(Photo: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)
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Compromise is almost always going to be the order of the day in a world where the most basic human needs (and emotions) can be your undoing. Falling asleep could mean never waking up again—not as your old self, anyway. Although the Angelenos have placed their needs above those of other survivors, they’ve also shown an ability to play nice when encountering a group on equal footing or with the upper hand. Where they’ve really struggled is in striking a balance within the group. Even with pirates and cartel members roaming freely, inner conflicts have always presented the greatest threat. Chris threatening Alicia and Madison was prompted by the loss of his mother, and before that, the loss of his father’s attention. Celia didn’t really lure Nick away from his family with her beliefs—he abandoned them multiple times in their previous life, so leaving again was easy. Although Alicia stayed by Madison’s side, they still haven’t really connected.

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Fear The Walking Dead has always been a family drama, so the boiling over of simmering resentment made a bit more sense early on, when no one really grasped the enormity of the situation and thought they’d all live to fight with each other another day. As I’ve stated before, I accepted that the relative novelty of this dead-ridden world affords the characters some latitude as far as making decisions that seem short-sighted at best, and flat-out stupid at worst. But that denial quickly became a luxury for the characters, and a frustration for viewers. We’re now months in—both in the show’s timeline and real life—so it’s high time that everyone picked up the new agenda. At this point, any refusal to adapt should be tantamount to a death sentence.

There is a fine line between acceptance and resignation, of course, as we learned in the first half of the season from the Gearys. When last we saw her, Ofelia appeared to have given up as well. Although Alicia tried to comfort her, Ofelia refused to become part of this new family, arguing that since their bond isn’t one of blood, it’s nonexistent. So when that body flew past Alicia near the end of “Los Muertos,” I initially thought Ofelia was a goner. But the adult orphan is actually alive and well, and riding around in someone else’s automobile, because apparently Strand did leave the keys in the truck.

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I’ll admit I was relieved that Ofelia hadn’t been killed off-screen, nor was she just cowering in a closet somewhere. That didn’t stem from any real affection for the character, though, because her actions so far have inspired none. I was kind of appalled that she’d ditch Alicia et al., because they had saved the Salazars’ lives, but I don’t have an active dislike for the character. Thing is, it’s hard to muster much of a response to her at all, because she didn’t do much other than recover from a gunshot wound in the first half of the season. Still, I would’ve felt cheated if someone else met their end off-screen (though it’s possible Daniel’s not actually dead). I’m glad that Ofelia finally seems to be with it, if only because I don’t want to see her have even less to do as another grieving person at the Rosarito resort. (I doubt Eileen would share that spot with her anyway). But if she wants to start over, why couldn’t or wouldn’t she do it with the people who saved her life before? She has no reason to bear them any ill will. Alicia, Madison, and Strand may not be family, but they’re not her enemies either.

Ofelia did add to the burgeoning number of flashbacks this season, reliving her engagement and a special mother-daughter moment. Afterwards, she prepares for a trip. I couldn’t make out her destination on the map while watching the screener online, but I think she’s going to Santa Fe to look up her ex. She appears fueled by Griselda’s talk of love and sacrifice, as well as her newfound freedom. Ofelia didn’t reveal her resentment until after she learned of her father’s past, but her words to Strand about missing out on love to look after her parents suggest that she was bitter about it all along. Ofelia’s trip might be more of a step back than it is a look forward, but at least she’s finally doing something. But it doesn’t bode well for the resolution of this season to find any momentum in a character’s story such a pleasant surprise.

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Progress has been made at the Rosarito resort too, which is now walker-free, thanks to the rip tide. Crops are growing and the generator is running again, which the group agrees to use only for necessities. Strand’s tending bar, and Alicia’s learning to surf and laugh again. The teen commiserates with Hector, who also has a errant brother. But Hector knows exactly where Antonio is—he’s holed up in a supermarket with a gang of culeros (assholes), which we soon learn is the same group led by Marco. Now that we have the “where” and “why” (because Madison loves Nick) for the Clark family reunion, the “how” becomes an injured Strand, who’s stabbed by Jessica’s mother for “killing” her daughter. Since Eileen still doesn’t get what’s going on, I’m okay with her getting knocked off, because we have way too many characters again, and this other grieving mother is just dead weight right now.

Despite her refocused dedication to Alicia, Madison is also still holding on to a lost loved one, and losing sympathy from her family and viewers by the second. Never mind how convenient this whole setup is—Madison’s backsliding is far more irritating. I understand that she still feels responsible for Nick, and that a mother would probably never give up on her child. But I had really hoped we were done with Vacillatin’ Madison. She imposed order at the Rosarito, even adding an “exile for violence against each other” rule to keep things civilized after Strand’s attack. But then she quickly tears the still-healing ties with her daughter, and lights up the damn hotel sign at night, like a beacon to her wayward family members and marauders. What’s worse is that she does all of this based on the most meager details about Nick’s possible survival. The fact that she responds to such an unflattering description of her son— a ratty-haired American with drugs—is more cringe-inducing than heartwarming. Despite her earlier admonishment about violence against the other Rosarito residents, Madison’s endangered them all, including her daughter. She doesn’t suffer the fate of Lot’s wife in this episode, but her attachment to Nick is bound to get the best of her.

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Competence remains inconsistent for all the main characters this season except for Nick and, increasingly, Alicia. The Clark kids both suffered the loss of their father, but Alicia is the one who’s also been without a mother. She’s compensated for Nick and Madison’s behavior her whole life, even extending her caretaker tendencies outside of the home. Like Nick, Alicia’s also upended expectations—not from her family, but from viewers who quickly grew exasperated with what seemed like moodiness, and assumed she wasn’t long for this world. But Alicia’s proven that she can look out for herself and others. It’s been a gradual reversal, one that I think is this season’s highlight.

Where it once seemed like Nick was just making the most of things, it now looks like he’s been leading a charmed life. He’s found a new home and love (or something like it) with Luciana. He feels little if any remorse about leaving his family, and is eager to start over. His adaptability has served him well, but now that it looks like he’ll soon be faced with his mother again, I wonder how happy she’s going to be to see him, especially since he’s doing so well. They will probably have more pressing matters to deal with, like Marco’s forthcoming siege of the colonia, but I wouldn’t put it past Madison to take the time to chew him out.

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Stray observations

  • There were no episode images of Ofelia’s return to include here. Welcome back, girl!
  • Antonio told Elena that the Pelicano gang won’t be at the supermarket much longer, but does that mean they’re planning to take revenge on/oxy from Alejandro and Nick before heading to the resort?
  • At the risk of reading way too much into this, a pelican is a symbol for the Eucharist, so has that store name been foreshadowing for Madison giving up her life for (one of) her kids?
  • Given that they had to reduce the potency of their oxycontin supply recently, I’m starting to think that Alejandro might be using. He was sweating profusely and seemed unfocused. Even though his “bite” appears to be healed, it might be causing him some pain that he’d want to relieve with oxy. He’s also stashing alcohol in water bottles, though that might have just been a means of distracting Nick.
  • We can’t see if Travis is alone in that parting shot, but I’m betting he is.

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