The final episode before the mid-season finale of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, entitled “Red Dirt,” was one that mostly consisted of private chit-chats between two characters at a time. While there wasn’t a lot of action, and there was only one scene with the undead in it at all, it was still an important and pivotal episode, as the Clarke family, knowingly or not, works the ruling Otto family to their advantage; the master plan being Madison and her kids ultimately running the show there.
Last week we learned that there has been a long-standing dispute with a Native American tribe over the land that the Ottos have inhabited and built their compound on. Madison, Troy, and company had a run in with Walker, the leader of the tribe and also quite the maniac (he removed part of a man’s skull and kept the brain intact just so some crows could peck at it as he sat still alive). He also took all of the envoys weapons and shoes, and sent them back to Broke Jaw Ranch with a message: turn over their land or die.
The group of course delivers this message. One particularly scared soldier, the son of one of the founding fathers of the group, proclaims loudly for everyone to hear that there is no way to fight Walker and his people, and that they truly must leave in order to keep their lives. This does not make anyone happy, but especially not Madison and Troy. Madison plans to keep this land, and its fences and food, and make it her own. Troy plans the same but also does not like the idea of his father’s life work falling apart. Moving on to some other place where he is just a nobody and not the son of the leader.
But people are frightened. As they should be. And slowly, families and friends start to trickle out. This causes more unease among the people who stay put because with each body that evacuates they have one less body to defend the land they presently reside in. Troy tries to put a stop to this by intimidating those trying to leave. A mother and son who were cleared to leave by Jeremiah got an earful from Troy when they tried to take a few things from the pantry. The worst is when one of the founding fathers and his family try to make an exit, a tremendous blow to the confidence of the community. Troy sees this and is enraged. He rushes to the gate to cut them off before they can leave, and is highly confrontational. Ultimately, the family leaves to make their way in the world on their own.
One of Jeremiah’s oldest friends and co-founders leaving is a huge blow to his confidence as well. It shakes him enough that he falls off the wagon; he’s back on the bottle, getting drunk off his ass at Nick’s little hut. The two of them seem to have hit it off, and are bonding. Jeremiah earlier in the episode is teaching Nick how to aim and shoot a gun with accuracy. And though I love the actor playing Jeremiah and think he is one of the most talented cast members the show has seen, the scenes between he and Nick are often boring. We’ve seen Nick bond with an older leader of a community before; just last season, mind you. It feels repetitive.
In Jeremiah’s absence, Madison steps up. She knows that leaving the compound is not necessarily the safer decision for this people, and she tells as many of them as she can that having lived outside the safety of the compound, death is around every corner out there, as well. In an impassioned speech, she tries to inspire people to stay and fight for what is theirs. But it’s not clear that it’s working.
One day Jeremiah finds a horse that belonged to the family of the founding father that left camp. He and Madison set out together to find out what happened. Madison thinks it may have been Walker and his people who attacked the family. Jeremiah knows better. When they find the RV that we saw them leave in, the entire family has been shot and killed. Three of them are feasting on a horse, that is still alive, in the back. They put them out of their misery. The question now is, who did this? We know that Walker and his people would salvage anything they could from an attack like this. They even took Madison and company’s shoes upon their last run in! So why would they just leave these people for dead?
Well, Troy was pretty heated when they left, and as we know he is quite the loose cannon of a sociopath. Madison knows it is him, but she uses this to her advantage. Declaring that those who have left are dead means that people will not be too scared to cut out on their own after all. Safety in numbers. It was a smart strategic move on her part, and she goes to Troy to form some sort of unholy alliance. He doesn’t come out and say he was the one who killed the family, but he doesn’t deny it either. Madison does not care though. She tells him that she and he are the only ones who are strong enough to save this place, and they can do it together. She just needs to know that he can control himself. He reports that he can, but I’m not so sure. Nick is aware of this and warns his mother: “Just don’t forget what he is.”
In another boring side plot, Alicia and Jake continue their relationship, sleeping together regularly. She even goes on birth control (the camp luckily has some). When Madison asks her about it, she tells her that she is getting closer to Jake for strategic reasons, but she also likes him. She’s not in love with him, though. However, when Jake wants to leave the compound and go try and talk things out with Walker, it sure looks like she cares. I don’t have high hopes for how that will go.
I’m looking forward to next week’s two-hour mid-season finale, and hopefully we will get a little of Daniel and Strand together, as they were sorely missed this week.
Season 3, Episode 6 (S03E06)
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday at 9PM on AMC
Paul Gulyas | Contributor