Fear the Walking Dead: Los Muertos
Last week, I gave “Grotesque” a rare passing grade. I thought the simplicity of the Nick-centric mid-season premiere played to the writing staff’s strengths while avoiding their weaknesses (specifically dialogue). By focusing on the immediate challenges of crossing the desert, “Grotesque” was able to avoid the logical pitfalls that the show tends to fall into as well as sparing us a bunch of pointless speechifying. The second episode of the second half of the second season returns to the show’s regular format. As such, it brings back all of the show’s usual failures.
Before I delve in to what didn’t work, I want to talk about one element that I am totally digging. Since the characters arrived in Mexico, Fear the Walking Dead has had a unique look and feel to it. If nothing else, I find myself enjoying the exotic setting which is worlds away from the endless woods of the original series. This season has managed to capture some of the flavor of Mexico which is appealing in the same way as a show on the Travel Channel when the dumb story doesn’t get in the way.
The writers seem to have fixated on Mexico’s Day of the Dead. I’m no expert on the subject. Far from it. My limited understanding is that it is not completely unlike our Halloween. Or maybe more accurately, All Souls Day which is linked to Halloween. The point of these holidays is to honor, remember and pray for deceased loved ones. Fear the Walking Dead suggests that this tradition gives the Mexican people a completely different take on death which allows them to be less fearful of the undead.
This concept doesn’t make a lot of sense because no matter what your outlook on mortality is, zombies will still bite you. Nick, for whatever reason (more on that later), has been drawn to this type of thinking. First with Celia and now with Alejandro’s group. Both leaders kept the dead nearby and claimed to honor them. But Celia left them locked in a wine cellar and Alejandro allows them to be mutilated to provide useful zombie blood for camouflage. Their actions don’t exactly match their rhetoric.
As the episode opens, Nick witnesses a young father walk to his death among the zombies. He learns that in his new community, those who have been infected voluntarily join the dead outside of the fences. The zombies deter outsiders while the community feeds them their sick. The entire colony comes out to watch the ritual including the father’s young daughter. Nick tells the girl to look away, but no one else seems remotely concerned for the soon-to-be-orphan.
After the sacrifice, Nick is recruited by Luciana to accompany her on a supply run. After covering themselves in zombie blood, they head to East Tijuana to play the post apocalyptic version of Guy’s Grocery Games. The gangsters who run the weird supermarket tell Luciana that she can fill up one grocery cart full of goods. She protests that she was expecting to receive two carts worth of goods, but apparently the prices are managed by Big Pharma because they have doubled overnight. This renders Nick completely unnecessary to the mission.
Let’s talk about the mechanics of this situation for a minute. This is a terrible way to run a business. You can fit a lot of really valuable small things in a grocery cart. Luciana should have gone right to the meds and ammo and loaded up. Those big water bottles left a lot of empty space in the cart that could have been filled with extremely useful resources. Or even snack cakes if nothing more valuable was in stock.
Nick is especially partial to Gansito, a Mexican snack cake comparable to an American Twinkie. He grabs a packets and goes to put it in the shopping cart, but Luciana scolds him that there is only room for essentials. That’s reasonable until you see her walking out with a cart full of water bottles that could easily accommodate dozens of prepackaged sweets.
Rather than raise this point, Nick decided to make use of the five-finger discount. He shoplifts the Mexican Twinkie. Rather than let him keep the snack cake which could easily have fit in his cart, the gangsters tackle Nick and attempt to chop off his hand. With Luciana translating, Nick proceeds to negotiate the colony’s Oxycontin supply for another cart full of water bottles. I’m not sure if that was a good trade or not, but the negotiations certainly could have been less heated. Nick could have suggested this arrangement before he was in danger of losing a limb. Now, he’s pissed off a bunch of gangsters who apparently control a lot of local resources.
When Nick returns to the colony, he offers the Gansito to the little girl as a form of comfort. Luciana seems touched by the gesture. Nick probably could have saved himself some trouble if he had brought up his intentions back at the super market, but Nick’s not real big on sharing his plans. Alejandro disapproves of Nick offering comfort to the little girl. Especially when it puts the colony in danger by antagonizing the dangerous gangsters.
During their conversation, Nick observes a bite mark on Alejandro’s shoulder. Earlier, Luciana told Nick that their leader had survived a zombie bite. That would be really impressive provided it was really a walker that took a chunk out of his shoulder. Color me skeptical.
Nick initially has his doubts. But by the end of the episode, he seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid. We see him chanting along with the rest of the cult. In Spanish no less.
Meanwhile, Madison is dragging Strand, Alicia, and Ofelia around with her while she looks for her son. Alicia seems particularly frustrated that even in the apocalypse, all of her mother’s energy is monopolized by Nick. The group decides to take shelter in a very nice hotel. The door is barricaded, but not well enough to prevent them from gaining entry.
Everything that follows this point is massively stupid. The group makes no real effort to secure the door through which they just entered. Alicia and Ofelia decide to scope out the place while Madison and Strand go straight to the bar. I understand that they are under a great deal of stress and a cocktail might be just the thing to help them unwind. But save it for after you have secured the area!
Sure enough, there are zombies in the hotel. Rather than clearing the place out, someone has used the “Do Not Disturb” signs to mark which rooms have zombies in them and which ones don’t. Whoever did this wasn’t very thorough as one of the hotel rooms that was supposed to be clear actually had a zombie hanging by his tie in the shower. Possibly, this was the person who had marked the rooms. But if so, why not put a sign on the door of the room in which you intend to hang yourself?
Morbid question #2: I understand why someone might be suicidal in a zombie apocalypse. But why would anyone hang themselves? Later in the episode, zombies start raining from the hotel’s upper levels. If you were going to kill yourself and you didn’t have a gun handy, wouldn’t a jump off a hotel balcony be preferable to turning yourself into a zombie in the shower?
In the lobby, Madison and Strand are bonding. Madison shares a little bit of her backstory which has up until now been shrouded in mystery. Turns out she’s a Southern belle. At least she’s not affecting a Foghorn Leghorn accent like half the cast of The Walking Dead. We also learn that Nick’s dad committed suicide. Last week, Nick described his dad as a good man who grew increasingly distant. The implication is that Nick may have inherited whatever mental problems his father struggled with.
Eventually, Madison and Strand’s drinking session grows rowdy enough to attract a lot of zombies. Banging on the piano and hurling glasses at the wall is a really bad idea at Hotel Zombie. Especially when you haven’t made any effort to secure the surrounding area. This kind of mistake should get most of them killed, but it won’t.
Next week sees the return of Travis and Chris which is not a good sign for things turning around any time soon. Oh well. At least we know where we can get some Mexican snack cakes if we get hungry.