We gave it a B+
Rick put it simply in the second episode of The Walking Dead: As he told handcuffed racist Merle, “Things are different now…[There’s] only dark meat and white meat. There’s us and the dead. We survive this by pulling together, not apart.”
The situation was squashed then and there, but Madison’s predicament in Fear the Walking Dead is on a larger scale. The spin-off series is back for the back end of its politically charged season 3, and the people at Broke Jaw Ranch aren’t the redneck Merles of the world. They’re blue-collar Americans — and they’re angry. Sound familiar?
We’re now in the aftermath of the peace accord Madison struck with Walker in delivering the head of Jeremiah Otto and welcoming the people of Black Hat Reservation onto the land, but the wounds are still fresh. As Jake tries to keep his brother Troy from acting out against Walker, the thick scar caked with blood across his forehead is still visible from when he was almost scalped. The emotional wounds are likewise still present, and the people aren’t ready to squash this grudge.
Jake is all about maintaining peace, giving Walker a key that, when combined with the one around Jake’s neck, offers access to the ranch’s arsenal. “We can survive together,” he says, a line reminiscent of Rick’s declaration. But Madison continues to invisibly guide the situation — she has Alicia close to Jake, who’s still ill from his exposure to the anthrax attack, and she has Nick working in the militia to keep an eye on Troy. Alicia fears her mother’s back-channel talks with Walker threaten to unravel this fragile peace.
Walker and Jake attempt to lead their people together, but everyone who wasn’t involved with the closed-door dealings of this merger is spewing racist jokes instead of directing their rage where it really needs to go: toward the dead of the world.
But the first hour of the midseason premiere, titled “Minotaur” — perhaps a nod to the invisible forces at play in restructuring the political hierarchy of the ranch — seems more interested in setting up events to come than diving too deeply into this lingering animosity. We see Terrence, torn up by Gretchen’s death, still unaware that it was Troy who actually killed her; the old woman who refuses to be patted down by a Native American; and the soldiers who make lewd remarks to Walker’s man, Crazy Dog. Walker, too, is hiding a secret from his people: Alicia finds him reburying his grandfather’s remains and learns his people wouldn’t think kindly of this desecration.
What all this growing tension brings about is a violent repercussion and events that could have been avoided.
Troy manipulates Terrence into taking a gun and shooting at Walker’s men in public view. He hits one of them, though Terrence is easily subdued and dies later from injuries sustained. This prompts Walker to demand Jake give up the second key and give him full control over all the weapons, even sweeping the encampment for any stray guns. (In this episode, “the government will take your guns” isn’t just a conspiracy theory.)
Yes, Madison slightly pushes Jake to comply, but he gives up control too easily; he barely offers a rebuttal. So by the time Madison, Nick, and Walker’s men come to Troy’s doorstep to retrieve his firearms, the Ranch is ready to explode, and Troy is the one to light the fuse. Madison should have known someone as unstable as Troy, who slaughtered his own friends for choosing to look out for their own instead of siding with him, wouldn’t sit idly by. Though a small part of me thinks this was all part of a grander plan to remove Troy from the equation — because that’s what happens.
Troy fights back and Nick sticks with him to try to quell the situation, leading to a shootout when Walker’s men deem it better to shoot first and negotiate later. Nick has been dealing with the repercussions of being the one to kill Jeremiah, as shown through a brief interaction with Ofelia, and he decides to tell Troy the truth in order to save his life. Troy wanted to go out in a blaze of glory to fight for what he thought his father wanted for the ranch, but he shuts down upon realizing his father was willing to let everyone die over his own pride and that someone he considered an ally was the one to take his father’s life.
(Recap continues on page 2)