Airing in the UK on AMC, exclusive to BT, Mondays at 2am and 9pm
Writer: Alan Page
Director: Alex Garcia Lopez
Essential Plot Points:
- And we’re back in the past with the Hacienda on fire and Daniel Salazar, wounded and stumbling down the abandoned highway. Half dead from heatstroke he shambles along, looking for shade, water or whatever he can get.
- He almost avoids a herd but the last one sees him. He’s seconds from death when he’s saved by a wild dog that distracts the Walker. Daniel, hiding under a car, laughs hysterically until he passes out.
- He’s rescued by Efrain, a remarkably chill wanderer who gives him water and gets him upright and moving.
- He takes Daniel to a fountain in a mall that turns on once a day at the same time. Daniel drinks so much water he almost throws up and asks where the water comes from. Efrain takes him to someone who can help, in a jury-rigged bike cab. He gets Daniel to a group of survivors but the older man passes out from the pain. So he doesn’t see the car filled with armed men that everyone hides from…
- They heal Daniel, by basically scraping the rotting flesh of his burn off with a straight razor.
- Yeah. It’s NASTY.
- Later, Daniel is walking with a stick and helping Efrain scavenge. The two men bond, Efrain implying he’s never settling on anything but the bottle and Daniel admitting his past as a torturer. This includes him revealing that he’s killed ninety-six people.
- Everyone caught the episode title right? Jolly good.
- He confesses about the Hacienda and how terrified he is that he burned Ofelia alive. He begs for forgiveness, just as Efrain forgives the Walkers before he kills them. Egrain, drunk, passes out before Daniel finds out if he is forgiven or not.
- Limping home in a torrential thunderstorm, Daniel is cornered by Walkers. Revelling in the fight, he stands his ground and ready to die he drops his weapon and waits for release.
- And that’s when the Walker is hit by lightning, knocking Daniel out in the shock wave.
- The following day, a pair of workers at the reservoir are clearing a storm drain. Daniel, washed downhill in the same torrential storm as the Walker, wakes up and gives the two guys the fright of their lives.
- He’s shown around by Lola who explains she works at the dam and Dante has taken it over. She sneaks Daniel into the dam as a new janitor and, just, gets away with it.
- When Daniel doesn’t stand up when Dante comes in, Dante’s Chief of Security JC picks a fight with Daniel. Daniel dismantles him and, intrigued, Dante asks about him. He realises Daniel is Sombra Nega, trained by the CIA.
- Dante is impressed. Daniel gets a promotion. He asks Dante for a jeep to go looking for his daughter. Dante persuades him to stay to help deal with the people stealing his water.
- Daniel isn’t hiding from the men in the armed pickup anymore. Now, he’s one of them.
- They storm the mall Efrain and his people are hiding out in but don’t find anything. They’re just about to leave when Daniel realises it’s 5pm.
- The water’s about to turn on.
- Desperate to cover up the fountain, Daniel has no choice but to expose Efrain. Daniel tries to reason with Lola but she’s having none of it. She accuses Daniel of being a thug, of fitting in at the dam far, far too well.
- Later, Daniel sees Strand captured and brought in, as we saw last week.
- He and Strand talk and Strand tells him Ofelia is alive. Daniel can’t bring himself to believe it, tells Strand Ofelia is dead, her father is dead and so is Strand. He walks off, leaving Strand in his cell.
- Daniel is called to an abandoned room in the reservoir. Dante is beating Efrain who is tied to a chair.
- Daniel gives him a choice; talk and he and Lola will be killed. Don’t talk and Daniel will kill him.
- Daniel begins beating him. He tries to persuade Dante that Efrain won’t speak but he insists Daniel continue.
- Daniel gets a hammer.
- Lola intervenes.
- The next thing they see is the edge of the dam, where, with Strand, they’re about to be executed. By Daniel.
- Daniel moves Lola to the edge of the balcony and freezes. Dante orders JC to do it for him and-
- Daniel executes the guards, JC and Dante.
- Then cuts Lola free, kneels before her and hands her the gun.
- She gives him her hand. And, after a beat, he takes it.
The Walking Dead has had a lot of success with its solo character stories. We especially liked ‘Here’s Not Here’ and ‘Swear’. This attempt to do something similar by the spin-off doesn’t quite have the emotional punch of those episodes but it comes damn close.
A massive part of that is Ruben Blades, who excels every time he’s on screen. The contrast between Daniel the tortured father and Daniel the torturer is embodied in every one of Blades’ motions and he’s electrifying to watch. From the opening, shambling chase sequence to the apparent forgiveness he receives at the end Blades never lets us forget Daniel’s a monster. But he also never lets us forget what else Daniel is. A father. A husband. A friend. A man who, like Dante and Strand, is using the new world to remake himself.
Whether or not he wants to, or feels he deserves to, is where the episode gets much of its power from. The rest comes from the way Daniel interacts with Efrain and Lola. Efrain in particular is a compelling figure; part hobo, part priest and Jesse Borrego shows us a man who forgives to cope and drinks to forget with an unflinchingly honest performance. Lisandra Tena’s Lola is more guarded but no less honest and the way the two continually find ways to be kind in a world that punishes that kindness is one of the most heroic things this show has done so far. Even by the end of the episode, Daniel is not close to fixed. But he’s now seen people who are, and that shows him it’s possible. It also shows Strand, present as a spectator this episode and in doing so makes the reservoir the most interesting location this season by a good margin.
That’s great news for the episode and the season, but what really works here is, oddly enough, the logistics. Water as currency is a smart, grounded idea and with a group far more nuanced than Dante in control of the reservoir it looks like we’re officially shifting into the world building phase of FTWD. If so that’s earlier than the core show but it feels right. Plus the ideological differences between the ranch and the reservoir, not to mention the barely contained racism of the Otto family, should make for some tense exchanges when the two groups meet up again.
Measured, calm and personal this is another strong episode in a strong series. We’re delighted to see Daniel back, and we’re looking forward to what comes next. Great work all round.
- We loved that almost the entire episode was in Spanish as well as how quickly you adapt to reading subtitles.
- The bike chase is a gloriously weird sequence.
- A WALKER IS KILLED BY LIGHTNING.
- Daniel standing at parade rest once he’s outed is a smart character beat.
- ‘This may be the apocalypse but it’s not communism.’-And that’s why people like Mr Dante are bad, bad men.
- ‘Forgive me.’
- The pacing is a little slow this week but the episode pretty much demands it.
And the Random:
- Alex Garcia Lopez has directed for Residue, the first series of gloriously horrific conspiracy thriller Utopia and Misfits.
- Alan Page wrote last year’s ‘Los Muertos’ and ‘Ouroboros’. He’s also a producer on the show and wrote previously for Kin.
- Lisandra Tena, who plays Lola, has previously appeared in several short movies and in two episodes of Chicago PD.
- Jesse Borego who plays Efrain has previously appeared in Dexter as George King, 24 as Gael Ortega and classic TV show Fame.
- The Sombra Negra are depressingly real and suspected of still being active in El Salvador.