Fear the Walking Dead: Minotaur/The Diviner
Fear the Walking Dead is back and dumber than ever! Having spent the summer basking in the weirdness of Twin Peaks, I didn’t recap much of the first half of the show’s third season, so let’s quickly get up to speed. Madison and her family were taken prisoner by a military psychopath who was killing people for “science”, but mostly for fun. They joined forces with the little lunatic at his daddy’s survivalist ranch. Surprise, surprise, daddy was a casually racist gun not of the Cliven Bundy variety.
On their way to the compound, they were attacked by another group and Cliff died. Rather than looking for a shelter that isn’t run by a crackpot or involved in a conflict with a group capable of shooting down helicopters, Madison decided to set up shop at the Ranch. By the end of the first half of the season, she had discovered that the Otto family was living on land they stole from a bunch of pissed off native Americans who weren’t going to be satisfied until the patriarch, Jeremiah, was dead.
So Madison did the only sensible thing. She asked Jeremiah if he wouldn’t mind martyring himself for the good of everyone else. When the selfish old coot refused to lay down and die, Nick stepped in and murdered him. Naturally, they sold Jeremiah’s death as a noble suicide. With the old man out of the way, Madison invited the people of Black Hat Reservation to come live with the rednecks on the ranch because that’s obviously not a terrible idea. The midseason premiere builds on this premise and it only gets stupider from there.
Naturally, tensions between the two groups are high. This is conveyed in the usual Walking Dead style of having background characters express their desire to get everyone killed. The ranchers are constantly looking for ways to incite violence. Walker’s followers make it clear they won’t back down from a fight. To ease the tension, Walker asks for all weapons to be handed over to his people. Madison agrees despite a weak objection from Jake.
Jake points out that without weapons, the survivalists will be prisoners on their own land. Ignoring the fact that the Otto family’s claim to the land was tenuous at best, Madison tells him that it is better than the alternative. Is it though? If the ranchers keep their guns, they can at least defend themselves. Without them, they are at the mercy of a group that poisoned their coffee with anthrax recently. I don’t like Otto’s people, but it seems like they would be better off leaving the ranch rather than being held there at gunpoint by the people they stole the land from.
Reluctantly, most of the ranchers agree to hand over their weapons to Walker’s people. The one holdout is crazy Troy. Nick tries to talk Troy out of a showdown, but Troy wants to go out like Butch and Sundance. What follows is a comically confusing shootout. Madison tries to convince Walker to give Nick time to talk Troy off the edge, but they refuse to stand down for more than a few seconds. Meanwhile, inside the house Troy is gathering up sniper rifles and completely ignoring Nick’s pleas for non-violence.
Troy is actively trying to get himself killed and to take out as many of his enemies as possible. He expresses disgust for his father’s decision to kill himself rather than stand up to Walker. With nothing to lose (other than his life), Nick decides to come clean to Troy about killing his father. You would think a loose cannon like Troy would respond to this information by shooting Nick in the head. But no. After discovering that his father was murdered, the hot-tempered Troy decides to surrender. Um, sure.
Troy’s punishment is exile from the Ranch. No one objects to this decision. Perhaps they are all just glad to be rid of Troy for a while. Troy asks for Madison to escort him to his drop-off point because he doesn’t trust Walker’s people not to kill him and because he has weird mommy issues. When the time comes for Troy to leave, he fights back instead. Why? What does he hope to gain? It’s not like they will let him back into the ranch if he kills Madison. It doesn’t matter. Madison ultimately turns the tables on Troy and lets him go off on his own. Obviously, we’ll see him again.
Despite the fact that Nick was trying to talk some sense into Troy, he gets punished too. Madison argues that Nick was not an accomplice, but she agrees to let him sweat it out in a hot box all the same. This is after she discovers that the ranch is running dangerously low on water. Why not leave? Because that would end the story the writers have been setting up all season. There is no rational reason for the Clark family to stay at the ranch at this point other than the plot requiring them to stick it out.
Madison and Walker go out in search of water leaving the ranch in the capable hands of Alicia and Walker’s right hand man, Crazy Dog. What could go wrong? Tensions of water rationing escalate into armed conflict until Alicia finally confesses that they will run out of water in six weeks.
Meanwhile, Madison and Walker go to a barter town called The Bizarre. Madison has to give up the radio she has been using to keep in touch with Alicia in order to pay the admission fee. You have to wonder what they could possibly barter with if they had to part with their only means of communication just to get in the door. But it turns out Walker is carrying around “something shiny” with which to buy 10 gallons of water. Wait a minute? Isn’t water the new currency of the apocalypse. Why would anyone trade water for gold which is presumably worthless now?
It doesn’t matter because Madison screws up the deal. She sees Strand who is in trouble. She jumps into the middle of the fight without knowing anything about it. Strand later explains that he has a gambling debt to pay off. Walker, Madison and Strand hide out for a while, but eventually they are discovered and Strand is force to pay off his debt in an unusual way. Those who owe money are chained up outside the walls of The Bizarre where they are forced to fight zombies “until there debt is paid off”. How does anyone benefit from this system which appears to be a death sentence?
Once again, it doesn’t matter. Just when it looks like Strand is done for, guards shoot the zombies off of him. Madison has paid off his debt using the water that Walker secretly purchased. Walker is infuriated by Madison’s unilateral decision-making. But she insists that Strand is worth more than 10 gallons of water because he knows the location of the damn Salazar is running.
You can see where this is headed. Salazar has been stranded in his own subplot involving a Fury Road-style water baron. He wants to leave the damn to search for his daughter, but it’s obvious that the place would fall apart without him. So now, with Strand’s help, Madison will bring Ophelia to him (or him to Ophelia). Through the wonder of plot machinations, everyone will finally be reunited at the ranch. The ranch everyone should have long ago abandoned because it is a tinder box that just keeps exploding.