Two-time Emmy nominee Brenda Strong — best known for her work as Mary Alice on Desperate Housewives, as well as roles in Sports Night and TNT’s Dallas reboot — is not cast in a high-rated cable drama only to play a minor background character, as seemed to be the case in the last two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead. Figuring primarily in a flashback two episodes ago, Strong plays Ilene Stowe, the mother of a bride in a hotel wedding that turned grim when her husband had a heart attack, turned into a zombie, and bit the face off his daughter, turning her into a walker as well.
In last week’s episode, “Pablo and Jessica,” Strong again played a minor part, offering resistance to the idea of her group — survivors from the wedding — aligning with Madison and Elena Reyes, the hotel employee who locked the wedding party into a reception hall to prevent the zombie infection from spreading into the city. The two groups aligned despite Illena’s protestations, but she remained a background character throughout the episode, even as Victor put down her infected daughter, who was then secured in a hotel room in the hopes that she would recover from the zombie infection. Strong had less than two minutes of screen time in that episode.
In this week’s episode, “Pillar of Salt,” Strong had less than 30 seconds of screen time, but they were pivotal. She knocked on the door of Victor Strand, and when he answered it, Ilene Stowe quickly stabbed him in the stomach, revenge for what she considered the malicious — rather than merciful — act of putting her infected daughter out of her misery.