I was tempted to joke about this being Hershel’s farm redux after my first viewing of “Sicut Cervus.” But I don’t think that the Angelenos will stay at the Abigail compound nearly as long as Rick & Co. did on the Greene property, because Hershel’s delusion over what had happened to his family is different from what Celia thinks is going on. Where Hershel thought of his wife and son’s walker-dom as an aberration, an illness to be cured, Celia sees it as a natural progression. And Celia’s acceptance—which is almost an anticipation—of the walking dead makes her a danger to everyone in her care.
Of course, Celia has other qualities that present a threat to Madison and her blended family. She’s looking to get her hooks into Nick, who continues to impress just about everyone he meets in the apocalypse. She’s lost her other sons (well, almost all of them), and wants to look after someone else. Then again, she could just be one of those family-annihilator types who’s anxious to send all of her loved ones on to their penultimate (possibly final) reward, which would appear to be a cramped cell.
It’s fitting that an episode titled after a psalm (one that describes how close and far away God seems to one weary traveler) would focus on spirituality in this new world, as well as depict a clash between the religions of the New World. “Sicut Cervus” opens with a Mexican priest calling on his congregation to muster their courage in these trying times, which he makes clear are not a test from God. The priest believes their adversary is a mortal, wicked one. We see Tom Abigail for the first time in the present, as he swoops in discourage them. He’s not just acting out of concern for the parishioners, though—he’s trying to protect Luis’ mother Celia, who is also the woman who raised him. This mob doesn’t have pitchforks, but they are out for blood. That is, until their own eyes start bleeding in a depraved twist on the weeping-statue miracles.
Before he dies, the priest flat-out blames Celia for the whole world going undead, as well as for these seemingly supernatural attacks on his congregation. Initially, I wasn’t sure if the priest just wanted to protect his flock by eliminating some of the more unnecessary dangers, like the Abigail estate’s conversion to a walker flophouse. Upon my second viewing (yes, there was a second one), though, I got the impression that he was laying all of the blame on her. He cries out to Tom: “See the evil you protect? Celia—this was her.”
Unlike Celia, the priest and most of the townspeople don’t consider this reanimation something divine. They’re scared, and rightly so, though that doesn’t justify their actions. It’s shortsighted, not to mention illogical, to assume that Celia was the cause of this epidemic. As remote as this part of Baja may be, surely someone’s heard the reports of the outbreaks all over the world, or even just in California. (Yes, I realize that I’m asking everyone to behave much more rationally than the show needs them to.) And Tom doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would keep them in the dark. I guess there’s always a chance that he did so to protect Celia because he predicted the townspeople would be looking for a scapegoat, and she’s practically bleating.
As we soon learn, Celia is harboring something dangerous, though not exactly evil. The walkers she’s housing—her friends, coworkers, and soon, family—might be seen as a plague, but they’re ultimately amoral. They may have been weaponized in the past (see: Daniel), but they present the same kind of danger to man as animals in the wild—rotting, insatiable animals. In a sense, they’re part of a “pagan” belief system, a possibly Aztec-rooted one, if all of the owl references are anything to go by.
It was fascinating to see that the other residents of the Abigail home, including Tom and Strand, were enthralled by Celia. They accepted or shared her belief that the walking dead are a kind of gift. Day Of The Dead seems to be a yearlong occurrence for them, though Celia’s distorted the spirit of it, to say the least. But in this context, where the walkers aren’t nearly as decomposed as the ones on The Walking Dead, it probably doesn’t seem so farfetched. We’ve seen how the FTWD walkers’ relatively normal appearance, combined with the relative novelty of these cataclysmic events, has given pause to the living when encountered. That would seem to just feed into Celia’s conviction that our loved ones have just passed on to the next stage in life. Luis said as much to Nick in “Blood In The Streets.”
Whatever she believes, Celia certainly seems to have convinced everyone else around her to accept it, too. Tom is bitten by a walker while trying to protect her, and Strand arrives just in time to watch the virus take him, thank you very much, Clarks and Manawas. Their parting is bittersweet, but something they seem to think is only temporary. Strand offers to join Tom in undead domestic bliss as part of Celia’s walker revue, but he appears to balk at eating the poisoned communion wafers that Celia gave him and the parishioners (maybe the priest wasn’t so wrong after all), so he might not be such a believer after all.
Strand’s faith isn’t the only one that’s tested this week. There’s still very little trust among our band of survivors. They’ve all had a chance to disappoint (or appall) each other, pre- and post-apocalypse. Because their perilous circumstances will provide ample opportunity to continue to do so, there’s also the possibility that someone will justify your belief in them. Chris, however, is currently filled with doubts. He bought Reed’s whole “you’re the disposable family member” shtick, and is angered when Travis questions him about his “righteous shooting.” The Abigail’s encounter with the Mexican military (who I found weirdly concerned with money, even if it is gold) cuts their discussion—and Luis’ life—short, though.
The Clark-Manawa family wasn’t living together in harmony before the world went to shit, but now it’s more divided than ever. Chris’ decision to shoot Reed was as much out of fear as anger, but Madison won’t forgive him the blunder, so he ends up focusing on her. When they make their way to the Abigail home after allowing Luis to die on the deck like a fish—sans any holes through the head—they’re attacked by all of the undead parishioners, including the priest. Chris just watches as one gets the upper hand on Madison, and his willful failure to act isn’t lost on Alicia. He threatens her when she confronts him, presumably to cement his reputation as the absolute worst.
For his part, Travis thinks his kid is just twisted up, and that his actions are lapses in judgment. But even if his son is a budding sociopath, Travis wants Madison’s help to, I don’t know, stave off said sociopathy? But seriously, Travis just wants Madison to show the same consideration for her stepson that he’s shown for his—it was Travis, after all, who volunteered to go looking for Nick at the church in season one. He asks her to believe in him, even if she can’t shake her concerns over Chris, which is something she can’t seem to do. Just as Dr. Exner told Liza last season that the definition of family becomes ever narrower as the world becomes more dangerous, there’s a hierarchy forming in Madison’s mind.
As objectionable as his actions clearly are, I don’t think Chris is irredeemable. Not yet, anyway. I believe that he’s both an asshole and a troubled kid. Unfortunately, his mental or emotional issues probably aren’t going to be addressed now that everyone’s in survival mode. All of this death is bound to take its toll—not even Nick has emerged unscathed. After being coaxed with some pozole, Nick opens up to Celia, telling her that the horrors he’s seen have caught up with him. He even has a flashback to the church as he sits next to a praying Ofelia in front of Celia’s altar for the dead. He notices an owl carved into a tree, the same owl that was on the token Daniel threw into the ocean after being begged by a dying Luis to give it to his mother. But Celia won’t be denied her family reunion.
- I don’t know what belief system Celia has, because it hasn’t been specified; I want to iterate that I guessed Aztec-rooted because of the owl thing.
- Madison: “How do you say ‘asshole’ in Spanish?”
Strand: “You don’t—you just grin and bear it.” Good plan, Madison.
- Standing over Madison and Alicia with a knife is going to be a hard thing for Chris to deny or explain, to say the least. He’d better hope for another barn outbreak.
- Ofelia and Nick are totally hitting it off, right?