Fear the Walking Dead: “Brother’s Keeper” (S3, E12 review)

So much for posting selfies on Instagram and kissing boys behind the bleachers … apocalyptic teenage Alicia is definitely not living the teenage dream (photo by Richard Foreman Jr / courtesy AMC)

 

  • SPOILERS AHEAD … AND MORE ZOMBIES THAN YOU CAN POKE A POINTY STICK AT …

So you know how they – yes the mysterious “they” who are responsible for pretty much everything it seems – always say revenge is a dish best served cold?

How about undead with trailing entrails and an unearthly growl?

Not all that appealing on one level but definitely capturing the revenge vibe which, let’s face it, it not exactly cute puppies, warm hugs and all the cheesecake you can eat.

In “Brother’s Keeper”, which saw Jake (Sam Underwood) and Troy (Daniel Sharman) circling around the turgid drain of brotherly love, revenge was all the rage, particularly if you’re a zombie since mindless raging is pretty much all you have left to do, beside chomping down on stray living creatures like cows and yes sadly, Jake.

Troy was smitten, in his lifetime state of delusion which had received an extra helping hand of detached from reality when he was exiled from the ranch and left out in the wilderness by Madison (Kim Dickens), by the idea of making everyone at The Ranch suffer.

But, and this is a tribute to the quality of the writing that uniformly the storytelling on Fear the Walking Dead, his motivations were actually far more nuanced and decidedly filial.

In his state of ravaged sanity, the product of more abuse than anyone should have to endure, Troy saw herding a massive, and I mean dust storm-creating massive horde of the undead towards The Ranch as some act of brotherly love.

That he, Troy, son of the cruelly slain Jeremiah (Dayton Callie), wasn’t going to take the necessary death of his father lying down – not that he saw it as necessary; adding to Jake’s torment, he did, an acknowledgement that diabolically increased the intensity of his emotional pain – and so, in a plan straight out of the “what the living f**k are you doing?” playbook (best avoided if you can) Troy spent two days sending a sh*t ton of the undead towards a whole lot of wholly innocent people at The Ranch.

 

It’s always the same … post a party on social media and all the undead lowlifes in the neighbourhood turn up (photo by Richard Foreman Jr / courtesy AMC)

 

The only reason anyone knew it was happening though was because, in a Bond villain-esque moment, Troy visited his unhinged soul brother Nick (Frank Dillane) and cryptically hinted that “a reckoning” was coming.

Ah vaguely redneck Biblically malevolent language is such a hoot isn’t it? All kinds of doom and death and destruction tied up in a great big pile of camp craziness.

For reasons known only to Nick, and seriously wouldn’t you have run down the hill to tell people, Madison’s #1 child – yeah sorry Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) but you know it’s true, he waited until morning light to saunter down and let Alicia, Jake, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) and Lee aka Crazy Dog (Justin Rain) know that (a) Toy was alive (b) he was babbling like an end-times prophet on way too much mescaline, and (c) doom might soon be upon them.

Well hurrah Nick and wouldn’t like bacon and eggs with all that doom and gloom?

Naturally, the only way to sort out whether anything was actually going on for sure since Troy was not exactly the most reliable of people with a few thousand holes in his credibility rating, Jake and Nick set off to find him and see if the Bond villainy was real or imagined.

Sadly, real which c’mon they must have known would be the case.

As the horde of the undead ambled past them Z Nation-like, Jake and Troy had a brotherly moment, but not the kind you’d see featured in a Hallmark movie around Christmastime.

No, theirs involved Jake holding a gun to Troy’s head saying he had to end it here, Nick saying “No, don’t do it, think of the pain and regret!” – yes that’s right folks, Nick was more worried about Jake’s fragile emotional state than he was about the lives of many others back at The Ranch; priorities, Nick, priorities! – and Jake failing to follow through.

Push came to shove, undead hordes to the squabbling three and before you knew it, Jake had been bitten, had had his arm chopped off, died, turned, all while Troy tearfully realised that maybe a card saying “I love you brother” might have been a way less messy an option.

 

Let’s hear it for brotherly love and … yeah, well, maybe not the type that leads to zombie chomping (photo by Richard Foreman Jr / courtesy AMC)

 

So the sh*t, or in this case, desert dust royally hit the fan, and the horde arrived at  The Ranch and quickly overwhelmed the circling of the wagons aka Winnebagos defence, forcing everyone bar a few hapless Ensign Ranchers to flee for the cutely-named Pantry wherein lie lots of food, water and guns … and bloody big doors to keep zombies out.

Getting in was relatively easy for everyone bar Ofelia, Alicia and Lee who had to fight their way to safety through a group of fairly determined zombies but getting out could be a mite tricky.

Fortunately Madison, Qaletaqa (Michael Greyeyes) and Victor (Colman Domingo) are coming back with a tanker of water and Nick and Troy are still out there somewhere but man alive, there’s a lot of the undead to dispatch before anyone can kick back and watch a Texan sunset anytime soon.

For all the gory zombie action, and it was freaking spectacular truth be told, “Brother’s Keeper” was a beautifully nuanced Shakespearean tale of brotherly love and delusion that carried a huge amount of emotional romance.

It emphasised again that Fear the Walking Dead‘s great narrative strength is its ability to tell emotionally-impacting very intimate stories within a broad broadstrokes canvas, focusing on the fact that for all the big action set pieces, the apocalypse is really about how the lives of various people and groups are affected.

While big dramatic baddies may look enticing – The Walking Dead is almost fatally addicted to them now; yeah I’m looking at you Negan – what really matters in these apocalyptic tales is what’s happening at the human level.

“Brother’s Keeper” captured this profoundly and movingly, giving us the big zombie battle we all crave but remembering that for it to mean anything at all, we need to see the humanity behind it, something that was on palpably powerful display in this exquisitely well-wrought episode.

  • Next time on Fear the Walking Dead … “This Land is Your Land” where who has what plot of ground looks to be less of a concern than, you know, actually surviving to stand on it …

 

 

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