Nick goes on a covert mission that reveals the colony's secret; plus, it's 'AHS: Hotel' on the beach

By Nick Romano
August 29, 2016 at 02:02 AM EDT
Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

Remember the sanctuary where Nick ended up at the end of his vision quest in the mid-season premiere? Well, as anyone who knows anything about the Walking Dead universe might’ve guessed, there is something unsettling going on behind closed doors. This week’s episode doesn’t waste too much time revealing what that is.

Waking up to the coughs of an older woman in the infirmary, Nick decides to take a walk. For reasons unknown, he makes his way beyond the gated walls, which are covered in crosses, and heads down the hill toward the city. There he finds a young girl choking back tears.

All Nick gets out of her is, “My papa,” whom he sees in the distance walking towards Luciana (the woman who helped rescue Nick last episode) and the physician who treated his wounds. They’re standing in front of a bus lodged in the entrance of a metal fence separating the colony from the groaning walkers beyond.

The girl’s father hands over his pocketknife and tearfully heads into the bus, locking eyes with Luciana for a silent goodbye. He walks toward the back and comes out the other end, presenting himself to the dead. As the walkers close in on him, a crowd of colony members gather around Luciana and the medic, chanting something in Spanish about “muertos.”

Nick tries to shield the girl from her father’s death, but she wriggles out of his arms and he’s left to watch his new home almost ritualistically sacrifice this man to the horde. The rest of the hour plays out as a fast — and, at times, awkward — dance between the continuation of Nick’s arc and the beginning of Madison, Alicia, Victor, and Ofelia’s. We spend only minutes at a time with each before side-stepping back to the other.

She agrees, and we cut back to the colony where Nick is walking through the street of vendors. A woman tending to the sick by the hospital calls him over to assist. They’re soon joined by the man who tended Nick’s wounds, and a conversation with a patient reveals him to be a pharmacist named Alejandro Nunez.

His patient suggests they should start conserving their medicine instead of injecting him with it, implying it may be too little, too late to save him. Still injecting him with a syringe, Alejandro says, “Maybe tomorrow.” We leave as Nick locks eyes with the mysterious pharmacist and Luciana, who are quietly plotting.

NEXT: Get ready for another hotel horror story

At the very least, Nick has shelter, which is not something Madison and Co. are afforded. They make it back to the coast where they left the boat, only to find it missing. Victor says the military must’ve waited for them to land before sinking the Abigail, and while the rest of the group stares in shock at the vacant water, Alicia’s quick to note a hotel they passed along the road.

Still fear-stricken, Madison worries they’ll never reunite with her family, prompting the first of many points of friction between her and her daughter. “It’s me and you now, whether you like it or not,” Alicia says, before conceding to spell out a message on the beach with sticks in case Nick or Travis come along: “Abigail lost head north.” The group rides along to the ominous hotel on Rosarito Beach, and as they consider their next move, they agree it’s “better indoors than out.”

Back at the colony, Nick attempts to fetch water from a tank to clean bloody bandages, but there’s barely any left. Upon trying a garden faucet, which spews brown water, Luciana comes along. She remarks in Spanish how the hose is worse before motioning for Nick to follow her. “We have work to do,” she says.

Another abrupt scene change brings us just outside the hotel. As the group exits the truck to walk inside, the camera offers a view from behind a stained-glass door. A hand smacking against it confirms they’re being watched.

Victor jimmies open the door, which is barricaded with chairs and tables. Clearly someone tried securing the ground floor, but Alicia asks, “Where are they now?” She then examines a table holding up a model replica of the hotel and its surroundings, perhaps a nod to legendary hotel horror story The Shining. The silence is pierced by the tinging of the concierge bell rung by Victor, who jokes, “Service is subpar.”

By this point, Luciana has led Nick back to the bus and out to the walkers behind the metal fence. As Nick reluctantly steps out, she walks right up to a snarling straggler and crucifies him to a wall. Now speaking in English, she forcefully warns Nick to remain absolutely quiet around the walkers, around her, and around the dangers that await where they’re headed.

Luciana then takes a note from Nick’s book and lathers herself in the walker’s blood, which Nick repeats. He asks why he was chosen for this secret mission. She responds that no one will miss him, prompting another question, “Who will miss you?” She says, “The only one who’s gonna miss me is already missing.”

As Nick continues to follow Luciana through the now-disinterested herd of walkers, Madison’s group walks through the hotel to find the remains of what was once a wedding reception — as Ofelia notes, “the happiest day of someone’s life.”

She confesses she, too, was married to a “good man” named William. It ended when he wanted to move to Santa Fe and Ofelia stayed behind to care for her parents, though Victor teases he “couldn’t have been that good” of a man. Victor calls for the group to find the kitchen, but Madison is transfixed by a photo of the happy couple whose wedding was ruined by the zombie apocalypse.

NEXT: The truth comes out

Nick and Luciana are making their way through the city when we learn the circumstances of the man from the beginning of the episode. “Those near death deliver themselves to the dead,” she says.

It’s a strategy that doesn’t seem too far-fetched, considering if he died in his sleep, he’d only rise as a walker within the colony’s walls and attack the community. But Nick questions whether they’re wrong, whether they just fed a friend to the dead for no reason.

Infuriated by his lack of faith, Luciana fires back, revealing her beliefs in the process. She likens the dead to a natural disaster, nature’s way of cleansing the earth. Her heated speech also reveals part of the mystery behind Alejandro, whom she saw survive a bite from a walker. “Without him, we’d be lost,” she says.

While we ponder the implications of a cultish religious community led by someone seen as a prophet of sorts, Madison begins quarreling with her daughter back at the hotel restaurant. Alicia tries to take initiative and search the floors, but Madison wants her to stay put.

“This place is dead,” Alicia foreshadows. Madison clearly wants to keep her close after driving Nick away, but Alicia resentfully notes how she’s had to take care of herself her entire life and heads off. Diffusing the tension left behind, Victor hops behind the bar to make some drinks.

Nick and Luciana finally reach their destination: a grocery store guarded by an armed gang of former drug dealers who now deal everything. She says all supplies run through here and the men will hang you for looking at them wrong.

Luciana walks up to their presumed leader. She says they’re here for water and hands over a bag of pharmaceutical drugs as payment. The man motions for someone to bring out a shopping cart, but Luciana tries to remind him the deal was for two. “It used to be,” he responds. Defeated, she pushes the carriage into the store and begins weaving through the food aisles sentineled by guards.

Madison and Victor have already drank their fill. The latter, now misty-eyed with booze, attempts to explain how to make the perfect martini, and Madison’s response of “Is that so?” reveals her Alabama roots. She further explains how she tended bars throughout school and calls his story of the vermouth secret bullsh-t. “Bring me tequila,” she demands.

Upstairs, Alicia and Ofelia walk into a hallway to conduct their scan of the rooms. When Ofelia says she hates hotels, Alicia responds, “The dead walk the earth and hotels creep you out?” This sort of language, paired with the crosses on the colony’s fence from earlier, are some of the pieces emphasizing the show’s growing tide of religiosity. But for Ofelia, she answers, “I think it’s the carpets.”

As Alicia goes to open one of the rooms, she hears a bang from the other side followed by growls. The next one is the same case, but Ofelia eventually finds a seemingly vacant one filled with clothes and minibar peanuts ready to be scavenged.

NEXT: An unpleasant surprise

In the bathroom, Alicia pauses as she sees that a former hotel guest strangled himself in the shower and is now a dangling walker. After departing, Alicia switches the sign on the doorknob to read, “Do not disturb.”

Nick’s busy doing his own scavenging in the candy aisle, but Luciana warns him to take only what they need, which is water and anything that may be of use in the infirmary. They round the corner to reveal a group of sick people shivering and coughing in camping tents. Nick notices the gang’s leader crouching by a woman, holding her hand.

Alicia and Ofelia continue their rounds in the hotel in another room, noting the hotel still has hot running water. Contemplating the hanging man, Alicia wonders why he “gave up,” claiming she’d try 50 different things before killing herself. Ofelia suggests he grew tired of surviving, to which Alicia responds, “You don’t get tired of surviving. You just push on.” Getting to the truth behind her answer, Ofelia fears none of them will live through this outbreak, citing how her father was “always one step behind hope.”

Attempting to pull her out of despair, Alicia counters that hope is all they have. “We lose that, and we’re dead.” She further tells her friend they’re now family, though her Hamlet-inspired name suggests she’s not out of the woods just yet.

Taking his sister’s advice from afar, Nick is surviving. One of the gang members jumps him for stealing a candy bar. Luciana fearfully stands back and watches the men prepare to cut off his arm with a machete when Nick shouts for her to ask if the sick woman is the leader’s sister.

Using his frantic friend as a translator, Nick’s able to negotiate his release — and another carriage full of water and supplies — by threatening to stop bringing over their supply of oxycodone, having sensed the woman in the tent is addicted to painkillers.

Though Nick is visibly proud of his accomplishment as he skates on his carriage, he’s later verbally accosted by Luciana. She says the dealers haven’t been able to find their colony, which has been the key to their survival. Now, thanks to Nick’s revelation, they’re interested.

At the bar, Victor wonders if he and Madison would’ve encountered each other at the hotel if the outbreak hadn’t occurred. He imagines he’d hit on her as he’s “a seducer of people” after she skipped away from her motherly duties to the bar.

Thoughts of Nick return to Madison, who’s now completely consumed by worry and liquor. Worrying she’ll never see him again, she says he was “born lost like his daddy.” Victor considers whether she held on too tight, echoing one of Nick’s desert flashbacks in which he says you risk corrupting something for holding on too tight.

NEXT: The children of the resurrection

Madison notes Nick has “his father’s darkness,” meaning “they head straight towards death” if left alone. She then reveals her husband didn’t fall asleep at the wheel like she told her kids, implying he committed suicide. What she still doesn’t seem to understand — perhaps because she’s not yet conditioned to this new world — is that Nick, though still headstrong and naive, is finding his footing.

Victor argues we can’t choose for these things to happen or not, but Madison fires back, saying how she chose to spite the past and become a mother. He tries to take her drink, but she shakes him off and makes a toast to motherhood. Instead of taking a sip, she hurls her glass at the wall. She pours herself another one, this time cheering false hope. That one she swallows, but still chucks the glass. The percussive sound of continuous shattering soon pairs with Victor, who walks over to play a piano so out of tune that it sounds like a demented harpsichord. The sound leaks out to the hotel entrance, where we see that the body attached to the hand smacking against the glass from earlier is one of many walkers trying to break their way out of an abandoned leather shop.

Meanwhile, Alicia gets out of the bathroom after taking a shower and can’t find Ofelia. She notices the open balcony and investigates, but she’s caught off guard by a body falling from an above floor. She looks out and sees walkers standing on various balconies across the way, all of which are flailing out of their perches, hitting the ground, and lumbering towards Madison and Victor.

Alicia, to no avail, shouts for her mom before changing her screams to Ofelia, who’s still MIA. Her search is short-lived, however, as her opening of the staircase door reveals a wall of walkers blocking her path.

Returning to the colony, Nick sees the little girl he consoled in the beginning of the episode now sitting on the street and playing with a doll. He stole the candy bar for her, though the girl doesn’t accept it initially. As Luciana watches from afar, she smiles when the girl succumbs to the sweetness.

Nick then meets up with Alejandro, who notes he almost started a war over that candy bar. “What did you think she needed?” he asks. Fumbling for the right answer, Nick lands on comfort, as “not everything can be about death.”

Alejandro disagrees, using his patient as an example. The saline solution he administered earlier won’t help his infection, explaining that “comfort isn’t a supplement for faith.” It’s now clear he’s the puppet master who put those words about a cleansing in Luciana’s mouth.

Alejandro calls the outbreak a test of God, and those who remain the chosen ones who will outlast death. Questioning his faith, Nick sees the noticeably deep but healed walker bite on his shoulder, after which Alejandro threatens to feed Nick to “the wall” of walkers outside the gates if he ever puts his people in danger again.

There’ve been all kinds of villains in the Walking Dead world, but a cultish figure in the time of the zombie apocalypse like Alejandro (a.k.a. Gloria 2.0) is both an intriguing and worrisome concept. It’s a worthy enough destination for “Los Muertos,” which highlights the formatting difficulties of Fear the Walking Dead.

Nick’s story line was the most compelling, but the arc is diluted by the sharp back-and-forth with the much slower-moving story of Madison’s group. The scenes aren’t necessarily shorter compared to other episodes, but the hotel happenings pump the breaks on the momentum when the want is to accelerate.

The speed between scene changes begins to bur together at the very end. As Madison and Victor jump behind the bar to fight the walkers, Alejandro preaches to his congregation about the “children of the resurrection.”

The two scenes cut back and forth, and as the fearful close-up of Alicia is mirrored by the horror in Nick’s eyes, the colony begins the same chant they made when sending that father to his death, only this time with subtitles: “From death we come, and to death we deliver ourselves.”

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