Fear The Walking Dead S02E12 “Pillar Of Salt” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Morning at the Colonia and Francisco, one of Luciana’s scouts and his family are are sneaking their way out. They make it to the Wall and their child begins to panic, wanting to know why they can’t just stay. She’s calmed down and they make their way out, gutting a Walker and smearing themselves with its entrails while telling their child not to look.
- They make it out but are picked up near the supermarket by the gangsters. The gangsters hold them up, recognise Francisco and take them into custody.
- So, turns out Ofelia did take the truck. She pulls in at what was a restaurant. She looks, entranced, at the sea and then…
- …we’re in the past. And Ofelia is being proposed to. It’s a lovely moment, sweet and heartfelt and so very doomed. She agrees to marry him and he agrees to talk to her folks…
- …we’re back in the present.
- Back at the hotel Ashley Team Madison are getting settled. Crops are planted, generators fired up and Strand fixes up the bar and raises a silent toast to Abigail. On the beach, Alicia and Hector flirt during surfing lessons. The subject of family comes up and its clear Alicia is painfully aware of how messed up her’s is. Hector’s is just dead.
- Back at the Colonia, Nick and Luciana wake up together to hear the news. Francisco is gone. Luciana can’t believe he abandoned them and Nick volunteers to take Luciana to the supermarket.
- At the hotel, Madison, Elena, Alicia and Strand are discussing logistics. There’s a knock at the door, Strand answers it and is stabbed in the gut by Ilene. She sobs that he took her daughter from her. Strand collapses and the others rush to treat him.
- The good news is that nothing serious got punctured and one of the guests has medical training. The bad news is Ilene is unbalanced and will do it again. The worst news is they don’t have everything they need, and without the right drugs Victor is dead. Elena knows a place though and… well… are you thinking what we’re thinking?
- Madison talks to Strand about Ilene and they make the call that she has to be exiled and exiled forever. She calls an impromptu council and everyone agrees.
- Meanwhile at the Colonia, Alejandro leads a service trying to stem the rising tide of refugees. He’s distracted and irritable, and Nick notices. After the meeting Luciana and Nick tell him they’re heading out. Alejandro chews out Luciana for not speaking to the scouts. The conversation turns nasty, Alejandro accusing Luciana of wanting to follow Francisco. Worse, even though the gangsters are expecting their Oxy shipment, Alejandro bans anyone from leaving.
- Over at the plot this is about to intersect with, Madison, Oscar and Elena head off to the “place” she knows. Elena and Hector bicker and she reveals that she was fighting with Hector over whether he should go. On the drive, Elena admits that her other son is with the gang in the warehouse. Madison, clearly thinking of Nick and Chris the Human Trash Fire, tells her not to give up on her kids.
- Back at the Colonia, Nick tries to reason with Luciana and convince her that stuff is going SOUTH. She won’t have it and they decide to stay. BOO! NO CROSSOVER THIS WEEK BOO!
- At the supermarket, Elena, Madison and Oscar arrive but only Elena and Madison are let in.
- Back at the Colonia, Nick goes to see Alejandro. He feels bad about how he spoke to Luciana but when Nick tries to reason with him, Alejandro lashes out again. He’s terrified, acutely aware of how many lives rely on him even as he’s increasingly worried that it isn’t enough.
- At the supermarket, Elena meets her other son. They trade a cooler full of freshly caught fish. They are told to wait while their goods are fetched and overhear the interrogation of Francisco and family. Elena translates that he’s looking for the Colonia and mentions an American with ratty hair who brings them drugs.
- Have one guess what Madison does?
- She busts into the interrogation and demands to know if his name is Nick. Francisco’s family say nothing and they’re thrown out.
- Back at the Colonia, Nick asks Francisco’s partner if he’d be prepared to come with Nick to the supermarket. He agrees.
- Back at the hotel, Victor’s in serious trouble. His body doesn’t have enough blood to pump to all his organs. He complements Alicia on her bedside manner and she explains she did volunteer work at a hospital. She is completely, utterly honest and she and Victor bond. She explains that she raised herself, helping Nick detox and keeping the rest of the family together. She explains she doesn’t think her mom really sees her. Victor says, “Make her.”
- Back at the Colonia, Nick takes a look at the Wall and spots two guys on the hill overlooking the Colonia. The gang has found them.
- Meanwhile, back at Ofelia, she’s reading a map. She flashes back to the week after she was proposed to. She talks to her mom about how she and her father met. She explains just how much she is prepared to do for her family.
- Back in the present, Ofelia kisses her rosary and heads for the US border.
- The others finally get back to the hotel and Elena explains why it took so long. Madison turns the sign on and Alicia calls her on her bullshit. Madison tries to reason with her and Alicia cooks off; Nick chose what’s out there over her family. “Maybe he changed his mind.” Madison responds. Alicia asks why her staying isn’t enough and Madison can’t answer.
- Nearby, Travis, alone, sees the hotel lights and starts towards them.
So the good news is that Alicia becoming increasingly sick of her terrible, self-involved family is most definitely a plotline this season.
That’s pretty much the end of the good news.
A lot happens in this episode, to be fair: we get clear confirmation that all three plots are happening in a small area; we see Ofelia again; we see the Colonia about to be under siege; and Aljeandro comes apart at the seams. And absolutely none of it makes you care.
The single moment that does – the single moment where the show hits its stride – is Strand’s stabbing. Which is also the single moment most likely to either take the show’s best character off the table forever or bench him for most of the rest of the season.
We’re three episodes off the end of the season and what’s becoming clear is that FTWD seems to be beholden to two masters. The first is the desire to tell new and interesting stories in an established world, and the Colonia and Hotel plots in particular have done a great job of that. Through the former we’ve seen Nick come into his own and through the latter seen Alicia turn into an actual character and Madison become something much more interesting than where she started.
And this week that seems to be thrown away. All three plots are now coming back together and in doing so we’ve got an episode that runs in place at best and hits the reset button at worst. Every Alejandro scene is about how he’s scared. Every Nick scene is about him railing against the restrictive rules of the Colonia and being told to shut up. Every scene with the supermarket gang is them being snarly and slightly evil in a way that should be more interesting than it is.
And then there’s Madison. For a whole run of this back-half of the season, Madison was great. She was being called on how she’d neglected her daughter, was starting to come into her own without her two sons dragging her down. She was in danger of turning into the show’s Rick, a troubled leader who is painfully aware of the weight of her choices.
This week she gets the slightest hint of Nick being around and loses 70 IQ points.
The confrontation with Alicia is good, even realistic given the fact you can’t choose your family. But from a narrative point of view it’s a catastrophe; the only person Madison cares about is Nick. The only one. Not the people she’s united and led, not her daughter and certainly not the man whose counsel she takes before sodding off for so long he almost bleeds to death.\
Yes she’s a mom. But she’s also an idiot. And portraying those as the same thing is a sin this episode can’t get out from under. Hopefully the rest of the season will fare better. It certainly needs to.
- Hurray, Ofelia’s not dead! And right now her plot is looking more interesting than a lot of other stuff!
- “I’m here. Why isn’t that enough?” The line of the episode from the most luckless Clark kid. Poor Alicia. Maybe her idiot step-dad will notice she’s awesome now once he hobbles into the hotel.
- “CURSE ME in English, COME ON!” Well done for not letting the language barrier go away. Really smart character touch.
- “I can understand grief but this is a bit… extreme.” The worst thing this episode does is sideline Strand; odds are for most of the rest of the season. He is super funny when delirious from blood loss though.
- Yay! Mexican version of the Walker in the field from the original show!
- Top marks to the floppy-boned Walker Ofelia takes out. The Walkers are sometimes in danger of phoning it in a bit but she was genuinely unsettling.
- Ilene’s actions are shocking, dramatic and promise a lot. The episode delivers on absolutely none of that.
- Honestly this episode feels like marking time. It’s like that bit in a John Williams’ score right before something explodes and the music gets really dramatic and repeats the same phrase over and over.
- We’ve got three episodes to go and Ofelia’s off back across the border, presumably to try and rescue her almost-husband. Okay, that’s good. Ofelia’s consistently been the least well-served character not named Alicia on this show so it’s nice to see her getting something to do but… really? With three episodes to go?
- Madison taking her turn as the, “I abused my power, and I learned NOTHING!” character of the week is so sad. Last week she was great. This week? She’s (admittedly understandably, sort of) an idiot.
- As other reviewers have pointed out, bringing the plots back together so soon is mystifying. There was certainly plenty of life in getting the hotel up and running, and maybe even trading with the Colonia without having to blow one up. Likewise, while it’s a huge relief to not see Chris the Human Dumpster Fire, Travis being a few miles away seems incredibly convenient.
And The Random:
- This week’s Music To Survive The Apocalypse To is “Swept Inside” by Future Islands.