Fear the Walking Dead picked up the pace this week. This was the third episode since Travis’ death back in the premiere, and so far, his killer, or killers, had not been revealed. That all changed in this week’s episode, ‘Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame’, when Madison and Troy set out to find the crashed helicopter.
Surprisingly this episode managed to not only feature all the main cast of FTWD (including the Otto family), but it succeeded in giving each character a decent amount of air time and story. Episode 5 featured not only the hunt for the helicopter, but Alicia and Nick tried to find their place within Broke Jaw Ranch. It also revisited Salazar and Strand, now on the hunt for Ofelia who hasn’t been seen since last season.
This episode really took time to look at what life is like now the apocalypse is fully under way. Alicia is struggling with that fact that she will never live a normal life again and she sleeps with Jake in an attempt to feel like a normal teen again, who then tries to show her that the world is still worth living in. This all tapped back into the Alicia in season one, the teen who was interested in art and living a relatively normal youth. Alicia believes this version of her is gone and there is no way that working towards any sort of career is useful. This world is all about survival. But Jake presents a different way for her to view the world and offers her a vision of a world where it’s not just surviving except Alicia struggles to fit this in with her own personal views.
In complete opposition to this, Nick was attempting to make a home within the ranch. Nick has already shown that he is more a part of this apocalyptic world than he was the old one and so the fact that he was trying to build a home isn’t all that surprising. What is surprising is that he wants it at Broke Jaw Ranch. After talking about escape for three episodes, Nick seems to have done a complete turn and is now looking to build a life at the farm with Luciana. Luciana, featured for effectively the first time this season, is not okay with this and ends up leaving the ranch behind. It seems odd that Nick didn’t appear to chase her, as she seems to be his prime motivation for finding a safe place, but it will be interesting to see where this will take him now.
It does seem like Jeremiah and Nick are slowly beginning to build some kind of bond. In one of the stronger scenes this episode, Nick and Jeremiah shared philosophies on this new world, and the home that they could form. Their dynamic is something that would be good to see further explored as the season progresses.
What ‘Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame’ managed to do superbly this episode though, was let viewers into the twisted mind of Troy Otto. From Jeremiah’s stories of the boy locked in the basement, to his brutal minute execution of the prisoner zombies, to his dealings with Madison. Troy became more of a three-dimensional character this episode and it had already been established that he was fascinated with death, but the way he hacked limbs off a zombie before executing it showed a violence in Troy, that he has barely shown. Yes, he ordered many people to death, but this far into this season he has shown very little violence.
Madison also had a strong role this episode playing along with Troy’s gang. It was at the end where she truly shone though, standing up against Troy and hitting his nerves with all the talk of his mother. The fact that she calmly stared him down when he lay a knife to her throat only proved more so that she knows exactly how Troy’s mind is ticking.
It was in this episode that, finally, viewers were invited to meet the group that killed Travis. A Native American that goes by the name Walker (Michael Greyeyes), appeared in the last half of the episode, with a warning for Broke Jaw Ranch. Apparently, the land is owned by his people and he wants it back, and as a first act against them had shot down the helicopter. This is an intriguing way for the show to go and something new and fresh within the universe of The Walking Dead.
Strand and Salazar felt like the weakest link in this week’s episode. Although they were searching for Ofelia, their scenes were interspersed with that of Madison and the others. By combining the two stories like this, it felt like we were losing so much in the plot of Strand and Salazar. In the short moments they had, both characters were portrayed outstandingly well but it felt all too rushed.
In an episode that was strong in both character development and pushing the plot forward, ‘Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame’ found time to bring the horror as well. Starting with the elderly zombie without teeth, then finishing with a man, his brain exposed to the crows, endlessly repeating the poem ‘Antigonish’ by William Hughes Mearns, this episode featured some of the most striking visuals in this season so far.
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