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Fear the Walking Dead Recap: The Past Haunts Everyone

by  in TV Reviews Comment
Fear the Walking Dead Recap: The Past Haunts Everyone

Frank Dillane as Nick Clark - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Episode 12 - Photo Credit: Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for “Pillar of Salt,” the latest episode of “Fear The Walking Dead.” If you have not yet seen the episode, consider yourself warned.

It’s been said that monsters are always metaphors, and that’s something that “Fear the Walking Dead” hasn’t always remembered. In “Pillar of Salt,” we actually do get some heaping spoonfuls of metaphor, and theme, and other such literary devices. The problem is that it comes at the expense of the story. In “Pillar of Salt,” the plot may take one step forward, but it also takes many, many steps back.

Like Lot’s wife in the story to which the episode’s title alludes, the characters do a lot of looking over their shoulders, and while no one gets transformed into a pillar of salt (or indeed meets any similar disaster), the sense of impending doom grows more and more palpable. We catch up with Ofelia (welcome back, Mercedes Mason!) as she hits the road (and in Strand’s truck, no less). All the major storylines in this episode are fueled by the past, and Ofelia’s in particular. We see her engagement to a handsome fellow in flashback, as well as a conversation with her mother about love and how you choose your partner for life. It’s difficult to see on her map precisely where Ofelia is heading, but it’s a good bet she’s on her way back to the U.S. to try to find her onetime fiancé. This being “Fear the Walking Dead,” it’s an equally solid bet that it probably won’t end well.

Strand, always a taker of action, doesn’t wind up with much to do here. Like Ofelia, he’s affected by clinging to the past — but he’s not the one doing the clinging. It’s Ilene Stowe who can’t let go of the past, allowing her grief for her daughter to drive her to action. That action, by the way, is politely knocking on the door and then stabbing Strand right in the gut when he answers. It’s a lousy way to interrupt what seems like a very nice day otherwise, as Strand, Madison, and company work to make their new home that much more wonderful. Among the perks: ice machine! Boiling water! Sign they should never, ever light because then people will be able to find them!

Strand finds himself unable to enjoy most of these perks, as he spends the rest of the episode flat on his back waiting for medicine and criticizing Alicia’s bedside manner. His attack forces Madison to unleash her inner Rick Grimes, and she lays down the law about what happens if one resident raises a hand (or, you know, a knife) against the other. Having exercised those leadership muscles a bit, she then sets out with Elena to trade ice and fish for the medicine Strand will need to survive. Despite the losses she’s suffered, it finally seems that Madison is ready to move forward, and to repair a strained relationship with the daughter who decided to stick around.

Yeah, more on that later.

The other big storyline this week belongs to the son who didn’t stick around. Frank Dillane’s Nick has benefitted from some of the season’s strongest writing thus far, but in “Pillar of Salt,” he’s largely tasked with trying, unsuccessfully, to proactively address external threats to his new community. It’s Alejandro (Paul Calderon) who first stands in his way, growing increasingly more unhinged, twitchy, and suspicious. Afterwards, though, he meets equal resistance from Luciana (Danay Garcia), whose loyalty to Alejandro trumps her own common sense. It’s not as gripping a storyline as it might be, not least because Dillane and Garcia, both fine performers, have about as much chemistry as a couple of empty paper towel rolls. But the larger problem is that the perceived threat just doesn’t feel very threatening, and given its nature, it really should.

Fear the Walking Dead - 2-12, Marco

Alejandro Edda as Marco Rodriguez – Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

That threat takes the form of Francisco and his family, who flee the colonia and promptly run into Marco, who recognizes Francisco despite the zombie guts covering his face. Nick rightly predicts that Francisco’s departure (and missed delivery) will spur Marco and company into action, leading to an attack or raid. What Nick doesn’t know is that once captured, Francisco starts to spill his guts about the colonia and its residents, including a certain ratty-haired white boy.

It’s this revelation that leads to the aforementioned many steps backward and earns Madison a permanent place in the stupid idea hall of fame. As Madison and Elena wait for the medicine they need to take back to Strand, Madison overhears Francisco’s interrogation and, with Elena as translator, takes a wild guess that perhaps the ratty-haired white boy in question is her not-yet-prodigal son. This prompts her to bust into the room and begin pressing Marco for information. She’s right, of course — they’re talking about her son — but it doesn’t make it any less a dangerous or foolish move. Elena manages to pull her out of there before anyone gets killed, but it’s far from the end of the line as far as Madison’s bad decisions are concerned.

Remember that generator, the one the hotel residents shouldn’t use too much, lest they attract unwanted visitors? Well, as soon as they arrive back from their terrifying trade, Madison heads straight to the switch and throws it, lighting up the sign on top of the hotel, which may as well say “please, come and mess with us.” The reason: she thinks Nick will see it and come running. This leads to a totally justified confrontation with Alicia, who’s understandably pissed about her mother’s willingness to put them all at risk.

Your kids may never stop being your kids, but as Alicia points out, Madison has more than one child to protect, and one of them is standing right in front of her, while the other chose to leave. It’s easy to sympathize with Madison’s fear and love for her son, but much less easy to ignore the fact that this self-imposed threat implies that no one else is as important or as worthy of saving as Nick. Hours before, Madison proclaimed that anyone who does harm to a member of the community must be cast out. She seems to have forgotten that rule pretty quickly.

Still, her actions have one unintended (and hopefully positive) consequence. When that hotel lights up, it captures Travis’s attention, and he heads off in search of the group — seemingly alone.

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