Fear The Walking Dead – Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame
By: Tara Donahue
After last week’s incredible Daniel-centric episode, this week’s was yet another outstanding one. This season is proving to be the strongest season of “Fear the Walking Dead” yet. I’m among the minority, I think, that feels like this show has always been strong. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching their journey. I never felt it was lacking anything. I’ve been there, watching live, since the pilot and I will remain there until the final episode.
It’s dark at Broke Jaw Ranch as we visit the home of Russell (Worth Howe) and Martha (Heather Wynters) Brown. Russell is awakened by the sound of his wife knocking things over in the kitchen. Martha has died in her sleep and now she’s a walker. Russell is clearly heartbroken and pulls her into a hug. She tries to chew on him, but her teeth are in a cup next to the bed. He pulls out a gun, pulling her close, heads together. They share one last, albeit awkward, dance before he pulls the trigger. As they fall, they knock over a lantern and their home begins to go up in flames.
The ranch residents all rush to help, including the Clarks (sans Alicia, who’s at yet another late night Bible study). Jake (Sam Underwood) is leading the charge, trying to save them and the house, but it’s a lost cause. Jeremiah (Dayton Callie) calls it. Russell and Martha are dead and they need to save the water.
Madison (Kim Dickens) is packing up to leave. Coop (Matt Lasky) decides to question whether or not she knows what she’s doing. You’d think people would learn (just like with Rick Grimes of “The Walking Dead”) that Madison Clark always knows what she’s doing. Madison survived the wasteland without Troy, Coop or their guns. She knows what she’s doing and what she’s getting into.
Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Nick (Frank Dillane) approach, expressing their concern about Madison doing this, especially with Troy (Daniel Sharman). “The more we understand about this family, the safer we are.” Madison insists, over Troy’s obnoxious honking, before departing.
A hangover in the apocalypse is still a hangover and Alicia is in dire need of coffee. Jake knows what she’s been up to and teases her. He reaches out to touch her hand, telling her he’s glad about something he doesn’t get to finish before Alicia drops her coffee. Jake, proving once again he’s the good Otto brother, gives her his coffee and insists she needs it more than he does and departs. Gretchen (Rae Gray) fills Alicia in on how Jake was close to the elderly couple who died. It turns out Russell was one of the founding fathers, along with Jeremiah, Phil McCarthy (Rocky McMurray) and her dad Vernon (Hugo Armstrong). She invites Alicia to hang out later, but Alicia has had her fill.
Nick brings Luciana some breakfast. He’s really affected by the fire and the couple who died. Luciana felt like it was sad, but beautiful and all but she was ready to go. She can’t stay there. Nick promises he won’t make her, but it’s obvious Luciana has her doubts.
Now, we venture outside of the ranch to find the apocalypse’s answer to The Odd Couple, Daniel (Ruben Blades) and Strand (Colman Domingo), in the car. They’re heading to the hotel to find Ofelia. Silver tongued Strand managed to convince Daniel that she was still there, even though we all know Ofelia is long gone. It seems Daniel might know Strand’s lying too, but for now, he’s going along with it.
Alicia feels bad for being such a jerk to Jake and shows up at his place wanting to know what it was he was going to say earlier, before she interrupted so rudely. He’s happy she’s there. That’s what he was going to say. Alicia’s struggling, that much is obvious. She’s realizing that things are never going to be normal again and that everything that made sense, everything she’d planned for, was over. Nothing was ever going to be the same again. Jake’s concerned and wants to help. Alicia kisses him.
Troy and company find an overturned bus of prisoners turned wasted. While it’s out of the way and not on their to-do list, he still wants to deal with them. They quickly dispatch them in just under a minute. They timed it. Of course they did.
We rejoin Alicia, who’s getting dressed after her tryst with Jake. She notices his Bukowski collection and finds out that the eldest Otto brother used to write until his father steered him towards law since it was a better service for the cause. He tries to give her a copy of the book of Bukowski poems that shares its title with the episode, but Alicia’s not interested. She used to love art and poetry, but now she questions the point of it.
Nick’s finding ways to make himself useful around the ranch, including cleaning up the burned remains of the house, which he’s doing when Jeremiah finds him. He shares some of the history of the house and finds an old gun he’d given to Russell when he first moved in. He finds beauty in the weapon. Nick doesn’t share the same sentiment. But they still bond over something they do have in common; addiction.
Madison and the militia find where the helicopter went down, but it’s no longer there and there are signs of a gunfight. It’s speculated that the team may have retreated to the outpost so they go to investigate. Troy feels like Madison needs more fight and she assures him she’ll have it. Seeing where Travis died was harder than she thought. There’s no room for grief, in Troy’s mind, and he thinks she needs to let it go. She questions whether or not he grieved when his mother died or if he were to lose his father. But, to Troy, there’s no point in dwelling. When someone’s dead, they’re dead. Madison feels like it’s just a game to him, but Troy tells her it’s not a game. It’s his calling.
Strand wants to know how Daniel escaped the fire. He tells him he was spared, but doesn’t know why. Maybe it was the devil who wants him down there with Strand. He’s starting to get more suspicious and asks why he left the hotel. Upon learning that it was all to broker a deal with Dante (Jason Manuel Olazabal), Daniel comments that Strand is always out for himself. But he’s quick to argue that he’s not the same man who brought them all to Mexico. Daniel tells him that’s very fortunate for him because if he was the same man, he knows what would happen. Strand tells him if he wants to kill him to just do it, but Daniel just wants to continue their journey.
Nick’s still bonding with Jeremiah as they clean up the burned house. His father was a contractor and did the renovations on their house, teaching Nick as they went. He never got to finish it, but he could finish this and there might even be something in it for him. However, Nick knows that Luciana is ready to go. She can’t get right with what happened. Jeremiah reminds him that you have to hit rock bottom to quit your demons. He then tells a story about Troy getting locked in the basement when he was just a kid. They forgot all about him until the next day and when Jeremiah went to get him, he wasn’t even angry. He just kept apologizing. But even as awful as the elder Otto felt, it wasn’t enough to make him stop drinking. He was drunk one day, shooting deer and nearly shot his manhood off. That’s when he stopped drinking. Nick; however, has a conundrum. His mom wants to stay and his lady wants to go. But what does Nick want?
Elsewhere Madison, Troy and the others search the abandoned houses for any sign of the missing group. They find a pile of burning bodies and off in the distance we see Phil, who’s sitting alone on a rock with a crow on his shoulder. He’s reciting, in broken speech, some kind of poem. It’s a poem from the late 1800’s by William Hughes Mearns called “Antigonish” about stories of hauntings in the town of Antigonish in Nova Scotia. The crow, as we see when they get closer, is feasting on the tissue of Phil’s exposed brain. It’s obvious someone did this to him. Madison puts him out of his misery before telling the group it’s time to go.
“But you only just got here.” Came a voice from behind them. They turned to see a Native American man, aptly named Walker (Michael Greyeyes), who tells them he was defending his land. He has a history with Phil. He orders Troy and his team to drop their weapons, they’re surrounded. Madison manages to get Troy to give the order, but Walker wants it all. Guns, vehicles and supplies. Even their boots. He tells them to return to the ranch and let his people know it’s time for justice. They need to abandon the ranch and return the land. If they don’t, they’ll all meet the same fate as Phil. Madison tells him if he wants the message delivered, they’re going to need water to get back. Walker tells Madison she’s bought into a lost cause, but it became her cause when they shot down the helicopter and took someone of hers.
Jake has something to show Alicia. He takes her to a beautiful lake and tells her that just because it’s worse than they could have imagined, it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. “There are shards of light,” Jake tells her. “You just have to look for them.”
The hotel is looking bleak when Strand and Daniel arrive. The gate is open and there’s no guard. Inside it isn’t much better. It’s obvious something bad has happened here. Strand finally tells the truth about Ofelia leaving and Daniel’s anything but happy. He rings the bell, drawing the infected. “Let’s see how you get out of this one,” he says before taking off in the Jaguar and leaving Strand to deal with the zombies. How will he survive this one?
Madison and the others are struggling to walk without shoes. She wants to stop and the men are tired, but Troy thinks she’s overstepping. She tells him being a leader is knowing when to stop. Then, she pushes his buttons further by talking about how his mother was cruel and hated him. It’s obvious how much this upsets Troy by the way his voice cracks with emotion as he finally relents and allows his men to stop and rest for the night.
Troy didn’t like being undermined in front of his men. As everyone sleeps, he wakes Madison with a knife to her throat. He can’t go through with it though. And if that wasn’t creepy enough, we see that Mike (Justin Deeley) was awake and watched the interaction.
Nick who had surprised Luciana with a candlelight picnic in the house he’d been cleaning wakes to find a note she’d left for him. We see her walking. She’d said it was time to go and finally realized Nick wasn’t going to leave so she went without him.
Alicia’s standing on top of a cliff, looking down. She jumped and I swear my heart stopped as I really believed she was killing herself. It really seemed that way. But she lands in the same lake Jake had taken her to earlier. As she surfaces, she’s smiling. She’s trying to find those shards of light, but it also seems she’s starting to feel the weight of everything that’s happened.
We close as Jeremiah finds Nick, alone at the house, and presents him with the gun he’s polished up. The same gun that he presented Russell with when he welcomed them to the house.