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Fear the Walking Dead 3.04 Review – ‘100’

June 18, 2017 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
7.5
The 411 Rating
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Fear the Walking Dead 3.04 Review – ‘100’  

This week on Fear the Walking Dead, it’s the Daniel Salazar show! As we learn what happened to the man since we last saw him in Season 2, Episode 7 “Shiva”, the theme of regression that we saw in the Clarks last week continues…but only up to a point! And while this episode has some of the deus ex machina that we largely left behind in the first season and a half, it nonetheless comes to a satisfying conclusion.

The plot! After somehow escaping Celia’s ranch, Daniel limped his way to Tijuana, where he was nearly killed by Infected yet again, but was yet again saved. This time, his new friend is a man named Efrain, a scavenger in the city who says a prayer of forgiveness over the Infected before driving a nail into their heads to kill them. He brings Daniel to water (which comes every Tuesday at 5 PM) and then to a woman named Lola who can help save his leg. It’s painful, but she does save it, and Daniel spends the next while staying with Efrain and healing. After confessing to the man he’s killed exactly 96 people, Daniel is saved from a suicide by Infected attempt by a lightning strike of all things. He ends up washing up at the dam and finds out that Lola runs the pipes and is in charge of keeping the water clean here, and that Dante is very strict with how he gives water to the people. Upon finding out about Daniel’s dark past, Dante makes him part of the security team, specifically tasking him with finding out who’s stealing his water in the town. When the security goons take him to the site of the fountain leak, at the appointed time, Daniel turns in Efrain. He tells Lola he’s trying to protect her, but she thinks he’s sold out. Then Strand arrives, but Daniel doesn’t believe him that Ofelia is alive and nearby. Daniel is told to torture Efrain to get a confession from him, but Lola blows her own cover by stopping him. But when Dante, his goons, and Daniel bring the water thieves and Strand to the dam to kill them, Daniel turns the table by killing Dante and the goons instead. He gives the gun to Lola and kneels before her, asking for forgiveness…and instead of killing him, she takes his hand.

For the most part, I enjoyed Daniel’s return and his personal journey, so I’ll get the things I didn’t like out of the way first. This episode had a few instances of an annoying trait I was happy to leave behind in the first season and a half of the show: where things are remarkably easy and convenient luck saves the protagonists basically just because they’re the protagonists. In this case, Daniel’s recurring lack of dying when he really should. Now, I know that the show was going for showing how Daniel is a survivor and the idea that the world itself isn’t letting him die, as though it’s trying to show him he has something to live for despite that he continues to believe he has nothing and does not deserve to live. But a few of these instances were too hokey or too convenient for me. Specifically, I’m disappointed that we only got a vague retelling of how Daniel escaped the fire. He was in an impossible to survive situation when we last saw him, and the show just kind of lamely handwaves that away. And then there was the lightning strike Infected. I mean…look, in theory, it’s a cool idea, but in practice? It’s just too cheesy and a literal deus ex machina that I could’ve done without.

Okay, that’s out of the way, on to the good! The real story here is Daniel’s search for death and forgiveness, how the former is constantly denied him and the latter never feels earned to him. Efrain and Lola, and their friends, risk their lives more than once to help Daniel, which is more than he believes he deserves. They show him kindness, mercy, and good will. Efrain even shows the kind of grace and faith through his actions that brings Daniel to believe here, maybe, is someone who can finally give him the absolution he craves. He even asks him if he used to be a priest. But while Efrain may be a bit of a drunk, he’s wise enough to know that such is not for him to give; his answer to Daniel is that there is no one left alive who can judge him.

Dante lets us see his dark side more starkly than we ever have before. Now we know that Daniel was a member of “Sombra Negra”, or “The Dark Shadow,” in El Salvador and supposedly trained by the CIA to kill communists. I did a brief Wikipedia search, and yikes, those guys don’t sound like anyone I would want to have run into. Suffice to say that in addition to killing 96 people, Daniel did some truly messed up stuff. Getting a look at Daniel as that cold, calculating, and dangerous person was interesting, since we haven’t truly gone there with him before now. Speaking of, the title of the episode “100”, did immediately make me curious how we would get the next four on his count when he told Efrain how many people he had killed, so, kudos to the writers on setting up that mystery via episode title!

Finally, Lola represents a very different angle of the forgiveness Daniel seeks. After telling Efrain that he is now haunted not as much by the 96 deaths that are on his hands but by the fact that he may have unintentionally killed his own daughter in the fire he started, Lola quickly becomes a sort of surrogate for Ofelia. When Daniel ends up at the dam with her help, yet again, and his lie becomes a part of her cover story, protecting her becomes very important to him. The way he talks to her later about how he had to turn in Efrain in order to protect her felt to me very similar to how he talked to Efrain about Ofelia, how he didn’t tell her about his past in order to protect her from that. Later on, on the edge of the dam, it’s when Daniel is tasked with killing Lola that he finally stops and finally turns on Dante.

I love that it’s unclear if Daniel always planned to turn on Dante at this point, or at all, or if he only came to that decision in that moment because of Lola and because the opportunity presented itself. I tend to think he didn’t know he would until that moment, personally, since he let Pablito die, he’d tried to kill Efrain earlier, and he’d told Lola in no uncertain terms that if she was found out, he couldn’t help her. I was expecting that at this point, Strand might yell out something about Ofelia, something true, and that would be what changed his mind. Or, if not, that this would be the end of either Strand or Daniel! We had a sudden death with Travis, after all, so why not one of them? Instead, Strand never brings up the truth about Ofelia, not even when Daniel is on his knees and gives Lola the gun and asks for her forgiveness. But that moment was rather beautiful, both visually and in terms of the conclusion to this chapter in Daniel’s story. The hand she holds out to him is symbolically lovely, and I think it reminds us that Ofelia is, in truth, the only one who can truly absolve Daniel.

I’m excited to see the next stage of Daniel’s journey, and also to see he and Strand paired up–those two are so vastly different from one another, it can’t be anything but interesting to watch them work together! And of course, to see what reunion comes next for the show. Who will be reunited next? And when? Where will Strand and Daniel go from here? What did you think of the episode? Let’s hear it in the comments!

7.5
The final score: review Good
The 411
Once again, Daniel Salazar -- and actor Ruben Blades -- makes for some of the best stuff in Fear the Walking Dead. His character is still fascinating, complex, a badass, and constantly evolving. While I was disappointed that we didn't see how he escaped the fire for ourselves, and a little annoyed that many of his near-death-saves were so contrived (seriously, a lightning bolt to the walker?), when the story got away from those things, it was a great episode. The best parts were when it focused on the character and how he was trying to find forgiveness for his wrongs, especially to his daughter. The contrived plot devices are beneath the show at this point; FTWD has shown it can rise above those and that it doesn't need to rely on them to create a compelling story, so the episode loses a little off the score for that.
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