Fear the Walking Dead: “Los Muertos” (S2, E9 review)

On the inside looking out, Los Muertos are having a bloody good time; those left alive? Not so much? (image courtesy AMC)
On the inside looking out, Los Muertos are having a bloody good time; those left alive? Not so much? (image courtesy AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD … BUS RIDES TO HELL … AND A SALUTORY LESSON IN NOT DRINKING AND ZOMBIE-SLAYING*

 

It’s hardly surprising in a show called Fear the Walking Dead that you would have an episode devoted to death.

In fact, it would be entirely reasonable if that’s all anyone ever talked about.

What was fascinating about “Los Muertos” is the way the show deftly examined a number of divergent attitudes to death in the course of one slow-burning, intense episode where Nick (Frank Dillane) in Tijuana and Victor (Colman Domingo), Madison (Kim Dickens), daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) couldn’t escape the fact that life was now losing out ina big way to its far more ghoulish companion.

In fact, in Tijuana at La Colonia, high above Tijuana, Nick awoke to see a man, clearly ailing in the dying stages of the flu that has felled most of humanity before cruelly resurrecting them, walk through an empty bus that forms part of the boundary between the compounds of the living and the dead and sacrifice himself to feed the zombies of the inhabitants’ former family and friends.

What was horrific to him – he did his best to shield the man’s young daughter as she looked on but she gamely kept watching – was, now at least, a natural part of life for everyone else.

So ingrained was that philosophy in the belief systems of the survivors in the camp that the leader, a pharmacist called Alejandro (Paul Calderon) actually preached it to a crowded room, much like a fervent evangelist would to his revivalist flock.

But this was no slight moulding of Christianity to fit the circumstances – this was a total re-shaping of beliefs with life seen as a way point between the two stages of death.

Interestingly, the former Celia groupie, who completely bought into the idea that zombieism was simply another form of life, looked badly shaken by witnessing the casual way in which the true believers venerated the dead as the harbingers of a new cleansed Earth.

They didn’t worship the zombies in the way Celia did but they certainly saw them as an important first step, one that would be cleared away in time, to a reborn and reinvigorated world.

 

Let's go shopping! With armed guards, no weekly specials and the threat of constant death ... OK, let's not (image courtesy AMC)
Let’s go shopping! With armed guards, no weekly specials and the threat of constant death … OK, let’s not (image courtesy AMC)

 

But wacko life/death philosophy or not, people gotta eat and drink and so Luciana (Danay Garcia) set off with Nick – he was chosen because like her, he supposedly had no one who would miss him; in reality Maddie was missing him terribly convinced he could be found somewhere along the coast of Mexico – to parlay with one of the gangs now controlling Tijuana.

In exchange for a big fat bag of Oxycotin, the two were allowed to go into the “shop” to grab water, food and a whole big helping heap of attitude from the gang members especially leader Marco, witnessing not just how poor the range of foods now were but how many sick and dying were barely clinging to life in the warehouse.

More dead to cleanse the earth with then? Hurrah!

One misstep almost cost Nick his arm, and then his life but some fast talking and attitude – see told you it was on special! – and Nick not only got to keep all his limbs but also scored them an extra shopping cart of food and water.

And some chocolate for the dead sacrificial man’s daughter, an exchange that softened the hard-bitten Luciana’s view of Nick.

So yeah shopping’s ain’t what it used to be, turns out Alejandro has been bit and somehow survived – so an immune person then? Now that’s a fascinating development; let’s hope the show explores it further – and Nick is the one having to once again reassess what he thinks about death, the living and the perilous place in-between that everyone now has to navigate.

 

Here catch this! Victor turns very quickly from drinking the bottles to using them to brain more than a few zombies (image courtesy AMC)
Here catch this! Victor turns very quickly from drinking the bottles to using them to brain more than a few zombies (image courtesy AMC)

 

Meanwhile back at the luxury hotel that Madison, Victor, Alicia and Ofelia fell back to after (a) searching for Nick turned out to be a bust – Alicia finally got fed up and reminded her mum that she was still alive and with her; Nick however was not – and (b) turned out someone has stolen the Abigail (yep they forgot to put the anti-theft lock on!), things got decidedly philosophical.

While Maddie and Victor got themselves smashed on tequila – is that such a good idea? After all, who knows when zombies might appear and … oh look, there they are now! – and lamented life, the universe and everything, Alicia and Ofelia headed up into the tower housing the rooms to see what they could scavenge.

It soon became apparent that while Alicia was determined to see the apocalypse through – preferably not at the hotel in the long-term since the zombies that kept tumbling, rather comically and in Z Nation-like fashion it must be noted, from the balconies kind took away from the relaxed, holiday atmosphere of old – Ofelia had given up hope.

Yup, the one thing that everyone had in abundance if they chose to hang onto it – Alicia was hanging on so tight you could see her knuckles turning white – was the one thing Ofelia had decided was surplus to requirements.

You can hardly blame her given she’d just lost her dad and mum in reasonably quick succession but given there’s not much else to depend on – Victor and Madison lamented the loss of the life they once knew – hope was pretty much it.

There in that room was writ large the two of the three main prevailing reactions to the apocalypse – give up we’re all doomed vs. there is hope!

Quite where Ofelia ended up was a mystery since when Alicia emerged from the shower she was gone; any thoughts of finding her were quickly extinguished by the falling zombies, one of whom Alicia initially thought was Ofelia, who were attracted by Victor and Madison’s rousing drinking, wonky-piano playing and general disregard for one of the key rules of the apocalypse – don’t making any noise.

The episode ended with Victor and Madison trapped in the middle of the bar, zombies all around them, another chance, not that they needed it, to reassess their attitudes to death and dying, an examination that occurred again and again in a taut episode that named the elephant in the room as death and challenged everyone to find some accommodation with it.

  • And the challenges of the death-ridden apocalypse continue in next week’s “Do Not Disturb” when death once again takes a starring role and life? Well life continues its deft pirouetting on the back foot …

 

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