Airing in the UK on AMC, exclusive to BT, Mondays at 2am and 9pm
Writer: Ryan Scott
Director: Deborah Chow
Essential Plot Points:
- We open on an InfoWars style video with a very much younger Jeremiah Otto hawking prepper products. It’s cheery and positive and entirely focused on the end of the world. And massively racist. It’s coded, these things always are but ‘urban hordes’ is a pretty big red flag.
- The family are at Charlene’s funeral. Because she was called Charlene apparently. Which we maybe should have known last week.
- There’s a moment of supreme awkwardness when Charlene’s mom points out that her daughter died protecting the ‘unprepared’. Madison stands up, and attempts to placate people by thanking them for their generosity which Jake tags in and tries to placate people.
- Another Rancher, Vernon, berates them about the helicopter. He, and Troy, assure people that they will ‘make it right’. Jake tries to steer them into a better position and…well…let’s start the Death Clock on Jake now shall we?
- At lunch, Madison and Alicia are both sniped at by other ranchers. Gretchen Trimble, one of the lunch servers invites Alicia to bible study. And despite her best efforts, Gretchen and Madison both make sure she goes.
- At the infirmary, Nick is feeding Luciana. Luciana is DONE, she wants out. Nick agrees, to a point. He berates himself for not taking the chance he had to kill Troy. Luciana assures him he isn’t a killer.
- Madison arrives home to find Troy waiting for her. Troy talks about how he picked her, but DIDN’T pick Nick. Troy calls her on her nonsense about just how close she and her son really are.
- Out on the road, Strand arrives at a line of people bartering for water from a reservoir. He’s looking for Mr Dante, and despite being told to get in line he tries to barter his car for a spot with Dante. He gets taken down and a gun pulled on him for his trouble. Then Mr Dante arrives.
- At the Ranch, Madison and her kids discuss Troy. Nick wants to leave, Madison wants to stay and when he asks why she snaps and says it’s because Travis died getting him out of the base. When he asks what happens if they throw Luciana out she replies ‘Then you’ll have a choice to make.’
- Jake and Jeremiah are talking when Madison comes in. The two men are worried about the search party sent to investigate the crash site.
- Madison demands they leash Troy and explains what happened. Jeremiah doesn’t care and makes it clear that he’s not fond of Madison or how she carries herself. He does however, show her the prepper lectures. Madison asks to meet whoever downed the helicopter.,
- Alicia and Nick are watching horses being trained. They discuss their mom, the ranch and when Nick asks what happened to Alicia, she leaves.
- Jake confronts Troy over Madison and her family. Jake makes it clear no one on the ranch knows what Troy really is. Jake tells his brother that when their dad dies leadership will be on them and Troy, seemingly, agrees to back off.
- Alicia is taken to the bunker where the ‘bible study’ takes place. Which in this case is drugs and alcohol. Madison asks about ‘Jeff’, the other member of the group Gretchen mentioned.
- Jeff is a Walker head in a bird cage.
- Alicia looks him straight in the eyes and bursts out laughing.
- Madison watches the lectures and finds an outtake. Jeremiah’s wife is drunk, and as the two start screaming at one another, he yells at Jake to look after his brother. Troy, it turns out, is the younger of the two.
- Jeremiah arrives and reveals that the two boys have different mothers. His first wife died before the end of the world. Tracy, his second, died from alcohol, tended by Troy. Otto admits that he had the same ‘affliction’ as his late wife.
- At the reservoir, Strand and Dante catch up. Dante is remarkably sweet about Thomas’ passing. Dante welcomes Victor back to the fold.
- At the ‘bible study’, the group use Jeff to ‘interview’ Alicia. She also uses it to question the group. Gretchen reveals that Jeff was the first Walker they saw and that Troy took his body.
- Gretchen argues that they can’t do what the militia and Troy do because they’ve been ‘behind the fences’ since this started. Alicia responds that they have to fend for themselves. The group push, using Jeff to ask what bad stuff she’s done.
- She tells them she killed a man. When they ask how it felt she replies ‘Easy’.
- At the reservoir, Mr Dante shows Strand to a man being held over the railing. he explains the man is a former cartel officer and they hurl him off the reservoir onto a pile of Walkers. Walkers who were probably the last people that Dante threw over the side.
- And then they grab Strand and hold him over the side.
- Strand talks for his life. Dante is begging for an attack, selling at the location of his source. He points out he needs to sell offsite, needs soldiers and transport.
- Dante asks if Thomas died believing Strand loved him. Strand says yes. Dante doesn’t believe him and puts him to work, working off the debt he owes.
- Nick is out walking when Troy rolls up and invites/challenges him to go boar hunting. It is very clearly a trap. Nick goes anyway.
Jeremiah finds Madison at the fence line and they talk about the hunt, their kids and what happens when a child finds a home.
- They level with each other about their problem sons and Jeremiah asks Madison if she’d liked to know why he tolerates Troy.
- Out in the wilds, the hunting party finds something…
- Jeremiah shows Madison the colossal storehouse of food, supplies and weapons. He admits he broke Troy in the old world and has given him a purpose in the new. He believes, passionately, that they can make the world a better place. And Madison buys in.
- In the wilds, Troy stalks Nick. Nick turns the tables and drops him. Troy is ready to die. So much so that he asks Nick to time how long he takes to turn if he kills him.
- Nick shoots. Into the ground near Troy. He steals Troy’s journal and laughs as the other man tackles him. Laughing, Troy says ‘I think we can be friends now.’
- At the infirmary, Madison visits Luciana. Luciana thanks her for waiting for her to heal before they leave. She makes it clear that they aren’t going to be leaving.
- The ‘bible study’ group stumble home past Jake who clearly knows exactly what they’ve been doing and doesn’t care/
- The boar the boys killed is being cooked. There’s a lot more positive feel to the place as Jeremiah briefs them on Outpost Alpha, their outlier that was supposed to investigate the chopper crash. They’ve been offline for 36 hours and Troy’s search party needs volunteers.
- Madison volunteers. And sits, not with her family, but with Troy.
- At the reservoir, Strand is in a cell. He’s given a single canteen of water and downs it.
- He’s given it by Daniel Salazar.
After the distinctly wobbly second episode last week, this is the show firmly back on track. It’s also a textbook example of the one thing the show has done, consistently, very well since season 2; world building.
The hotel, the colonia, the supermarket, the reservoir, the ranch. All these places feel real and connected in ways that only careful location design and writing can achieve. The introduction of the reservoir, and Mr Dante, this week is especially good. Not just because it’s a great location but because it confirms the one thing the show never had before; normalcy.
Look at the scene with Strand driving up. That’s a queue. Yes its people queueing for the water they need to live but they’re obviously doing so in relative safety given they’re out in the open. That’s a subtle progression for the post-apocalypse timeline and it also brings the show thematically in line with Alexandria and The Walking Dead. New outposts are being established, new ways of life. The good, or tough ones, will even get to survive.
That normalcy proves to be a common thread this episode. Troy’s carefully designed testing of his boundaries is seemingly shut down hard by Nick in a moment that plays like the alpha bros from last season but 8000 per cent more successful. Troy is broken, we know that and thanks to the conversation between jeremiah and Madison we know why, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is he’s broken and, seemingly, Nick speaks his language. Whether that’s a good thing for Nick, or anyone, remains to be seen.
The other great subversion of normalcy this episode is the Bible Study group. The revelation that they’re stoners, and the clear implication Jake knows and doesn’t care is great. This is how groups like this would work; people obeying the rules just enough to get away with it and then covering up what they need to later.
The only place where it doesn’t quite work is Madison. She’s buying in a little too fervently and we’re interested to see where this goes. If we had to guess, it would be with her leaving. The conversation with Nick certainly seems to foreshadow another family split. Either way, the Ranch has its claws into her more than any of the others.
This is a strong episode and it uses this central concept of normalcy to tell a coherent story and to lay a lot of groundwork for the future. We’re especially pleased there’s no easy answer to the helicopter mystery yet and if the show is starting to really embrace the serial storytelling that’s worked so well for The Walking Dead? Then it really is onto something special. Either way, this is another good episode and a welcome course correction.
- Great performances this week. Especially from the entire Otto family.
- The cold open is the best one this show has ever done.
- Madison’s southern accent coming at the Ranch is a nice touch.
- The drone footage of the dam is lovely.
- Great job upending expectations with ‘bible study’ group.
- The old couple dancing as Nick and Troy head out is romantic, dark and perfect visual shorthand for how divided the Ranch is.
- DANIEL! We have no idea if his return is going to make a lick of sense but we are very glad to see him!”
- ‘I’m going to put on some coffee. You’ll need it.’-The gallows humour here, and in Jeremiah being unsurprised when Madison admits she didn’t make it through tape one, is lovely.
- ‘Chaos. Ruin. And it changes you. Not like Jeff. Worse.’-We’re really interested to see where Bible Study goes. We’re hoping not badly. We suspect, given the comments about the militia, this may end up being the show’s Alexandria.
- ‘Did you truly think we were friends in the old world?’
‘We made each other money!’-Strand being wrong-footed is AMAZING. We’re really interested to see where this goes.
- ‘I need to know. I need to know why we spoil.’-Daniel Sharman is fantastic this episode.
- ‘Unprepared’ as an insult is annoying us already. Which may be the point.
- The show’s doing a good job of setting up Madison going full native. It could do with accelerating a little though.
And the Random:
- Deborah Chow has directed for Reign, Beauty and the Beast and Mr Robot among others.
- Jason Manuel Olazabal, who is so much fun already as Mr Dante, is best known for his role as Ramon Prado in Dexter.