It’s going to be drowned out by the premiere of Game of Thrones and Beyonce, and for some people, it may be too little, too late, but tonight’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “Ouroboros,” felt like the first legitimately good character episode of the series. There were some solid zombie moments, some delightfully sick sequences, and fewer dumb decisions. More than anything, however, this episode worked because the characters are finally starting to elicit more than indifference from viewers.
Specifically, the two most interesting characters in the series are finally starting to break out. One has the potential to become a legitimately good villain and the other a Daryl Dixon type of fan favorite. That fan favorite, no surprise, is junkie Johnny Depp, Nick, who has already exhibited Daryl-like characteristics. In the first season finale, he noted that, like Daryl, he feels more comfortable in the post-apocalyptic world, like he’s finally found his place. The sullen Nick going through withdrawal is gone, and in his place is a more comfortable, almost happy Nick (strange, considering the circumstances), who is a comfort to both his sister and Ofelia.
When he came out of nowhere and popped the zombie about to eat his sister, he also gained some bad-ass points. He quadrupled them, however, when he realized that the zombie guts he was covered with made him invisible to zombies and stood nose-to-nose with a walker and zombie-barked at him. That was a fearless Daryl Dixon moment, and for the first time this series, there’s a character on the show I actually don’t want to die.
Meanwhile, the once brooding, mysterious Victor Strand is less mysterious after tonight’s episode and more straight-up evil. He hasn’t had much trust for anyone else on his yacht since the crew set sail and vice versa, but in “Ouroboros” he made himself their enemy. Michelle Yang’s Charlie — from the Fear the Walking Dead web series — finally joined the show, racked up a couple of cool zombie kills, and saved Daniel from a walker. She was immediately likable as a character. However, when Daniel, Nick, and Alicia brought Charlie (and a burnt, nearly dead Jake, also from the web series) to the yacht, Strand denied them entry. Travis and Madison, however, convinced Strand to let them tow her on their lifeboat to San Diego.
Victor appeared to reluctantly agree, but after they embarked on their journey, and as soon as Charlie began to develop a modicum of hope about her future, Victor cut the rope to the lifeboat and left Charlie and Jake alone to die in the ocean. It was a cold, hearltess move, and surpassed the level of selfishness we’re comfortable with from our The Walking Dead universe. Characters on The Walking Dead have killed characters infected characters (and soon to be infected characters), and they have killed people who have posed a danger, but never has a major character on The Walking Dead left a helpful and helpless character to die alone. In doing so, Strand effectively made himself the villain, and he only survives in coming episodes because he’s the only one with a plan to save everyone else. It’s the only leverage he has, and if it turns out he’s pulling a Eugene, he’s going to find himself at the bottom of the ocean very quickly.
Most importantly, Victor Strand became a person the series has desperately needed: Someone we could hate. A King Joffrey. On a series where indifference was all most of us could muster for any of the characters, antipathy is a solid step forward for Fear the Walking Dead.