This week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “Pablo and Jessica,” continued the good work in the Tijuana hotel introduced three episodes back. The hotel has many of the same advantages the prison had in The Walking Dead: It’s self contained; it has individual units with doors to keep out zombies; gardening space to grow food; plenty of room for additional members; and a vantage point allowing those inside to spot threats from afar. The hotel even has something the prison did not: An ocean view.
The ocean itself plays central to the mini-caper at the heart of this week’s episode. After backing up the storyline a few hours to show us how Madison and Victor escaped the zombies when they were trapped behind the bar (they disguised themselves as walkers), we witness the reunion of Madison and Alicia, along with her two new friends, Elena and Hector. Once Madison puts the team back together and surmised that Ofelia had taken the truck and abandoned them, Madison immediately sets about allying with the wedding survivors, some of whom are skeptical because of Elena’s involvement.
Once Madison shows them the value of a hotel as a place for a fresh new start, the survivors begin to come around, especially once Madison starts to take on the dangerous work of clearing the hotel of infected on her own. Ultimately, that leads to a plan for everyone to work together to lure all of the zombies out of the hotel, walk them out on a long pier, and lead them into the ocean, where a powerful riptide takes them away. The plan goes off without a hitch, which almost feels disappointing in a universe where even the best laid plans have casualties. In fact, despite a number of new characters, the body count doesn’t budge in “Pablo and Jessica,” save for an off-screen death in Nick’s storyline.
The hotel storyline also ends with an emotional coda. After the two groups combine to celebrate the departure of the walkers over a large dinner, Victor Strand excuses himself to visit the honeymoon suite, where he finds Oscar standing guard, unable to bring himself to extinguish the zombie life of his new bride, Jessica. Strand, who went through a similar experience only days before with Thomas Abigail, has a heart-to-heart with Oscar and ultimately convinces him to let Jessica go. The episode ends with a tear-streaked Strand entering the hotel room of Jessica to snuff out her zombie life.
Now that the walkers have been cleared and a larger group has come together inside of the hotel, there’s good news and bad news for the future of this season. The good news is, this newly formed group will presumably design a self-sustaining fortress inside the hotel walls. But like all fortresses in The Walking Dead universe, others will come for it, which presents an opportunity for more skirmishes and battles with outside groups. The bad news is, we’ve already seen this before on The Walking Dead with the prison and Alexandria. It’s going to make it even more difficult for Fear to distinguish itself from The Walking Dead.
Nick’s storyline, however, is new to the Walking Dead universe. After regrettably making Alejandro’s village a target of the Mexican gang controlling the area grocery stores last week, Nick seeks to make amends by doing what he does best: Junkie science. He takes Alejandro’s stash of Oxycontin and doubles it by adding filler material to the Oxy pills designed to increase the supply without diminishing the high. It, too, is a success, and Nick’s burgeoning friendship with Alejandro helps him to strengthen his relationship with Luciana, a relationship that turns romantic this week.
The real intrigue in this subplot is whether Luciano and Alejandro — who set Nick up in his own private quarters this week — have ulterior motives. The series has not yet proven itself capable of throwing an effective curveball — the storylines are straightforward, sometimes painfully so — but Alejandro’s walker bite defies The Walking Dead mythology, and that’s what makes it compelling. It can only mean one of two things: Either Alejandro really did survive a walker bite — which would upend the entire The Walking Dead universe — or Alejandro and Luciano are lying, and they are playing Nick. To what end? That’s anyone’s guess. Quite possibly, they believe that Nick — who walks with the dead — holds some key to unlocking the mystery of the zombie infection, which would make it interesting by virtue of the fact that Fear is exploring the infection itself rather than fixating exclusively on survival.
Alternately, if Alejandro did survive a zombie bite, it means that there’s something about him that makes him special. Is it his faith? Is it his DNA? Or is it his knowledge of medicine? If it’s either of the last two, it can be bottled, and if there’s anyone who could do it, it’s the pharmacist, Alejandro.
Either way, it means something new and different for Fear the Walking Dead, which could be seeding a narrative twist, or it means something huge for The Walking Dead universe itself because it may be introducing the first ever character who survived a zombie infection without an amputation. That could have potentially huge ramifications.