Lately, I’ve really come around on Fear the Walking Dead, which has been doing exceptional work over the last few weeks. This week’s episode, “El Matadero,” is no exception, except in one respect: The series killed off the wrong character.
Ofelia is gone, and once again, Fear goes to emotional depths that the parent series rarely travels. While The Walking Dead has never been shy about killing off characters, often brutally, Fear somehow takes it a step further. On The Walking Dead, characters have to kill off loved ones after they turn; on Fear, they have to kill them before they turn. On The Walking Dead, one character may be reunited with another mere minutes before she dies; on Fear, the character shows up minutes after. It’s cruel to deprive fans of a Daniel and Ofelia reunion, but it tracks with reality. How many stories have we heard about friends or family members who drove all night to say goodbye to a loved one on her deathbed only to show up an hour too late?
I’m not mad at Fear for robbing us of a reunion we’d been looking forward to since the moment Daniel returned to the series, and I’m not necessarily mad at the series for killing off Ofelia. It was a great cap to her season-long arc. She evolved from Daniel’s weak, whiny daughter to a brave, unyielding bad-ass killer and she ultimately sacrificed herself to save Alicia and Crazy Dog. She’s like Carol, if Carol had died when Rick sent her away in season four. She is definitely the season’s most improved character, which brings me to what does make me mad: That Fear killed off Ofelia instead of Daniel or Madison.
It’s not just that Madison’s character is annoyingly static, either. Or that his control-freak ways have held back Alicia and Nick since the beginning. From a simple branding standpoint, it makes more sense to kill off Madison and Daniel and keep Ofelia around just so Fear can separate itself from the parent series in another way. Most of the characters on The Walking Dead are in their 30s to 40s; the best characters on Fear are in their 20s. Fear could be the CW version of The Walking Dead, and I’d be OK with that: younger characters who are figuring themselves out in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Far more than in The Walking Dead, the characters in Fear are still dealing with emotional and identity problems that date back to before the outbreak. That’s still fertile ground for the series.
In that respect, it seems like the new character played by Edwina Findley is a perfect addition. She’s a pick-ax-wielding loner, and she brings to the series an energy similar to what Michonne brought to The Walking Dead with her katana. She suffers no fools. We’ve only had a few scenes with her, so far, but I love this character and whether she survives or not, she’s going to make Alicia — and Alicia’s arc — better and far more compelling. It’s also interesting to consider — in light of the crossover announcement — whether this new character will be the one to make the transition to The Walking Dead next year. She and Alicia are striking out on their own; maybe in a year’s time, they find themselves on the East Coast.
It’s hard to say what’s left of the Daniel, Madison, Strand, and Walker alliance. I assume they will want to go back to the Tijuana dam, but I also suspect that Strand is going to sabotage that. He says that he’s got something that “Proctor John wants, something that [he] can give him.” There’s only one thing that Strand has right now: 10,000 gallons of water and directions back to the dam. If he gives that away — as it appears he has — he’s likely to burn that bridge for everyone. He’s also likely to further alienate himself from Madison, Daniel, and Walker.
These characters cannot continue working separate storylines without a home base to bring them back together. Could Fear dispatch with Madison, Daniel, and Taqa in next week’s season finale? It would remove the show’s dead weight, and it would explain why the show left Nick and Troy behind. If those two reconnect with Alicia, the new character, and Strand (who always finds a way to survive), Fear’s new showrunners will have a strong base with which to work next season. (There’s also Crazy Dog, who all but disappeared after the first few minutes of the episode.)
As for Nick? What are you doing, show? “Junkie Johnny Depp” is back, and after Nick made so much progress this season, it’s frustrating to see him fall off the wagon and for no real reason, either, other than the simple availability of drugs. Nick sees a pill, so he swallows it. He takes a handful, gives one to Troy, and the two go off and find more drugs. Look: When Troy is freaked out by how reckless Nick is being, he’s clearly gone too far. Anyway, he’s hanging back at the stadium with Troy so they can continue to get high in one of the show’s more inexplicable turns. I trust, however, that there’s a good reason to leave Nick and Troy behind.
We’ll find out in the last two episodes of the season, which both air next week. Meanwhile, Fear has slowly but surely killed off all but four of the original characters: There is one Salazar and three Clarks left standing. (Interestingly, there are only four characters remaining from the first season of The Walking Dead at this point, too — five, if you count Morgan, who left the show for several seasons after the pilot.)
— It really is remarkable what a nonentity Crazy Dog was in this episode after the first scene. I had to rewatch again just to see if he was still hovering in the background as Madison and Co. took off to the dam (he was).
— Nick mentioned Luciana in this episode. Hey! Remember Luciana? Where the hell did she go? I would not mind seeing her reintroduced into the series next week.
— So, Nick and Troy totally ingested zombie brain stems and that’s just something that happens now, huh?
— Speaking of next week’s season finale, here’s the teaser. It looks like a lot of action will take place at the dam.
Is that Ray McKinnon? It sure looks like it, which means that four actors (Dayton Callie, Kim Dickens, Jamie McShane, and McKinnon) have done Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy and Fear the Walking Dead.