- SPOILERS AHEAD … NOT TO MENTION POOR DECISION-MAKING, A NAKED GRAB FOR POWER AND A SHIPWRECKED YACHT
As showcases for humanity go, I think we can all agree that the zombie apocalypse is not exactly anyone’s finest hour.
In the double mid-season finale episodes, “The Unveiling” and “Children of Wrath”, any pretense that there is nobility of purpose or action by anyone at either The Ranch or Black Hat was dropped in favour of some fairly grubby political and military posturing.
When I say “grubby”, I mean down in the gutters, near-naked wrestlers in jelly (jello) having it out on front of a leering, lustful for bloody violence crowd in the seedy backblocks of a grotty inner city neighbourhood that last saw anything approaching good times somewhere around 1910.
Yep, THAT classy.
Fear the Walking Dead, which has always taken a thoughtful, well-considered look at the new end of the world-world, hit it out of the park with this brilliantly-nuanced double which neatly positioned the struggle between Madison (Kim Dickens) and, to a far lesser extent Ranch founder Jeremiah (Dayton Callie), who was reduced to a flailing, impotent but player in his own extremist, survivalist drama, and the First Nations group led by Qaletqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes) who were, on the surface at least, hellbent on reclaiming land lost to colonising Europeans centuries ago.
Injecting some post-colonialist politics into an already-fractious mix, Fear the Walking Dead, as it has done so often in the past, injected some intelligent perspective into the aftereffects of the zombie apocalypse, brought us to a point where long-held grievances were aired in an environment where the wafer-thin veneer of civilisation could no longer provide any cloak of respectability to anyone’s position.
The cleverness of the writing for both episodes was on full display at pretty much every turn with the entirely reasonable position of the First Nations people, prosecuting their cause with ruthless intent, given a frank and fair airing.
It was a masterstroke, elevating the vying for power, position and land to a far higher plane that we normally see in shows of this ilk, and in turn framing the manoeuvring in this post-courts, post-rule of law for any advantage in a far more potent, and volatile, way.
While the position of Qaletqa, whose partner in love and life turned out to be – surprise! Not surprise! – Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), who has learnt a thing or two from dear militia daddy Daniel (Rubén Blades) and clearly thrown overboard any qualms she had about his pre-barbershop line of work, was entirely fair and understandable, it was the way the writers twisted this from the violent if untrammelled nobility of “The Unveiling” to the realpolitik vengefulness of “Children of Wrath” that really lifted the show up a notch or two.
In the end, what it came down to was revenge, pure and simple, with Qaletqa determined to avenge the death of his father, uncle and two others by Jeremiah – an unreconstructed racist who buried the bodies under the adobe in which Nick (Frank Dillane) was unwittingly living, and who treated a dying Ofelia, told in flashback, with inhuman disregard – and the Ranch’s founder adamant that would not happen.
Suffice to say, that when it came down to it, no one covered themselves in glory, no matter how noble or well-deserved their starting position.
Fear the Walking Dead developed and ran with this highly-nuanced narrative with the same thoughtfulness and willingness to let things play out in slow-burning fashion that it has displayed from the start.
With an impressive deftness of touch that didn’t once sugarcoat the brazen jockeying for position going on between the two camps, the two episodes peeled back what was actually taking place, as opposed to what appeared to be taking place, layer by later, taking the origin of the dispute back to some murders by Jeremiah back in the day.
While it was patently obvious that Jeremiah had blood on his hands, and that he was, for all his warm and fuzzy chats with Nick and fatherliness to Jake (Sam Underwood) and Troy (Daniel Sharman), as low a human being as they go, Qaletqa, for all the rightness of his position, was, in the end no better off.
Both men were as tainted by hate and revenge as the other, and irregardless of where they had both started off, did not acquit themselves well; but then neither did Madison who ended up playing politics as dirty and self-serving as it comes.
Or did she?
Sadly she did.
For the best of reasons, of course – to protect her kids who were more than a little shocked, right Alicia (Alycia Debnam Carey)? Yeah, you were shocked – at the lengths dear old mum would go to for those she loves.
So far in fact that she even murdered dear old drunk dad to save her mum from yet more drunken beatings; it was a neat piece of backstory that filled in, one quietly-spoken, harrowing story, just what Madison has sacrificed in the name of family.
Killing Jeremiah then, or at least urging him to do himself in – something that Nick took care of thank you very much and mop up that blood will ya? – made perfect sense, especially if it was the only way to stop Qaletqa from killing everyone (well everyone else; the anthrax in the coffee laid waste to more than a few good citizens of Camp Survivalist Lunacy).
Of course, no one is kidding themselves for a moment that is the end of things and with 8 more episodes to come in the back half of Fear the Walking Dead season 3 (commencing 12 September, the better to avoid the juggernaut that is Game of Thrones) I think we can be certain that the race to the power-hungry bottom, one marked by noble intent and base execution, is far from over.
Hear that starting gun? Best get running …
- But before you do, catch the sneak peek at the next episode of Fear the Walking Dead when the oddest of odd couples get together …