NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Finally, at last, we have a legitimately excellent episode of Fear the Walking Dead. This spin-off series has managed a handful of good episodes, some even having especially great moments too. It wasn’t until this week’s episode however that the show finally delivered an offering that truly rivals or surpasses many of the best episodes from the main Walking Dead series. It’s about time!
“100” focuses pretty much entirely on Daniel, filling in the blanks of what happened since he first lit up Celia’s compound midway through Season Two. Daniel has been MIA until his surprise re-appearance at the end of last week’s episode, and it was very rewarding to finally see what he’s been through in the interim, even as this meant that the Clark family entirely sat out this week’s Fear the Walking Dead offering. Still, Daniel has always been one of this show’s best characters since his introduction, and centering an entire episode on him proves even more rewarding than you’d initially imagine!
The only slight gripe with this episode is that we don’t actually see how Daniel managed to crawl out of a burning compound while being simultaneously buried by rubble. Daniel vaguely describes what happens to one of the survivors he encounters after having to venture off alone, saying that Ofelia’s voice called to him, but that’s about all we get. This is a let-down, and does feel a bit like the writers wrote themselves into a corner with Daniel’s epic destruction of Celia’s compound, so they only half-explained how he managed to get out and press on in the end. Like I said though, this is ultimately a pretty minor quibble, since the rest of this episode is so outstanding.
Right from the get-go, this episode is positively riveting as well. Ruben Blades really crushed it with a tense and dramatic performance throughout the episode, as we see Daniel having to survive on his own, with the Walker apocalypse inevitably starting to bring out that man he once was in El Salvador, and the man he tried to bury when he moved to Los Angeles. This is especially highlighted when Daniel’s life is saved by some really good folks, who fix him up, give him water, and even seem like the kind of companions that you’d want in a fight. It seems like a perfect deal, but inevitably, Daniel’s own torment leads to it not lasting, as he leaves once again, eventually managing to stumble his way into the same camp as President Dante, where Strand ended up imprisoned during last week’s episode.
Strand is the only other lead character that we see this week, and even then, he spends the entire episode being captured and ineffectual. Instead, even when we do get to Dante’s camp, Daniel remains the central focus, as he ends up impressing Dante, which has his history at El Salvador coming out, subsequently motivating Dante to make Daniel his personal enforcer. This comes right at the same time as the camp is struggling to find a scavenger stealing Dante’s water as well, which just so happens to be the same man who saved Daniel’s life earlier in the episode. On top of that, the water treatment specialist, who is in on the thefts at the camp, is the very same woman who fixed Daniel up and got him functional again.
You’d think that Daniel would immediately repay the debt to those who saved his life, but surprisingly, he actually seems to go along with Dante throughout much of the episode. We see the darkest extremes of what Daniel has to do as a survivor, and it’s all realized brilliantly. This especially comes to a head when Daniel believes that Strand is lying about Ofelia being alive, and even seems ready to kill him, along with the people who saved him, during the episode’s climax. Seeing the cold, logical side of Daniel forcing him to do terrible things in the name of weighing one life against another was great, just as Daniel ultimately shooting Dante and his security head dead on the dam was a highly rewarding way to end the episode. Despite his calculating nature, Daniel’s desire to do good and rise above his situation won out in the end, pulling him from the edge of the abyss in the eleventh hour, and stopping him shy of being truly irredeemable. This is why Daniel is such a fantastic character, because he already defied the darkness in years past, and must defy it all over again in a new world where just about everyone has abandoned any sense of unflinching morality.
Seeing the atrocities that Daniel is forced to commit in the name of survival, even toward people who save his life and take care of him, made, “100” an especially dramatic, powerful and memorable episode of Fear the Walking Dead, the kind of episode that this series has been desperate for since its struggling origins in 2015. I’ve said before that Fear the Walking Dead often comes off as the ‘Diet Coke’ version of The Walking Dead, namely being a way for AMC to double down on The Walking Dead’s enormous ratings with another pale imitation set in the same universe. That is finally no longer true in this episode, with Fear the Walking Dead finally going somewhere new and interesting in a way that the main Walking Dead series wouldn’t be able to effectively do better, Not only was this an amazing way to bring Daniel back into the series, but it also represented how Fear the Walking Dead can start justifying its existence, and not just come off as a lesser, unnecessary spin-off. This episode will inevitably prove to be a tough act to follow next week, when we go back to business as usual with the Clark family, but at least we already have an easy contender for one of the best episodes of Season Three, and of this show as a whole at this point!
Fear the Walking Dead finally delivered a truly excellent episode in every way this week, as we get to see what Daniel has been up to since burning down Celia's compound.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Intense, highly dramatic survival struggle for Daniel
Smart, impactful reunion between Daniel and Strand
Daniel pulling himself back from the brink of darkness at the end
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Not actually seeing Daniel's escape is a bit of a let-down