Fear The Walking Dead S03E01 “Eye Of The Beholder” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on AMC, exclusive to BT, Mondays at 2am and 9pm
Writer: Dave Erickson
Director: Adam Bernstein
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously on Fear The Walking Dead!
We all stayed in a hotel for a REALLY long time!
Strand got stabbed!
Chris got killed!
Travis got mad!
Nick got the hell away from everyone else!
- And we’re back.
- Travis, Maddy and Alicia are being dragged along to a military checkpoint. It’s surrounded by very recently dead people. They’re separated, put in trucks and driven off into the centre of a surprisingly large military compound. The chances of this one being the same one that Nick saw from a distance? Pretty high.
- Travis is taken past a shower area where people are being executed and their time of death written on their forehead. He’s weighed, measured and left in a corner with a bunch of other people.
- Including Nick! And Luciana!
- Roll the world’s shortest credits!
- Travis fills the kid in and Nick asks about Chris. Travis doesn’t have to say anything. Nick explains that they were ambushed. Travis tells Nick he’s taking him to his mother and then they are all getting out of there.
- Elsewhere, Alicia and Maddy are being kept in an office. Because they’re still the smartest people in the show, they look for ways out but nothing’s doing.
- They’re interrupted by Troy, a soldier who is tall, handsome, brings them tea and positively screams ‘Imminent new regular character’. He apologises for how they were handled.
- Maddy asks if Nick is there, explains the situation and Troy…maybe? lies to her.She plays the ‘what would your mom do to find you?’ card and it hits Troy surprisingly hard. He shakes it off and tells them that once processed they’ll be given supplies and released.
- In the killing room, Troy checks in with his guys. They’ve tied up the man Travis saw killed and they’re timing how long it will take for him to turn. When he gets back up, Troy pulls Travis out of the holding area. He asks Travis if he’s Mexican and Trav explains he’s Maori. Troy, doubling down good and hard on white trash racism, speculates about if New Zealand and the Maoris dealt with the outbreak better. Trav tries to get Luciana medical attention but, at gunpoint, Troy all but tells him he doesn’t care.
- Back in the office, Alicia and Maddy are trying to figure out Troy’s game. He wants something, clearly, but does he want them dead?
- Alicia, still the smartest person in this show, hands over the switchblade she hid and asks her mom what they’re going to do. Maddy responds that if she has to she’ll kill people to get them out.
- Back in ‘holding’, Travis gets talking to Steven, one of the others. Stephen wants out. He makes Travis an offer; get him out of the room, Steven will get them out of the compound.
- Travis, Luciana, Nick and Steven are taken out of the room and to the execution room. They watch as the next person is killed, Nick and Sofia recoiling in horror. Travis just watches.
- Steven, it turns out, is a dealer who used to sell to the soldiers. He knows ways out and across the border. Travis agrees.
- The execution team come back in and kill two people. Time is running out.
- In the office, Maddy and Alicia are sleeping. Troy is making notes, watching them sleep, in the room. Maddy asks what he’s writing and he dodges it. He also reassures them that they passed, but Travis is under ‘different criteria’.
- Back in the execution room. the soldiers are talking about how to avoid the dead, even as they bicker over who wins the ‘race’ to turn first.
- Travis picks a fight. He asks if everyone else knows and the team proudly claim that they volunteered and that not everyone is strong enough.
- They back down, choose someone else to turn and it’s Nick. Travis, weaponising their racism against them, persuades them to let him go first. Travis, Nick and Stephen jump the soldiers and make their escape.
- Upstairs, Troy makes Maddy an offer; the area’s burnt, he can take her with him. He admits Travis is alive and will release him IF Maddy comes with them.
- Outside, Travis, Nick, Luciana and Steven flee from basically the entire base. Travis takes on a full fire team to buy them time and Steven is killed.
- Travis, rearrested, is being taken to be killed when Troy interrupts them. He brags about taking Maddy with him and tells his men to give Travis special treatment and ‘take him out back’.
- In the sewers, Luciana tries to get Nick to leave her behind but he’s having none of it.
- Troy returns to the office, unlocks the door and Maddy tries to kill him. A scrappy, panicked fight between the soldier and the two women ensues and Maddy stabs Troy in the eye A LOT. LIKE SHE ACTUALLY LEAVES IT IN THERE AND USES IT AS A NEGOTIATING TACTIC AND OH MY ACTUAL GOD.
- She sends Alicia out to find a vehicle as Nick and Luciana continue their escape. Or at least they do until Nick opens a bulkhead door onto an entire herd of Walkers.
- Travis is taken to a pit full of Walkers and thrown into it.
- Maddy, who is DONE WITH ALL OF THIS, walks Troy, spoon in eye, across the base surrounded by his soldiers.
- Travis takes on the entire pit, using breeze blocks and rebar to fight them off as the soldiers ‘cheer’ him on.
- He kills six Walkers, barehanded. And then the soldiers release another two dozen.
- Troy’s brother, Jake, tries to reason with Maddy. She is completely surrounded by soldiers. She’s got no exist, no transport, no nothing.
- She pulls the spoon. Jake talks Troy down. He admits Travis is in the pit.
- In the tunnels, Nick and Luciana are jumped by Steven. Nick is seconds from death when Alicia, hearing the screams, above ground, drops the knife down to them. Luciana kills the Walker and…Alicia’s back in custody.
- At the Pit, Travis is still standing. He’s brought out, has to be dragged off Troy and is reunited with Maddy and Alicia and Nick and Sofia.
- They embrace. Travis watches.
- As an ‘apology’, Jake helps them resupply and recommends the compound his father built. He claims Troy is just one man and wouldn’t be allowed to do there what he did a the base. Neither of them are buying it.
- Maddy thanks Travis, cleans him up and apologises for everything they’ve been through. Travis assures he’s okay.
- Troy is being patched up. Jake comes in and clears the room to speak to his brother. Jake berates his brother and tells him that their father sent him to the base to ‘cast one out to protect the many.’ Troy storms off.
- Downstairs, the execution team are finishing the cleanup. One of them hears something in the wall and, because sometimes this show has to go there, takes a vent off the drywall to see what’s going on.
- He’s covered in rats.
- Rats fleeing the dead.
- Who immediately kill him in a manner enthusiastic as it is gratuitous.
- Jake is giving Maddy the hard sell when they hear gunfire.
- The herd are here.
- The evacuation order goes out and Alicia, Luciana, Nick and Travis try and get to Maddy. Nick gets close and the pair hold the herd off with a tire iron. The others have no choice but to jump in a nearby helicopter. All seems lost and then Troy, with one eye no less, drops enough Walkers to buy them a path to his truck.
- The chopper takes off, Troy shooting walkers off its skids. The truck pulls out. Troy tells them they’ll all meet up at the same place and the credits roll.
Fear The Walking Dead’s big problem last season was also its biggest asset; splitting the sprawling cast up gave the show scope but sacrificed agency. Maddy’s endless search for Nick, Travis’ shoeless (Seriously) voyage into the countryside with Chris and Alicia not quite just dumping the entire ship of fools despite clearly wanting to really tried our patience.
This episode, all of that’s gone. Nick and Luciana are reunited with the others inside ten minutes. Then, despite much of the episode only taking place in two rooms the tension never stops ramping. The dehumanising ‘science’ the soldiers are doing speaks volumes to how helpless they, their nihilistic study of the dead just a way to pass the time. Upstairs, Troy never once says the word ‘rape’ but he’s clearly romantically interested in Maddy. Or at least wants her to think he is.
In the space of one episode, the show turns itself on its head. Because the more attention you pay the more you see something is wrong. Jake’s reference to Troy being ‘sent’ to the base, even though he’s in fatigues. Jake holds no rank yet apparently the soldiers do what he wants. There’s a lot going on here and, for this show, that’s almost a first. After two seasons of trying to find a home, the family may have just had one thrust upon them.
This new premise is aided hugely by Adam Bernstein’s breezy direction, some nicely untidy and scrappy action scenes (OH GOD THE SPOON AND THE EYE) and good performances throughout. Daniel Sharman is especially great as the monstrous and yet oddly useful Troy and Noel Fisher and Ross McCall impress in small roles. The whole thing almost works perfectly.
The reason why it doesn’t is threefold. The first is the nasty streak the show’s exhibited at a couple of spots in the past resurfacing. One joke about a fat Walker? Fair. Two or three? You’re on vacation and you don’t deserve to be, The second issue, the laughably gratuitous wall death, isn’t really a fault so much as an occupational hazard. It’s over the top and on the nose but it does make sense.
The third is odder, more complex and more troubling. Some of the episode’s best moments are when Troy or his men double down on the clear racial element to their profiling. Some of the worst moments follow right behind them. A huge amount is made this episode of Travis (And actor Cliff Curtis) being Maori. It’s implied that makes him genetically superior, and culturally inferior, to the white soldiers. Travis actually weaponizes this a couple of times, using their interest in his background to get under their skins. It’s an interesting, and mostly well handled, cultural tug of war.
And then they throw him in the Walker Pit. And Travis kills two dozen Walkers barehanded.
Is that embodying the stereotype? Is it taking it back from the white men who threw him there? We think the answer may be ‘yes’. We also know there’s more to this sequence to come in the next episode. Regardless, it’s complex, chewy and troubling stuff.
That odd moment aside this is a tightly written and plotted season premiere that sets up the show with more direction than its ever had before. Are we worried? Of course. Are we impressed? For the first time in a while, absolutely.
- ‘…Are you Mexican?’-And there it is.
- ‘I’m not a bad person’-Course not, son.
- ‘You killed innocent people.’
‘Just the sick and the wounded. They were gonna die anyway.’
- The twinned shots of Travis and Maddy, staring blankly into space tell you everything you need to know about them.
- ‘We figured he’d take a few hours, cos of the obesity.’-Well at least they’re ‘just’ fat shaming this season and not murdering every single black character they meet anymore. So far.
And the Random:
- Dave Erickson is the co-creator of Fear The Walking Dead. He’s also worked on Sons of Anarchy, Marco Polo and Low Winter Sun.
- Adam Bernstein has directed for Scrubs, 30 Rock and many more. However, for us, his place in Valhalla is assured by the fact he directed the video to “Love Shack” by The B-52s.
- New cast a gogo! Jake Otto is played by Sam Underwood who played twins in The Following and Zach Hamilton in Dexter. Daniel Sharman, who plays Troy, had a memorable cameo in the movie Immortals as Ares. He’s best known though for his role as Isaac Lahey in Teen Wolf and as Kaleb Westphall in The Originals.
- Ross McCall who’s memorable here as Steven has had a long, storied career. He played Matthew Keller in White Collar, Joe Liebgott in Band of Brothers and Dave in Lexi Alexander’s barnstorming Green Street.
- Finally, Noel Fisher, who for some reason doesn’t even warrant a named character this episode is one of those actors who lifts everything he’s in. He was Mikey in Shameless, Michelangelo in the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies and played Teddy Parker in ‘The Hero In The Hold’ possibly Bones‘ best episode and certainly one of its oddest.