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Fear the Walking Dead 3.14 Review – ‘El Matadero’

October 9, 2017 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
Fear the Walking Dead - El Matadero
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Fear the Walking Dead 3.14 Review – ‘El Matadero’  

This week on Fear the Walking Dead, goodbyes abound: Alicia to her brother, Nick to his sobriety, Madison to her son, and Ofelia to her father, but only by proxy. Rest in peace, Ofelia. Now let’s get down to what else happened and what it all means.

The plot: Alicia is striking out on her own, although her solitude is briefly interrupted by Troy and Nick. She lets her brother off the hook for owing her anything and sends them on their way, though she now has a map of where the Trading Post (and Dam?) are if she wants to find them. Her find of some potatoes at a burger joint is lost when some Infected wander in, followed by a woman who kills them and takes some trophies–fingers and teeth. Later, Alicia finds her and they share a meal and some wisdom, and ultimately team up–but not as friends. Nick decides that he’s been through quite enough sober at this point, thank you, and dives headlong into taking some pain pills, tequila, and a freaking brain stem to get high, dragging Troy along with him and confessing that he can’t stay with his mother anymore. Madison, meanwhile, learns that Ofelia was bitten en route to their rendezvous with Daniel and does everything she can to make Ofelia stays alive to see him one last time. The father and daughter miss this by mere moments, but Madison does have some nice final moments with Ofelia. Daniel nearly kills Madison in his grief, but eventually invites her to come to the dam with him. And Strand, who’s got no sympathy to spare for the Salazars, is up to something sketchy, meeting with someone named Proctor John off-screen to strike some kind of deal.

I have to admit I’m a little disappointed with Ofelia’s death. The fact that she and her father would never actually reunite was foreshadowed weeks ago, when her presence at the exchange was made mandatory by Lola, and the ranch being overrun just sealed the deal. It was just a little too obvious that this would happen for my tastes, and I also liked the development that Ofelia has been given. It feels like there was more they could’ve done with her, especially when she was reunited with Daniel, but unfortunately, now we’ll never get that. Her final scene with Madison I did like, however, especially that she had come to not only accept who her father was but was ready to embrace him for it. She understood him in a new way and wanted to reforge her bond with him with this understanding in mind. This was a message that Daniel needed to hear, too, since he felt the one time she’d seen who he really was, she was scared by it and she pulled away from him. I also liked Madison’s message for Ofelia in those final moments, that she already knew her father and always had. This was about more than just what Daniel had specifically done and been in his past, this was about who he is as a person, the good and the bad. It’s almost a message that Daniel needs more than Ofelia at this point, the fact that while he may be a killer, he is also a father, and a good man, albeit one who has done bad things. That he is a killer is not and never has been the only thing that defines him. Maybe he can yet come to learn and accept this, but without his wife and daughter, I’m not sure there’s anyone left with whom he has the kind of relationship where he could. Possibly Lola? She’s got something of a surrogate daughter vibe going.

Speaking of relationships, there were some interesting moments with Troy and Nick tonight. Their odd camaraderie has had a number of twists and turns already, and having Troy jokingly say that Nick has stuck around not for his family but because he loves him had just enough potential truth in it to be interesting. Probably the writers are having fun teasing the audience about these two as well! But as Nick’s addiction finally reappears, Troy is dragged along not entirely willingly and taking on the unfamiliar role of being the (semi) responsible one. Will he continue to be hesitant about all the overindulgence and try to pull Nick back from the edge, or will he be all in and make the relapse even worse for it? Of the two, Troy has, I think, fewer illusions about what he is; as he tells Nick, they’re very similar, but Nick is the one who wishes he were different.

And let’s talk about what’s caused this relapse: Nick’s been clean since, essentially, the start of the show, even managing to stay clean when he had the opportunity to use back at the Colonia. So what drove him to it now? His decision seems so subtle, almost happenstance–the pills were there and he decided ‘what the hell?’ because the actual cause is so downplayed. It’s only after his mother tells him “I don’t know what I’d do without you” that he makes that choice to throw himself back into drugs and chasing the biggest high he can find. After all, he confesses to Troy that he “can’t go back, I can’t go back with her,’ and quite clearly means his mother. I don’t think Madison is fooled by the excuses he gives the end of the episode; she’s seen this before, she knows what’s up. “You do what you need to,” she tells him, probably hoping he’ll sort himself out. Because she also knows there’s nothing she can do about it right now.

Alicia seems to be the only one who’s on an upturn right now. Despite everyone’s worry, she does pretty well on her own. She knows what she needs and she knows how to get it right now. Although her plan of hiding in the ball pit and playing sniper wasn’t the best one, but she came out alright, and I think even without Diana taking out the Infected, she would’ve handled the situation. She lucks out some in that Diana isn’t so hardened as to just kill her outright, though. I like the addition of this new character; she feels unique and a good match for Alicia right now. Though they both claim they’re not here to make friends, it feels like they could become friends easily enough. It remains to be seen if Diana is more hardcore than that, however, and if she would abandon Alicia or throw her under the bus when it came down to it. But Alicia’s general wisdom and good sense may have had one blind spot; in telling Nick he doesn’t owe anyone anything and that he should carve out what he can, did she forget what her brother has tendency to do when he’s on his own?

Strand’s turn back to cold practicality doesn’t get much screen time, but it’s notable. Who is Proctor John and what deal has Strand made with him? I expect we’ll learn next week in the finale!

Other Thoughts:
– Thank you Jeremy for covering last week!
– Some good quotes tonight:
– “Trying to survive is killing me.”
– “You stayed at the ranch because you love me.” I admit, I’m shipping it a little bit!
– “I’m tired and I’m hungry and I’d really prefer not to kill you.”
– “I gotta find a way to do this alone or I die.”
– “The problem ain’t the killing. It’s the friends.”
– “Who gets used to this?” “If a woman sets her mind to it, she can get used to anything.”
– Seriously, how can they be eating human brain stems and not get infected from that?

7.0
The final score: review Good
The 411
This was a decent episode that had some big moments that were quiet to the point of almost feeling underplayed, many of which I suspect will feel more significant in hindsight. Ofelia's final moments were tragic and touching, though also somewhat drawn out. Nick's relapse feels long overdue in many ways, but the thing that finally made him crack is noteworthy. Alicia's solo survivor gig isn't solo for long, but the change feels right for her, and her new companion is a nice change of pace. Strand is back to being a little shady and looking out for himself, and Daniel is, as usual, tragic and alone. The Clark family who were solid and united at the ranch have been driven apart once again--will they pull it together in time for whatever's coming at them next?
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