One of the problems ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ has had this season (admittedly, among many) is the lack of a clear villain to rally the show’s heroes against. For a moment, it looked like the pirate Connor would fill that role, but that didn’t exactly work out. The latest episode introduces a new character who brings a very interesting dynamic to the story. We’ll have to see if she sticks around.
The episode opens with a confusing scene in a Mexican church. Whether the setting is pre-apocalypse or post-apocalypse is not entirely clear. The priest delivers a sermon to a handful of villagers urging them not to lose faith in God. He says that their current troubles (zombies?) are a test of their faith and that God wants them to fight back. He then brings everyone outside to pick up an assortment of axes and hatchets and other blunt instruments to form a mob. A pickup truck drives up, and out races Strand’s boyfriend Thomas Abigail (Dougray Scott). He pleads with the priest not to do whatever it is he’s planning to do. Suddenly, people in the crowd start screaming and bleeding from the eyes. The priest, with tears of blood running down his own face, yells at Abigail that this is “her” fault and curses the name Celia as he collapses.
As a cold open, the scene is creepy but perhaps needlessly cryptic. Fortunately, it will make more sense as the episode progresses.
We then return to our familiar characters on the boat. Pretty much everyone is upset at Chris for shooting the pirate Reed in the face and almost wrecking their plan to rescue Travis and Alicia. Chris whines to his dad about how unfair it is that nobody believes his story that Reed was about to turn into a zombie.
As the boat approaches the border to Mexico, it’s blocked by a ship from the Mexican Navy. Luis has a contact on the ship that he’s supposed to bribe to let them through. However, before he can do that, two officers board the Abigail. Luis and Strand stay above deck to negotiate and pay them off while everyone else hides below. As Salazar eavesdrops and translates the conversation, he hears an argument followed by gunshots. Everyone races back upstairs to find both the Navy men dead and Luis shot in the gut. The deal went sideways.
Salazar acts quickly to stab both the Mexicans in their heads and moves to do the same to Luis, but the others beg him to stop. Luis knows he’s going to die. He pulls out an antique coin that obviously has some personal meaning to him and begs someone, anyone, to bring it to his mother. Salazar takes it and tosses it in the ocean. He’s not having any of that nonsense.
Strand steers the boat toward land. The Navy ship chases briefly but then turns away, likely because the crew is afraid of what’s on the shore. Everyone disembarks at the village from the opening scene. They find the church with a bunch of corpses in front of it. Strand panics when he sees Thomas’ pickup but does not find Thomas himself.
Suddenly, a horde of zombies comprised of the parishioners and altar boys and even the priest lurch toward them. Luckily, that pile of weapons is still on the ground. Everyone grabs something to fight with. They hack and stab and bash zombie skulls – including little kid zombies, which is upsetting to them. One zombie gets the better of Maddie and leaps on top of her. Chris stands by and watches as she yells for help, until Alicia sees what’s happening and kills the zombie to save her mother.
Everyone hops in the truck and Strand drives them away. After a while, they come to a huge estate surrounded by a wall. When they arrive at the entrance, the gate opens. Strand is relieved. The place is still operational. Inside the walls, workers tend to the fields as if this were just an ordinary day. The group pull up to the villa and are greeted by several servants and an older woman. Her name is Celia, like the priest mentioned at the beginning of the episode. She asks Strand about her son, Luis. When he tells her that he died, she isn’t overly concerned so long as he wasn’t shot in the head. She says he’ll find his way back to her eventually. That should raise a major red flag already.
The staff insist on collecting everyone’s weapons. Salazar is uneasy about giving up his, but his daughter Ofelia chides him that they are just guests and must obey the house rules. Celia brings Strand to Thomas, who’s quite sick and appears to have been bitten on the arm. He’s probably not going to make it.
Alicia confronts Chris about letting her mother get attacked. He plays dumb and insists that he just froze up and panicked, but she doesn’t believe a word of his story. He begs her not to tell anyone. When she asks what he’ll do if she does, Chris ominously says, “I don’t wanna hurt anyone.” Yeah, kid, you’re a friggin’ psycho…
Celia acts warm and motherly toward everyone. She especially likes Nick. She tells him that she isn’t afraid of death. She says that the dead have always been all around us, the only difference is that we can see them now. She’s content to wait for her son to come back to her.
Alicia tells Maddie that Chris threatened her, and Maddie has a fight with Travis about it. He thinks his son has PTSD and needs their love and support, the same way Nick did for his drug problems. Maddie doesn’t think the two things are comparable, and Travis resents her for prioritizing her own son over his.
Strand is devastated that his lover is dying. He offers to commit suicide so they can be together in death. He says that Celia will take care of the both of them.
While wandering the estate at night, Salazar sees a young kid toss a dog down a chute into a building basement. It yelps briefly and then stops. Immediately concerned, he follows the kid and sees him talking to (or more accurately, talking at) his zombie mommy through a gate. Salazar gets a better look and sees a whole bunch of zombies locked in the building. Yes, Celia has pulled a Hershel and corralled all the dead rather than kill them.
Salazar confronts Celia (all by himself, stupidly). She insists that the dead deserve their kindness as much as the living and that he needs to make peace with his own dead. Salazar notices that she has prepared communion wafers and puts together that she must have poisoned all the parishioners at the church.
Celia leaves Salazar and goes to tend to Thomas. She sings him to sleep and then tells Strand that she’s proud of him for what he’s planning – that it’s a very brave thing to end his life to be with the one he loves. She leaves him with some poisoned wafers. A few moments later, Thomas dies in Strand’s arms.
Nick talks to Celia again, and the woman expounds a little further on her philosophy. She says that the dead are not to be feared, but rather that, “They are what comes next.”
Being creepy again, Chris sneaks into the bedroom where Maddie and Alicia are sleeping. The girls are awoken by the sound of a gunshot and see Chris hovering over them with a knife in his hand. Alicia screams for him to get out of the room.
The gunshot was from Strand. However, rather than kill himself, he shot Thomas in the head to ensure he won’t come back as a zombie. The episode ends with Strand, gun in hand, leaving the room and walking past the poisoned wafers.
Given that the next episode will be the show’s last before a long break, I’m not sure whether the Celia storyline will end there (possibly with the core characters returning to the boat?) or will be set up to dominate the second half of the season. I think I’d prefer the latter.
Although I’m a little disappointed that the spinoff has, more or less, repeated the zombies-in-the-barn revelation from Season 2 of the original ‘Walking Dead’, I think this is different enough that I’d like to see it play out. Celia’s religious motivations are something we’ve never quite seen on either show before. She’s neither the well-meaning but misguided fool like Hershel was nor an intentionally malevolent villain. She knows what she’s doing and the eventual ramifications of it, but believes it’s God’s will and the right thing to do. That makes her easily the most interesting character this show has had so far.
I have to say, I kind of like the turn Chris is taking as well. He’s always been such an annoying and useless character. Making him a straight-up psycho at least gives him a little purpose, and hopefully means that he’ll have to get killed off and written out of the show soon, which would be fine with me.