As a general rule, I hate it when you sit down ready for the continuation of a story and are presented with an episode featuring other, side characters. The Walking Dead and now Fear the Walking Dead are guilty of such crimes…
I understand concentrating on other, split-up members of the group’s story from a production point of view; for a few episodes per season, the main production can continue while a second unit (in efffect) films in another location with other actors.
Yet I’ve noticed a worrying trend in recent years, especially in The Walking Dead – the producers (I mean writers, creators, directors, producers) don’t seem to understand that through a technique most industry insiders agree is called “editing” both stories can be told at the same time.
Just as something finally fucking interesting occurs with Rick et al in The Walking Dead proper, off we go for a week with Carol knitting weapons out of tiger fur in The Kingdom or for an hour of Neagan interrupting harvest festival at Hilltop with some stand up comedy.
MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE RANCH…
So when Daniel Salazar – who we saw go mad, set fire to the ranch and perish in season two – show up to Victor’s makeshift jail cell in S03E03, Fear the Walking Dead should have had me tearing my hair out. Only it didn’t. It did the opposite.
For a mainstream broadcaster like AMC to feature 95% of a popular, hour-long show in Spanish with English subtitles is an incredibly bold move which should be applaued.
Only working out one minute ago is 96 + 4 (watch the episode to find out) “100” told such a great character-based story of Daniel’s past-crimes as a communist-kiling General the CIA trained Sombra Negra death squad in the El Salvador war that I forgot all about Madison, Alycia and Nick back at The Otto Ranch.
Miraculously escaping the inferno he started, Daniel walked the lands genuinely seeking forgiveness from anyone that will listen.
When he found a zombie-forgiving Good Samaritan named Efrain, Daniel asked him if he was a priest and if he could forgive him.
But brilliantly, Efrain fell asleep.
God’s intevention when striking down an about-to-bite zombie with a bolt of lightning could have been awful, but it was so well executed (electrocuted?) that it didn’t seem over the top.
God really does have a plan for Daniel, it seems.
In some stellar writing (albeit what I call building block writing – in terms efficient storytelling – just tidily getting all the jigsaw pieces into place under the audience’s noses) Daniel worked his way within minutes from refugee to lowly janitor to head bodyguard of politician-turned-Water King, Dante’s non-communist Dam cartel.
And there, on that magnificent dam location, Daniel was presented with one hell of a choice: continue being a killer or redeem yourself and actor Ruben Blades carried the question and the whole episode magnificently.
Whether God’s plan was him saving Efrain, his girlfriend Lola (who was running water to the needy) and Victor Strang or whether The Almighty has more Mxican salvation up his sleeve, after some honest, gripping “will he? won’t he?” moments Daniel finally, deservedly found some redemption.
This season, Fear the Walking Dead has not only stepped up from poor relation to contender, it has bettered its hermano mayor, the stale and predictable The Walking Dead.
Now the question is, with that Tijuana damn serving as such a great backdrop, is his daughter Ofelia really alive? And was that Jeremiah Otto who found her in the desert last season?
Fear the Walking Dead strikes twice in the same place next Sunday, 25th June on AMC.