FEAR THE WALKING DEAD returned to AMC Sunday night with a back to back episode premiere that reunited characters and further divided others. If you will recall, the mid-season finale back in early July left off with the two factions of survivors–the Otto ranchers and the Black Hat Reservation–narrowly avoiding war when Madison and Nick decide to kill patriarch Jeremiah, who was hell-bent on seeing the blood shed come to fruition. They made it look like a drunken suicide, and that is what both camps believe to be true. However, as you can imagine, secrets do not stay secret for very long in this world. And soon enough the two sides are right back where they were two episodes ago, some blood being spilled and teetering on the edge of spilling so much more.
The first hour, entitled “Minotaur,” kicked off with a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not the End” playing over catching up with our main characters. Nick is out with Troy killing zombies. Madison is appeasing the people of the Ranch. Alicia is taking care of her sick new boo Jake. And not long after that, the Native Americans arrive in trucks and trailers to enter the Ranch, the land they claim as rightfully theirs as it was owned by their ancestors. We soon get our first glimpses of what it means for these two opposing communities to live side by side in such tight quarters.
Many are still looking for a fight, chief among them is–you guessed it–the maniac Troy. The first hour of the night largely devoted itself to this story line. How will Troy deal with living alongside the people who he feels have been his and his family’s enemy for a long time? How will he deal with his remaining family–the much more responsible and level-headed Jake–telling him that this is how it has to be? Well, it turns out not too well. When Troy gets in the ear of a Rancher who lost a loved one to the Nation, the guy drunkenly tries to gun down one of them during a meal. Soon Walker is insisting that his people maintain all the weapons in the camp. And Madison agrees that this is the best solution.
However, when they get to the Otto house on the hill to take Troy’s guns, he does not give up without a fight. He slams the door on them and arms himself quickly, ready for battle. Nick stays with him, trying to talk him down, but the Nation see it as him siding with Troy. A lengthy gun battle ensues, with the mad man Troy shooting his automatic rifle at the invading Nation, while retreating to deeper rooms of the house. And all the while Nick tries to tell him that his father, Jeremiah, died to avoid this very conflict and bloodshed. Of course that doesn’t work. After Nick attempts to disarm Troy himself with a few blows to the head and fails, he takes the opportunity to tell him the truth: he killed Troy’s father. Instead of killing Nick, Troy more or less surrenders and is taken in.
Walker insists on a punishment for both Troy and Nick, although he knows Nick did attempt to talk him down. Killing him would make a martyr of him, so Walker dictates that Troy be banished. Madison agrees, as does his own brother Jake, telling him he can never come back. Nick is banished to a small metal hut with one small opening out in the desert for an uncertain amount of time–a cruel torture to sure. And when Madison drives Troy out to the middle of nowhere to let him go on his exile, Troy kills the member of the Nation accompanying them, and almost kills Madison. However she gets the best of him and pull a gun on him, forcing him to walk away. She could easily shoot and be SURE that he never comes back. Lord knows he deserves it. But she can’t do it. I have a feeling she will come to regret that.
But Madison has more to worry about than Troy. In the second hour, entitled “The Diviner” she learns from some old files of Jeremiah’s that the well from which the Ranch draws all its water has steadily been shrinking since 2009, at least. She calculates it and figures that with the amount of people they now have living there, they have enough water for six weeks, and that is it. And so she and Walker set out to try and solve the problem by finding a new source of water, be it natural or some sort of trade with another people.
Meanwhile Nick is hallucinating in his tin hut. He sees Troy antagonizing him from the outside. At first we’re not sure if he actually returned to the Ranch already or not. But soon it becomes evidence that Nick is just losing it. Madison comes to say goodbye to him before she leaves, dropping a bottle of water inside for him. She tells Alicia to look after Nick, and then she is off, though they will be checking in with long range walkie-talkies as they travel. Not long after she leaves, Nick is let out and he is surprised to find that the militia that Troy had been training to fight the Nation have not given up with the absence of their leader. In fact, they heard that Nick stood by Troy in his big battle at the house and now see him as a sort of leader in Troy’s absence. They even give him the one remaining firearm they have that the Nation does not know about. Nick is careful not to deny or confirm that he is on their side in wanting to fight the Nation, but his silence on the matter is enough to confirm to these men that he is with them.
Madison and Walker come to a sort of bazaar built in an old stadium. It really is like a marketplace we have not seen before in this series or that of The Walking Dead. And of course who does she run into there? Victor Strand himself who has made a few bad choices and worked himself into debt with the local woman who runs things. Walker wants nothing to do with Strand, but Madison sees her friend and wants to help him. As he can not pay his debts, he is going to be fed to the zombies. He is taken and forced on the opposite side of a fence where the zombies surround him. At the last moment, the guards shoot the zombies and bring Strand back in. Turns out Madison paid his debt with the gold they were going to use for about 5,000 gallons of water. Walker is furious, but she tells him that the 5,000 gallons was a stall and waste of gold. Strand has a permanent solution: he’s going to take them to the dam.
And what is happening at the dam? Our old friend Daniel Salazar is there helping Lola, the new leader after the ruthless Dante was killed, run things. But that is proving harder than one would think. Even though they are generously providing water to local communities, it is not enough. People begin to riot and revolt, not liking the system Lola and Daniel have in place. At one point Lola and Daniel even have to escape via truck as an angry mob engulfs them. So Madison, Victor, and Walker are walking into a very complicated situation as they head for the dam.
And things are not better back at the Ranch. Rationing water, everyone is entitled to just two gallons per person per day. But when Ranchers start to accuse members of the Nation of double dipping, and vice versa, it almost erupts in bloodshed again. To control things, the Nation takes control of the well. This is the last straw for Troy’s old militia. They look to Nick to lead them to action. And he does. They grab weapons (shovels, axes, picks) and head for the Nation’s part of the Ranch. Only to find that Alicia and Ofelia and some others are digging a new well in hopes of striking water. There is a moment where Nick can either lead them to attack, retreat, or do something else entirely. He decides to walk over to where the well is being dug, and start helping. Soon the others join him. Conflict avoided! For now…
Overall it was a satisfying few hours that promises a tense season of conflict ahead.
Season 3, Episode 9-10 (S03E09-10)
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday at 9PM on AMC
Paul Gulyas | Contributor