SPOILERS AHEAD … AND SURVIVOR WEIRDNESS ON A THOROUGHLY CREEPY SCALE …
Getting stuck in the middle of the zombie apocalypse *and* losing everyone you love would go a long way to sending you way off the scales of workable sanity, right?
Just ask Ed (Raphael Sbarge) who has spent his post-end of the world days sealed into a hunting lodge hidden amongst trees off one of the main highways, crafting all kinds of monstrous artwork on … zombies.
Yes, zombies, with his nightmarish creations shambling about in the woods outside a place he once he used to holiday in but which is now his sanctuary, bolthole and mad scientist lab all in one, all with the sole intent of keeping Virginia (Colby Minifie) and her rangers from his door.
It works a treat, or he thinks it does, until Morgan (Lennie James), who is back in fevered messianic mode, all ruthless pragmatism and all moral surety to the damnation of everyone else, ambushes a convoy led by Victor (Colman Domingo) who is transporting Dakota (Zoe Colletti) to a safe house for reasons never fully disclosed (narrative convenience perhaps?).
With Dakota seizing the opportunity to escape her sister’s parents-murdering clutches – yes, it seems Virginia has indulged in some patricide and matricide for reasons never fully disclosed; there seems to be a lot of that going around in this episode – and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) called in by a desperate Victor to find them (if he loses Dakota, well goodbye cushy privilege), there are suddenly a LOT of people, alive and artistically dead, swarming near to the lodge.
And in it, as it comes to pass.
Deciding that the abandoned hunting lodge looks like the perfect place to hide someone you’ve just kidnapped – Alicia assumes Dakota has been snatched from the woods and she’d be right – Victor’s hoped for-saviour of his Vichy-esque career steals into the lodge where she spots Ed doing his best Frankenstein impression on the body of a recently-deceased Ranger.
While she’s watching him and then wondering where he went, he comes up behind her, gives her an injection of quick-acting tranquiliser and ties her to a table ready for god knows what to happen.
As it turns out, he saved Dakota – well, he claims he did; for god’s sake, he sews antlers into zombie chests so who really know, huh? – and she comes in and assures Alicia that they’re totally, completely safe and that all Ed wants to do is play chess with them like he did with his daughter.
Awww, isn’t sweet?
Well, perhaps it would IF there wasn’t a The Island of Dr. Moreau meets Pet Sematary vibe so heavy in the air that you’d swear you were inhaling cat fur by the lung-full.
As it turns out, Ed isn’t as creepy as he appears – OK yes he is, let’s not sugarcoat it; he’s crazy with grief – and after summoning a horde of his creations to the doors to “protect” them, realises that the only way he can do that is by sacrificing himself while Dakota, Alicia and Charlie escape his emotionally weird house of walking dead art.
What makes “Damage From the Inside” such a compelling, engrossing watch is the way it asks some pretty moral questions of two of its central characters – how far will they go to ensure their own safety?
It’s the topic du jour, thanks to Ed, and at various times, both Alicia and Morgan are willing to sell Dakota down the figurative river – or an actual one; really, I don’t think either of them care at their weaker morally-compromised moments – until they realise, for wholly different reasons that they would be betraying themselves as well as Dakota, who remains blissfully unaware she was such a pawn in play.
It’s a fascinating exploration of bare knuckled pragmatism and while it all ends happily for all concerned with everyone setting out for Morgan’s (SHHHH!) secret camp, after Victor lets them go but only extremely reluctantly, it does once again expose how far people will go for that elusive quality in the zombie apocalypse – actual safety which really is an illusion but something people can’t stop grasping for, and understandably so.
Fear the Walking Dead has found its moral storytelling core again after losing it slightly in seasons 5 and early season 6, and episodes as strong as “Damage From the Inside” augur well for the rest of the season which seems set less on a big, all out The Walking Dead war and more of a take Virginia out from within and without by the sheer power of moral conviction alone.
SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE GREAT COST OF BETRAYAL …
Ladies and gentlemen of the Ithaca-or-bust party, you have been played.
Quite royally played, in fact.
By the CRM no less, who are, it seems, rather adept at manipulating the hell out of people which makes you wonder what it is humanity will be left with if it’s all civilisation and no democracy or human rights and innate actual humanity to speak of.
If this is what it takes to safeguard the future of the human race, then what exactly what will we be left with?
It’s a sage and pertinent question but not one that’s being contemplated much by Iris (Aliyah Royale), Hope (Alexa Mansour), Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas (Hal Cumpston), Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (Annet Mahendru), who are all grappling with a far more immediate threat.
Is one of them a killer?
Actually no one is asking that really because Tony is dead, mauled like a slab of roast lamb at a family barbecue, and his nephew Percy (Ted Sutherland) is missing, presumed dead by bloody wound at the river or via an Empty or both – leaving a trail of blood in the zombie apocalypse is probably never a good idea and especially not at night – and everyone thinks Silas did it.
Well, not everyone with plucky, loyal Elton, who regards the group as his family (except for his mum, of course, who’s alive and with his sister and … oh wait, no, Hope has spilled the beans and all hope, no pun intended has been crushed and Elton has the wind taken quite considerably out of his ever-optimistic sails) and a dubious Iris and thoughtful Felix not entirely sure it’s that clear cut.
Even dear, sweet Silas, roped up to a swing in the thankfully fenced off yard, has tried himself and found himself wanting and after killing his evilly abusive dad, who turned zombie upstairs in the bedroom almost taking out Silas and possibly fatally biting his wife, he is convinced he is a murderer.
There is no quarter given by himself or others – as judge, jury and executioners go, Silas is pretty self brutal but not far behind him is Hope who appears to have gained not a single gram of empathy after her decade-long struggle to deal with her own murderous tendencies (admittedly hers was driven by circumstance but then to be fair, so was Silas’s act, something Hope doesn’t even try to understand).
Alas, she doesn’t stand a chance, glaring lack of empathy aside, since Silas has shut down, refusing to talk and lost in a world of flashbacks and searing memories where we see his dad, lie all abusers, being loving and sweet one minute and then horrifically awful the next, and gaslighting inbetween so that his dear, sweet, metal-loving son thinks he is the monster.
As portraits in abuse go, it is searing and World Beyond doesn’t shy away from portraying the intensity of the abuse nor the corrosive effect on the victim, in this case Silas who only becomes a murderer out of ground down necessity and then only because if he doesn’t fight back, he is dead.
Your heart goes out to Silas in a million different ways, and while Hope and Huck (who seems all too eager to pinpoint the deaths on Silas; how do you spell all-too-convenient scapegoat?) are measuring him for prison garb – or in the zombie apocalypse, abandoning him to his fate – Felix and Iris and especially Elton assure him that they believe he is not a killer.
Well, Elton is 100% adamant while Iris and Felix want to believe if only Silas will talk which is not exactly unconditional love and support.
Any thought that any of us might have had that World Beyond is a CW clone set in the apocalypse were blown convincingly and comprehensively out of the window in an episode that not only empathetically shows us how deadly abuse can be to its victims who, if they do defend themselves, often feel like they have failed as human beings, but how it leaves its victims convinced they are the problem, not helped by people who don’t take the time to understand what life is actually like for them.
As you watch, it’s becomes patently obvious that Huck seems a little too eager to pin the deaths on silent, self-recriminating Silas, but initially you dismiss it as Huck’s propensity to militaristic intensity, and nothing more.
But then, THEN, we discover ……….. SPOILERS AHEAD!!!! ……….. that Huck is a CRM spy, and possibly the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel (Julia Ormond) to whom she reports, and that it is highly likely, HIGHLY LIKELY, that Huck has disposed of Tony and Percy to stop the truck whooshing them there quickly, and intends further harm to our intrepid party who end up split with Silas exiling himself and sweet Elton setting off to keep him company, griefstricken by Hope’s admission as he is leaving that she killed his mother.
Yep, happy, HAPPY, ever after.
It’s dark and sad and oppressively realistic, and stamps World Beyond, which has always had at its heart a balance between hopeful, unscarred humanity and the grim reality of a world near-destroyed, as a show unafraid to be honest about the scarring effect of abuse and the terrible effects of broken humanity upon its victims, who keep suffering long after the abuse has stopped, but also one that dares to advance the idea that even our attempts to rebuild might be poisoned since if we have to lie, cheat and kill to sustain the new world, is it much of a future after all?