Fear the Walking Dead recap: 'El Matadero'
Rule of thumb: If Troy's afraid to do something, it's probably not a good idea
Ofelia is on her way out, and I can’t say I wasn’t expecting it — or that I wasn’t expecting it to complicate matters. On the ride to the dam, Madison and Victor worry about their uncertain future as their one reassurance falls off the back of the tanker. Lola once showed mercy to the Clark family and agreed to let them live and work at the dam, but only if Ofelia were to be reunited with her father. Now Daniel’s daughter is suffering the effects of a walker bite; she was indeed compromised when she was fighting to save the ranchers from suffocation. That didn’t work out too well for anyone, and now here they are, helping Ofelia off the road with a new mission in mind: keep her alive long enough to secure admittance to the dam.
They take her to the trading post early so they can get her a bed and whatever medicine they can scramble, telling her to smile through the pain because the infected aren’t welcome there. Meanwhile, Madison and Victor deal with the gatekeeper, who belongs in the DMV: She doesn’t have your best interests at heart, she’s always changing the requirements for admittance, and her smile is dripping with ambivalence as if your suffering gives her life.
As Walker tends to Ofelia inside, Victor confronts Madison about how she’s giving away their resources just so Ofelia can see her father one last time. Once on stable ground, Madison is back in survival mode. They don’t have a home or resources, so she must rely on the kindness of strangers. But Victor fears the wrath of Daniel and what he might do when they show up with little to offer beyond Ofelia’s corpse. Walker’s counterpoint, as he relays to Madison while feeding Ofelia pain killers, is that it doesn’t matter how Daniel will react. It’s important to put this to bed.
Nick and Troy, meanwhile, are tailing Alicia, who’s already embracing the upside of being the lone wolf. She’s not coming back, despite Nick’s insistence that she can’t survive on her own, and she advises her brother to pursue his own happiness away from their mother. The next morning, as he and Troy ride back to the dam, he’s reminded of who he was before the outbreak (“Why does everyone hate you, Nick?” Troy asks) and the real reason why he stayed at the ranch. He’d like to think he stayed to keep his family together after Travis’ death, but Troy believes it’s because Nick found a kindred spirit. “You and me, we’re more alike than you think,” Troy says.
Alicia finds her own buddy, a woman she spies grabbing the bucket of potatoes she was trying to scavenge in an abandoned fast-food restaurant. Alicia hides in the ball pit so she can sniper the walkers shambling in through the doors, but she finds something more unseemly in this pink-eye trap. A walker toddler with pigtails grabs her legs from behind, and she loses her gun in the scuffle. After picking off the walker, Alicia turns back to see the mysterious woman hacking the dead with a pickaxe before walking off with her potatoes. What’s more unusual is that before departing, the woman chops off the fingers of the corpses and removes some of their teeth.
Alicia tracks her car down to a parking lot and tries to take back her food when the woman confronts her. The woman calls her bluff when Alicia threatens to shoot her down, so Alicia turns the barrel towards her car’s gas tank. But she doesn’t shoot that either. She admits she’s tired, hungry, and would prefer not to kill her, and they agree to share the grub.
Nick returns to find his mom slumped over a chair at Ofelia’s bedside. He assures her Alicia is fine but is forced to comfort her when Madison starts breaking down. She mumbles about there being strength in numbers, but her daughter has left and Ofelia is on her deathbed. She wonders what she would do without Nick, who seems despaired by that statement. When Madison leaves the room, Nick spies Ofelia’s pain killers. He briefly considers what he’s about to do before popping one in his mouth.
When he meets Troy later for lunch, Nick is already half in the bag, groping the waitress, asking about where he can find uppers, and generally freaking out Troy. If the guy who caused the mass slaughter of his own people and executed countless innocents in the spirit of his scientific pursuits thinks something is a bad idea, it definitely is. And yet Nick is already plunging back into his old ways.
(Recap continues on the next page.)
Looking back, it’s likely Nick never was on solid ground; he merely traded one addiction for another. This latest transition for his character seemed so stark I was left scrambling to figure out why he was doing this. He found a new purpose in being a leader and taking charge with Luciana’s colony, supposedly, and again in implementing Madison’s strategy at the ranch. And what he tells Troy later in a drug-induced haze only adds to the confusion.
Troy is finding himself on shaky ground, nowhere near the sadistic tormentor he once was, in the face of Nick’s reckless behavior. He struggles to keep up but still pops a pill and goes with Nick to el matadero (“the slaughterhouse”) to get more drugs. When they arrive, the scenes linger in a state of disorienting iMovie effects, generic hippie music, and a glitchy laugh track to denote how high these two are getting. Nick wants to push it further. Troy warns him to slow down as he asks the dealer at el matadero to show him “all the things” — heroine, cocaine, morphine, and amphetamines — but what he chooses to consume instead is the nucleus of a brain stem. In other words, “pure adrenaline.”
Both are out of their minds as Nick leads a panicking Troy over the fence of the trade outpost to a walker trapped in a truck. He kills it and slathers its blood over both of their faces — nowhere else, mind you — and sprints towards a group of walkers. The process of masking one’s scent from the dead by coating one’s body in walker blood has become increasingly more lax since the method was introduced in The Walking Dead season 1. Once, you had to generously apply it all over your body — the more guts, the better the result — but rain and similar conditions would risk dispelling the illusion. At one point, Nick very casually paints on the entrails outside last season’s colony and turns it into a magical fix. This latest instance is perhaps the laziest application yet. Perhaps their drug-addled state has an effect on how the living are perceived by walkers — I’d like to give them some benefit of the doubt — but they’re able to merely apply blood to their faces and walk through a herd unscathed. How?
Inconsistencies aside, Nick starts mumbling, “I can’t go back, I can’t go back with her,” presumably referring to his mom. Had he been feeling this way at the ranch? If so, it wasn’t clear.
While this is going on, Victor is sneaking behind enemy lines, slipping past rooms filled with gambling, drinking, and sex in search of Proctor John. Instead, he finds his goons, but he teases that he has something that John wants.
When the time comes to meet Daniel, Madison helps Ofelia to her feet but advises Walker to stay behind as she’s not sure how Daniel will react — even though Daniel and Walker already had a heart-to-heart at the dam on their first visit. The two make a final goodbye to each other before Ofelia limps out to the meeting spot.
Crying, she wants Madison to kill her if she should turn before seeing her father and regrets not getting to know Daniel while she was alive. Madison reassures her that she did know her father because, in reference to Nick and Alicia, children know the good and bad truths about their parents even through lies. Ofelia dies on Madison’s shoulder just as Daniel’s truck pulls up. Consumed with rage and grief, he pulls a gun on Madison, then commands her to leave when she tells him what happened at the ranch. She hears Daniel shoot Ofelia in the head as she walks away.
Alicia, meanwhile, is sharing a meal with this still unnamed woman, who reveals she sells the fingers and teeth to people who would peddle them as charms against walkers. She offers one to Alicia, who politely declines as it’s “disgusting.” Alicia reveals she knows a place where there’s game and water; she’ll find a way to survive alone or die trying. This woman says there’s nowhere she can go where there’s peace. If she becomes “accustomed” to killing, she’ll do fine.
The next morning, everyone begins to move on. Daniel reveals how he carried Ofelia’s body and buried her beneath an olive tree and is now welcoming Madison’s group to the dam. But not everyone is going. Nick and Troy are staying behind for a few days, no doubt to nurse his drug dependency, but Madison seems done with hovering over her children. Loss, death, or merely the absence of someone has a ripple effect, and most of the characters are now put in a place where they have to reconnect with themselves in light of something lost. Madison’s children are off on their own; what will be her motivation now? Alicia decides to make a travel companion out of this new stranger, but where will that lead? Daniel lost his last ties to his family and his moral compass; it’s “the price,” he says, for his sins.
As they all go their separate ways, Victor’s glance lingers on the trading outpost. What did he offer Proctor John? Will he prove Daniel right and betray Madison?