Monday, May 2, 2016

Fear the Walking Dead, Season Two, Episode Four: Blood in the Streets

In many ways, Blood in the Streets is a Strand episode, in that it delves into his back story and even how it is that The Abigail got its name. Blood in the Street very much refers to his philosophy that you can rise ahead in the worst of situations if you can see opportunities when they are presented. Strand is easily one of the most complicated characters on Fear the Walking Dead and in many ways, he's an enigma.

Strand is sitting in a bar and Thomas Abigail sits next to him.  The two bond over their ambitions and the darker side of their natures.  Strand later helps a drunken Thomas back to his room and helps him to bed.  Strand then decides to help himself to Thomas's credit cards because he is bankrupt thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Thomas catches Strand in the act but simply says that he may or may not remember what happened in the morning.

Some time later, Thomas shows up at Strand's hotel room with his own security. It seems Strand has used Thomas's credit card to buy up 30 thousand dollars in credit card debt with the plan to be exactly where he was before Katrina within five years.  Strand who clearly believes in honour among thieves promises Thomas that he planned to return the money with interest. Thomas asks Strand to meet him at the bar and Strand mistakenly believes that he has been pardoned for his theft, when in actuality, what Abigial did was make Strand beholden to him.

When we see them again, the two men are lying back and taking in the sun.  It's clear that a level of intimacy has grown between them.  Strand is still a very driven man and can only think of amassing more wealth whereas; Abigail seems more interested in the feelings that are starting to awaken between them.  This is the first moment of tenderness we see between them as they hold hands. It's enough to make me wonder if Thomas's feelings are returned in kind from Strand, or if Strand sees his relationship with the very wealthy Thomas as just another opportunity he is taking advantage of.

When next we see the two men, Strand is planning for his trip to Los Angeles and Thomas clearly doesn't want him to go.  Strand can only fixate on the money they will make from the real estate deal he is negotiating while Thomas is concerned about the rising level of danger in the city.  Thomas tells Strand that he loves him and Strand simply replies that he will see Thomas soon.  The two men then kiss.

It was quite some time before an GLBT character appeared on The Walking Dead, let alone a same sex kiss.  It makes me wonder if the writers are introducing a GLBT character this early on in the series to deal with some of the problems of erasure on The Walking Dead.  I like that these two men are clearly complex characters, even it isn't clearly a love match.  Strand may be honorable in his own way but it seems that he's only willing to let his guard down so far.

The last time we see Strand for the episode he's being saved by Madison.  Earlier in the episode, The Abigail was boarded by a group of people.  Chris and Ofelia have first contact but because they are not suspicious like Strand, they stand sort of impotently, as three people board the boat claiming to need help.  Among the boarding party is Jack, the young man who Alicia was talking to on the radio. Heavily armed, everyone except Strand and Nick are over powered. Strand actually abandoned ship at the first sign of trouble and Nick was off the boat because Strand had sent him to land to meet up with Luis Florez - Abigail's heavy.

It was always a matter of time before Alicia's dalliance with Jack came back to haunt the crew of The Abigail. More than anyone, Alicia actually keeps her head and begins ingratiating herself with Jack. She reminds him of her humanity and gets personal with him by asking him about his experience and his ex girlfriend. We learn that a man named Conner is the leader of the group and Jack feels beholden to Conner because Conner saved Jack after his brother died. Alicia promises to go with Jack if he keeps her family safe.

Still tied up, Madison tries to distract the pregnant woman holding them hostage and Daniel works to loosen his bindings. Travis is taken to get the boating working because Strand took off with the keys. The threat level his high.  When Conner arrives, he decides to take Jack, Alicia and Travis with him leaving the Salazaars, Madison and Chris on the Abigail with the pregnant woman and Reed.  With Reed in sole power things don't look good them.  Madison suggests that they just be put in the jetty while the Abigail goes on it's way but Reed snarks that the jetty belongs with The Abigail.  Madison then begs for the opportunity to swim but once again Reed rejects the idea. It seems that Reed is determined to kill them.  Before Reed can act however, he hears the sound of a boat approaching.

Nick and Luis make their way back to the Abigail and Nick quickly notices that something is wrong because there are armed people on the deck that he doesn't recognize.  Luis manages to shoot them and board the boat.  Salazaar is ready to kill Luis on sight until Nick makes it clear that Luis is with him and there to help.  Luis is determined that Strand must be found and that they cannot get into Mexico without him.

On the open ocean, Strand is not doing well because his boat was shot during his escape and is taking on water fast.  He tries to use the radio to contact Luis but accidentally drops it.  By the time Madison finds Strand, he is floating on his back barely hanging on.  I suppose that makes them even because this time, Madison saved Strand.

The cynical side of me started a death watch the moment I realised that Strand is a gay man, especially given that he is also Black.  This universe has a nasty habit of investing in a character, getting the audience to care about him or her, only to kill them off. Strand having two areas or marginalisation is particularly vulnerable. I'm going to watch this with side eye until they give me reason to trust.

Now that Madison has saved Strand, given how pragmatic he is, I wonder if he will be against any attempt to save Travis and Alicia?  I can certainly see how Strand would blame Alicia for The Abigail being boarded in the first place not helping the situation.  Given that Travis has proven himself useful, that might be a reason to go after them. I guess we will just have to see which way the wind blows on this.

Having The Abigail boarded is going to be a lesson for everyone. Up to this point, it's been Strand who has been cold and who has uniformly refused to help anyone else.  Because of Strand's predatory nature, he knew damn well that even in the best of times to view people with a side eye and remain aloof.  I wonder how this incident is going to change Madison and Travis in particular who spent the opening of the episode complaining about what Travis did to Alex and Jake last week. Though Travis and Madison have survived so much already, they are certainly naive as to the baser elements of human nature or having to make hard and selfish decision to survive.  I wonder how cautious this is going to make them in the future?

I think it's telling that Strand chose Nick to go on his mission.  I suppose given his options, Nick was probably the only one who could go but he is proving to be the most capable junkie of all time. As each episode goes by, it makes me wonder if they have decided to drop the story line about Nick being addicted to drugs because they don't want to deal with it realistically.

I feel like Fear the Walking Dead is finally starting to heat up.  Some tough decisions lay ahead for the group that are really going to shape who they become in this zombie apocalypse.  Now that we know a little something about Strand, I really want to know more about Daniel. He seems like a silent threat. He's always watching and observing and reminds me a bit of Carol.  I cannot help but believe that for Fear the Walking Dead to really work, it really needs to fixate on Daniel and Strand because they are the most interesting characters thus far.