‘Fear the Walking Dead’ 2.08 Recap: “Safety in Numbers”

The second season of AMC’s ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ returned from its three-month break this week. The time away left me wondering whether I really care enough about the show to continue watching. I suspect that a lot of viewers are asking themselves the same question right now.

When we last left off (and you’ll be forgiven for not remembering), Celia’s plantation house burned to the ground and our core characters split up into smaller groups. Strand, Maddie, Ofelia and Alicia headed back to the boat. Salazar is presumed dead (though almost certainly isn’t). Travis and his dipshit son Chris went off together in one direction, and zombie-loving Nick threw a tantrum and sulked off in another all by himself.

As I feared, the back-half of the season picks up with the characters still separated, and it looks like (at least for a while) each new episode will be devoted to catching up with just one group at a time. Worse, the return episode is 100% about Nick, the show’s second (maybe third if I’m being generous) least interesting and most annoying character. Aside from a few pre-apocalypse flashback appearances by his mother, Maddie, the other characters we know are completely absent.

Nick starts the episode in the company of a woman and her young son, both also refugees from the plantation. The woman tells him that he should head north to Tijuana to find more followers who share Celia’s belief system that the dead are still people and worth saving. She and her son, however, have to go another direction to search for the boy’s father. She gives him a jug of water and wishes him well as she takes their only car and leaves him to walk.

Quite a long walk it will be. Road signs point to Tijuana 100 miles away. Remarkably, in all that way, he never comes across another functional car worth taking. Most of the episode is spent following Nick’s misadventures during the hike. He tries to crash for the night in what appears to be an abandoned house, but is chased off (leaving his water behind) by a couple of terrified survivors who don’t speak any English. He encounters three armed men in a jeep who gleefully kill zombies and a half-dead human victim, and then chase Nick through the desert. He tries to drink from a cactus and finds that process to be a lot harder than ‘Looney Tunes’ cartoons suggested (where’s the handy spigot?!), and eventually gets desperate enough to drink his own pee.

Nick is attacked and bitten by wild dogs, which are then drawn away and killed by a herd of zombies. Once the zombies move on, Nick makes a tourniquet out of a belt and cinches it to his leg, then eats some of the raw dog they’d just been munching on. He covers himself in blood and joins the herd, shambling along like another zombie. Delirious from exhaustion and dehydration, he hallucinates the zombies talking to him, encouraging him to “Come with us” and promising to take him home.

Interspersed with all this are a series of flashbacks to Nick’s time in rehab. I suppose this is meant to be character-building stuff, but it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. However, it gives us a chance to spend some time with his cute blonde girlfriend, the same one from the show’s pilot episode who we’d only previously ever seen as a zombie. Considering how much early promotion for the show was based around that zombie-girl’s image, it’s nice to finally know who she is.

Nick’s zombie herd runs into the guys in the jeep again. The men pull their weapons and start picking off zombies for fun. Rather than run, Nick continues to lurch forward with the pack, intent on getting revenge. One of the idiots appears to recognize Nick (and recognize that he’s a live person traveling with zombies). He gets spooked and stupidly stops in the middle of the road, scrambling to reload his pistol even though he could easily run back to the jeep. The zombies overtake and kill him, and pick off one of his buddies as well. The third guy drives off in the jeep. It’s not explicitly clear in the episode whether Nick partakes with the zombies in their new human feast.

Later, as he’s at his weakest, Nick collapses in the road and is left behind by the zombies. A new trio of Mexicans spy on him from a distance through binoculars. The group’s leader, a woman named Luciana, elects to leave him there to die. Luckily, Nick is saved by a sudden rain shower. Hydrated again, he gets enough of a second wind to stumble the rest of the way to Tijuana, where he’s found once again by Luciana’s group.

Nick next finds himself in a clinic, having his wounds tended by a doctor or medic who tells him that he should be dead. When asked why he came so far, Nick says, “I wanna be where the dead aren’t monsters.” After patching him up, the doctor walks him outside, where Nick discovers a thriving community of human survivors (even children running all around) inside the city.

Episode Verdict

‘Fear the Walking Dead’ has always been a borderline show for me. Honestly, I mainly watch it for its connection (however tenuous) to the ‘Walking Dead’ franchise, while acknowledging that the main show is vastly better. I don’t dislike it enough yet to stop watching, but I also don’t care at all about hardly any of the characters. Coming back from a long break with an episode centered entirely around Nick is especially problematic in that regard. I’d have much preferred a Strand solo episode.

I like the Mexican setting for this season, though the show hasn’t done enough with it to truly distinguish this post-apocalypse landscape from the one in ‘Walking Dead’ prime. I mean, you’ve got a lot of woods in one show and a lot of desert in the other, but beyond that…? Perhaps the new Tijuana community can help give this series its own unique flavor, assuming it lasts long enough, or that we return to this storyline often enough to grow attached to anyone in it.

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