NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
After two months off the air, Fear the Walking Dead returned for the back half of its third season in the twilight of Summer. As has become common for the noteworthy weeks in the latest season of this show, the midseason premiere also consisted of two episodes stuck together, airing back-to-back. The first of these midseason premiere episodes, “Minotaur”, picks up with the Nation settling into Broke Jaw Ranch with Otto’s people, not long after Nick shot Jeremiah Otto dead in his cabin.
Immediately, the tension becomes thick, and it’s all too apparent that this fragile peace can’t last. Fortunately, this also meant that the crackling drama that has made Fear the Walking Dead’s latest season so effective continued to stay strong, as Broke Jaw and the Nation try to find a way to co-exist, despite some parties, namely Troy, being very resistant to the idea. This provided another standout opportunity to highlight what people are willing to do to survive, particularly Madison, now that she has an actual position of power, and no more Jeremiah Otto to stand in her way.
Despite being portrayed as a clear antagonist before, Qaletaka Walker was also given a few more dimensions in this episode, as he agrees with Jake Otto, the new representative of Broke Jaw and its interests, that what he cares about most is the survival of his people. Jake and Walker initially agree to split two keys to the armory, having joint custody of the weapons within, and taking away any stray weapons littered around the ranch. The only one who doesn’t play ball is, obviously, Troy, who decides that he would rather start a gunfight with the Nation’s folks than surrender his armaments. This scene also follows Madison urging Jake to give the Nation full control over the ranch’s weapons after a violent incident, which quickly proves to be a controversial decision.
This fight with Troy made for one of the most effectively tense scenes in the episode, and nicely followed the other big shock moment, whereupon another Broke Jaw citizen, Terrence, tries and fails to shoot one of Walker’s people, leading to his throat being crushed in self-defense, which is essentially a death sentence for him. This already has the peace growing very fragile, hence why Madison convinces Jake to surrender full custody of the ranch’s weapons, but Troy’s actions threaten to push it over the edge, providing a great moment for Nick to face what he had to do in killing Jeremiah to maintain peace. It’s all around a great sequence of dramatic irony, as Nick is forced to try and talk Troy down from a suicide mission, though sadly, the show can’t quite contain itself fully in the end, since Nick ends up blurting out to Troy that he was the one who killed Jeremiah, leading to Troy rather unrealistically surrendering for the sake of moving the plot forward. This was the one sour note in an otherwise strong episode, since it just felt like a transparent excuse to remove Troy from the equation, when he’d logically be far more likely to put a bullet in Nick’s head after what he just heard.
That said, Troy isn’t ultimately killed for his actions, though he is exiled from the ranch, with Madison pleading his case down from execution. Troy is still difficult, but after a tense stand-off, Madison does finally see him on his way, even if it seems pretty evident that he’ll be back. A new problem nonetheless presents itself though, as Madison discovers that the ranch’s water supply is growing dry, which is a problem for Broke Jaw and the Nation alike. With Madison now managing to forge her own peace with Walker, the two decide to travel to a nearby trading post to secure more water, seemingly paving the way for Madison’s inevitable reunion with Daniel from his faction over at the dam, while Nick is forced to fester in a heat box as punishment for standing with Troy, even if it’s a misunderstanding. On this note, the Troy mirage was actually a pretty smart fake-out, as it initially seems like he frees Nick from his boiling prison. How often can you say that about a show set in AMC’s Walking Dead universe?
Regarding Daniel, he and Lola had a solid subplot in this episode, even if it also seemed to merely highlight the growing water shortage further. With Dante now out of the way, and Daniel and Lola both taking on leadership roles with their own people, we got an accelerated showcase of how quickly even good people like Lola can lose control when resources get tight. This is another great way to leverage the unique position of Fear the Walking Dead as a spin-off that unfolds entirely before the main series starts, since the main Walking Dead series is long past any sort of unconditional altruism between factions. Seeing Lola’s efforts to contain the chaos quickly end up in vain was a very strong way to enhance the tragedy behind knowing that managing the thirsty people is going to be a losing battle, considering that Walking Dead fans already know that most of these people inevitably won’t survive for much longer.
“Minotaur” had to stretch a bit to take Troy out of the ranch, where he’s obviously going to be a massive problem for Walker and the Nation, but beyond that, this was a pretty strong way to kick off the back half of Fear the Walking Dead’s third season. With the Clark family no longer having to fight for their place at the ranch, the water shortage proves well-timed, and something that works very effectively in this spin-off, whereas it wouldn’t so much in the main series, where loyalty and goodwill outside of an established group is guaranteed not to happen. Madison’s uneasy alliance with Walker is also quite promising, especially as we see Walker become more than an imposing antagonist for the first time, now that he and his people have moved into Broke Jaw. It feels like there’s no way that this peace can last, and that inevitable tragedy noticeably hangs in the air, but maybe, the Clark family can find some unlikely hope in the ever-encroaching darkness, if just for a little while.
Fear the Walking Dead's first of two midseason premiere episodes proves both tense and dramatic this week, as the Nation moves into Broke Jaw Ranch.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Effectively fragile peace between the Nation and Broke Jaw
Madison making difficult decisions for the sake of survival