‘This Land is Your Land’ was sensational. How utterly suffocating. Debnam-Carey stole those two hours, without a doubt.
Daniel Sharman has been a revelation, and Daniel Salazar remains a badass.
Overall, the younger cast members have had more screen-time. And the show’s been better for it.
Jeremiah was oddly...‘bleh’ as an antagonist. He wasn’t even really morally grey. He was just a douche.
Nick’s opiate addiction has never been done well enough. Some drugs, yes, you can be alright—but his level of heroin addiction, IV no less?
It was a bloodbath in the end, but as much as you want to hate him: Troy should not have died. Period.
Season three of Fear the Walking Dead yo-yo’d immensely. Rocking the boat of a steady ship should not work, but it really does this time.
So…Fear the Walking Dead just tanked it to something really darn good.
Fast-forward from season one to three, Travis (Cliff Curtis) tumbles off a helicopter to his death in the double-bill premiere. Crows pick at a live man’s brain until death. Madison (Kim Dickens) shoves a spoon in Troy’s (Daniel Sharman) eye. And with the craziness of Otto’s (Dayton Callie) ranch, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) nearly dies in an airtight pantry of oxygen deprivation.
It’d be easy to think this season was just about chilling on a ranch. But it’s not. Warped politics cause estrangement and division, and ‘Fear’ brings what it owes the audience: a violent clash of politics and race that brings vengeance from the ranch’s Natives, led by Walker (Michael Greyeyes).
Jake: “We share, or we risk war.”
From turf war that escalates from colonialist preppers, to war wreaking havoc in Nick and Alicia’s minds, and the literal (turf) war that explodes at Daniel’s (Ruben Blades) dam because of Strand’s (Colman Domingo) betrayal, Fear’s third season goes from crazy to insane. Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) dies. Troy dies. Fear nearly gives everyone an aneurysm by showing Alicia’s supposed grave.
What ‘Fear’ does fantastically by the end is pit unlikely characters against each other amidst these wars. We so rarely get varied partnerships on this show, but Daniel and Strand’s isolation, Troy and Nick’s adventures and Alicia and Strand’s brief, quiet conspiring is air-punch worthy.
This season, more than any, showcased the true horror of humanity—even more so than the horrendously rushed first season and the snail of the second season. And it’s a saving grace.
The Clarks are the unluckiest family ever—yes, even in the apocalypse—but somehow end up reuniting…all the time.
Indisputably, the Clarks’ bond is the most intimate and touching of the show. They’re the centric trio we root for. And yes, we need balance. Newcomers like Danay Garcia and Edwina Findley are welcome breaths of fresh air. But while we’re grateful we’re not just watching the Clarks all the time it’s somewhat flat whenever they reunite.
So we enjoyed Strand and Daniel, as random as that was. Nick and Troy became so disturbing and warped that it was truthfully addictive. The strange bond they shared and the self-destructive nature, survivors in a dead world, was sheer brilliance. And Alicia, sidelined in earlier seasons, blossomed before our eyes as she became a leader in ‘This Land is Your Land’. In fact, she was often the only one who actually talked sense.
Alicia: “How the hell did you get here?”
Ofelia: “It’s a long story.”
However, ‘Fear’ achieved conflict with its meek reunions. Ofelia defected, understandably, to the Nation. Nick and Troy’s bromance grew ever-more disturbing. And the inevitable decline between Alicia and Madison was superbly played by Dickens and Debnam-Carey. The quiet resentment and unconditional love was subtly done, and the duo has always been clever in the complexity of their scenes. Of all potential conflicts next season, Alicia and Madison’s was the front-runner for being the most entertaining—purely because of both actresses’ calibre, and also because Alicia now knows she can lead. Her confidence as a potential medic is there. She’s silently proven herself repeatedly, whilst Nick shoots Otto and lands himself a pity party. Of everyone, Alicia is probably the better bet over Madison, for once, to take charge.
How such a conflict will play out, we have no idea. But the concept of Dickens and Debnam-Carey going toe-to-toe with the ever-talented Dillane stuck in the middle is a tempting one.
The characters eventually show their original true colours, but pace doesn’t automatically cut development.
Where season one may have been slow, season three rocketed. But quickening storytelling doesn’t mean you cut character development altogether. Madison’s ruthlessness and Troy’s turn to goodness was exceptionally played—but not well-written.
The show’s saving grace was, of course, Strand.
Not once did we forget he was a con-man. Domingo oozes charisma. Even when he’s imprisoned by Daniel, he attempts to bribe his way out. Strand’s trying to save Madison & co’s life with some elaborate plan and he says:
Strand: “You don’t have a choice. And I haven’t had a good feeling about anything since 1997.”
Strand was always untrustworthy. Noble acts and friendship don’t take your history away from you. Yet ‘Fear’ offered us 50/50. Nick chewing some pills just didn’t seem much of a story when you remember he suffered long-term physical and mental withdrawal symptoms for a few minutes of the first season. He survived a season on a boat, played football with kids, and supposedly had some spiritual awakening with Celia. He didn’t even swipe any oxycodone in season two!
Here’s the thing: Strand’s betrayal made sense. But because of his development, he still tried to save Madison—albeit in vain. Nick, who should’ve been the series’ star, flopped between Good Guy, a tormented murderer, a self-destructive Troy-man, a drug addict for thirty seconds, that dude who smeared blood on his face and swaggered amongst the walkers, and—wait, who was Luciana again? The marketing of Nick as such a vital figure is warranted. Frank Dillane is delightfully talented. But whilst all his alter-egos have been amazing to watch, ‘Fear’ can’t have them all. Nick is more a caricature of everything he was than a fully-fledged character now. And frankly, he deserves better.
Enough of the minor blips: season three hits us with some double-whammies.
Flaws aside, season three of ‘Fear’ gutted us like a fish. This season, we were pummelled by Travis’ shock death right from the get-go. If that didn’t set the scene for racial tensions, Ofelia becomes a badass; Alicia becomes a badass; Daniel nearly dies; Troy times a walker…
Season three launched a relevant war between the ranch and the Nation, led by Walker. We almost expected Otto to build a wall around the ranch and ask the Nation to pay for it, but then we were reminded we were watching fiction. Yet the war wasn’t fabricated from nothing. Walker never wanted blood; Otto did. And Otto took.
Walker: “Fear creates fury, fury creates blood.”
Surprisingly, that storyline ended (violently) and quickly. Briefly, we wondered where ‘Fear’ would go from there—but the answer ended up with Alicia Clark holding up the fort. As everyone said ciao, Alicia faced a traumatising mass-butchery in a failed attempt to save the ranch.
Season three also gifted us Troy. Troubled, psychotic, obsessive and grossly charismatic, Daniel Sharman’s admirer of death was epically played. Troy was deeply haunted by his awful past—yet never justified by it. His willing manipulation at Madison’s hands was unnerving. Blatantly, he’s aware he’s being influenced, yet he’s thrilled to play. Troy is the franchise: he is the depiction of just how dangerous humanity is. Not the smirking, bludgeon-swinging brute. He’s barely a man who truly believes in greatness in this hopeless, bleak world. Fear-mongering for the sake of it is not innately fearsome. It’s the belief that such fear-mongering is not that at all.
And that’s why Troy’s possibly the most terrifying antagonist of the series. With Sharman’s hauntingly stunning performance, he will be missed.
Let’s give a big hurrah for the women this year! Fear them we shall indeed…
Hands up who thought Madison would be the cause of all the shocks this season? Is that everyone?
Ofelia’s season one Ofelia on steroids and then some. Rifle-cocking, ass-kicking, crawling up vents with a walker stuck inside…hey, this ain’t Kansas anymore for wild-Feeliaz. Much of that bonding has to do with her close friendship with Alicia, which is worthy of a joyous air-punch. And Ofelia perhaps hit us with the biggest shock. Who expected Ofelia to die? Moments from reuniting with her father, her death—which she knew was coming—was poignant, heartbreaking stuff from ‘Fear’. Suddenly the goodbye hug with Alicia seems much darker.
Last but not least, let’s talk Alicia. While last season showed glimmers of a slightly more conniving, still naive Alicia, then this season lambasted it out of the park. If ‘Fear’ deployed a decoy between Madison and Alicia, into having us think Madison would be carrying out the most dirty work, then they succeeded. Alicia is perhaps the unlikeliest yet the one with the most potential to manipulate, con and lie. She is her mother’s daughter after all. She learns to shoot; learns to play with no freedom until she can win it:
Proctor John: “Relax. I got my angel of mercy. You ready to hit the road?”
Alicia: “Do I have a choice?”
Proctor John: “Not really.”
Except she does. Alicia’s ascension to badass was a reluctant one. The money was on Nick. Growing up in a grimy crack-den made him a natural for the grim apocalypse. But when Debnam-Carey’s episode came, she killed it (and killed everyone in the pantry). When she hyperventilated and broke down, you felt her pain. You felt her heart ripping. Debnam-Carey isn’t a stranger to critics applauding her: she needed a good script, and ‘Fear’ delivered. And honestly? It’s tragic. Her criticism was that she behaved like a teenager. What a crime! Now, the Berkeley-bound student is a mass-killer by necessity. That’s what the audience wanted of her.
That’s the sickest shock of it all.
FINAL VERDICT: The result of culling the whiniest ones early is getting to reap the rewards: Fear the Walking Dead wasn’t mindlessly slow. It was building.
In a character-driven show, things like Alicia’s trauma after killing her friends in that pantry vanished in the next episode. Maybe her way of coping was to conveniently ignore the definition of PTSD? Meanwhile, Madison’s teetering on the edge of unlikeable, as badass as she is. Does she have room to feel remorse for someone other than Nick? Again, the gang are infuriatingly, nonsensically split up—if only to offer a broader cast in for next season. And a better exploration of the wider world. But the execution left a lot to be desired.
For three seasons, Madison and Travis had been working towards keeping the family together. Safe. But all these three seasons have proved is a lot for the characters individually, but nothing for the characters together. You may argue the lone wolf thing could be effective, but if you’re a wolf you’d want your pack with you. It’s…kind of common sense.
For a drama like this, a continuous villain—unlike The Walking Dead’s—would be good to watch. Troy had that potential, but the urge to recycle these antagonists is tiring. You wouldn’t reset the core cast every season. Why not have a major, proper antagonist?
Full props, though, to Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman. Bowing to pressure to speed the storyline up so we can essentially have “TWD: LA” was a disaster they excellently avoided. Moreover, they’ve developed a cohesive, complicated story with power-struggles around every corner from every race. It’s been a long wait, but we are getting to the fall of civilisation. And we’d rather watch this instead, over mindlessly bashing zombies over the head for fifteen seasons.
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD will return in 2018 on AMC.
Season Three Verdict: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ [AMC]