Fear the Walking Dead: Minotaur, The Diviner, & La Serpiente Review
AMC‘s Fear the Walking Dead, season 3, episodes 9, 10, & 11, ‘Minotaur,’ ‘The Diviner,’ & ‘La Serpiente,’ delivered on what some of season 3.1 had promised, and showed more promise, in the effort. Over the course of 3.2’s first three episodes, the series not only managed to expand its setting, significantly, but draw them all together – suggesting a sense of momentum. This, while also spreading the weight of its principal cast in fairly even fashion.
Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), for starters, actually managed force both her will & compromise on others, and get her hands dirty, without coming across as indifferent to all concerns outside family. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) turned out to be well up to the task, as Maddy’s understudy; but still had that soft spot for the plot to exploit – making things worse, just so she could make them better. Nick (Frank Dillane) made a surprisingly quick transition – from carrying the family secret to the Walker (Michael Greyeyes) deal, to carrying the (poor) secret of the resistance that sprung up against it – all without breaking his now signature roll-with-it outlook.
On the other hand, the second half of the season saw a demotion for the Otto boys, as they occupied opposite ends of the void their father had left behind. Jake (Sam Underwood) came across as somewhat overwhelmed, taking up the mantle of commune manager (further empowering Alicia), while Troy (Daniel Sharman) took to the role of commune defender way too readily (and specifically).
So, like something out of the most depressing coffee commercial ever, the Clarks went about trying to make the blended community work. With one Otto too hard, and the other too soft, however, they had push-back from all sides to deal with.
To the show’s credit, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) has shown no real interest in redeeming herself to the Clarks, much less the rest of the commune; this, despite retaining some guilt – proving that she may not be going totally wrong-and-strong about it. Like the Clarks, she was more focused on the ends, rather than the means.
The secret of Jeremiah’s death didn’t last long; but then, neither did the peace (or Troy’s stability – and just so you know, I will not be referring to this as the Siege of Troy). Things didn’t go the way Troy wanted; but only regarding his own fate. I wouldn’t say that either his daddy issues, with Jeremiah, or his mommy issues, with Maddy, were even remotely resolved; but the Troy outcome left room to revisit those.
Letting Troy go was tantamount to a villain origin story; but, of course, only viewers can see that – the rest of the cast had more immediate problems. After some penalty hotbox time (only with what he took with him) Nick came out the other end of the Troy siege (close; but no e-cigarette) a hero to Troy’s militia (Trojans?). Ever the improv idealist, Nick thought it better to positively influence them from this position; but he may have stayed in character too long, after a certain point.
Thanks to a Jeremiah doomsday secret, Maddy & Walker had to head off on a thread of their own (Maddy Max? Walker, Mexi-Cali Stranger?); so whatever the commune kids had to contend with, was bound to boil over. Fortunately, it didn’t do so by the numbers.
Elsewhere, Daniel (Rubén Blades) was finally putting his experience to good use – serving as Hand to the new Dante of the Dam, Lola (Lisandra Tena) – between look-outs for an Ofelia walk-on appearance into his thread. Lola was certainly more receptive to his advice, than his last crew; but crusaders often put courage & wisdom at odds. Worse, Daniel had a rival on her right shoulder, in the form of ultra idealist, Efrain (Jesse Borrego). Like the Clark Kids, Daniel’s thread would pit rationed order against mob chaos, and I liked the consistency to the clearly parallel threads.
On a side note, how thirsty do you have to be to go running after speeding vehicles, under a broiling sun? Yes, some of them were braving gunfire; but it still seems self-defeating.
Is it just me, or has Fear the Walking Dead become more… civilized than its forebear? Isolated communes, miles of open road, shanty towns – a Barter Town, even – and all with nary a walker herd/ rampaging reaver pack to complicate things.
At the same time, I’d be lying if I didn’t find this Walking Dead: Beyond Thunderdome faze to be the most interesting point in the show’s history. Each character has something to do, stakes to play for, personal space to play with, and an expanding range of interesting spaces to play through. Where claustrophobia, cabin fever, and the contempt of familiarity has been genre standards, FTWD has made spreading out the cast & settings work for itself.
That spread also made for reunions that would otherwise just be plot-coincidence. The Maddy Max run to Barter Town reconnected the missing Strand (Colman Domingo) to the various threads. This Strand was already on the way to bottoming out; so all that was left was for him to him to claw his way back up, somehow – and naturally get others involved/ implicated.
As happy as I was to see Strand (in progress), and as nice as it was to see Maddy reflexively act to save him, she kind of lost the impulse control contest, at Barter Town. Cutting herself off from Alicia, without notice, then running from a badly needed deal, to jump into an unknown fight-in-progress, seemed like the kind of recklessness Walker should’ve called her out on (from the start, anyway). Well, Walker found a contingency for that; but lets face it: even when Strand doesn’t has a plan, he does get awful lucky.
So Strand got his first name ’cause his momma figured he’d always win. In my circle, we’d just as soon declare this Plot Armor of Achillean levels. Since the Strand always seems to fit, I’m prepared to declare the character welcomed to it.
As obvious as it was, that this Strand would ultimately tie the commune & Dam threads together, Maddy & Walker should’ve worked out the eventual outcome at the first mention of the Dam.
As much as I would love to rip the Buy-the-World-a-Coke resolution, to the Clarke Kids pot-boiler, it was kind of a relief that the plot allowed its actors to take the hopeful route – all parties seeming to prefer a mutually beneficial long-shot, over an all-or-nothing securing of their own. Such optimism can always serve to fuel future conflict, sure – a way to get to the action, without looking like you were too eager to get to the action – but, for the moment, I appreciate the Showrunners not seeming too eager to get to the action.
While I wasn’t convinced a beeping signal attracts walkers better than the (closer) sound of an 18-wheeler’s engine, I did appreciate the extra effort that went into reminding us that sewers don’t make for convenient short-cuts (That absolute groadiness went unnoticed, on the other side, however – but, hey, it wasn’t my furniture).
The un-fun tunnel run also proved that even when Strand has a plan, strong plot armor still works better (not a complaint – still saying he’s earned it).
Ofelia was back, as the in with Daniel; but no way was the linking of threads going to come without a little chaffing. Chaffing of the sort that leads to a one night’s stay that goes on for a bit, while different pairs of concerned parties ruminate, recriminate, and reach out.
Maddy got the only out that ever mattered to her, on this show, but hesitated. Earned armor-points or not, even I thought Strand’s stroking of Efrain for information was too easy (he didn’t even wave his hands at Efrain’s face). Easier, still, was how Daniel was able to pull a preview putsch out of his repertoire; but it was the next day thing that kept the night’s exchanges from going on too long, and avoided a touchy-feely change-of-heart. That, and a threat-based change-of-mind seemed more fitting to a scenario that had both Strand & Daniel involved.
Strand & Daniel may never get back to their old at-odds-couple dynamic; but with Daniel now aware of what survival has done to his daughter, there is one more reason this tying of threads could make for a better group dynamic, regarding the surviving original cast.
Naturally, for all of this to end on an all-smiles-as-we-head-home-with-a-win note suggests a really bad turn is due. Add to that, the fact that the Maddy Max run was meant to head off a conflict that (when last seen) was in the process of peacefully resolving itself – so something truly tragic has to happen. Right?
Here’s a question: who’s ready to riot, should things actually go right, for a bit? Maybe this would be a case where defying expectations gets the down-vote. Of course, Troy would be a ready made wrench-shaped monkey, to go diving, head-first, into all this smooth operating, wouldn’t he? Too bad they let him go off on his own….
Honestly, at this point, I could go for either outcome, as I’m genuinely interested in what the Showrunners have in mind. Wouldn’t a said that with a straight face, a season back.
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