Fear the Walking Dead: Pillar of Salt Review
Fear the Walking Dead, season 2, episode 12, ‘Pillar of Salt,’ was appropriately titled. The good news, is that it applied to family dynamics of two kinds: one fleeing a burning city, and one having left a burnt-out man-child. The bad news: the burnt-out man-child got the look back. Worse still: as the one that looked back, Madison (Kim Dickens) likely left viewers tempted to look back, themselves. Back at how close they had gotten to getting clear – of the kind of sentimental plot twisting that got her turned around, in the first place – before a potentially productive season finale.
Starting things on the positively appropriate titular reference, more casual carcass camo went into a desertion from the Colonia, by a scout, with family in tow. Why? The father said something about it no longer being safe; but it was clearly to shake Nick (Frank Dillane) out of his latest complacency. As had been long telegraphed, they provided Marco (Alejandro Edda), the Oxycontin hoarding would-be warlord, with a means to get at the source of Nick’s barter leverage.
Somehow, none of this registered back at Colonia. Alejandro (Paul Calderon) was too busy worrying about losing the faith of the Colonias, and Luciana (Danay Garcia) was to busy proving hers still intact. Despite his semi-paternal relationship, with Alejandro, and despite that cracking whip sound you may have heard (courtesy of a crazy-kind-of-hot Luciana), Nick’s run-out-clock junkie sense was tingling.
While the doomsday clock ticked louder, for Colonia, there was happy hedonism to be had at the Hotel. Skipping past diversions, like Alicia’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) ice-breaker surfer lesson, Oscar (Andres Londono) working alongside Elena (Karen Bethzabe) meant that Madison’s truce had taken hold. The conspicuous absence of Ilene (Brenda Strong), however, clearly meant trouble. Consider the singular act, that made Oscar come around, and it seemed kind of clear where the balloon was going to pop. That, and who both the puncturer, and the punctured, were going to be.
More obvious was how the holes in the Hotel homestead aligned with the crisis at Colonia. Never mind how many coincidences it took to get both enclaves in the same orbit, getting titular reference 1 within earshot of titular reference 2 was enough to get a something to happen.
This was where the script fell back on resorting to family melodrama, as standard plot device. The device has become a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, by this point; and if survivalist wit & pragmatism are the Scissors – cutting through irrelevant vestiges of civilization – then knee-jerk sentimental reactionism is the Rock.
Maddie won this round by playing Rock.
Like I said, flushing away all progress, for the sake of sentiment, has been a go-to plot driver, for shows like this. The difference this time: that progress was a character winning streak, for cast drags like Nick, Alicia, and (especially) Madison. I felt like I lost money, watching her play Rock! Worse was having to admit just how inevitable the play was – all my muted gesticulating having to give way to a grimaced, knowing nod.
All that usefulness wasn’t about bringing us something big, for the second season finale; it was about setting up the World’s tallest Jenga tower just to kick over.
What’s been most unsettling, about FTWD‘s 2nd season, is just how… settled everything has been. The initial outbreak is still relatively fresh; but instead of towns, cities, States, districts, and whole countries in the midst of meltdown, we’re already at TWD‘s level of wasteland oasis communes.
I was inclined to accept that, given how the show had approached the plot element. I was even willing to forgive Strand (Colman Domingo) being reduced to a sympathy plot driving device; but between Alicia’s talk about her upbringing, and Nick still looking for a healthy outlet for his ‘talents,’ it seems the Strand character had been wasted, since the original group made it to Mexico.
It occurred to me that Strand has had not just a better working relationship, with Nick & Alicia, but better chemistry, as well. It shouldn’t have taken another Maddie-goes-mad-over-Nick moment, just so Alicia could hammer home the point about Maddie’s priority history. Between Travis (Cliff Curtis) leaving the group, to cover some Chris cost, and Maddie leaving her senses, for another Nick-up fix, the pointlessness to the original family dynamic has been plenty obvious.
I think the show would be much better off just having Strand road-raising Nick & Alicia – maybe so they could stand up to whatever Chris eventually turns into. I could use some encouragement, that this might be a direction the current plotting might allow for.
Failing that, I can at least hope that the thing, that was Ofelia’s (Mercedes Mason) side-story, somehow ends with some of that burden being taken off Strand. He used to have better company, in the useful circle.
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