NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Fear the Walking Dead entirely devoted itself to setting up next week’s two-episode midseason finale event in this week’s episode, “Red Dirt”, which means that the show’s heightened momentum did have to slow down a bit in this case. This week’s episode was still pretty good overall however, despite the slower pace, and if anything, it’s occasionally hurt not by lacklustre quality, but by the high bar that much of Season Three of Fear the Walking Dead has set up to this point. Even then though, a small breather is welcome, before we get to inevitably more dirty and violent developments in next week’s duo of episodes.
Our latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead opted out of any updates with Strand, Daniel, Ofelia or Luciana, which isn’t so bad in this case, since it meant that it could nicely heighten the drama and tension with the Clark family at Broke Jaw Ranch, This also nicely built off of the introduction of Walker, an antagonist to the Otto family from last week, who was apparently an Indigenous lawyer in his former pre-apocalypse life, who opposed the Otto family’s claim to the land that the ranch is on. Jake Otto always managed to repel Walker’s challenges, but as Alicia points out, in a post-apocalyptic world where courts and law are gone, Walker may now be a very different enemy.
With Madison and Troy’s party finally stumbling back into the ranch, having to deliver the news of the horrors that they experienced during last week’s episode, the ranch’s citizens now weigh their options, with the other surviving founding member, Vernon deciding to take his family away. This means that Troy’s friend, Mike and Alicia’s friend, Gretchen are leaving the ranch with him, despite Troy rather violently imposing that this is a terrible idea. Seeing Jeremiah and Jake both fail to keep Troy in line, while Madison does so virtually effortlessly, continued to beautifully build on last week’s Madison/Troy connection, which seems to nicely set up Madison to be the next leader of Broke Jaw Ranch, since I doubt that Jeremiah will survive past the season, assuming he doesn’t kick the bucket as soon as next week’s midseason finale event.
This episode did a pretty strong job in general when it came to entrenching the Clark family ever further with the Otto family as well. The affair between Jake and Alicia seems to be intensifying, prompting even Madison to take notice, while Nick continues to be an unlikely surrogate son and outlet of support to Jeremiah, who naturally doesn’t take the departure of his remaining founding member of the ranch community very well. Finally, as I mentioned, Madison continues to exercise powerful and important influence over Troy, no doubt channeling her own experiences with Nick, and her late husband and father, as well as her expertise as a former guidance counselor. As Madison says, Troy could be seen as a leader, if he learns to control his violent tendencies, and if Madison is the one that truly controls those tendencies, then Madison will be the one truly in charge of the ranch, probably before long.
Despite a lot of intriguing Clark/Otto family interactions throughout the episode though, it is difficult to deny that there are some dull stretches in this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, even if it’s nowhere near as bad as the frequently boring offerings that plagued most of this show’s first two seasons. Some scenes effectively build tension, though other scenes with the Clark family interacting with the Broke Jaw community feel needlessly drawn-out and don’t go anywhere that interesting. I must also say that the Jake/Alicia relationship still feels a little suspect in some ways, especially when Jake idiotically insists on venturing off on his own to meet and negotiate with Walker. I’m sorry, I thought Jake was the smart one in the Otto family? Even Alicia rightly points out how stupid this decision is, and it feels like it’s only happening so that we have a convenient dramatic device for next week’s two midseason finale episodes.
Still, despite some of the frustrations on Jake’s end, we did nonetheless get plenty of standout scenes with Jeremiah and Troy, especially when Jeremiah, Madison and Nick venture out to discover the grisly fate of Vernon’s family, who, surprise, have all been killed and turned into Walkers. Madison unveiling the dead family to the terrified ranch citizens was certainly a powerful message, and she is indeed speaking from experience, which is another positive vote for why she and Troy could probably make good ranch leaders together. We’re getting disappointingly little fallout from Alicia losing one of her only friends at the ranch at this point, though maybe that will be picked up next week. Finally, on one last note, Nick’s suspicions that it was actually Troy who killed Vernon’s family, not Walker, are bound not to be unfounded. Could this be a hint of a full Clark family takeover of Broke Jaw towards the end of the season?
“Red Dirt” had a very simple focus, which sometimes came at the expense of the thrills, but still delivered a mostly good episode of Fear the Walking Dead, one that effectively set the stage for next week’s two midseason finale episodes. While some Clark family interactions around Broke Jaw were a bit superfluous, this show is nonetheless doing a pretty great job of bringing the Clark and Otto families together into a common unit, even if the Alicia/Jake relationship still feels a little rushed for now. Jake’s idiotic plan to go after Walker single-handedly also feels way too unrealistic, especially for a character that’s supposed to be smart enough to defeat an experienced lawyer more than once in a courtroom. This should at least create some excitement for next week though, before Fear the Walking Dead goes off the air for the next several weeks. Jeremiah should probably savour his booze in the meantime too, since he probably won’t be in charge of his community for too much longer at this rate.
- Effective tension as the threat of Walker is made known
- Jeremiah losing his last founding ally, and its consequences
- Madison's influence over Troy strengthening in clever ways
- Slower pacing leads to a few dull stretches
- Jake's heinously idiotic plan to go after Walker by himself