Fear The Walking Dead S02E11 “Pablo & Jessica” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on AMC Global, Mondays
Writer: Kate Erickson
Director: Uta Briesewitz
Essential Plot Points:
- And we’re back! With Strand and Maddy in the final fight scene in The Winchester from Shaun Of The Dead. Maddy hears what she thinks is Alicia and leaves Strand alone. She remembers the gore trick and she and Strand smear themselves with the watery guts of a Walker and make their way out through the crowd unmolested.
- They make it outside to find the truck is gone. Strand is convinced Alicia and Ofelia ran for it but Maddy isn’t so sure. They make their way across to one of the other buildings and grab some much-needed high ground as another Walker herd approaches.
- They take shelter in a relatively secure building. Maddy remains adamant that Alicia wouldn’t leave, Strand still isn’t sure.
- They clean up and hear knocking nearby. They sprint down to the sound of it and smash the door open to rescue Alicia, Elena and Hector from the end of last week’s episode aaaaand… we’re caught up!
- Meanwhile back at the Colonia Nick sees a small child in clear distress and pain. He visits the clinic which is filling up with people. He finds Alejandro, apologises for screwing up at the trade and explains to Alejandro that he wants to make up for it. He does so by explaining how they can make the drugs last longer by cutting them with milk powder.
- What follows is a drug mixing montage that is as epically screwed up as it is oddly hopeful.
- Back at the hotel, the team takes stock. Elena explains there are supplies for months but they still want her dead. Strand and Maddy decide to go negotiate.
- Back at Breaking Bad II, Nick asks Alejandro about the bite. Alejandro explains Luciana was testing Nick by telling him the story.
- Back at the hotel, Strand and Maddy negotiate with the guests. Maddy tells them what she’s seen, explains that the hotel could be fortified and turned into an extended homestead. But first they have to clear the dead.
- The price is that Elena has to leave.
- Maddy doesn’t excuse her but doesn’t exactly face Elena’s crimes either. Ilene wants Elena dead and is having none of it, despite Maddy’s appeal to her sense of family. Maddy shifts gear, aiming for Oscar’s desire to survive. She points out that sooner or later people will show up with bad intentions and it’d be easier if they had help. Oscar says no, but does give them the keys.
- On the way out, Strand and Maddy compare notes. Strand is quiet, and when pushed explains that the hotel isn’t home. His home was with Thomas. He’ll help but he can’t view it as home.
- At the Colonia, Nick gears up to take the drugs to the gangsters. Alejandro explains that there was a boy, an addict like Nick, who took something bad as the Dead rose. He was mistaken for one and herded with the Dead. Alejandro went in to rescue him, got beaten, got bitten and was rescued by Luciana.
- He tells Nick to be careful and admits he killed the boy who was with the Dead. They see Luciana playing football with some kids, join in and there’s a moment of total joy and relaxation. It fades when Luciana sees one of their scouts return, panicked and covered in blood. She explains his return means they found Pablo and leaves Nick with the kids.
- Luciana accompanies Nick who mistakes the man who died for her boyfriend. Turns out Pablo was her brother. She explains that she lost her father before the outbreak and that Pablo helped her find peace when her mother joined the dead. Nick hugs her, there is totally a bloodstained mostly romantic moment, and they move on.
- Back at the hotel, Hector argues that they could just leave the Dead. Alicia is having none of it, pointing out that if just one gets free, they start over. They build bonfires to burn the dead on the beach and it’s all slow, boring, dangerous work even with the few guests who’ve joined them.
- Maddy and Alicia wash up and Alicia explains how slow things are going. It’s taken a day to do one floor of one building. Maddy apologises to Alicia, explains that she raised herself and that the fault is very much on Maddy. Alicia and her mom reconcile and it’s simultaneously terse and kind of sweet.
- Then Alicia has an idea…
- There’s a pier by the hotel. And a riptide…
- Back at the Colonia, Nick has returned safely from the drug drop off. He’s not super pleased about having to kiss ass with the gang but is delighted, and intimidated, to discover that Alejandro has given him a trailer.
- Maddy and Alicia brief the others on their plan; basically open every door in sequence, herd the Walkers to the connective room and lead them down the corridor to the pier where Maddy will lead them to the sea. Alicia wants to take the job but Maddy won’t have it, only trusting her daughter to get it done. Alicia admits that she thought Maddy had been taken and as she breaks down, the two hug, then head to their positions.
- And elsewhere the Chris/Travis plot watches and just despairs at ever being this good.
- Alicia and Hector start their run, leading the Walkers in. Upstairs Strand and Elena open ever door, wedging them and attracting the Walkers in each one. In the next building, Maddy does the same thing. Everyone slowly but surely formatting on the central corridor.
- Maddy leads them out onto the pier as Alicia and Hector pick up the boat to go get her and, in the hotel, the other guests watch. Maddy jumps, the Walkers follow and are swept away while Maddy makes it to the boat.
- Back at the Colonia, Luciana visits Nick in his new home. She finds him reading a dictionary and he cheerfully admits he needs to learn to speak to someone other than her and Alejandro. He talks about Alicia and we get a nice flipside of her jealousy of Nick, referring to her as the “golden child”.
- Back at the hotel there’s a more than slightly awkward “family” dinner. The Best Man admits his brother isn’t ready to join everyone yet. Strand, his Strand sense tingling, asks where the honeymoon suite is and goes to visit Oscar.
- He, of course, figures out the truth; Oscar has his dead bride in his room. There’s a beautifully written non-confrontation where Oscar confesses all and Strand bonds with him over the loss of their loved ones. Oscar tells him he won’t let Strand touch her. They talk and, slowly Oscar lets it go. With both men in tears, Strand asks Oscar to let him help Jessica.
- At the Colonia, Luciana wakes up to find Nick reading by the side of the bed. She gets up to leave and they kiss.
- At the hotel, Oscar lets Strand into the room to help Jessica one last time.
Well that’s much more like it.
After the trudging bro-fest of last week, FTWD is back with the two plotlines that are working and does a ton with both of them. In the space of one episode Erickson’s script gives Maddy and Alicia more to do than they’ve had this entire half season so far, gives Strand his best moment so far, Nick one of his best and progresses both plots with energy, wit and one seriously well-shot action sequence.
Let’s look at the Pablo side of things first. Luciana’s brother, Pablo defines the episode by his absence and what he represents. His loss is what drives Luciana to believe Alejandro was bitten and survived. His life is what drives her to work hard and look after as many people as possible. It’s a smart way to handle loss and one that the original show took a very long time to learn. Luciana isn’t letting her grief define her, she’s using it to build something on. Something other people believe in too.
That’s why Nick works so well at the Colonia. He’s cynical, bitter and pragmatic and desperately wants to be none of those things. The subversion of his drug-cutting skills for good is a perfect demonstration of the weird place he holds in the world; he’s by no means heroic but he’d love to be and he’s using what he knows to try and get there. That struggle, that need to be more is the same one Luciana has and that gives what would otherwise seem to be a rushed romance the grounding it needs.
Over at the hotel plot, Erickson’s script demonstrates the same level of subtlety and care. Plus it cleverly borrows the deconstructed narrative techniques TWD used early last season to show us what happened to Strand and Maddy after last week’s focus shifted to Alicia.
Most impressive of all, though, is the way that Erickson folds Alicia’s growing independence (and distance) from her mom around Maddy’s emotional reconnection with her family and her plans for the future. The hotel really is an excellent base of operations and the plan to clean it out is one of the smartest we’ve seen so far. Plus, the built-in tensions between the guests, Elena and Maddy’s extended family have a ton of dramatic potential.
And then there’s Jessica. Who we don’t see, but who casts a very long shadow over this episode.
Like Pablo, she’s dead. Unlike Pablo, she’s not at peace. The need to let the past go is embodied in Oscar’s inability to end his wife’s suffering and it becomes a theme for the entire guest faction. They had something horrific done to them for understandable reasons. They can’t, and we suspect won’t, forgive Elena for that. But they might be able to move past it and the final scene with Oscar and Strand ties that in to Strand’s own recent losses.
It’s an incredibly brave thing, even 16 years into the 21st century, to show men crying. It’s an almost inconceivably brave thing for that scene to be between two non-caucasian characters, one of whom is gay. Erickson’s script and the performances it and Briesewitz’s direction bring forth, give the episode a perfect final note. One that’s horrific and grief-stricken but is starting to accept that as a starting point rather than a destination. Strand’s right, the hotel isn’t a home. But based on this episode, it’s most definitely a new start for everyone and a high point for the show to date.
- “She’s self reliant.”
“Yeah. I made her that.” So pleased that the show is running with the “Alicia is the most put-together Clark/Manuwa kid and she’s not happy about it” thing. There’s a lot of self-awareness in this line.
- “More time, more hope.” That’s the world they live in and Nick, of course, is the first to really figure it out.
- “Nice technique.”
“I have a limited but refined skillset.” Nick Clark! Two-fisted amateur pharmacist!
- “Surviving feels like eating shit.”
“You’ll get used to it.” So we’re in an interesting spot here with two really fun locations; the Colonia and the Hotel. Which one lasts? And how great would it be if both did?
- “If I’d known this was going to happen I’d have taken Spanish in High School.”
“What did you take?”
“Just myself. Very seriously.” Oh we’ll take as much of all new all-funny Nick as we can get.
- “You’ll never be the same. But one morning you’ll start thinking like someone new. Someone you don’t know yet. The person who comes after.”
“I liked who I was.”
“So did I.” This entire scene is brilliant but these lines are what breaks your heart.
- The Maddy/Strand escape is really smartly handled. It’s nice to see Nick’s trick get remembered by someone else. It’s even nicer to see a pair of characters who are very not cool with this trying it. The sense of tension and danger is far more tangible with them than it ever was with Nick. Which in turn further drives home the alienation between Nick and everyone else.
- The show specifically addressing the Alicia/Maddy relationship and progressing it is just flat-out great. Not only does it make two characters more interesting but it progresses them in a way that almost everything that’s happened with Travis and Chris so far has failed to do.
- The ambiguity about what happened to Alejandro is nicely handled. We figure he was bitten by the non-Walker kid but there’s always the chance everything he’s saying is true. Maybe some people do have immunity. That would be an incredible twist to introduce in the spin-off show.
- Nick’s drug skills and the way they’re being used for good is the most screwed-up thing this show has ever done. And it’s magnificent. Much, much more of this please.
- Brilliant direction throughout but the Walker-herding sequence is just flat-out outstanding. The shot of Alicia and Hector making a run for the boat as Maddy leads the horde down the pier is just cool. We’ve seen movies that have handled scenes like that worse.
- The Not-Maddy from last week is brought up again and still awful. That’s basically the only issue with the episode.
- Kate Erickson was last in these parts for episode four “Blood In The Streets”. That episode was pretty good. This one is flat-out great. We’re really looking forward to seeing what she does next. Incidentally, she’s also written for Borgia, Copper and the magnificently twisted Mr Robot.
- Ute Briesewitz is a German cinematographer and director whose work is a litany of fun, interesting, varied movies. We’d particularly recommend checking out the horror movie Session 9 and the not even slightly horror movie Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
- Her TV experience is even more impressive. She’s worked as the cinematographer for John From Cincinnati, True Blood and The Wire amongst others. She’s also directed for House Of Lies, Awkward, The 100, Jessica Jones, Mad Dogs and more.
- Some more good musical choices this week. Nick’s drug-cutting montage is scored by Suuns’ “2020” while the ending is accompanied by “The Walker” by Gayngs.