Fear The Walking Dead S03E14 “El Matadero” REVIEW

Fear The Walking Dead S03E14 “El Matadero” REVIEW

0 comments 📅09 October 2017, 22:01

Fear The Walking Dead S03E14 “El Matadero” REVIEW

Airing in the UK on AMC, exclusive to BT, Mondays at 2am and 9pm 
Writer: Alan Page
Director: Stefan Schwartz

Essential Plot Points:

  • The tanker is en route to the trading post. Strand is, understandably, worried. Madison points out that if the deal doesn’t stand they at least have Ofelia.
  • And right on cue, Ofelia passes out and face plants onto the road. She tries to tell them she’s fine at first, but then they see the bite mark.
  • Ofelia is dying. And Ofelia is adamant she will see her father before she does.
  • Elsewhere, Alicia confronts Nick and Troy. She’s not best pleased to see them. Nick tries to get her to come back but she’s having none of it.
  • At the trading post, Madison has no choice but to try and bluff Ofelia through security. It works. Just.
  • Strand takes Madison to one side and tells her just how little they have. Madison sticks to her word and correctly figures out he’s scared of Daniel.
  • Alicia and Troy have a genuinely really sweet talk that clears the air between them. He agrees to not drag her home and she agrees to not die.
  • On the drive home, Troy needles Nick about why he stayed at the ranch. Troy points out how similar they are and how the big difference is that Nick wishes he wasn’t a black sheep whereas Troy revels in it.
  • They roll up at the trading post, where Ofelia is fading very fast. Taka reassures Madison that what they’re doing, honoring Ofelia’s last wish, is the only thing they can do. He doesn’t care if it gets them all killed, it’s the right thing to do. Madison is reassured.
  • Scavenging for supplies, Alicia goes into a burger joint. She finds a barrel of instant potato and is dragging it out when a Walker jumps her. She kills it but the noise attracts others. Alicia, in what may be our favorite strategic move this season, jumps into the ball pit in the kid s area to set up a sniper’s nest.
  • She is not alone in there.
  • She kills the Walker just in time for the others to enter the store but realizes she can’t find her gun. With no choice, she hides in the pit. And watches as a woman with a pick axe straight up demolishes the mini-Herd. Then, cuts a finger or a tooth from each one. She doesn’t spot Alicia but does take the potato barrel and leave before Alicia can find her gun.
  • Nick finds Madison and the others and tells her about Alicia. Madison takes it really well. Until, for maybe the first time since the show started, she finally, completely loses it. Nick hugs his mom and sends her outside for some fresh air. He stands guard over Ofelia. He also pretty clearly considers euthanizing her, spends a long time looking at the painkillers on her bedside and then, slowly, takes one.
  • Alicia really wants those potatoes and tracks Pickaxe Woman. They have a standoff which is both magnificently grumpy and endearingly rubbish. It culminates with them, reluctantly, agreeing to share.
  • At the trading post, Troy is being introduced to what he’s pretty certain is Walker brain taco. Nick, high, offers Troy some pills which he eventually agrees to.
  • Strand gets caught by the Procters trying to break in somewhere. He almost certainly does this on purpose and asks to speak to Procter John…
  • Ofelia is getting much worse, much faster. Taka and Madison have to almost carry her upright. Madison and Ofelia both ask Taka to let them go alone, for fear of what might happen if he’s there. Taka, in pieces with grief, watches the two women go.
  • They make it to the rendezvous and Daniel has yet to appear. Ofelia begs Madison to kill her before she turns. They talk and Madison reassures her that, despite what she feels, she did know her father.
  • Ofelia dies.
  • And then Daniel arrives.
  • Daniel is MURDEROUS. He pulls a gun on Madison and sobs as she tries to comfort him. Daniel tells her to get away from ‘us’ before he kills her.

  • Madison leaves the second most dangerous man she’s ever met alone with his daughter. She doesn’t even turn around when he gives Ofelia mercy.
  • Meanwhile over at Nick and Troy’s Excellent Adventure, they are *TRIPPING*. They get access to the local drug dealer and Nick asks for something that will get them even higher.
  • He gives them a section of brainstem, pickled. The ultimate high. Nick downs his and a few second later Troy follows.
  • Alicia and her new friend are having dinner. It turns out her fondness for teeth and fingers is capitalist; the trading post buys gold and some of the dealers there will use teeth or fingers in charms that they sell. Alicia’s new friend has her doubts about Alicia’s plan. She explains that there is no way out. This is how they live now and if Alicia grows accustomed to the killing she’ll ‘get by’.
  • Nick and Troy, high off their minds, climb the walls. A herd approaches and Nick grabs the nearest Walker, smashes it’s head open and smears them both with blood. He runs at the Herd, shambling among them. Unharmed. Nick begins whispering ‘I can’t go back’ and Troy hugs him as the dead just keep moving.
  • The next morning, Madison finds the pills and instantly figures out what happened. Daniel appears and the two parents bond over the loss of their daughters and the lives they have.
  • She tells Daniel the truth about Ofelia’s final words. Daniel sighs and tells her to pack her things. Madison and the others can stay at the dam.
  • Alicia wakes up alone. She finds the potato bucket on the floor and her new friend outside, failing to fix her car. Alicia asks where she’s going and if she wants help. No friendship, just the killing. The two head off into battle.
  • Madison is packing out when Nick and Troy arrive. Madison doesn’t mention the pills. Neither does Nick. They both know. Especially when Nick tells her they’re going to stay behind for a couple of days. Madison, hurt and furious and worried, leaves them to it.


Yet again, Fear The Walking Dead finds a new turn that not only marks it out as different to The Walking Dead, but in some ways more grounded.

Inevitably as The Walking Dead has continued it’s escalated. It wasn’t long ago that a small (ish) group of feral cannibals was a serious problem for the group. Now, as season 8 opens they’re preparing to go to war with an army at the head of a combined force from at least two, if not three, different communities.

That constant escalation and evolution is one of the secrets of the show’s success. But it’s also whart sometimes makes it difficult for the show to focus down. Fear The Walking Dead doesn’t have that problem yet and as a result, episodes like this week can happen.

Three actual events take place this week and they’re all tiny, character-centric moments. Ofelia dies, Alicia finds a friend and Nick falls off the wagon. The most important one, by fat, is the first. In particular because Ofelia dies in a manner we’ve not seen on either show very often. It’s closest, in some ways, to the end of season 7 of The Walking Dead. But where the character that dies there chooses to, Ofelia wants to live and isn’t allowed to.

That simple, total cruelty is the engine of the episode. It’s what causes Madison to break down for almost the first time in the show’s history. It’s what leads Strand to retreating inside his own ruthless survival instincts. It’s what quietly shatters Nick, leading to him falling off the wagon. It’s not even that Ofelia was especially beloved to some of these characters It’s that her death comes hard on the heels of the loss of the Ranch, the death of Jake, Alicia leaving and Travis’ sacrifice. The never ending parade of horror that is these characters’ lives grinds them down. And this week, most of them break.

That breaking will be what defines the final two episodes of the season we suspect. And it’s interesting that the two characters still notionally intact as the episode closes are Alicia and Strand. Even they are far outside their comfort zones. Alicia and her new murder buddy diving deep into the world of undead commerce and Strand seemingly pushing his luck all the way to the end with the mysterious Procters. And that’s even before you get to Nick and Troy getting the destructive, Graham Greene-esque adolescence they’ve been denied. All because Ofelia did something heroic and paid the final price for it.

Oddly this feels far more like clearing the board than the destruction of the Ranch did. Every character is being rendered down to their essentials and it looks like if the show does stay at the dam it’ll be a very different place with a very different cast. It also looks like, in the case of Daniel and Madison at least, the horrific damage they’ve taken is, ironically, helping them finally heal.

Regardless of how it turns out this is a difficult, brave episode that focuses in on individual grief in a way genre fiction hasn’t done since Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s ‘The Body’. It’s slow, character driven, profoundly moving and yet another fantastic entry for the most improved show on TV this year.

The Good:

  • Stunt people are always unsung heroes and heroines but DAMN that faceplant off the moving truck looked nasty.

  • BALLPIT FIIIIIIGHT! That was inventive and fun and NASTY and we loved it.
  • ‘Alicia this is crazy.’
    ‘I’ve seen crazy, this is kinda nice.’
  • ‘Our better angels are ALL DEAD. And so is Ofelia.’
  • ‘We’ll see what Daniel does when you show up to pay for water you don’t need with a dead daughter and empty hands.’
  • ‘I was raised on loss. Thought I was good at it. There’s such a thing as too much loss.’
  • ‘Where’s Troy?’
    ‘At the bar, freaked out by all the Mexicans.’
  • ‘Whose glands are these?’
    ‘…shall we say pigs?’

The Bad:

  • Ofelia being able to conceal that bite mark, given where it is, does not make a whole bunch of sense.
  • Nick and Troy’s plot is far more arc-centric than the rest of the episode. Nick falling off the wagon, and taking Troy with him, feels a little like a tick list item rather than a plot beat as a result.

And the Random:

  • Stefan Schwartz has directed for Luther, Dexter and movies like The Best Man and The Abduction Club. He’s a frequent director on Fear The Walking Dead and also directed Episode 14 of season 3 of The Walking Dead, ‘Prey’.
  • Alan Page is another regular Fear The Walking Dead creator. He’s written the episodes ‘100’, ‘Los Muertos’ and Ouroboros this season as well as working as a producer on the series last year. He’s also written for Kin, XY. La revista and was script translator on the Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett movie Babel.

  • Alicia’s pleasingly murderous new friend may turn out to be very important. The character doesn’t even have a game on IMDB yet which may suggest something significant. Or maybe not, it is IMDB after all. Regardless she’s top fun and is played by Edwina Findley Dickerson. She’s previously appeared as Kelly Isaacs on If Loving You Is Wrong, Shirlane in Shots Fired and Treme as Davina Lambreaux.
Review by Alasdair Stuart

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