way to an end-of-the-world survivor’s heart is apparently…also…through his or her stomach. In the Kirkman-verse, any recruiting cult leader worth their cyanide kool-aid knows that all the stump speechifying in the world isn’t an nth as effective as a juicy steak, a hot bowl of spicy pozole, or a perfectly barbequed leg of Bob. Come for the food, stay for the insanity.
Stay Away from My Son
Madison has to show up at least once a week and tell someone or other to stay away from her little Nicky. I imagine the writers getting real lazy about this and by season ten having her just pop her head randomly into other characters’ scenes to yell “and PS, stay away from my son.”
I Am the Arm
How frustrating is it to watch Abigail dying of a bite to an extremity when we know from the Walking Dead that hacking that arm the hell off (STAT!) could have saved him?
Ofelia, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, Ofelia
Even stabbing an altar boy in the head with a broken fence post, Ofelia looks sweeter than molasses on a sugar cookie stuffed with a Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Pie.
Worst Make a Wish Foundation chapter ever
Never trust Strand or Salizar with your dying wish. In an episode occupied with talking to the dead, Sally and Strand (that’s what I’d call their buddy cop show) do a piss poor job of listening to the living. Strand famously renegs on his “let’s be zombies together!” suicide pact with Thomas, and Salizar takes the Owl emblazoned coin that a dying Luis asks him to give to his mother and totally Heart-of-the-Oceans it right into the Pacific. Like so many lost men before him, Daniel, before he can be found, has to get even further away from the connections of the spiritual and the sentimental. Also, Daniel apparently dislikes owls more than a Death Eater at an aviary.
Oh yeah, and Luis got shot and killed.