- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A RATHER LONG PRECIPITOUS DROP TO A ZOMBIE PIT FAR BELOW …
You may not think that you can prepare for the End of the World As We Know it – both a kickass R.E.M. song and the long form version of tonight’s acronymic title – but according to Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie), survivalist and purveyor of scratchy ’90s conspiracy theory infomercials and buckets full of all sorts of handy goods with which to stand a chance of surviving the apocalypse, you can not only prepare but become so ready that you’ll be laughing while the rest of the world burns.
Or walks around in undead shambling form.
To be fair, Jeremiah, who is as far from a rabid nutjob as you could hope for, humbled by the passage of the years and a TEOTWAWKI that no one in their wildest nightmares saw coming, never envisaged that the might preparations of he and his disciples would be needed for this kind of apocalyptic end.
But the net effect has been the same – a safe haven, behind secure boundaries, with all the food, gun and ammos you could want – and as Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) discovers at a faux Bible study group with one very unusual headstrong member (Jeff the zombie head) – drugs and moonshine too, and a real chance at something approaching a normal life.
Of course, “normal” is a tenuously elastic concept right now, and while Alicia and Nick (Frank Dillane) – egged by a recovering Luciana (Danay Garcia) – are not exactly enamoured with Jeremiah’s Sanctuary o’ Peace, Safety and BBQ’s Boars, Madison (Kim Dickens) has decided it’s home for the foreseeable future.
We know, naturally that this can’t last, and that sooner or later some damn big spanners, human or zombie; I’m tipping the former -will be thrown in the well-constructed works and everyone will be on the run again; but for now, it’s all happy campers, S’mores and weirdly cult-like meetings.
True, it’s not even remotely ideal, and while Jeremiah and elder son Jake (Sam Underwood) are unexpectedly sane and sensible and not the least bit inclined to a Ricktatorshop, the crazy son Troy (Daniel Sharman) is not, but it’s the best thing on offer right now, and Madison is staying put.
Turns out too that she has more in contact with Jeremiah that she suspected, with both of them sharing their pasts (and present to be honest) with addicts who had a deleterious affect on their lives, but who also shaped them into the kind of people who can survive pretty much anything.
That was the key message of this episode, which bore the trademark qualities of Fear the Walking Dead – a thoughtful mix of rumination, character-building and action, embedded in the idea that the apocalypse is not one gigantic epic event after another but rather a series of day-to-day, often small scale (but no less important for that) struggles for survival that require almost as much tenacity and will to live to survive as the big punctuation moments.
Madison recognises this, as does Alicia, and quietly I suspect Nick too – who bonds in a strangely macho way with Troy while our boar hunting; how all those lights and dogs didn’t attract a flock of zombies I don’t know – all of them unsure of their new home but resigned to the fact that it is way better than the alternatives offered so far.
Another person coming to grips with that unpalatable reality is Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) who, you may recall, left the Hotel of High Gates and Precious Attitudes for a life on the road, one which leads, and not in any pleasing way to his old associate Dante (Jason Manuel Olazabal).
Ready to schmooze and charm his way back into Dante’s water-soaked graces – he commands a bloody big dam, a key asset when the pipes of civilised society have well and truly run dry – he finds himself instead almost tossed to the zombies far below, only avoiding a rather messy, painful fate by dint of some, let’s be honest, rather unedifying pleading.
Lacking in dignity or not, it saved his life, and got him some water, delivered by none other than Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades), an apparition (or is he?) that is visiting Victor in his jail cell-inhabiting hour of need.
Surprising though it was to see him, it underscored hos desperate Victor is of a familiar face, and some way of making sense of his current predicament.
Used to being in command and finding an angle in just about every instance, Victor suddenly found himself humbled; not an unusual occurrence in the midst of TEOTWAWKI, but not one he envisaged for himself.
His shock and confusion is palpable, clear evidence that while the likes of Madison, Alicia and Nick have made their peace with the less-than-ideal nature of current things, Victor has most definitely not, although you suspect that will change given Dante’s avowed aim of humbling the heck out of him, and in quick order.
The genius of “TEOTWAWKI”, and indeed Fear the Walking Dead as a whole, is that it takes small pivotal moments and changes in peoples’ lives to underscore just how much the world has changed.
It is the power of small “s” storytelling, leveraging the idea that big ideas can be conveyed in quiet, small “d” drama episodes, that you don’t need the bombastic, ever more bloodthirsty narrative of the likes of Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead (effective though they can be), to tell a commanding, compelling story.
Indeed, by the end of “TEOTWAWKI” we had gained a new appreciation for how low the apocalypse has brought everyone, and how the options in the face of such a tumbling fall are few and far between, with only the pragmatic and the farsighted able to navigate their way through its preciously restricted gamut.
It was an episode girded by illuminating conversations, penetrating insights and one or two truly dramatic though brief moments, another impressive episodic addition to a show that has shown, and keeps showing, a real knack for telling stories that make the apocalypse all too human and relatable, and in the process far more chilling and frightening than any big epic moments can do.
- So is it all happy families for Jeremiah, Madison et al? Haha … NO. In fact “100” gives the impression that things will only gets slowly, nastily worse, not better … go figure huh?