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Fear the Walking Dead 3.05 Review – ‘Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame’

June 25, 2017 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
6
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Fear the Walking Dead 3.05 Review – ‘Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame’  

This week in Fear the Walking Dead, everyone’s doing their own thing in their own storyline, and is it just me or did this feel like a ‘Part One of Two’ episode?

The plot: Madison, Troy, and Troy’s boys go to check on this helicopter situation, only to find the wreckage has been cleared and the outpost has been hit–everyone is dead and burned, and the only one still alive is having his brain pecked out by a crow. The Native American group, lead by a man named Walker (seriously, whose idea was it to name this character that?), who did this demands the Ottos give up the farm, which they claim is on their land. They force the group to walk back to the ranch, and on the way a little power struggle ensues between Madison and Troy. Nick is trying to decide what to do since Luciana still wants to leave but he clearly doesn’t. He helps clean up the remains of the house that burned down in the opening, bonds with Jeremiad, and tries to get Luci to stay…but she leaves him a Dear John note and makes the choice for them both. Alicia realizes her cynicism is getting the best of her, which leads her to a tryst with Jake, turning down some poetry, and finally to do some cliff-diving. And Strand slowly takes Daniel to the hotel, which has been overrun by the dead, and finally confesses the truth about Ofelia leaving them, so Daniel in turn leaves Strand on his own in the hotel.

Things were rather disjointed tonight. Thematically, only the Madison/Troy and Nick/Jeremiah storylines fit together, but the rest of it–Luciana, Alicia, Stand and Daniel–felt more like stories that needed to be told to get people where they need to be for the next beat of the larger plot. Hence, it felt like part one of a two-parter, where things don’t all fit together now, but they do feel like maybe they’ll fit together soon. Those two that did fit are the ones that interested me most, with the stand-out being the Madison/Troy story. So let’s start there!

The first part of this one was about Madison proving herself to Troy and his bros by showing she was just as smart, dangerous, and useful in a fight/in the open as they are. One fight with some walkers on the side of the road proves this, although she does nearly get chomped, and when they’re cornered in the outpost, she makes an active declaration of where her loyalties are to Walker. This half of their journey is enjoyable, I always like a kick-ass showing the boys she can hold her own, but it’s after this that things get really interesting. Bloody-footed, exhausted, and racing against a stacked clock, Madison speaks for the boys and says they should stop to rest, because there’s no way they can beat Walker’s group back to the ranch. Troy wants to push onward, but she challenges his authority outright, then further needles at his confidence when he pulls her aside. There’s something even more satisfying about the fact that the part of Madison who truly overcomes Troy isn’t her badass side, but her guidance counselor side! Not only does she pinpoint his obsession with his father (whom he called immortal earlier), always trying to earn his approval directly or indirectly and do what he believes Jeremiah would do, but also that part of it stems from the fact that his mother never returned his love, not even when he cared for her in every way as she was dying. She tells him that a good leader, one who commands respect and not just, knows when to stop and not just push on. When Troy can’t muster up much of a response, she asks the others who wants to stop to rest–they all raise their hands, and though Troy grumps about it, they do so.

In just one day, Madison has neatly begun to usurp the control he has on this group as their alpha male in residence. She’s upsetting Troy’s confidence in his own worldview, too–in the night, he lays a knife to her throat as she sleeps and with four words–“You’re better than this.”–Madison stops him. Troy’s self-worth and persona have been built around this embrace of violence and death, his off-kilter and frankly sociopathic nature. It’s been made clear that few to no people in his life have ever told him what Madison just told him, and she’s using that to her advantage. I don’t think that Madison exactly cares about Troy, at this point, so much as she cares about protecting her family and controlling the situation around her as much as she can. But I am curious if that will change, and I’m also curious how deeply these interactions are going to affect Troy going forward.

The parallel to this storyline was its reverse pairing, where Madison’s son bonded with Troy’s father back on the farm, in a decidedly non-violent setting. Nick’s conflict over what to do about the opposing wants of Luciana and his mother doesn’t interest me that much, especially since it’s conclusion here is Luciana leaving on her own and leaving me wondering what the point of Nick’s plot last season was. But while this means everyone from Colonia is gone, Nick’s search for a home that fits him does continue. The process of him trying to save the house from burning, to cleaning its walls the day after, to presenting the idea to Luciana that it could be their home, was compelling to watch. Nick hasn’t put a lot of consistent physical work into much of anything other than covering himself in Infected guts and walking around among them. I liked seeing him put the labor into this project and not just the social manipulations, it made it feel more earned and more like it fit. Jeremiah’s silent blessing by giving him the gun which he gave Russell and Martha, the previous occupants, at the end also felt nice. Not only was it a sign of Jeremiah welcoming him, but it was a nice note in their relationship; despite their differing personal points of view, they made a connection, and this acknowledged that. Of course, Nick didn’t pick up the gun, either–so it remains to be seen if he is accepting this invitation to make his home here.

The other two storylines felt the most disconnected. While I don’t mind the idea of a romance between Alicia and Jake, it didn’t fit in well with the rest of what was happening. And Alicia’s leap from the cliff into the lake at the end was sort of unclear in its meaning. Sure, she jumped, she laughed when she came up from the water…but then she looked as though she might cry before the camera left her. And similarly, she had just enjoyed a whole night with the ‘Bible study group’ where she seemed to be laughing and feeling like her old self again as well, but that apparently went away along with her hangover. I’m not sure what about this moment is supposed to say that this is a new and lasting change for Alicia. Or, on the other hand, is it doing nothing more than stressing that it isn’t one, since she stopped laughing? This feels unfinished. That said, I appreciate that Jake strongly believes they need to find more to live for than simply surviving. It’s a healthy attitude, albeit one that only someone who is living in relative safety has the luxury to consider. For the first time, though, I didn’t feel like Jake was just biding his time until he suddenly flips and becomes the bad brother somehow.

Daniel and Strand, similarly felt incomplete with their storyline. Daniel did finally learn that Ofelia left the group a while ago, and it makes sense that he would get mad and ditch Strand after that, but I’m not quite sure why Strand dragged this out so long. I guess Strand must believe that he’ll never run into the Clarks, or Ofelia, again, and that he would be able to control the narrative with Daniel until he had an opportunity to ditch him? It’s the only thing that makes sense here, but its uncharacteristically short-sighted on Strand’s part. I can imagine Daniel would have to force the truth out of him to get it, but I’m not sure why Strand let it go this far before capitulating on his lie.

All-in-all, I would’ve liked to see more of Madison and Troy in this episode, rather than giving as much screentime to the other storylines. It wasn’t bad, but it did get kind of boring at times. We do have some promise of action with Walker’s group coming for the ranch in the near future, and maybe those guys can finally answer the #WhereIsOfelia question. They certainly mean business, and it’s a somewhat unusual way to go about the land dispute plot for a show like this. It’s not just a question of the safer ground being highly sought after, but of a much older and deeper dispute that goes back generations and hundreds of years, and so far, that’s the angle that seems to mean more to Walker.

What did you think of the episode? What was your favorite or least favorite story from tonight? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Other Thoughts:
– That opening scene was so sad and well done. It was like the Walking Dead version of the opening of Up.
– No, seriously, I know this show calls them “Infected”, but who had the brilliant idea to name someone “Walker”?

6
The final score: review Average
The 411
A lot of the storylines meandered and felt incomplete tonight, more like filler or the necessary moving of certain characters to put them in place for whatever comes next than anything else. I would've liked to see more of Madison and Troy in this episode, as theirs was the most interesting story, rather than giving as much screentime to the others. Nick and Jeremiah's unusual bonding was a decent second, but the others, well...it wasn't bad, but it did get boring at times.
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