Family members and front lines have been lost on Fear The Walking Dead, but the taking of lives hasn’t become simply a matter of course yet. Everyone’s moral compass remains attached, though they’re obviously not all pointing true north (if they ever did). And while they’ve made (and will continue to make) some careless mistakes, all of the Abigail passengers understand that almost everything is now a matter of life and death. They’ve mostly abandoned the other survivors they’ve come across to their grim fates, but those decisions were not arrived at easily or even unanimously. But in this world, sparing a life can come back to bite you just as easily as screwing someone over, which is why even Maddie and Travis refused to roll out the red carpet for Alex and Jake last week.
The couple appeared to finally be on the same page in “Ouroboros,” even saying so aloud. Of course, that’s just the kind of hubris that invariably leads to some kind of split, and “Blood In The Streets” sees Travis and Maddie having yet another disagreement about whether they’re going to continue to hitch their star to Strand’s yacht. Travis is appalled by Strand’s callousness (again), but at least this time he considers resolving the situation by just tossing the guy overboard. But Maddie wants to find a way to wipe the slate clean, and she thinks Strand’s Mexican hideout will offer a “fresh start.” She believes she is acting pragmatically by tolerating Strand in order to get her children to safety, but considering Strand’s plan A didn’t work out, it’s unclear why she has so much faith in his plan B.
This all to say that I still don’t understand what transformation Maddie is in for—she seemed poised to be a leader after season one, showing a ruthlessly protective side. She hasn’t always been rational, though that appears to be an issue with the writing more than anything else. The series has to leave room for Travis to have a similar development, it seems, even though that’s not very interesting or even likely at the moment, what with all of the vacillating. They each have flashes of nerve and ingenuity, so if they could just find a way to work together, Maddie and Travis could present a real threat to marauders—or better yet, a chance at survival for their family. But there seems to be no rush to establish real competence in either character’s arc, so we shift gears to focus on someone who’s been compelling from the start—Strand.
“Blood In The Streets” reveals almost all about Victor Strand, except of course, his fate. The flashbacks to his past are interspersed through the modern-day action, in which the Abigail is taken over by Alicia’s radar love Jack and his pals, including the murderous Reid. This act of piracy removes any lingering doubts about the likelihood that Alicia had doomed them all, with the added bonus of finally breaking up the group. Strand tries to evade capture by going out on the life boat, but he and his craft are hit by Reid’s bullets, and as he struggles to fix the radio to call for help, his origin story unfolds.
We already knew Victor Strand was an opportunist, but not how or where he built his fortune. The actual schemes are prosaic stuff—debt buying and real estate investment—but what is remarkable is Strand’s unwavering confidence in his ability to turn things around. As he chats up a handsome stranger who will eventually play a key role in his life, Strand refers to his humble roots, but only to compare his evangelical single father’s lack of earthly ambition to his own desire to “create, control, own.” It’s that drive that enables him to reverse his fortune following heavy losses in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina, as well as the money he steals from the aforementioned handsome stranger, one Thomas Abigail. And now you know the rest of the story—of the naming and ownership of the yacht. There’s still plenty more show to go.
But seriously, we now know who Strand is meeting in Baja, though it’s currently unclear whether he was talking to Tom or his associate/childhood friend, Luis. The three men went into business together despite the theft, as Strand impresses Tom with the rate of return on his ill-gotten investment. But Tom “obligates” Strand to him by not turning him in; he appreciates Strand’s skills, including an ability to “create beauty from something coarse,” and he isn’t going to let such an exceptional man get away. Victor bristles at this kind of old-money condescension, but there’s obvious chemistry between the two, which leads to a full relationship, complete with an introduction to Tom’s surrogate mother Celia.
Strand is aware that the power dynamic in their relationship favors Tom, and while he doesn’t complain about the situation, he remains intent on proving himself by closing big land deals, including the one that leaves him in Los Angeles during the outbreak. Tom tries to assure him that they have enough resources to retreat from the world, but Strand isn’t ready to do that. That aversion to resting on his laurels is also a compulsion to survive, the latter of which is a quality he recognizes in Nick. And by saving Nick and his family, Strand has obligated them to him, a favor he’s been calling in for some time.
Debt—karmic and otherwise—is a theme that runs through the episode, as even Jack the jerk talks about wanting to pay Connor back for saving his life. But this also raises the question of whether your balance can ever be zeroed. Maddie eventually goes to rescue Strand, though we don’t see her pull him out of the water—maybe she thinks killing her “lender” (or extorter, depending on how you look at it) is the easiest way to get out of debt. Or maybe, after abandoning other survivors and cutting Alex and Jake loose, Strand just has too much red in his ledger.
- My first response to Chris wondering aloud if he should shoot Jack and his crew was to think that he was turning into an unconscionable ass already. But when Reid says “If you have to ask the question, someone should already be dead,” I was just reminded how poorly I’d fare in the zombie apocalypse.
- I know, I know, they’re walkers.
- This is Maddie’s first non-walker kill, right? The Gearys were an accident that was really more Nick’s fault.
- In FWTD, not only has no one heard of zombies, but they obviously haven’t seen Jaws either, because there hasn’t been a single “We’re gonna need a bigger boat” joke.
- Luis mentioned a “flotilla” near Baja, which suggests that some local government—Mexican, Central American, or otherwise—might still be in action.
- I think there’s a chance that Tom is already dead and that Strand, who eventually won over Luis and his mom, is just on his way to be with them. But I hope I’m wrong, because that’d be a waste of Dougray Scott.