'Fear the Walking Dead': Strand's Crisis of Conscience... And What's Wrong With Daniel? (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 2, "Welcome to the Club."]
In Lennie James' directorial debut, the old Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) is back, and it’s about darn time.
There was nothing wrong with the version of him who helped people in Seasons 4 and 5: after all, one of the core tenants of the TWD-verse is that selfish people can change. But Strand was most fascinating when he was making unsavory deals to move up in the world. Sometimes it worked, and he got an awesome boat and a life partner out of it. Sometimes it didn’t, and he ended up chained to a fence, fighting the dead. But no matter how his wheeling and dealing worked out for him, he was always interesting to watch.
It seems that version of Victor is re-emerging in this episode, which sees him ponder whether he should’ve trusted his gut about a potentially dangerous decision. Oh, and there’s probably something wrong with Daniel (Ruben Blades), but it’s not totally clear. Let’s break it all down.
The Least Glamorous Post-Apocalyptic Job, Ever
The episode opens with a pretty creepy scene of some of Ginny's (Colby Minifie) prisoners and rangers getting eaten by some nasty walkers at a factory gate, opening-scene-of-Jurassic-Park style. Only one, named Sanjay, survives, because he’s terrified and won’t fight. Remember Sanjay. He’ll be important later.
The bulk of the episode deals with Strand and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). They’re on bathroom duty, and they’re shuffling s**t from Point A to Point B. Or at least, that’s their job until Strand mouths off to a rude ranger, which nearly gets him killed, until a girl named Dakota (Zoe Coletti) steps in. She saves Strand’s life, but she can’t save him and Alicia from being reprimanded by Ginny later. She reassigns them to — gasp! — that same factory where everybody died earlier in the episode.
Strand has a plan; he wants to take down the rangers at the factory and escape from Ginny’s Negan-like rule. But Alicia’s not on board with that, so they don’t move ahead with it. Oh, and they find Dakota hitched a ride on their truck, because she just can’t take living with her sister anymore. Yep, Ginny’s her sister.
Dakota says the factory has a weapon Ginny wants, and if Strand and Alicia can get it, they’ll be able to live in Lawton, which is the luxurious town where Ginny lives. She also lets it slip that Strand made a deal with her sister earlier, which confuses Alicia. Strand’s forced to come clean, and he tells her he bargained to keep them together because, as he puts it, Alicia “helps him remember who he is.” At this point, Strand’s probably the closest thing Alicia has to family, and vice versa. It’s quite sweet.
Strand and Alicia meet up with a few friends at the factory, including Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), who got caught trying to run away. Together, they make a plan to clear the place and get the weapon, but of course, it goes sideways, as all plans on TWD shows do. Oh, and these walkers are super-sticky, because they’re coated in molasses. Apparently, it’s a molasses factory, and all that molasses is still sticky 6+ years into the apocalypse. Yeah, don’t think about it too hard.
Sanjay runs away from the gate he was supposed to close, and the dead pour through. Everyone’s in trouble, so Strand doubles back to an RV and blares the horn in an attempt to lure the dead away. Nope. “They’ll choose fresh meat every time,” Sanjay says; he ditched his compatriots to cower in the camper.
Strand laments that they should have done things his way and taken out the rangers. “Why didn’t you?” Sanjay asks, and it’s clear Strand thinks he should’ve trusted his gut. And speaking of guts, he finds a way for Sanjay to be useful — he brings him outside and stabs him, which gets the walkers away from his friends (but ends with Sanjay as walker chow). When Alicia later asks what happened, Strand spins a very untrue story about how he offered to sacrifice himself for the group.
Daniel Has Amnesia, Except Maybe He Doesn’t
Everyone’s safe again, but there’s a huge hiccup: the factory is empty. There’s no weapon. It seems that’s by design; when Ginny arrives, she says she was just looking for a leader, and she found one in Strand. She wants him to lead her army and “be ready when the time comes.” He accepts the job and reassigns everyone to different stations, including Alicia, so she’s not by his side. She’s hurt by that, and he’s upset, too, but he tells her that in order to do the things he has to do, he can’t be reminded of the person he wants to be. “I won’t bring you down with me,” he tells her, then he leaves, wiping away tears. He gets one of those mysterious keys all of Ginny’s higher-ups wear, which feels like it’ll be important later.
There’s also an interesting B-story involving Daniel (Ruben Blades) this episode, where it seems he has amnesia and doesn’t remember Strand, Alicia or Charlie; no attempts to jog his memory seem to work. Except, in the episode’s final minutes, he whistles a tune, and Morgan whistles it back … and when he steps out of the shadows, Daniel knows Morgan by name. So, has he really forgotten his friends? Is he playing an angle? It’s unclear.
- Maybe I’m grading on “most improved” rather than the actual episode, but I have to say … apart from some semi-nonsensical elements (which I’ll get into below), this was also better than most installments of Seasons 4 and 5. Did something happen in the FTWD writers room? Did AMC start listening to the fans?
- I’m bummed Strand and Alicia got separated so soon. They’re easily my favorite dynamic on Fear, and I was looking forward to a season with them as one of the “small groups” it seems the show’s going to focus on. It was nice to see their friendship during this episode, though.
- Morgan’s tapes apparently made it all across the countryside, because everybody’s seen ‘em. I’ll give the show a pass on this one, though, because we know Virginia watched them and Dakota is her sister.
- What I have a harder time giving the show a pass for is the whole “factory” plot. Sure, okay, Virginia sends those who defy her to a factory where there’s supposedly a weapon and they’re told they can “move up” if they find it, except she knows there isn’t one and they’ll all die trying. What doesn’t make sense is all of that being a “test” to find a leader. Why would she make a leader out of someone who openly defied her? Why would she want to? If she’s smart enough to exile those who are against her and make them work a job that’ll almost certainly kill them, she should be smart enough to see that making Strand her military commander is likely to backfire.
- Unless… she’s still testing Strand, and he doesn’t have any real power. Or she genuinely thought the weapon was there, but it wasn’t, and she was forced to come up with something on the spot to save face rather than looking weak in front of people who already hate her. That’d be a move (and a writing decision) I could respect. Because really, what does Victor Strand know about military stuff? Nada. She would’ve been better off picking Daniel for that job.
- Again, these shows play so fast and loose with their own universe rules that sometimes it’s baffling. They’ll choose fresh meat every time? Since when?! The main show JUST had a scene where Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and Carol (Melissa McBride) were in the middle of a horde on a cliff, and Lydia wasn’t covered in guts. That episode also had scenes where the group was traveling on a wagon that played music, and then the wagon broke, they escaped, and the dead didn’t all follow them. The ol’ “lure them away with loud noise” trick worked a billion times on the main show. The only reason it didn’t here wasn’t because there was in-universe precedent for it, but because the plot required it.
- What I did like about this episode is the amount of times it referenced the early seasons. Daniel mentioning his wife and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason). Strand going back to his conman roots. Between the dam last episode and this stuff in this one, and the darker tone of these first installments, I feel like Fear is trying to appeal to — or at least appease — the fans it lost.
- Rating: 3/5. Again, this was leaps and bounds better than anything from last season, but there’s still some sloppy writing I wish the show would correct. Fear has demonstrated it can get better — now I’d like it to demonstrate it can get good.
Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC