Fear the Walking Dead: Brother’s Keeper Review
AMC‘s Fear the Walking Dead, season 3, episode 12, ‘Brother’s Keeper,’ was the meanwhile-back-at-the-ranch, to other threads having been making nice. With Maddy Max still in transit, it was back to Adventures in Babysitting, with the Clark Kids. As the grown-up of the two, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) had to contend with both romantic & family drama. As the forced-ripe man of the two, Nick (Frank Dillane) just had to deal with the inevitable return of the great white (supremacist) dope – aka Troy (Daniel Sharman).
For a guy that’s been trained most of his life to rough it, Troy really lucked out, regarding his exile accommodations. Sure, the previous occupant was left as brain food for crows; but Troy had enough insider info to make it work – just a quick burial (’cause there’re no coyotes or anything, to clean up carcasses – virus thing, maybe – someone should really clarify that), not a real fixer-upper kinda deal.
Of course, Troy was more comfortable back at the commune. Considering what that did for his state of mind, being set alone with his thoughts wasn’t going to be good for anybody. Troy finding an alternate use for his single bullet, however, wasn’t going to be good for anybody that wasn’t Trojan.
On the other end of the scale, Jake (Sam Underwood) was showing all the signs of a go-big-or-go-die moment. Talking about an escapist future, for just him & Alicia, showing signs of wising up to Alicia’s mini-Madison machinations (real, or imagined – even Alicia might not be all that clear on it), and re-evaluating priorities, in general. Most of all, he came to grips with his sibling history; but it took a brief while for Jake to actually get going, this episode.
Now, I don’t want to call Jake whiny, but he’s been starting to sound a little whiny-ish. As a viewer, I don’t care; but if I were Jake, I’d worry about Nick becoming the dude of the ranch – alongside Alicia – while he laments (although, I might be inclined to whine like a siren, if it got me ‘managed’ by Alicia – but only if there weren’t other people, ‘sponsatilities, and the like, to worry about. Train me, mini-Madison! hmn? Sorry)
After something of a come-together-solution never mind, Nick wound up being the compound’s middle-ground. The guy’s been a tumble weed – just rolling with it, and sprouting wherever he finds useful soil – but at least he’s no longer being a spaz about it. To Alicia’s point, however, he still has a soft spot for hard cases.
The feeling always seems to be mutual, too; so it was hardly a surprise when Troy made Nick’s ill-gotten digs the first stop of his comeback/ farewell/ F U tour.
See, here’s where things get simplistically complicated. Nick’s low-point history also allows him to be the show’s biggest enabler; so when he leverages his own hard-earned capital, on behalf of too-far-gones (like Troy), I find myself wondering where the demarcation line is, between Nick being Nick, Nick being a plot driving device, and me just not caring – and waiting for someone else to do the roach stomping.
The substitute roach stomper took forever, in this case; so, clearly, plot-driving was the thing. I was prepared to compare the Troy-Nick dynamic to Col. Kurtz & Capt. Willard’s brief dalliance, from Apocalypse Now; but at least in the film’s case, when Willard decided to get on with it, he just did the deed. No, the Troy triage had to drag on, so the secret of Jeremiah’s death could spread a bit further. That was obvious enough; but if Nick really didn’t want the extra layer of complicated, history should’ve repeated – Nick rushing in, to save Jake the therapy money, like he did with Maddy.
He could’ve also just let that nugget drop, get Alicia further into the doubting debts of Jake’s mind, along the way, and then violently intercede – on Troy’s behalf – for the extra point; so he went with that, whynot. That extra point also came with a sharp penalty, for Jake, which then left Nick picking up the ball, because Troy froze up.
If my attempts at sport analogy seems needlessly confusing, consider this: only two contestants allowed per arena, in contact sports, which is why tracking three gets confusing. Here, we the three ringed circus was just all over the map – Jake hesitating to deal with Troy, while fending off Nick, Troy antagonizing everyone, Nick trying to save & stop everyone, all at once.
Complexity is fine, and messy outcomes happen; but the whole affair was drawn-out to the point that the sharp twist came across as deliberate spectacle.
For the sake of context, this all revolved around the first real mega herd of the series (which I’m tempted to excuse the show’s lack of walkers with, but only tempted), and the blended commune’s response was mercifully short on melodramatics to get through, in its response.
The decisiveness that came with Troys cleansing tide was both refreshing & frustrating.
Bracing that first defensive line should’ve been a given; but they were pressed for time. Once the improv line became untenable, however, the resulting melee might’ve been one of the better examples, for the series. I can appreciate some tension, going into the climax; but the thought that more melee time was sacrificed for the lead-in we did get, is the thing that made it frustrating. All of these disparate characters just buckled up & got decisive, while three deciders couldn’t get over themselves to be of use – even to themselves, as it turned out.
What was particularly insulting: the fact that one major loss came almost in passing, after such a dragging contest (like we forgot about the Chris cop-out, or something). Even Coop (Matt Lasky) – a most notable peripheral character, but peripheral just the same – was shown more respect.
Walkers washing over the ranch made for some decent last stand material – almost enough to make up for the convoluting that went into making it happen. Still, it should also be noted that the post-dramatic decisiveness remained evident, closing out the episode. Even as I was left hopeful (that this ep’s momentary mess was just letting air out of the tires, for a next ep smoother ride), I couldn’t help but wonder who had the bigger responsibility: Alicia – trapped with the battle-bonded, but still fearful mixed masses – or Nick – stuck with a somewhat deflated Troy. I mean, Nick can always cut himself loose; but that’s just not Nick; so tough call.
Nick getting attached to anybody always leads to a Nick-up, sooner or later; but I had hoped his dispatch of Jeremiah represented a corner turn, of some kind. Well, that just made way for a Troy-Nick pairing, and this Trick pony may have been given longer legs than the show’s flow has any use for.
Still, ‘Brother’s Keeper’ may have been a fever break, in that regard; and an ending that inspires any suspense, after an eye-roller of a set-up, could still be looked back on as a win.
That means reserving judgement until the next episode; but at least I am queuing up for the next episode.
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