Fear the Walking Dead: Things Bad Begun & Sleigh Ride Review
AMC‘s Fear the Walking Dead, season 3, episodes 15 & 16, ‘Things Bad Begun’ & ‘Sleigh Ride,’ shook off the vestiges of the season’s principal arc, and ended with the start of a whole new conflict, that, in turn, might’ve marked the end for any number of principal characters.
Madison (Kim Dickens) got Nick (Frank Dillane) back at the dam; but he came with bad news. Bad news that laid Strand’s (Colman Domingo) best plans to waste, and set off a series of increasingly desperate events. It just took him a while to realize just how desperate the times would become, and what measures they would call for; but when it did eventually sink in….
Alica (Alycia Debnam-Carey), in the meantime, had her short road-trip with Diana (Edwina Findley Dickerson) leveraged into a gentle hostage scenario, formally introducing us to Proctor John (Ray McKinnon). Maybe the Pickax Princess makes a return appearance, down the road (down stream?) – maybe even as a Proctor. I’m just hoping she doesn’t just disappear, like previous web heroine, Alex, did.
As for the Proctor Prime, I’d describe the introductory PJ as Negan without the overt menace/ vice, and tethered by a degree of Buddhist sensibility. Not enough of that last bit to keep him from being a pragmatist, of the mass murdering variety; but I did appreciate the serene distinction, in both manner & MO.
Of course, a lifetime of dealing with Nick made Alicia the perfect choice, for being his reluctant hand-holder; so plot-convenience can be… well, convenient.
Proctor John – aka Evil Eric Idle (sporting a Luger pistol, to drive home the evil part) – intended to cap the season’s dam sub-plot, then make Alicia the Figurehead to his Man-O-War, as he sailed to consolidate the western Gulf coast. Well, the complications to the Clark family made that plan… complicated.
With Walker (Michael Greyeyes) & Crazy Dog (Justin Rain) taking the Han Solo New Hope route (think about it), Troy (Daniel Sharman) was the last drop of Ranch dressing on the menu, and indigestion soon followed. There was the creep-show, with Maddy, sure, but since their bonding time, it was Nick making the Troy situation that much shakier.
Daniel (Rubén Blades) always did have a nose for trouble, so a quick word with Nick stumbled into an interrogator’s hot seat session. Unless you take into account that Daniel kinda hated Troy, on sight, there was no real logic to his trigger with Nick. The notion that every herd has to be led was a leap, otherwise. As a result, Nick had to dig himself in a little deeper, on Troy’s behalf – and with Daniel, no less. Other than that, the big take-away from the scene was that Daniel was left still searching for his Pound of Flesh.
As for how the creep-show ended… well, I wish I could say I was surprised; but somewhere between Maddy’s talk with Strand, and Troy’s irrepentant tirade, I would’ve actually been disappointed had Maddy not acted – hot or cold, sooner or later. The big nevermind rolled on.
I did wish the Showrunners would bring a bit more consistency to Nick, however. He’s gone from being the screw-up, to coddling one; swung between man-of-action, and voice of reason; and switches between ultra pragmatist, and ideologue. It was a little tough to swallow his judgement of Maddy, after what he did to Jeremiah (Dayton Callie), and with Troy. For what it’s worth, Maddy, I’m giving you permission to put Nick down, if necessary; we may just have different ideas of what necessary will look like (I’d settle at insufferable prick Nick character downturn, as a trigger).
The episode (if not series) had other plans for Nick, however; and I’ll admit that, for once, he was the right choice to be the plot-primadonna. A lot of series regulars took far-reaching turns, by this point; so it was important that the stakes be made high for everyone.
Daniel, for instance, was left with nothing to lose, a character affecting disfigurement, and a last straw broken by Strand. Both characters have jumped the fences to their respective roles, as hustler & monster, and there may be no living with either, going forward. I hate to say it, but my two favorite originals may have finally – irreparably – gotten to the one-man-leave point of their dynamic.
On a side note, regarding disfigured Daniel as “Death warmed-over,” those Proctors might as well have given a cigarette to a captive General, code-named Falcon. If you don’t get the reference, then congratulations: you’re young – don’t spend it all in one place. Yippee ki yay, Mister Falcon.
Now, let’s say we just take a break from all that, for a moment, to psycho-analize Maddy’s ironically happy holiday vision. On second thought: let’s not – way too disjointed, way too out-of-left-field, and way too creepy for all the above.
Both Lola (Lisandra Tena) & Efrain (Jesse Borrego) were wasted, in more ways than one – but not before Lola took a somewhat pointless course of action, that only made things worse, of course. Sometimes plot-convenience is inconvenient.
I’m not sure which development I found more puzzling: the fact that no one thought to search Strand, once they got their hands on him, or that no one – including Strand or Proctor – noticed Nick walking away from the Strand goodbye with one hand tucked. Sure, it would’ve made for a nice reveal, had I not noticed that detail; but the fact that I did loudly suggests that those two Devils of detail should’ve.
Ah, well, the fate of the entire remaining original cast was in he hands of a decidedly erratic Nick. Time for a Maddy vision break.
Is it odd that Coop (Matt Lasky) getting a seat, at the Table of Ironic Happiness, was the thing that bothered me most, at first? I’m not prepared to get into what any of the Maddy-vision cutaway scenes meant, or how they related to actual plot-in-progress; but they did come with more reassuring call-back characters, making them feel quite relevant, and posing a question of whether they amounted to foreshadowing, or the shape of things to come (there’s a subtle difference – really).
I still maintain that this season was the hands-down best of the series, and the best argument for its continuation. I just wish it had amounted to more.
For all the good that went into it, the Ranch arc was bundled up & tossed, almost in its entirety. That could’ve been fine, for a neatly self-contained season; but the fact that it was immediately followed by what was essentially a two-part set-up, for what comes next, seemed to add insult to the injury.
Well, at least what comes next was left as a matter of supreme interest. Not only did we get a cliffhanger worth clinging to (or at least a “Turn Off Your Mind, Relax, and Float Downstream” opportunity, for one perpetually stressed character), but a nemesis worthy of the franchise.
Fear the Walking Dead season enders have gone from promising, to frustrating, to intriguing, to downright compelling.
Let’s call that a win, and wait for the follow-through.
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