Fear the Walking Dead: “Pillar of Salt” (S2, E12 review)

"I see a time coming soon when I will abandon all good sense and endanger myself to try and save my son who left me behind." "OH don't be ridiculous Madison." (photo courtesy Richard Forman/AMC)
“I see a time coming soon when I will abandon all good sense and endanger myself to try and save my son who left me behind.”
“Oh don’t be ridiculous Madison.”
(photo courtesy Richard Forman/AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD … COOLERS FULL OF ICE AND FISH, REGRETS AND PARANOIA … NO SIGN OF THE PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE*

 

Wholly in keeping with its apocalyptic mandate, Fear the Walking Dead got all badass, end-of-times Biblical this week with “Pillar of Salt”.

Presumably a reference to Lot’s wife who was turned into the titular column of condiment when she defied instructions from a vengeful God not to look back at the soon-to-be-destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah – see Genesis 19 onward for the whole gory story – the episode was all about the apocalyptic imperative to move forward, ever forward, with the past every bit as lost as most of humanity.

Not everyone – I’m looking at you Madison (Kim Dickens)! Yes YOU – handled the idea of embracing the brand new world around them with as few regrets as possible and it proved an instructive lesson on why, tempted though you might be, that you can’t go back to somewhere that only now exists in your memory.

First cab off the rank in that regard was missing-in-action Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) who, surprise, surprise, had taken the pick-up trunk and was heading, presumably to New Mexico where her spurned fiance – you never see the break-up but it’s implied it’s taken place by a flashback scene where a newly-engaged Ofelia realises she will never be able to leave parents Daniel (Rubén Blades) and Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) behind – hopefully awaits, hopefully alive.

Bummer of a reunion if she was greeted by sloping undeadness and drooling gurgling sounds right?

While she appears resolute on the surface and matter-of-factly and entirely unemotionally sources petrol and food supplies for her treacherous journey all while hammering in the skull of a zombie, there is one key moment in a beachside restaurant where the past threatens to render her immobile and mute.

It’s the restaurant where her fiance Will (Ashley Zukerman) proposed to her way back at him, a place so redolent with emotional import and loss that you see her temporarily step aside from her Ripley-esque persona and resume the Ofelia we once knew.

Unlike Lot’s wife however, her look back is short and sweet and before you know she’s off and running, or driving as the case may be, leaving Mexicali far behind with nary a backward glance.

 

Lost in wistful regret, Antonio wonders why he didn't smear himself in zombie guts when he had the chance (photo courtesy Richard Forman/AMC)
Lost in wistful regret, Antonio wonders why he didn’t smear himself in zombie guts when he had the chance (photo courtesy Richard Forman/AMC)

 

Madison, on the other hand, goes a long way to raise the blood pressure of everyone around her with a sodium overdose when a medicines run to the drug gang in Tijuana – it turns out that Nick (Frank Dillane) is only 15 minutes away, a vivid illustration of how quickly the tyranny of distance has reasserted its primal control over humanity – to get supplies for an injured Victor (Colman Domingo), knifed by a Lala Land-occupying mother of the bride Ilene (Brenda Strong) goes a little off the rails.

Entirely at her normally, veins-as-cold-as-ice hands.

Stepping into the warehouse with ice and fish to trade – the result of getting the generator up and running at the Rosarito Hotel (now an idyll of fishing, surfing and cold alcoholic beverages) which, everyone decides, emboldened by a typically firm Madison, not to run at night; take note of this, it matters a lot later on – she overhears the head of the gang interrograting La Colonia runaways Francisco (Alfredo Herrera) and wife Ana (Maria Antonieta Zapien Romero) who have tired of Alejandro’s (Paul Calderon) increasingly cult-like rule.

They mention a young Americano male with ratty hair – hello Nick! – but don’t mention him by name, a mere trifling detail that doesn’t deter Madison, fixated on finding her son even at the expense of daughter Alicia’s (Alycia Debnam-Clark) wellbeing (yeah she doesn’t handle that well), from ignoring strict shoot-first-ask-questions-later instructions not to move from her small square of the warehouse and rushing to the room where the interrogation is taking place.

Ignoring her companion Elena’s (Karen Bethzabe) entreaties to shut the hell up and stay put, she almost creates a Massive Incident, saved only by the fact that Elena’s estranged nephew Antonio (Ruben Carbajal), brother to Hector (Ramses Jimenez) back at the hotel, doesn’t want to shed family blood.

It’s a close pillar of salt-turning moment though and one that that almost costs Victor his life, ruptures the healing bonds between Madison and Alicia – who feels, once again, like the second-favourite child which she most clearly is – and will wreck life at the Rosarito Beach Hotel when Madison, wanting to send a signal to Nick (quite how he’ll know his family is at the hotel isn’t thought through), switches on all the lights at night and attracts the attention of any living person within sight.

Including – hello there! – a heavily-bearded Travis (Cliff Curtis) who is noticeably Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) light.

 

Stopped for some holiday snaps at a particularly part of her journey, Ofelia wonders how it is you get the taste of petrol out of your mouth (photo courtesy Richard Forman/AMC)
Stopped for some holiday snaps at a particularly part of her journey, Ofelia wonders how it is you get the taste of petrol out of your mouth (photo courtesy Richard Forman/AMC)

 

Back at La Colonia it’s not so much a case of failing to look forward as being burdened by resolutely keeping your eyes off the past or anything that could threaten the future.

Stung by Francisco’s departure in the dead of night – covered in zombie blood which is fast becoming the fashion-du-jour as well as a s lightly lazy plot device; inconvenient narrative-sapping momentum begone! – and burdened by his leadership which he genuinely seems not to want, Alejandro decides going all isolationist might be the way to go.

Nick disagrees, citing the need for food, water and medicine – you know, annoying trivial accouterments like that – but fails to persuade his newly-won over lover Luciana (Danay Garcia) over to his wholly-pragmatic side.

By refusing to go forward, Alejandro has effectively, in all but deed, looked back, meaning a pillar of salt transmogrification can’t be too far in his future.

“Pillar of Salt” was a  particularly strong episode, bolstering the ever-gathering strength of The Walking Dead’s younger sibling which continues to winningly combine slow-burning but emotionally-resonant plots with the authentic grim reality of life in the apocalypse where looking back is a death sentence.

Not to mention a flavour-enhancing accompaniment to fish and chips.

  • So ever wondered what happens when, in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, you switch on the lights of the beach resort which is your fortress and your sanctuary? Wonder no more for “Date of Death” graphically provides the answers …

 

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