Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fear the Walking Dead, Season Three, Episode Thirteen: This Land Is Your Land

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Dear writers of Fear the Walking Dead, please stop sending women off to wonder in the desert. So far this has been done with Ofelia, and Luciana and now they are pulling the same shit with Alicia.  I wonder if the fact that Alicia is white means that her little sojourn in the desert will be shorter and if we will get periodic updates as to her progress? Part of the appeal of this universe is that we aren't supposed to be able to predict what will happen next but this is now two episodes in a row in which Fear the Walking Dead, has fallen into a recognisable pattern. 

When we last left Fear the Walking Dead, all of the residents of the ranch who were able, made their way to the pantry because the ranch has been overrun by zombies thanks to Troy. It's not long before they realise that though the pantry represents safety from the zombies, it's a death trap because a blocked filter means that there isn't enough air for everyone to survive.  It's a Alicia who uses some kind of mental formula to declare that they only have about two hours of air left. This means it's decision time. Ofelia, Alicia and Crazy Dog talk about what to do next. Crazy Dog is of the opinion that they should kill those in the pantry who have been bitten which makes sense; however, he quickly assumes that this will be a violent undertaking. Then there's the issue that even with Crazy Dog and Ofelia crawling through vents to restart the air, it will take hours. 

Rather than turning violent, the members the ranchers and the indigenous people who have been bitten actually volunteer to die.  It begins with Blake, who shows his bite mark off.  There's some resistance by a few people who have bitten and in all fairness, who willingly wants to give up their life. Even if you know the end is near, it's natural to fight for every second of life that is possible. It's an impossible situation to be in.  They do manage to find some morphine to help people on their journey but the task of delivering the final blow falls on Alicia. I have to say that this is the most powerful acting, directing and writing I've seen in this universe to date.  

It's absolutely impossible not to feel for Alicia in this moment.  Madison has told her repeatedly that they absolutely need the ranch and cannot survive without it. Madison and Nick have all taken action and now it's Alicia who must pay the cost for their belief that a safe place exists during a zombie apocalypse. It's Alicia who must wield the knife. The first person to die is from the Black Hat reservation and though his passing is as peaceful as possible, it's clear that a part of Alicia dies when he does.  Alicia runs away after sticking the knife in the back of the man's head. It's all too much and it's clear that she feels absolutely powerless. It's Christine, who comes to get Alicia to tell her that she needs to remain strong for everyone. 

The death count mounts steadily and with the floor covered in blood and strewn with bodies, only Blake is left.  Watching all of the people die before himself and knowing that his own death is imminent is enough for Blake to reconsider all of the evil that he has done over the years. It's Alicia that Blake turns to for forgiveness and though it's not hers to give, Alicia tells Blake repeatedly that everything is going to be okay. With everything that has happened, it's clear that Alicia no longer believes that everything is going to be okay. 

As they make their way through the tunnels, Crazy Dog is starting to panic.  Even after everything that he has seen in the apocalypse so far, Crazy Dog is still suffering from PTSD from his time in the military. It's Ofelia who recognises what is wrong and she talks him down until he is calm enough to continue on their mission.  Ofelia and Walker may have developed a relationship after he saved her from dying in the desert but the struggle to survive on the ranch without water has clearly brought Crazy Dog and Ofelia together. 

Outside of the ranch, Nick is determined to do whatever he has to save the Indigenous people and the ranchers. This means that there's no time to bury Jake or to mourn his loss. In this dystopian world, the ranch represented a remnant of civility but the inability to bury Jake, the son of a founding father, is yet another signal that the ranch is well and truly lost. Nick devises a plan to set off the fuel reserves and this requires make their way through the horde.  Troy quickly moves from mourning for Jake into acting like he and Nick are in some kind of buddy movie. Troy is clearly enjoying himself.

Alicia and Christine sit together and in order to deal with the horror they begin to talk about happier times. Christine explains that she came to the ranch with her second husband Jerry, after her first husband died on 9/11. Christine and Jerry met in a support group and the ranch felt like a good fit because it was all about preparing for the worst at a time when they felt scared about the state of the world.  In hindsight, Christine now wishes that she had lived life to the fullest, traveled and taken risks instead of hiding away from the world. Christine asks Alicia to promise her that she won't allow fear to control her or have undue influence on her decisions. 

Alicia talks about being chosen to perform, This Land is Your Land at camp as a kid and forgetting the words.  It was Nick came to rescue by joining her on stage and just repeatedly singing, This Land is Your Land because he didn't know the lyrics either. Rather than being an absolute disaster, the audience was actually charmed and applauded their effort. The lack of oxygen has begun to affect Alicia and her vision begins to blur. 

Alicia hears a sound which breaks up her reverie. It turns out that someone who hasn't been bitten has died due to lack of oxygen and is making their way towards her.  If that were not enough, Christine has lost consciousness. Alicia struggles with the walker but she is so weak that she falls on her back with the walker landing on top of her. Fortunately for Alicia, the zombie lands on her knife. Weak from the lack of oxygen, Alicia loses consciousness just as the people who died due to lack of oxygen begin to rise as zombies. 

Having dealt with Crazy Dog's PTSD, he and Ofelia still aren't in the clear. They finally make their way to the vent to of course find a zombie trapped to it. Crazy Dog manages to lift Ofelia so that she can dislodge the zombie but because he's so weak from the lack of oxygen, he falters and they both fall. The zombie, sensing an easy meal, quickly goes into action and after a tense struggle, Ofelia manages to take it out with her gun.  Shooting a gun in a closed confined space is hard on the ears but at least they have the oxygen flowing again. 

The oxygen being turned back on causes Alicia to regain consciousness. Alicia then drags Christine into the armory and barricades them both inside.  Outside, the Troy and Nick partnership manages to create an explosion which Alicia feels as she prepares to fight off the zombies with her knife and gun. Alicia quickly runs through her bullets but is saved when Madison arrives in a hail of bullets, killing all of the walkers. Unfortunately, Madison's arrival is too late to save Christine and so Alicia is performs the gruesome task of ensuring that Christine doesn't turn. Alicia slowly leaves the pantry littered with bodies of the Indigenous people and the ranchers, their long standoff now officially over. 

Now that the inevitable has happened and the ranch has fallen, there's no choice now but to head to the damn.  This turns out to be a boon for Ofelia because she learns for the first time that not only is her father alive, he wants to see her. There is however no silver lining for Alicia, who feels drained by all that she has experienced. At this point, she considers not leaving with Jake when she had a chance a mistake and she's tired of living the way that her mother wants her to. Alicia decides to head to the little farm that Jake spoke to her about before he died. Surprisingly, despite everything that Madison has done in the name of keeping her children safe, she doesn't put up any resistance to Alicia wanting to take off on her own.  Madison instructs Nick and Troy to follow Alicia to her new residence so that they will know where to find her and because Madison rightly believes that the people at the damn will not deal well with Troy. Madison is more right about Troy than she knows because Nick actively lies to his mother and tells her that Troy tried to warn them about the horde but doesn't reveal that Troy is the one who sent the horde in their direction in the first damn place. In the final scene Alicia drives toward the farm and Nick and Troy follow along in another vehicle, clearly looking like two young men on a road trip. 

This was clearly an Alicia episode and Alycia Debnam-Carey plays each scene for everything that she's worth.  Alycia used her expressive face to portray her character's pain and brokenness at what she had to do to survive. It's easily the best acting that she has done in this series and perhaps the best acting to date on Fear the Walking Dead. Given what happened and the cost that Alicia payed I understand why Alicia wanted to drive off into the sunset, the problem is that this is what the female characters of Fear the Walking Dead always seem to do.  The only way for the pattern to be broken and make it realistic in this case would have been if Alicia were to die before Madison arrived. 

Nick's manpain over the guilt he feels because he killed Jeremiah is something I'm absolutely done with. I also have no time to hear anything more about his fears that he's just like Troy. If turning into Troy was really Nick's fear, why then did he cover for Troy with Madison? Why are characters always making excuses for Troy and his violent behaviour? Everyone knows that a dystopian is a dangerous place to survive and yet everyone seems keen on making excuses for Troy and saving him from all of his worst impulses.

The only reason to keep Troy alive for now is for the writers to show just how deranged he can actually become.  It will take a real commitment on their part. At this point, my biggest worry is that they will come up with some excuse as to why Troy needs to be redeemed. Let's be clear, Daniel Sharman is interesting to watch as he embodies Troy but there is no justifiable story reason for any of the Clarks to be okay with Troy continuing to live. It's worth noting that Crazy Dog and Walker would have even less reason than the Clarks to allow Troy's continued survival and yet, they remained silent. 

We always knew that the ranch would fall because there's no such thing as a safe location in The Walking Dead universe. Just in Fear the Walking Dead alone, the Clarks have had to flea their own neighbourhood, then the location that Strand took them to, the hotel and now that ranch.  It feels a little bit like wash, rinse and repeat at this point but I honestly cannot think of any other way to convey the inherent dangers of living in a world where the dead walk the streets looking to feed on the living.