Wow! Not content with usurping its bigger brother, Fear the Walking Dead has officially left The Walking Dead in the rearview mirror as the cast and writers flick the bird and shout “Eat My Dust!” at their sibling.
Taking its title from Daniel Salazar’s nickname for Victor Strand, La Serpiente had everything you could wish for from an hour of television. Beginning on a recognisable stretch of Mexican highway, Madison, Victor Strand and a distrusting Qaletaqa Walker headed to Daniel’s Dam, accompanied by the perfect pounding desert soundtrack; Alexandra Savior’s M.T.M.E. Before no time at all, the trio and their water truck were confronted by the first of an increasingly necessary FTWD trope – a horde of undead.
To get inside Daniel’s complex, the trio next had to navigate a labyrinthine sewer system before Madison had to hack the limbs off an oversized, water-bloated zombie to get through a tight dirty poo-pipe, which of course she did with aplomb. Well, when I say aplomb, I mean a hatchet. +5 Walking Dead ingenuity points.
Inside Daniel’s camp (and after Qaletaqa goes walkabout) Madison tries to strike a deal to get water for her people at the ranch from Queen of the Damned – Lola. In exchange, Madison will provide Lola with the guns she needs to protect the damn from the local dissenting Mexican villagers.
Seems an easy enough decision but Lola’s pride means she cannot be seen to be trading with the gringos. Plus, while he and Maddie share respect, we don’t know what Daniel and Efra have been whispering in Lola’s Spanish ears. Efra’s gonna release the water from the dam by the end of the season anyway, by my reckoning.
Madison and Victor share another tender, hand-holding, heartfelt moment (how has he gone from gay man to willing-them-to-get-together?) where they express their wishes and, hey presto – no quicker can you say false flag operation and… KABLOOEY!
Victor blows up a water truck; Daniel shoots, Madison hacks and Victor stabs more zombies and a thirsty mob of pitchfork-wielding peasants arrive, meaning and the guns for water deal is back on. Yaaay!
Victor may be La Serpiente, but he just saved the ranch… Oh, and Daniel gets to see his daughter, Ofelia as part of the deal.
I’m rushing through the plot highlights but with the deal struck, Madison and Victor drive a new water truck back home, collecting Walker from the side of the road with Madison’s excellent joke “Thirsty?” and a smile to die for.
Mission accomplished, the trio drive back along the same recognisable stretch of highway we saw at the beginning while Nick Cave’s band Grinderman’s plays us out over a drone shot with the amazing Palaces of Montezuma. The group ended up where they started out in a standalone episode that saw intentions, obstacles, deals, double-crosses, perfect bookending, a false flag operation, zombie hordes, zombies in enclosed spaces, Troma, laughs, a potential love interest, rocking desert rock music and an ending that adequately sets up the next two episodes.
While the group got what they wanted, Fear the Walking Dead gave us what we wanted. A perfect hour of uplifting, gory, fun television.
This is what happens when four actors as strong as Kim Dickens, Colman Domingo, Michael Greyeyes and Rueben Blades get the chance to carry a whole hour with a stunning script, beats and character motivation that make sense and strong direction from American-Japanese director, Josef Kubota Wladyka.
Well done writers’ room, cast and crew. I’m grateful that this televisual universe (or diegesis) has stepped up to become must-see TV. I can’t wait for the next episode which will see all-out war at the camp as someone surely decides they need to take the dam by force!
Fear the Walking Dead continues Sunday 24th September, the same day as some other, minor show returns.