‘Fear the Walking Dead’ pulls a ‘Captain Phillips’ this week when our characters get hijacked at sea. For a story set on a boat, I suppose that was inevitable and it’s for the best to get it out of the way early. More importantly, a revelation makes at least one of the characters a lot more interesting.
It’s almost a shame that the character in question was already the most interesting on the show. If anything, this just furthers the divide between how much we in the audience care about him versus how little we care about anyone else.
In a cold open (literally pretty cold, I must imagine), we see a half-naked figure wash up onto shore in the middle of the night. A helicopter flies overhead and lights are visible on boats in the distance, leaving us to wonder for a moment whether this is pre- or post-apocalypse. Though hard to discern at first, it’s Nick. He’s carrying a sealed bag full of dry clothes that he quickly dresses in.
With a degree of confidence that seems unusual for the character, Nick walks through an abandoned tent city on the beach. He spots a lone zombie and actively draws its attention. He lures it toward a tent and stabs it in the head, then drags it inside, cuts open its stomach, and smears its blood all over himself.
Back on the Abigail, Travis and Maddie argue about how much they can really trust Strand. Travis says that they can survive without him, but Maddie insists that his safe house in Mexico is their best option. Meanwhile, Chris and Ofelia stand on the boat deck talking about their old lives when they suddenly spot a raft rowing towards them. On board are two guys and a girl, yelling for help. They pull themselves onto the bow of the boat before Chris can figure out what to do. He keeps asking Ofelia if he should shoot them. Ofelia yells for her father.
Strand hears the commotion and goes for his gun, only to find that Salazar removed all the bullets. Everyone else races toward the deck. The girl from the raft is pregnant and appears to be in pain. One of the guys says that something has gone wrong with the baby and they need help. Maddie brings her inside the boat before Salazar has a chance to object.
Alicia hears the new arrivals talking and recognizes one of their voices. It’s Jack, the guy from the radio she stupidly told about the boat. This isn’t a rescue; it’s a hijacking. The two guys and the girl pull out weapons and quickly take everyone captive. The guy who’s not Jack is named Reed, and the girl is Vida. (I’m unsure if “Jack” is really named Jack. I think someone calls him Kip, but the episode is inconsistent about this.) Even for a pirate, Reed is kind of a dick. He smugly taunts Chris for his indecisiveness about shooting them. He says, “If you have to ask the question, somebody should already be dead.” The hijackers then force Alicia to help them tie up everyone else. Strangely, they already know the names of everybody on the boat, even though Alicia claims she never told Jack that info.
Jack spots someone rowing away from the boat in their raft. It’s Strand, trying to save himself. Reed shoots at him and punctures the raft. Even if he didn’t hit him, he says, the hypothermia will kill him anyway.
The episode then segues into a pre-apocalypse flashback, set in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Strand is in a bar chatting up a real estate mogul (Dougray Scott) who brazenly admits that he’s come to the city to profit from the disaster. Strand says that he lost everything and will have to start over from scratch, but the two men are clearly cut from the same cloth. They get very drunk together, and Strand has to haul the man back to his hotel room. The scene here has some… interesting… undertones, which are then seemingly deflated when we discover that Strand isn’t quite as drunk as he let on. He’s a grifter, and this was his plan. He goes through the man’s wallet and steals all his credit cards.
Back to the present timeline, Reed demands to know who has the keys to the boat. Chris tells him that Strand did, and he’s now in the ocean, probably dead. Reed gets upset and threatens violence until Travis claims he can hotwire the boat.
Reed sends Jack and Alicia to go get the girl’s radio so they can send a message out. Jack says that although Reed is a hothead, they didn’t come to hurt anyone. However, they have a job to do and their leader, a man named Connor, is on his way. Alicia tells Jack that she’ll go with him, even be his girlfriend (i.e. whore herself out to him), so long as he can promise that she and her family will be safe. Jack hesitantly agrees. He claims that Connor listens to him.
On shore, Nick enters a gated community looking for a specific address written on a piece of paper. He encounters a zombie that walks right past him. His bloody disguise worked.
In another flashback, Strand’s mark finds him, and brings along some muscle in the form of a henchman named Luis. The man formally introduces himself as Thomas Abigail. (Yes, just like the name of the boat.) He’s not even mad that Strand robbed him. He recognizes talent and sees potential in him. Rather than hurt him, he “obligates” Strand to work for him.
Present day Strand clings desperately to the half-deflated raft, and loses his satellite phone in the water.
Travis works on hot-wiring the boat but seems to be stalling for time. He BSes something about needing to do a computer override so that the wires in one part of the boat will talk to the wires in another part of the boat. Reed is impatient but too dense to call him on it. Instead, he just orders him to work faster.
Nick finds the address he was looking for. He’s suddenly rushed by a man with a gun. It’s Luis, the henchman from the flashback. Nick yells that Strand sent him and shows him the piece of paper. Luis lowers his weapon. He’s says he’s packing for Mexico. He was waiting for Strand and wasn’t expecting to have to bring more than the two of them across the border. Nick makes a move to get in his car, but Luis orders him to clean off first. Luis is very particular about his car and apparently hasn’t gotten the message that such things are meaningless in the apocalypse.
Maddie talks to Vida, the pregnant girl, and tries to get in her head with suggestions that her baby may already be dead inside her, a tiny zombie waiting to claw its way out. Vida tells her to shut up and gets upset, but their conversation is interrupted with news that Connor has arrived on another boat.
Luis drives Nick to a waiting zodiac raft they can use to get back to the Abigail. (If he was planning to ditch the car anyway, why worry about keeping it clean?)
A new flashback finds Strand and Thomas in Mexico, sunbathing in the latter’s villa. Those undertones from the earlier hotel scene…? Yeah, they’re finally confirmed. The two men hold hands and it’s clear that theirs is more than a business relationship.
Travis starts the boat just as Connor boards it with a bunch of armed goons. Reed brings him to rejoin the others, but Travis manages to secretly grab a sharp tool and slip it up his shirt sleeve. He then drops it behind a couch cushion, making sure that Maddie sees him do it.
Connor gets right to business. His people grab Travis and Alicia to bring back with him and Jack. He says that everyone else will be dropped off on shore, but nobody believes that part. He leaves Reed in charge of the boat with a couple of new people.
As Nick and Luis approach the Abigail in their zodiac, Nick looks through binoculars and sees armed strangers on board. He freaks out. Luis tells him to take the till so that he can have a look with the binoculars. The next thing you know, Luis whips out a sniper rifle and takes out the two new goons with precision headshots. This guy doesn’t mess around.
On the boat, Reed is startled and freezes up long enough for Maddie to grab the tool Travis left her. She rushes Reed and stabs him in the gut.
Luis and Nick board the boat. Maddie explains what happened and that Travis and Alicia were kidnapped. Luis asks where Strand is and refuses to leave without him.
The episode’s final flashback is set during the very beginning of the zombie outbreak. Strand prepares to leave the villa in Mexico to take care of business in Los Angeles. In other words, he expects to profit from the chaos of this new disaster the same way Thomas did from Katrina. Thomas doesn’t like the sound of what he’s been hearing on the news and asks Strand not to go. Strand insists that he’ll only be gone two days and kisses Thomas goodbye.
The episode ends with Maddie taking a raft and fishing Strand out of the ocean.
This week’s episode is generally an improvement over last week’s very frustrating entry, though it still has its share of characters making dumb decisions. The ease with which the hijackers take over the boat is almost comical. I suppose an argument can be made that this will teach Maddie an important lesson not to be so naïve and trusting, and that maybe Strand and Salazar have a point. However, even the hijackers are basically dumbasses.
This Connor guy could be an interesting threat. It will probably be good to give the season a villain to root against, but from what little we’ve seen of him so far, he doesn’t seem to be in nearly the same league as a Governor or a Negan. Perhaps that will change when we get to know him more?
The best part of the episode is certainly the chance to find out more about Strand. Now we understand his real motivation for wanting to get back to Mexico so badly. I also like the idea of bringing in a badass like Luis to teach the others how to survive.