Fear The Walking Dead S03E05 “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame” REVIEW

Fear The Walking Dead S03E05 “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame” REVIEW

0 comments 📅26 June 2017, 21:00

Airing in the UK on AMC, exclusive to BT, Mondays at 2am and 9pm 
Writer: Suzanne Heathcote
Director: Daniel Stamm

Essential Plot Points:

  • We open on an old man waking up to find his wife has turned. Unsurprised, he opens his arms to her and she sinks her teeth into his neck.
    Or would if they weren’t in a glass by the side of her bed.
  • He dances with her, raises a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. He knocks a lantern over, the cabin catches fire and…we realize it’s the old couple we saw last episode.
  • Opening credits.
  • Nick and the family wake up to the fire. It’s out of control and a bucket chain isn’t touching it. This is very, very bad. The fire’s visible for miles and is sure to attract Walkers.
  • Finally, Jeremiah calls off the effort and tells his boys to let the fire run down.
  • The following day, Nick and Alicia watch their mom head off with the party looking for the team sent to the chopper.
  • At breakfast, Jake and Alicia spar about ‘Bible Study’. Gretchen tries to get her to party some more but she’s having none of it.
  • Nick brings Luciana breakfast. Actual breakfast. Actual fresh food. Turns out there are some upsides to the ranch. They talk about the couple who died and Luciana makes it clear it’s time for them to go. Nick tries to slow her down but she confronts him about his family and insists she wants to leave.
  • Out on the road, Daniel and Strand are in Victor’s car on the way to the hotel. They’re bickering in a manner that’s as adorable as it is spikey.
  • At the ranch, Alicia heads up to the high ground cabin where Jake lives. She offers condolences for the two who died in the fire. Alicia talks about how they’ll never be normal again and the two start to kiss.
  • On the road, Troy spots an overturned prison transport surrounded by Walkers. Troy argues that they should kill them in order to make sure they don’t head to the ranch. Madison agrees and, with bladed weapons not guns, they head down to deal with the Walkers. The fight is scrappy, decisive and takes under a minute.
  • Nick finds himself oddly drawn to the burnt out cabin. While, up the hill, Alicia and Jake have just slept together. They joke around about Jake’s writing. When he tries to lend her a book she turns him down, explaining she doesn’t see the point of art anymore.
  • Nick is cleaning up the burnt out house when Jeremiah arrives. He compliments Nick on his community spirit and explains the cabin was the oldest building on the property and he used to live there. He talks about the gun he left there and segues that into a discussion about addiction, redemption and art. It’s probably the best written scene the show’s ever had.
  • Madison and the search party arrive at where the chopper should be to find it has been hauled away. They find shell casings and head off to the outpost, ready for war.
  • On the road Strand asks Daniel how he escaped. He gives an answer which is a roundabout version of ‘…coz…’ He confronts Strand about Ofelia and why he left the hotel and Strand dares him to kill him. Daniel doesn’t.
  • Back at the ranch, Nick and Jeremiah are taking a break. The conversation turns to their families and the importance of hitting rock bottom before you can head back up.
  • Troy, Madison and the soldiers arrive at the outpost. Going room to room they discover blood spray, evidence of a recent fight but no people.
  • Then, Troy smells something.
  • A bonfire of human corpses.
  • And nearby a man sitting on a chair, repeating a nursery rhyme over and over.
  • He’s been scalped. And a raven is eating his brain.
  • Madison ends him and a man named Walker appears. He’s a member of the local native American tribe and he and Troy do NOT get on.
  • And that’s when Troy and Madison realize they’re surrounded.
  • The Native Americans take their guns, vehicles and boots and demand the ranch land back. They send Troy’s search party home to give Jeremiah that message.
  • Jake comes to visit Alicia. He takes her skipping stones and talks about how art and hope are more important than the ideology of survival his dad has bought into and Alicia is most of the way towards.
  • That night, Strand and Daniel arrive back at the hotel. The gate’s open. There’s no guard. Daniel insists they go in anyway.
    Daniel rings the reception bell. As Walkers descend on them, Strand confesses that Ofelia fled. Daniel leaves him to the horde and drives off. With nowhere to go, Strand runs into the hotel.
  • At the ranch, Nick takes Luciana to the cabin. He’s laid out a picnic and they watch the stars. He’s buying in, she’s still not fully sold.
  • With no vehicles, no shoes and no guns, Troy and Madison’s team are making slow progress. Madison tries to get Troy to slow down and when he acts out, she basically shuts him down and takes psychological control of the unit. Troy is NOT HAPPY. The men much more so.
  • Later that night Madison wakes up with Troy’s knife at her throat. She says ‘You’re better than this.’ and the young man, on the verge of tears, runs off.
  • Nick wakes up alone in the cabin, with a note from Luciana.
  • Tired, bloodied and depressed, Troy’s team limp home.
  • Happy, miles away and alone, Luciana probes the wall for gaps.
  • At a cliff side, Alicia contemplates the edge.
  • Alicia jumps. Hits water. Smiles for the first time in a long time.
  • At the ranch, Jeremiah finds Nick alone. He’s not surprised. Jeremiah leaves him a gun and pats him on the shoulder.


Well this is another doozy. With one colossal problem.

The good stuff first. The way the family interact with the ranch is fascinating. Madison dealing with Troy in the terms of her old job in particular is incredibly smart. Madison’s a guidance counselor, even now,. Troy is the ultimate problem child. Of course the best thing she can do is stand next to him and talk him down. Of course the worst thing she can do is stand next to him and talk him down. Madison has no idea if she wants to live but she knows she can solve problems and Troy is a problem absolutely in her wheelhouse. The way he finishes this episode as less a rabid Pitbull and more a terrified, feral little boy forced to face up to his damage is one of the bravest things this show has ever done. Top marks to both Daniel Sharman and Kim Dickens for this.

Frank Dillane and Dayton Callie too. Jeremiah is a BAD man but we can’t quite look away from here. His interactions with Nick are as equals, two damaged men recognizing each other’s scent and carefully giving each other space. Whether Jeremiah is sincere in that or manipulating Nick into staying remains to be seen. Nick’s certainly buying in although as we see Luciana isn’t.

These relationships are among the best work the show’s ever done. Likewise Alicia and Jake’s burgeoning connection and the way the show’s exploring PTSD through Alicia’s growing numbness. Her point here about how the young are not inheriting the world they were expecting and nothing will ever be the same rings unusually true in particular.

Elsewhere the show is less successful. Strand’s return to the hotel, and Daniel’s cold blooded attempted murder by reception bell feels rushed but should hopefully pay off. More worrying is the introduction of Walker. The fact Native Americans are responsible for the attack on the ranch makes sense. The fact that the first time we see them they’ve scalped someone plays as tawdry and over the top, not to mention the burnt corpses that also feature prominently.

Done wrong? This plot could sink the show under trope-loaded racial stereotyping. Done right it has the potential to take it to another level of complexity and morality. Right now, we have no idea which we’re going to get. We do know that Fear The Walking Dead has never been better. Here’s hoping it stays that way.

The Good:

  • Holy WOW that’s an amazing cold open. Again.W e have no idea what the show has done differently this season but we’re so glad it has.
  • Troy wearing his fatigues to head out says a lot about how he views himself.
  • Strand being overly fond of his car is adorable.
  • GOOD fight at the bus. Scrappy and brutal and again services character. Troy likes to show off. Madison wants to live.
  • Jeremiah refers to ‘the red man’. Nice reminder, again, that for all his folks wisdom he’s still a racist Jeremiah
  • ‘This is a beautiful gun.’
    ‘Isn’t that a contradiction?’-The dialogue this episode is top notch but this is a standout.

The Bad:

  • That cracking sound you can hear is this show skating out onto very thin ice. Native Americans as the antagonists make sense given Jeremiah’s racism but the show is going to have to be very careful. A scalping? Straight out of the gate? If Walker is going to be anything more than a collection of tropes we’re going to need to see something more complex from him very soon.

And the Random:

  • Daniel Stamm is best known for surprisingly fun found footage horror movie The Last Exorcism. He’s also directed for Intruders and the Scream TV show.
  • Suzanne Heathcote is executive story editor on the show and, we suspect, a big part of just how good the writing’s been so far this year.
Review by Alasdair Stuart

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