SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers from “Blood In the Streets,” tonight’s episode of “Fear the Walking Dead,” follow.
Flashbacks are tricky on a television show. While they can be a great device for adding depth to a character — especially a character with a past as mysterious as Victor Strand’s — they can also become outlandish and gimmicky if overused. Just look at a show like “Lost,” whose flashbacks started off good, got bad, and ended ugly over its six seasons.
Fortunately, “Fear The Walking Dead” hasn’t made heavy use of flashbacks so far, thus allowing “Blood In the Streets” to feel a lot like an early episode of “Lost,” with Strand’s backstory the zombie-apocalypse equivalent to a reveal about one of that show’s more untrustworthy characters.
But unlike “Lost,” we don’t constantly check in with him in the present, as he spends most of it clinging to a slowly deflating life raft in the freezing cold water. It’s the result of a failed escape plan after Alicia’s mystery friend from the radio, Jack (Daniel Zovatto of “It Follows”), and his cohorts invade the boat. Strand bolts, they shoot, and one of their bullets punctures the raft and sends him plunging into the ocean. There’s a bit of toggling from flashback to him hanging on for dear life, but not much else.
This could be a problem if his backstory wasn’t compelling, but because we know so little about Strand, each little detail helps build empathy for the would-be antagonist of the show. Just when you think he’s a sociopath only interested in swindling strangers he meets in bars, he ends up falling in love with one of his targets after they go into business together. Granted, they’re both sharks looking to profit off of land development, but there’s an understated tenderness between Strand and Thomas Abigail (Dougray Scott), so much that he ends up naming his boat after him.
And even though Strand’s not present for it, the Abigail storyline still has a huge effect on the current events of the show. Before fleeing, Strand sends Nick in his own raft to a community on the shore, where Thomas’ childhood friend Luis (Arturo Del Puerto) awaits to escort everyone to the Mexican border. Luis’ presence comes in handy as they make their way back to the Abigail, where he snipes several of Jack’s comrades and allows Madison to wound another, thus freeing the passengers from captivity.
Things are far from resolved though. By the end, the rival party’s leader, Connor, has made off with Jack and Alicia (she joined them to save her family), Strand may have hypothermia after getting rescued from the water by Madison, there’s a hostage to deal with, and Luis doesn’t seem too happy about having to get an entire yacht’s worth of people to safety instead of just his mother, Strand, and himself. Regardless of how all of these disparate threads get tied up, each one will have more weight now that the show’s most mysterious character feels more like a human than a diabolical supervillain. Strand’s not exactly a hero, but he still has a moral code, one that may be more beneficial to the rest of the characters than they have yet to realize.
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