Fear the Walking Dead: Brother’s Keeper

This was a fantastic episode, focusing on the emotional fallout of all the characters left on the Ranch. Of course it wouldn’t be a Dead series without a giant imminent threat barreling down on our protagonists. Combine the two and you have an episode that turns everything that has been established over the season on its ear.

Although this episode was mostly about Jake and Troy, I wanted to start with the siblings who are literally their opposite. In a lot of ways Alicia and Nick have had similar patterns of destruction and caretaking that define Troy and Jake’s relationship. Nick was an addict who frequently ran away from home to lose himself to drugs. Alicia was the good child who always did the ‘right’ thing, but never seemed to earn the attention of her mother, who always focused on the child that was broken.

Yet now things have changed for Nick and Alicia, fairly dramatically. The end of the world has done good things to Nick, who is definitely still a little unbalanced but is slowly turning into a powerful leader. His choices in this episode (some of which were not the best), brought to a head all the drama between Troy and Jake. But it was his interactions with Alicia that stood out to me, because at the beginning of the series they might have loved each other, but they could barely stand one another.

That scene on the balcony with the cigarettes was important. They shared concerns, and spoke about things that had nothing to do with their complicated past. With Madison and Taqa gone there is a hole in the leadership chain, and Nick has been pushed into that role, and to a slightly lesser degree Alicia has, too. Neither seem particularly weighed down by the job, even though they aren’t exactly thrilled to be the ones making the big choices. But the fact that they have grown, and those roles make sense for them, is a testament to their strength as characters.

Compare that with Jake, who was moping about the fact the cattle won’t survive without water so they have to put them down. He’s displaced from the world, he isn’t a varsity athlete anymore, he doesn’t have his father to rely on and he is trying to be a leader although he isn’t really suited for the job. He’s just a good guy, he could probably be a great soldier in someone else’s army, but not command.

Jake and Troy have been on a road to this point for the entire season. With their father gone, the two have spun out wildly. Troy has given into his demons, and is now acting like there's no point to living anymore. He pointed the walker horde toward the ranch intentionally, and then wanted his own brother to kill him. Troy is not a good person, even though for some reason I like the character, and I think that's because he's layered. He should hate Nick, but he doesn't. I think there is something deep inside of Troy that's perhaps worth saving, but given his actions in this episode it's hard to figure out what that might be.

Unfortunately Jake's goodness kind of bit him in the… arm. He hesitated when he had to put down his brother, with Troy clearly at the point of no return. He also didn’t listen to Nick who was trying to approach the situation as the brother of Jake’s girlfriend. Nick knew how much killing Troy would destroy Jake at his core, but perhaps hitting him in the back of the head wasn’t the greatest choice. Sure, it stopped Jake from making a bad decision, but it was kind of Nick’s fault that Jake died.


Cut to the end, with the walker horde flowing through the ranch like a giant growling flood, and we get probably one of the best action set pieces of the series so far. The situation was untenable, with a wall of RVs being the only thing between life and death. Of course it failed. The ensuing fight was nail biting, as I found myself getting upset at the idea of Ofelia or Crazy Dog dying. I was a little upset when Coop died, and when Alicia gave him a quick death, I almost cheered at her willingness to do the right thing in that kind of situation. Yet somehow, not only did Alicia get through, but so did Crazy Dog and Ofelia.

After all the in-fighting, treachery and open hostilities between the ranchers and the nation, it was kind of amazing to see them all huddled together looking the same. They had just gone through hell together. If that doesn’t ease tensions between the ranchers and the Nation, I don’t know if these people will ever be able to co-exist. Either way, it was a powerful image, and I’m really curious how things will play out.

Bits:

This is the first time anyone has dropped the F-bomb on initial airing of a Walking Dead series episode. The word has been included in DVD releases, so it isn't the first time it has been said at all.

Mercedes Mason, who plays Ofelia, was pregnant during the filming of this episode but didn't know it yet.

Jake's death follows a specific pattern on the Dead shows: if you are the moral center of the group, you're going to die horribly.

Quotes:

Alicia: "You don't owe Troy. You like him. You share the same self destruction."
Nick: "Maybe I'm as sick as he is."

Nick: "I killed a man, and now I'm sleeping in his house."

Troy: "I need some sleep."
Nick: "No, we got to find a way to save everyone you tried to kill. You can sleep when you're dead."

3 1/2 out of 4 Surviving siblings

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Like you said, J.D., Nick and Alicia have been pushed into a position of leadership. They're more like their mother than they probably want to be. I really liked how Jake knew -- that Nick was working on Troy, Madison had worked on Otto, and Alicia had been working on Jake himself. Maybe I always underestimated Jake. Maybe Alicia was right to care about him. Oh, well.

Alicia may be turning into a better leader than her brother. Coop's death, and the way Alicia took him out to save him from suffering, was actually more moving than Jake's.

Every time I see a scene framed by the ranch house's broken windows, I think, geez, Most Obvious Symbolism for their current situation. And who caused those broken windows? As good as Daniel Sharman is doing with the role, I can't wait for Troy to die and stop causing harm. He's like a mass shooter, ultimately suicidal but determined to bring down as many people as possible with him before he goes. He brought that entire herd (shades of the quarry walkers on the parent show) down on the ranch because he saw it as "beautiful." How many people have died because of Troy? How many more will die in the future? Nick keeps trying to get through to him, but I don't think that's possible. Why won't Nick kill him?

Patryk said...

Finally cutting off a limb led to the logical conclusion: bleeding out. I always thought they treated the amputations on Walking Dead not seriously enough.

They should use the remaining grenades to lead the horde away and let everyone out from the bunker.