Previously on Fear The Walking Dead: our merry band of seaborne survivors made their escape from a gang of ne’er-do-well pirates, and were all safely aboard the good ship Abigail, heading for the hopefully more welcoming shores of Mexico. Will it be el santuario or la pesadilla?
Be warned: this review contains major spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead throughout.
Day of the undead
Neither this show nor the main Walking Dead show has really tackled religious themes before (save for Father Gabriel occasionally whimpering something about the scripture). So it’s interesting to see this episode open on a fire-and-brimstone sermon from a priest in Mexico, confronting the Problem Of Evil head on. A zombie apocalypse is sure to shake the faith of even the most devoted believer.
It’s also interesting, if somewhat of a horror trope, to see his congregation subsequently collapse, eyes weeping with blood. (Come on guys, the sermon wasn't that bad!) As we later learn, the Baja parishioners have drunk the Catholic equivalent of Kool-Aid.
Post-credits, after a tempestuous border crossing with a Mexican flotilla (so long, Luis), the gang make land, and encounter our now undead congregation, which makes for some cheerful child-zombie killing.
Arriving at the Baja compound, Strand is finally reunited with his business partner and lover Thomas Abigail. Who then, er, dies. It sort of seemed like Dougray Scott, trumpeted as the Big Casting News of this season, was meant for greater things, so it’s slightly surprising to see him shuffle off this mortal coil with barely a whimper.
Still, the scenes he shares with Strand are sensitive and thoughtfully pitched. The is the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen Strand – perhaps the first time we’ve ever seen him vulnerable, in fact – and it humanises a previously very aloof man.
The Baja compound appears to be a haven of safety, security, resources, and good ol’-fashioned pozole. The matriarch of this little paradise is Celia, mother of Luis, who offers Nick some tasty home-cooked food while also dishing up a little philosophy on the side. Maddie, understandably, is suspicious.
What does Celia actually believe? Does she think the zombies are merely in limbo? Clearly the compound is a retread of the Hershel arc from the main show, as the imprisoned walkers that Daniel finds seem to suggest. But the mysterious owl iconography on Luis’ coin, and the tree in the garden, seems to point in a more mystical direction. Will we later see a ritual sacrifice to the One True Owl God?
Amid the bloodshed at the church, Chris finds yet another way to make himself utterly unlikeable by blithely watching his stepmother get tackled by a zombie, without helping. Alicia, naturally suspicious, confronts him later, only to get darkly threatened herself.
This feels like a turning point for Chris, who has spent the series so far as a mostly irritating presence, moodily huffing his way through the action with the kind of gloominess that wouldn't be out of place in an EastEnders Christmas special. As we speculated last week, he seems to be moving in a darker, more Shane-like direction; ominous music in this episode signpost his mental unhinging. And sure enough, the terrifying final scene sees Chris nearly complete his transformation to psychopath, stalking his way into Alicia and Maddie’s room with apparently vengeful, violent intentions. It’s a closing sequence of genuine terror and suspense, interrupted only by Strand’s mercy gunshot. Creepy Chris, we look forward to seeing more from you.
Highlight: That final scene. That look of steely-eyed murderousness. That doom-laden electronic music. “Alicia?”
Lowlight: Thomas, RIP, we hardly knew ye.
Kill of the week: Nick, walloping a child zombie. Even in a show of relentless gore, child death still carries a weight – and takes its toll.
Quote of the week: “What’s the Spanish for ‘asshole’?” For future reference, Maddie, it is éstupido or el cabrón.
Fear the Walking Dead airs in the UK on Mondays at 9pm on AMC, exclusive to BT TV.