Fear the Walking Dead began with three families: The Clarks, The Salazars, and the The Manawas. Right out of the gate, Fear the Walking Dead was a hugely diverse series that reflected the diversity of it setting, Los Angeles. In its second season, the series moved to Mexico, and again, the series reflected its new setting, adding Danay Garcia to the permanent cast.
In its third season, however, Fear the Walking Dead — which debuted two years ago with huge numbers internationally, quadrupling AMC’s primetime audience in key Latin America markets — has taken a curious turn. The Manawas — a blended Maori/Hispanic family — are gone. Griselda Salazar is dead, Ofelia Salazar is MIA, and Daniel Salazar has either been sidelined or left for dead, reappearing as a possible dark passenger to the series’ only major black character, Victor Strand (who has also been sidelined in a tertiary storyline).
Indeed, the focus of this season, so far, has been almost solely on the series’ white characters, the Clarks, who have taken up with a new community, the Otto Ranch. Through the first three episodes, the cultural politics of the third season of Fear the Walking Dead are almost impossible to ignore. Not only has another Manawa been killed (Travis), but the second season ended with a militia group randomly killing off Mexicans trying to cross the border. Meanwhile, the opening episode of this season saw a group of the very same militia men — led by Troy Otto — killing Hispanic characters who crossed the border into the United States as “science experiments.”
What gives the Ottos this jurisdiction? That remains unclear, but what we do know is that the one character from Mexico (Luciana) on the Otto Ranch is handcuffed and not allowed to leave. Meanwhile, the patriarch of the Otto Ranch, Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie), warned — before the outbreak — of a United States “overrun with foreign nationals.” The Otto Ranch is now comprised of exclusively white people, while Ofelia — captured by Jeremiah in the second season finale — has not yet appeared.
What is going on, exactly?
It’s still too early to say, but it appears that the Clarks have made their new home in a community of white nationalists; men, women and families who took refuge among white people (The Ottos) who were preparing before the outbreak to stem the flow of foreign nationals into the United States. Is the Otto Ranch a white supremacist compound and, if so, is Fear the Walking Dead attempting to make a political point by treating anyone who is not white as an enemy? Or, by withholding the motives of the Otto Compound, is Fear the Walking Dead positioning them the white nationalists as villains?
Are the Clarks assimilating into a white nationalist compound? Do they even realize it? Or are they planning a war against the Ottos? Does Madison have designs on taking over the camp because they are white nationalists (surely she knows after watching Jeremiah’s VHS videos)? Is Ofelia hidden somewhere? Is that the season’s deep, dark secret: That the Ottos have Ofelia and other “foreign nationals” hidden away, potentially working as slave laborers in the zombie apocalypse?
Is that the seasons’ big secret? Is Fear the Walking Dead poised to make a political statement?