Monday, September 11, 2017

Fear The Walking Dead, Season Three, Episodes Nine and Ten: Minotaur/The Diviner

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In order to make peace with Qaletqa Walker and his people, Madison confronted Jeremiah and Nick killed Jeremiah.  It's now time for the ranch to deal with the repercussions.  Even in desperate times, it seems that old wounds just won't heal. To be fair, the people of the Black Hat Reservation have a legimate beef with the members of Broke Jaw Ranch.  The Black Hat Reservation has had their land stolen and its members murdered.  Even in the face of all of this, tribe members are still willing to make peace because in a dystopian world what matters is survival. 

The peace is not an easy one, though Jake tries to negotiate in good faith, giving Qaletqa one of the keys for the armory. Madison's main priority is to keep the ranch safe for her kids; however, it seems that Alicia only sees her mother's moves as a play to achieve power.  Alicia snarks about her mother doing back deals with Qaletqa rather than going through Jake. Alicia isn't blind to the fact that her mother is pulling strings by keeping her close to Jake and Nick close to Troy. 

Qaletqa and Jake try to lead their respective groups but it's no secret that the people of the Broke Jaw Ranch are not enthused by their new neighbours.  Some clearly feel that the indigenous people reoccupying their land is wrong and express their disapproval with racist taunts.  Terence is the first to take action. Very few know that the person actually responsible for Gretchen's death is Troy and not in fact Qaletqa's people. Rather than coming clean about his role in Gretchen's death, Troy manipulates Terence into taking a gun and shooting at Qaletqa's men. Anyone paying the slightest attention to Terence could have seen that he was acting suspiciously and in fact, Troy clearly noticed it but chose to do nothing.  At any rate, Terence is quickly overpowered; however, in the process has his windpipe crushed. Terence's actions represent a strong blow to the fragile peace which Qaletqa and Jake have forged. Fearing for the safety of his people, Qaletqa demands that Jake hand over the other key to the armory. Not only does Qaletqa want the key to the armory, he wants all of the guns in possession of the ranchers to be gathered up and handed over.  Jake puts up little resistance and after a push from Madison, easily complies to Qaletqa's demands. 

Jake may be ready to roll over but Troy is an entirely different story. Given that Madison prides herself about always having a beat on what Troy is thinking or is capable of, she blew it in a huge way.  Not only is Troy unwilling to hand over any of his weapons, he's determined to go down in a blaze of gun fire and false glory. Nick has to step between Troy, his mother and Walkers men to avoid an immediate disaster, this however makes it seem as though Nick is choosing sides. Madison begs for more time to try and talk to Troy, especially given that Nick is now inside the house with a clearly unhinged Troy. Walker however is not willing to wait and he and his men immediately start firing bullets into the house. 

Nick tries to talk Troy down by claiming repeatedly that Troy dying in this fashion is not what Jeremiah wanted.  Nick even argues that by dying in a shoot out that Troy is not honouring Jeremiah's sacrifice.  When it becomes clear that no matter what he says, Troy will not disarm, Nick finally admits to being the one to kill Jeremiah, saying that Jeremiah was willing to let Troy, along with everyone else on the ranch die for the sake of his pride. 

With Troy disarmed, it's time to decide what to do with him. Madison is adamant that Troy cannot be made a martyr and Walker wants justice for his people.  Madison and Walker agree to having Troy exiled from the ranch. Walker also wants to see Nick punished for supposedly take sides with Troy, though he was clearly just trying to defuse the situation.  Nick is sentenced to spend time in the hot box.

Jake goes to see Troy to discuss Troy's fate. It's a sad moment between the two brothers, as Jake makes it clear to Troy that he can never return. At this point, Troy has decided that he won't fight his sentence but he does want Madison to be the one to drive him away from the ranch because he doesn't trust that Walker or his men won't kill him. Troy is led to a pick up truck and informed that he will be given a gun with one bullet, as well as water and that this is not a death sentence. Madison drives Troy away from the ranch while he is in the back with a hood over his head being watched by one of Walker's men. 

When the truck stops, Troy manages is disarm Walker's man by impaling his hand upon a knife and then stabbing the man with the knife. Madison draws her gun and tells Troy that she's had enough of killing.  Now comes the confrontation that we've been waiting for. For the first time, Troy and Madison see each other for who they really are.  Troy calls Madison a "white witch" and a "Pandora". Though Madison has only been on the ranch a short period of time, she's managed to manipulate everyone and every situation to her benefit. As Madison says that she doesn't want to kill Troy but she will, Troy attacks and manages to disarm her.  Madison fights back and reclaims her gun, pointing it at Troy once again.  They've clearly come to a crossroads of sorts.  Troy talks about how plain exhausted he is, but there's no give in Madison at all.  Troy ends up grabbing his small bag of supplies and walking away.  You know damn well that we haven't seen the last of Troy. No one is ever truly gone until we see their dead body.  

When last we saw Daniel, he was abandoning Strand to his fate with zombies. Daniel has now made his way back to the damn and is helping Lola to give water to the people. Daniel sticks close to Lola's side wanting to be able to hopefully spot Ofelia, should she happen to show up and to protect Lola, whom he clearly sees as a surrogate daughter.  Despite Lola's largess, when it comes to the water, people are not happy and become violent, accusing her of hoarding supplies. When Lola is hit by a rock, Daniel rushes to her side to protect her from the angry mob. Together, they hop on a truck as the mob surrounds them. 

Nick is not doing well with his punishment and has actually begun to hallucinate. It's hardly a surprise that the person he sees is Troy. Imaginary Troy is there to taunt Nick about killing Jeremiah and so Nick argues back that he killed Jeremiah to save the ranch and everyone on it. 

If racial tensions weren't enough of a problem, the ranch has an even more pressing concern. It seems that the ground aquifers are almost out of water. Jeremiah had been documenting the declining water for quite some time.  Madison is certain that he must have had some sort of plan but with Jeremiah dead, there's no way to know for sure.  Walker and Madison decide to travel to a trading post two days away and not to inform the people for the real reason behind their trip to stop the possibility of panic.  Walker leaves a few of his men in charge and Madison decides that she will tell Alicia the truth about just how dire their situation is. Madison hands Alicia a walkie talkie so that they can stay in touch and tasks her with taking care of Nick and fleeing the ranch if it becomes necessary to do so. 

With his time in the hot box at an end, Nick is released.  Alicia helps her dehydrated brother to stagger away from his punishment.  Nick starts to guzzle water and Madison tells him to go easy because that's all of the water he has for the day.  Alicia's next stop is to see Jake, who is dealing with the anger of the ranchers who are not pleased about the rationing of water. Alicia tells the people to trust Jake because of all of the losses he had had to deal with to keep the ranch safe and begrudgingly, they agree for now.  Later that night, Alicia speaks to her mother using the walkie and assures Madison that she can travel further if she needs to to find water because everything on the ranch is okay. 

Madison goes back to the campfire with Walker, who tells Madison that she is standing between the sun and her children.  Madison of course is not impressed, particularly when Walker admits that he has dogs and not children. Walker talks about how one of his dogs got into a fight with a bigger tougher dog and when he tried to intervene, Walker was bitten.  This is the only time that Walker was bitten by this dog, who ended up dying.  Madison snarks about thanking him for his wise advise.  If this was Fear the Walking Dead's attempt to do the wise marginalised person trope, it failed spectacularly. 

Alicia is trying to keep the ranchers contained and so she probably should have had a little talk with Nick about the powder keg they are both sitting on. Nick is approached by the ranchers who claim that they've been inspired by the way that both Nick and Troy stood up to the tribe.  At this point, the ranchers see Nick as their de facto leader and even hand Nick the last free gun on the ranch. Nick later justifies his decision to accept the gun as a way stop violence from escalating but he's clearly pleased to have been chosen as a leader by the remaining members of the militia. Alicia is going to need to step up her diplomacy.

The trading post turns out to be a former bullfighting stadium, which is fitting as the market bills itself as "a safe market in unsafe times". It's truly a daunting place and the first thing Walker and Madison see are people chained to a chain link fence out front. These people are stuck on the fence to kill the infected to pay off their debts or to die - whichever comes first.  In order to gain entry, Madison and Walker are forced to disarm and Madison has to hand over the walkie. This puts Madison in a bind because it forces her to be out of contact with Alicia, meaning that for the first time in a long time, the kids will be on their own.  Walker and Madison make their way through the market until they meet up with a woman who has about half of the water the ranch needs. 

In the line to get water, one of the ranchers complains that Indigenous people are taking double shares of water. To the ranches, all people of colour look alike. Anxious to head trouble off at the pass, Alicia goes to see Ofelia and Crazy Dog about the rumor. Ofelia asks for proof because she is certain that none of the tribe members took more than the allotted share of water. It's Crazy Dog who actively snarks about them all looking alike to the ranchers. Ofelia brings up rumors that the militia is being rebuilt, only to have Alicia remind Ofelia that she killed them all. With the conversation clearly headed nowhere, Alicia decides to leave. 

Nick meets with the militia people who are looking to him to lead them on a path forward.  Nick reminds everyone that the tribe has all of the weapons and that they are far outnumbered now. The militia is clearly spoiling for action and so Nick promises that they will draw a line in the sand and not compromise any further than they already have. 

When Nick sees Alicia next, she's got the gun that was given to him. Alicia is concerned that if the gun is discovered in their home that it will mean some sort of death sentence but Nick isn't really bothered by possible consequences. Alicia demands to know who Nick is acting on behalf of but Nick has no real answers for her.  Finally, Alicia puts it together that it was Nick who shot Jeremiah and not their mother.  Alicia declares that they have to stop trying to curry favor with Madison but it seems to fall on deaf ears. A frustrated Alicia heads outside and tries to contact Madison but of course gets no response because Madison has traded away the walkie for admission to the market.

It's time to strike a deal for the water but Madison is distracted which she spies Strand. That dude is like cockroach, he'll survive anything. Madison rushes to Victor's side and the trader declares the deal off believing that Madison, and Walker are in trouble with Proctor - the person who runs the market. When it's clear that Victor is under threat, Madison gets a shovel and starts swinging. Walker is forced to join the fray to keep Madison safe.  The three manage to get away to safe place that Victor knows of. Strand admits that he's in debt after making a bad bet and unfortunately, Proctor doesn't let anyone who owes leave. 

Alicia is at the well when she notices one of the ranchers taking a double share of water. Alicia demands that the woman put the water back which sparks brawl. With things clearly out of hand, Alicia screams to get the attention of the people and tells them that the reason they are rationing water is that the well is almost dry. Predictably, the announcement that water is now scarce riles people up even more. It becomes a free for all as people push to get water while they still have access to it. The scuffle comes to and end when Ofelia, followed by Crazy Dog and Claw Fire, approach the well, firing a gun into the air to get everyone's attention. Crazy Dog announces that the tribe will be taking over control of the water to ensure fair distribution.  This is a turning point for Nick.  Nick pulls out his own gun and sits on the rim of the well.  It's not long before Nick is joined by fellow ranchers. Nick points out that the deal is that the tribe would stick to their half of the ranch and the ranchers would stick to their side. Crazy Dog says that he is willing to make reasonable concessions to keep the peace but will not be pushed any further. 

Madison wakes to find Walker gone. Madison and Strand talk about her reunion with Nick and the fact that Alicia is safe. When Madison doesn't mention Travis, Strand realises that Travis is dead.  Strand embraces Madison.  This is the first time Madison has really stopped to grieve the loss of Travis. Despite their time apart, Madison and Strand are close.  Madison questions how Strand ended up at the market and he gives her sketchy details about things not working out with an old friend at the damn. Madison and Strand's reunion is brought to an end when Walker bursts in with some armed men. Walker had no choice but to give up Strand. Madison tries to plead on Strand's behalf but the armed men will not budge. Strand comforts Madison, telling her that she has children to watch out for and promising that he will be fine.  In a last piece of advice, Strand reminds Madison that the plague is everywhere and doesn't see borders. Okay writers, that was a little too on the nose.

Walker makes his way back to the trader to make arrangements to take possession of the water, only to find that the items he brought for trade have already been taken.  It turns out that Madison decided to pay off Strands debts. Walker is beyond furious when he learns what Madison has done and she explains that trading for water at the market would only be a short term solution and that they need something more permanent. Madison announces that Strand can help them, which is a shock to him, until Madison brings up the damn. 

Having drawn a line in the sand, Nick with a group of the settlers slowly approach Ofelia and Crazy Dog's home. The group is not as invisible as they believe and they have already been spotted by Crazy Dog and Ofelia. Crazy Dog assures Ofelia that they won't draw first blood and that Walker will not be mad at them for defending themselves.  Nick happens to look to his left and notices Alicia working with members of the tribe to dig a hole in search of water.  Nick realises that while he has been working on tearing down the peace, Alicia has been working to preserve it. Nick hands his gun to a rancher and joins his sister in her search. It takes a minute but the other ranchers decide to join Nick and Alicia. Seeing that the ranchers are looking for water, Crazy Dog and Ofelia decide to join them. 

One of the things that bothered me about the first half of the season is the fact that everyone was all split up. Splitting the cast is something Fear the Walking Dead seems to love to do but it splinters the story too much. Even the revelation that Daniel is still alive is not enough to make up for that. It's clear now that Strand, Madison and Walker are headed to the damn that we are finally going to get a reunion. I cannot see Daniel choosing to stay behind at the damn once he learns that his daughter is alive and well.  The damn will also provide a secondary location for the Clarks to flee to should things go south at the ranch.

As much as I was happy to see Strand again, I don't really understand the warm reunion he and Madison shared.Yes, Madison and Strand have been through some shit and they certainly grew closer when they were forced to hide out in the hotel after part of it became over run with walkers but the depth of emotion seems out of touch with the relationship they have. Madison deciding to pay off Strand's debts didn't even feel practical given the situation. I can see her not wanting Strand to die but by buying his freedom, Madison actively risked the water that is needed for the Ranch to survive.  

Clearly Fear the Walking Dead is determined to confront race and colonialism this season. For the most part, I think that it's working. I liked Crazy Dog pointed out racist white bias about people of colour always looking alike.  Throughout this episode, the ranchers were steadily racist towards the members of the tribe, constantly referring to them as Tonto. It's almost laughable that Crazy Dog had to point out that if they were going to use a Lone Ranger Slur, the name they are looking for is Tonto and not in fact Kemosahbe. For the most part, the tribe members only occasionally snarked back.  At the heart of the ranchers resistance is their own sense of white entitlement to all of the resources because they believe themselves to be different or somehow better than the tribe members. 

Once again, Nick is an irritant. Why is this character even alive?  At any rate, I'm just as confused as Alicia about Nick's motivations for becoming the de facto leader of what is left of the militia.  Nick made it clear that for him, it's not about impressing his mother.  Since the zombie apocalypse, Nick has moved from being a junkie to someone who is valued for his skills.  Since crossing the border, Nick has completely changed and at various times has been in positions of power. Is Nick really still seeking affirmation? 

Madison choosing to leave Troy alive was clearly a mistake. Troy even went as far as to tell Madison that he doesn't give up and yet, she let him walk away. No one would have known if she had shot him dead where he stood. The fact that Madison let Troy walk away proves to me that she hasn't become as hardened as the people around her believe her to be. What is certain is that Troy will be back and when he does, trouble will be coming with him.