Airing in the UK on AMC, exclusive to BT, Mondays at 2am and 9pm
Writer: Wes Brown
Director: Courtney Hunt
Essential Plot Points:
- At the ranch, Nick is being taught how to shoot by Jeremiah.
- Jake and Alicia are in bed together.
- Madison and Troy’s search party are nowhere to be seen. Everyone is worried.
- And then, bloodied and exhausted they arrive. Mike, one of Troy’s men panics. He tells them they all have to leave or they’ll die. Troy and Jeremiah are far from happy.
- Later, Jake, Troy, Madison and Jeremiah are discussing the future. Jeremiah is furious, terrified and fobs it all off on Jake. He blames Troy for everything and makes it clear that when he dies, Jake gets the ranch.
- Nick and Alicia help Madison back to the cabin. Her feet are a MESS. She noticed Luciana’s bed is empty and comforts her son as best she can.
- Jake’s out on the range when Alicia comes to see him. He talks about how Jeremiah’s panicking because the other ‘founding fathers’ are dying off and Jeremiah is one of the few left. Alicia asks Jake to show her around the M-16 he’s using and he obliges. She also sets him straight on how important his role is going to be. If he’s going to be the next leader, he has to be ready.
- Gretchen comes looking for Alicia and finds Madison. She asks about Mike and Gretchen explains that her brother, her father Vernon and everyone else is absolutely terrified. Her dad, who helped build the ranch, doesn’t think it’s safe. And that rattles her harder than anything else. Vernon believes they’ll be safer at altitude, in the Rockies. And he’s been saying that to anyone who’ll listen. And as a founder, people listen…
- Jeremiah pulls a bottle out of his desk and notices something odd reflected in it. He goes outside and sees a fire. Then, he sees half a dozen fires.
- Then more.
- And more.
- Walker and his men have set fires at regular positions all the way around the edge of the Ranch.
- The next morning, Jeremiah, Madison and Jake pick through one of the fires. It was designed to burn out, to send a message. Jeremiah is convinced Walker doesn’t have the guts or the weapons to come for the ranch.
- The fact people are pulling supplies from the bunker suggests otherwise. Nick goes to get material for the cabin and runs into Troy. Troy asks about Luciana.
- Nick asks him to say her name again. Troy backs down and is distracted by one of the families who are leaving. He only backs down when its clear they spoke to Jeremiah before doing anything.
- Madison is talking to Jeremiah when Vernon tells him he and his family are leaving. Jeremiah fails to talk them down and Troy, having had quite enough, orders the gate kept shut and faces Vernon down.
- Troy straight up loses it. He screams at Vernon and punches Jake when he tries to talk him down. Jeremiah punches Troy and Jake once again puts himself between his dad and his brother.
- The Trimbols leave, Gretchen waving at Alicia one last time.
- Madison finds Troy in the armory. He reassures her that he has no intention of harming his family. This distinction will prove to be very important. Troy is genuinely broken up about the family leaving, the impact it will have on the ranch and the loss of his friend, Mike.Troy calls his troops to order and makes it clear they need more discipline or the ranch will fall. He gives a dark if genuinely inspiring, humane speech to them and it really works.
- Nick finds Jeremiah having not so much fallen off the wagon as cannonballed off it into a bath of whiskey. Jeremiah gives him the drunken history of ‘the movement’ and Nick, because he’s been on the other side of this, looks after the old man as best he can.
- Jeremiah takes Nick’s gun, fires into the floor three times, apologises and then passes out on the bed.
- Alicia comes home to find Madison awake. They have a weird, spiky, sweet and pragmatic story about birth control, love and whether or not Jake’s important to them.
- At the cabin, Jeremiah wakes up and Nick, rapidly becoming one of the last adults on this show, is very kind to him about the drinking. Then they notice a horse by the fence. It’s Vernon’s…
- Jake is gearing up to leave and mediate with Walker as Madison, Jeremiah and Nick head out looking for the RV. None of them are going to have a good time.
- Everyone in the RV is dead. There are bullet holes peppering the windscreen, Vernon and Kathy are both turned and Mike is dead outside.
- Gretchen is feeding on the last horse in the back.
- Nick ends her suffering when Madison can’t.
- As they police the bodies up, Nick and Jeremiah are convinced it was Troy. Madison is certain its Walker, but when Nick points out Walker would have taken the truck and the horses she has no answer.
- Jeremiah has no idea what to do. Madison tells them they should go back.
- Everyone’s clustered around the gate when they return, including Troy. There are audible sobs when the family’s bodies are revealed.
- And Madison blames the murders on Walker’s people.
- Alicia is very, very far from cool about this.
- Later at the bunker, Nick is simultaneously admiring and disgusted by his mom’s actions. Nick tells her he would have backed her play if she’d told him before hand and warns her not to forget what Troy is.
- Troy all but confesses to Madison and admits that he let things get out of control. Madison shuts it down, makes it clear Troy is the heir to the ranch and that all she cares about is that he control his actions. Shes asks if he can save them and Troy responds ‘Yes, ma’am.’
Well now, this is where things get really interesting. And where we suspect Jake shouldn’t start any long books.
Last week we expressed some legitimate concerns about how the Native American characters were being portrayed. This week, the show uses that portrayal in the last, and smartest, way we could have thought of: it drags the inherent racism of the ranch out into the light, combines it with their terror and uses it to bind them together.
It can’t possibly hold. And every single lead character is complicit in this blood-soaked lie other than Jake. Which means when he finds out and resists it, as he almost certainly has to, his short time on the show will be at an end.
Troy is a monster. That’s clear now, clearer than it’s ever been before. What makes this fantastically compelling TV is he knows it. Every single new cast member has impressed but Daniel Sharman has run away with every scene he’s in. Troy is feral and broken and KNOWS it and that’s what makes him more interesting than Negan.
Because make no mistake, Troy is more interesting than Negan right now.
Instead of the tedious parade of southern gentlemen machismo that Jeffrey Dean Morgan is required to spout, Troy has very clear, very direct beliefs; you’re with him or you’re dead. And he knows on some level that that is an incredibly simplistic and dangerous worldview. And it doesn’t matter. Troy’s broken and this is all he knows how to be.
That leads to some incredible moments this week, with Jeremiah, Madison and Nick finding the RV at the top of the list. There’s no hysterics, no over-pumped emotion and no discussion. This is an awful thing someone’s done, and they know who.
And that, in turn, leads to Madison pinning it on Walker. That single action has, we suspect, doomed Jake’s attempt to mediate the dispute and her own time at the ranch. Madison weaponizes their perception of the Native Americans to keep everyone alive and in one place. She muzzles Troy, who is functionally rabid, inside that. Neither of those solutions are long term and, when the end comes, which we’re pretty sure it will, it’ll be on Madison. She has ensured there’ll be war, and used both her perceptions of the ranchers and their perceptions of Walker’s people to do it. That’s positively Machiavellian and may be the darkest choice anyone has made on this show to date.
The near inevitable destruction of the ranch this hints at should be annoying, given it’s the third premise the show will have dumped in as many seasons. However, the way this dispute, and location, is set out is absolutely enthralling. Jeremiah is a monster but an understandable one, Troy is a villain but we know why. There are no easy answers or ways out and that, combined with the tight focus and moral ambiguity makes this another strong episode in the show’s best season to date.
- The ragged, half-assed way Troy’s militia fall into attention is massively revealing. They’re playing soldiers.
- The performances. Again, rock solid all the way down and that’s something this show has not always been able to say.
- The entire RV scene. There’s a world-weariness to this group already and the overwhelming sadness of the scene is far more disturbing than the horror.
- Kim Dickens. Madison is fascinating this year. Manipulative, brutal and (we think?) compassionate she’s more interesting right now than she’s ever been before.
- ‘I feel your liberal judgment. It’s PALPABLE.’
- ‘Come on, you?’
‘Especially me, I’m high on life!’
- ‘We should talk.’
‘Should we? I may disappoint.’
- ‘Some men have kids. Turns them into women.’-Not only is this horrifically sexist but it’s also unintentionally ironic given just who he’s talking to.
- ‘Last night-‘
‘Last night I was at the bunkhouse with my mom and Alicia. I miss anything?’ This line, and the kindness behind it is one of our favourite Nick moments to date.
- Nada. This is a hell of an episode.
And the Random:
- Courtney Hunt has directed the Keanu Reeves legal thriller The Whole Truth as well as the movie Frozen River, episodes of Law & Order: SVU and the HBO series In Treatment.
- Wes Brown is a story editor on this season of Fear The Walking Dead.