Where has this show been for the last three seasons? Granted, there have been some good episodes along the way, and Season 3A even had a nicely written arc, but this week’s episode, “Brother’s Keeper,” is as close as Fear the Walking Dead has ever gotten to matching the action and intensity of a great The Walking Dead episode. In fact, “Brothers Keeper” is on par with some of the best episodes of the parent series. It was a superbly directed episode by Alrick Riley, who came over from the parent series where he’s directed three episodes (including “The Cell”). This was a genuinely great episode of television, and not to beat on the “kill Madison” drum again, but it shows what kind of series Fear could be without Kim Dickens’ character, who thankfully did not appear in “Brothers Keeper.”
The episode had a lot going for it from the very beginning with the return of Troy, who found himself back in The Nation’s old territory. He finds a gun in the hand of the corpse left to the buzzards by Taqa earlier this seaosn, and with vengeance on his mind, Troy comes up with a masterfully villainous plan: generate a horde of the infected and ambush Broken Jaw Ranch with them. It’s obviously not the first time in The Walking Dead universe that a character has thought to use zombies as weapons — Negan has done it, and so have the Wolves. But no one has thought to do it on the scale that Troy does here. He doesn’t amass 100 zombies, or even 500. This is World War Z territory: he builds a city of walkers. Thousands. It is, as Troy says, “Biblical” in size. Over the course of two days and two nights, Troy leads the zombies toward the ranch, picking up additional walkers along the way.
Inexplicably, however, the weakness in Troy’s sociopathy is Nick. Troy runs ahead to warn Nick about the oncoming horde. But he also wants Nick to tell his brother Jake about it, not just to give him enough time to evacuate, but to brag. Nick and Jake, who clearly don’t take Troy’s threat credibly enough, drive out to find Troy, and when they do, Jake puts a gun to Troy’s head. He’d have killed Troy, too, had Nick — who has a reciprocal soft spot for Troy — not knocked Jake off of Troy, sending him rolling down a hill, where he is bitten by a zombie. Troy and Nick quickly chop off his arm to prevent the zombie infection from spreading, but that’s not a trick this universe plans to use again. Subverting the expected Hershel twist, Jake eventually bleeds to death, and — in one of the series’ most emotionally affecting scenes — Troy has to put his reanimated brother down.
Troy, meanwhile, has no business being alive. Nick has saved his life twice now, and all he’s gotten in return for it is the death of Jake and a giant horde of zombies heading to the ranch. Alicia, Ofelia, Crazy Dog, and co., manage to hold the horde at bay for a moment, but eventually the zombies break through their wall of RVs (a trick borrowed from The Walking Dead) and take out Coop and a few redshirts before pinning the rest of the community inside the pantry.
So, the entirety of Broken Jaw Ranch is holed up inside a bunker surrounded by thousands of walkers, and their only hope of survival is… Nick and Troy. They have to lead 10,000 zombies away from the pantry now. Too bad they don’t have a few dozen of Strand’s beeping keychains to help them.
It’s a great episode, and not just because of the mass of zombies, and not just because Jake died (which Alicia telegraphed by telling him, “You’re the last good man alive”), but mostly because of Troy, who has proven himself to be the most dynamic character on Fear the Walking Dead. He’s a racist, self-sabotaging, murdering sociopath, but there’s something weirdly sympathetic about him. Whatever it is that draws Nick to Troy is the same thing that draws the audience to him: somewhere way, way down inside of Troy, there’s a broken, vulnerable human being, one whose motivations continue to remain unclear. For now, however, he seems to be on the side of saving all the lives he has endangered, and the unintended consequence of his action is that he’s brought The Nation and the Otto loyalist together.
Ultimately, however, Troy will have to go, and not because his character isn’t interesting, but because the story will dictate it. A man exiled for endangering the lives of a few cannot be allowed to survive after returning and endangering the lives of everyone, even if he is ultimately instrumental in saving those lives. The show, however, will be worse off without him because he’s the closest thing Fear has ever had to a genuinely compelling villain.