NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Fear the Walking Dead returned to focusing in on the Clark family again this week, and fortunately, the show delivered another strong episode in the process. “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame” had the Clark clan properly step up to begin assisting with the day-to-day matters at Broke Jaw Ranch, as Madison ventures out with Troy, Nick tries to convince Luciana to stay at the ranch, and Alicia starts finding companionship in a big way.
The episode grips you right from the start as well, as we see an elderly couple at Broke Jaw going to sleep together, only for the man to wake up and see that his wife has apparently died in her sleep and become a Walker. The scene of the man tearfully shooting a gun through both of their heads, which tips over a lantern and sets the entire guest house on fire, was a really gripping way to start things off, as the ranch’s other folks hurry to help, only to hear Jeremiah tell them to save the water. This was a brilliant way to illustrate how hyper-practical Jeremiah is as a survivor, to the point where even an elderly couple close to him must be allowed to burn for the good of everyone else still living.
Jeremiah also had some pretty great scenes with Nick this week, as Nick starts becoming torn between the wills of his mother and his girlfriend. Madison wants to stay at Broke Jaw, but Luciana is determined to leave, and insists that Nick not force her to stay. The little character-driven dialogue moments between Nick and Jeremiah provided a solid way to start gradually edging Nick closer to taking Madison’s side of things, and the way that this ended, with Luciana detecting Nick’s desires and deserting him in the middle of the night, made for a bittersweet way to cement Nick’s current fate. The repeated references to Nick’s late father also nicely highlighted Jeremiah possibly inserting himself into Nick’s life as a new father, and with Travis now dead and gone, Nick has never been more vulnerable to an influence like that. Finally, on a separate note, Luciana departing could possibly be a way to start checking up on the still-MIA Ofelia, but I suppose we’ll have to see how this pans out.
Speaking of Ofelia, we also got a subplot with Strand and Daniel in this episode, as Strand takes Daniel to the hotel that he was at before. This was a slightly less effective element to the episode, since we already know that Strand is lying about Ofelia’s whereabouts, leading to the journey up to the hotel mostly comprising a bunch of slow-paced filler material that just has Strand and Daniel bickering. Granted, the sight of the hotel being discovered as overrun and infested with Walkers, which is where Daniel leaves Strand before driving off in anger at Strand’s deception, at least made for an impactful way to end the subplot. It’s just too bad that, after last week’s stellar Daniel-focused episode, the subsequent subplot with Daniel and Strand ended being far less impressive in the end.
Alicia’s subplot also felt a little mixed, even if it at least fared better than the Daniel/Strand subplot. Alicia starts getting offered a chance to revisit her love of artistry with Jake, who considers himself an artist, and believes art is important to keep alive, even after the world has ended. Alicia taking after the more practical nature of Madison and Jeremiah here made for an interesting clash behind Jake’s seemingly romantic ideals and the more practical needs of survival, but the two suddenly hooking up felt like a bit of a rushed result. I get that they’re both probably lonely, but really, they’re having sex already? Do they even have condoms at the ranch? Maybe this will go somewhere interesting later, but for now, Alicia abandoning her principles to immediately bed Jake felt like a bit too much of a stretch. Alicia’s desire to connect with boys has gotten her in trouble before, granted, but shouldn’t that have had her learning from the experience? That big screw-up on the boat didn’t exactly happen a long time ago!
Fortunately, over on Madison’s end, we got one of the episode’s strongest storylines, as she goes along with Troy and a contingent of other men from the ranch, to investigate what happened with the helicopter. Madison is of course eager to avenge Travis, and seeing her expertise as a guidance counselor come into play to tap into the soldiers’ psychological demands made her an interesting foil to the more aggressive Troy. Finally, at long last, Madison feels like a true authority figure here, and that was timed perfectly with the introduction of an apparent culprit behind the helicopter attack, Walker, an Indigenous survivor who tortures his prisoners by having crows nibble at their skulls, in an extra menacing and memorable introduction to someone who seems like they’re going to be a big villain for at least a good chunk of the season. Walker wants the Broke Jaw land, and he’s going to stop at nothing to get it. Immediately, this is a striking character, and that’s no small feat, considering that Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t have the option of pulling fan-favourite villains from the Walking Dead comics like AMC’s main Walking Dead series can.
“Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame” continues to have Fear the Walking Dead pulling ahead of the main Walking Dead series at this point, by delivering an overall strong integration of the Clark family into Broke Jaw Ranch. It’s too bad that the Daniel/Strand subplot couldn’t keep pace, but at least we have two different outlets to possibly bring Ofelia back into the show soon, considering that Luciana has now snuck off the ranch, and Daniel has now deserted Strand to go look for his daughter independently. I’m also intrigued to see how the introduction of new antagonist, Walker pans out, considering that he is definitely not a man to be messed with. I’m already getting the sense that he’s more than a match for even Jeremiah!
- Madison becoming true leader material with Troy
- Walker looks to be a promising new antagonist
- Nick's loyalties being tested by Jeremiah
- Alicia's rushed hook-up with Jake
- Daniel/Strand subplot drags and feels like filler