Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fear The Walking Dead, Season Three, Episode Six: Red Dirt

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What's easily the most fascinating aspect of the season is watching as the Clarke family manipulates the Otto family.  It really is a case of divide and conquer. Madison has become close with Troy even though he is clearly the most dangerous and unstable Otto. Nick has bonded with Jeremiah and of course, Alicia with Jake.  While the Clarks don't necessarily talk about the manipulation, it's clear that this is an agreed upon tactic to benefit their family.  The Otto's were nowhere ready to deal with the Clarks. 

The big issue this week is the threat that Qaletqa Walker and his people pose to the survival of the ranch. After Madison, Troy and his men return from their forced march back to the ranch, the men are so stunned by what they've been through, they don't listen to Troy as he orders them to wait until they're alone with Jeremiah to reveal what happened to them.  The men make it clear that they are afraid of the Indigenous people and are certain that they will be killed if they don't abandon the ranch. 

The fear that the community collectively feels has a different effect on each Otto. Troy is angry when people start to leave because he feels abandoned.  Troy is particularly resentful when people take supplies like flour and gas with them because he feels that these supplies belong to the community. Naturally, Madison keys in on this and Troy's desire to fight for what he feels is his. Madison even winds up Troy by encouraging him to defy Jeremiah and ensure that no one leaves, no matter what he has to do.  Like his father, Troy keenly feels betrayed by those who are leaving but he feels particular rage at Mike Trimbol. 

In contrast to Troy, Jeremiah is downright apathetic about the threat.  He rants to Madison about the Indigenous people being all welfare cheats, drunk and ne'er-do-wells who live in a dump and are incapable of mounting any kind of real attack upon the ranch.  Jeremiah is particularly resentful of any Indigenous claim to his land saying that his family purchased it fairly and that in the history of humanity, the ownership of land always passes to those who are victorious in any kind of conflict.  When Madison rightfully gives Jeremiah a look, he calls her a bleeding heart liberal and asserts the veracity of his claims.

As much as Jeremiah isn't concerned about the threat, he is extremely heartbroken about what is becoming of the community which he views to be his legacy. With the man who died in the fire last week and with the Trimbol departure that leaves Jeremiah as the last "founding father" and it weighs heavily on him. Unlike Jeremiah, Vernon has finally reached the point where he can realise that violence begets violence and is sure their days of oppressing the Indigenous tribe are coming back to haunt them. Vernon chooses to prioritise his family which feels like a betrayal to Jeremiah and so Jeremiah suggests that because Vernon is a father that he is behaving like a woman. Gotta love how even at the end of times, racism and sexism are still alive and well. Jeremiah clearly wants to see Jake take over when he dies but now he is actively wondering if he is going to have a legacy to leave his kids.  It's Nick that a drunken Jeremiah turns to in despair.

Jake, being the more calm Otto, wants to look for a diplomatic solution to the issue. He's certain that Qaletqa Walker is not a stupid man.  Jake is also feeling very confidant that while Qaletqa Walker has taken them to court several times over the ownership of the ranch, he's lost each time.  Jake determines that the best course of action isn't to live in fear of the next attack but to approach Qaletqa Walker directly to see if any middle ground can be reached.  Jake confides his plan to none other than Alicia. Alicia tries to talk him out of it especially when he makes it clear that he is taking a back way to the reserve in order to avoid being stopped by Troy or Jeremiah.

At this point, it's pretty clear that Jake cares a lot more about Alicia that she cares about him.  They may be sleeping together but for Alicia, as much as she might like Jake, keeping him close is useful for the safety of her family and she makes that clear in discussions with her mother.  Alicia is no longer a romantic and she sees love and romance as something belonging to pre apocalyptic world but pragmatism certainly has become something she embraces wholeheartedly.

One of my concerns about Jake and Alicia having a sexual relationship was  a lack of conversation about safe sex.  Let's be honest, in an apocalypse there's no running to get a shot of penicillin for the clap, no AZT for HIV/AIDS and no ready access to abortion.  I'm really glad that Alicia and Madison had an explicit conversation about protection and that the rhythm method is bullshit. I like that Alicia made it clear that birth control is part of the supplies on the ranch. Even more importantly, I like that this conversation was simply matter of fact without judgement or shame.

The real surprise in the episode comes when the Trimbol's horse is found back at the ranch.  Jeremiah quickly realises that something must have gone wrong because the Trimbols wouldn't have simply set the horse free.  Jeremiah, Madison and Nick head out to see if they can find the Trimbol's and predictably they're all dead. The Trimbols are all put out of their misery but Madison takes the longest time with Kathy, clearly envisioning that this could happen to Alicia. Finding the Trimbols dead is the straw that finally breaks Jeremiah and he collapses to the ground not sure where to go from here.  They discuss who could have done this and quickly rule out the tribe, leaving really only one viable suspect.

When they return to the ranch, Madison, Nick and Jeremiah bring the bodies of Trimbol family with them as a teaching lesson.  Madison makes a great speech about the dangers outside of the ranch.  Madison blames the Indigenous people for the deaths of the Trimbols and makes it clear that the only way to survive is if they all stick together.  This is enough to shock the people into staying.Yes, the Indigenous tribe killed Travis but did no one in the writers room think for a moment how problematic it is to have a white woman blame a family's slaughter on an Indigenous tribe given the history of Native people in North America?

Later, Nick confronts Madison about the lie she told and at first, Madison thinks that Nick's concerned about lying to the people but it turns out that Nick's real concern is how unstable Troy really is. Nick reminds his mother to never forget who the hell she is dealing with because if Troy could do this to the Trimbols, who he's known since childhood, he could do this to them. Madison follows Nick's advice and pays a little visit to Troy in which she claims to understand what motivated him to commit such a vicious murder. Madison makes it clear how that unless Troy can learn to leash his rage that he won't be any use on the Ranch. Troy agrees to control himself but it's clear that he's a lit fuse waiting to go off. Madison may well have bitten off more than she can chew with Troy.