Spoilers ahead for Fear the Walking Dead's "La Serpiente," because hey … it's a TV Recap.
As Fear the Walking Dead fully delves into the second half of season three with "La Serpiente," or The Snake, we get a reunion of sorts with Madison, Strand and Daniel Salazar, tying all our major characters back together finally. The episode focuses on Madison and Qaletaca's quest to get water for the ranch and leaves the drama at the ranch for next week.
Except for a couple tense walker-filled moments and one explosive event, the episode digs into the characters of all the major players at the dam, enriching and enlightening about what Madison, Strand, and Daniel really want post-Apocalypse.
Sewers and a Touch of Dismemberment
In the opening, Qaletaca, Strand and Madison travel in the empty water truck with hopes of getting to the dam so they can make a deal for water, since the ranch is going to run out in six weeks. Qaletaca's suspicious of Strand, but Madison believes Strand can help them.
Strand leads Madison and Qaletaca to a sewer and promises he'll get them to the dam. It's not clear why they need to go into a sewer to get there, other than some walkers that they could get around if they just kept going down the road. But, okay.
Qaletaca naturally doesn't want to follow Strand into a dark sewer, but Madison forces the issue and down they go. It's spooky and gross and you can almost smell the sewer through your TV screen. Strand admits he's lost at one point, and he tells Madison that things might not go as smoothly as he led them to believe once they get to the dam because he lied to Daniel about knowing where Daniel's daughter, Ofelia, was.
Of course, Madison knows Ofelia's at the ranch, which gives her and Strand something to trade for Daniel's help. They continue their trek through the sewers and run into walkers and one especially disgusting walker who is trapped in the narrow sewer opening, which is their exit. In what's probably the grossest moment ever on Fear, Madison kills the walker and decides that she's going to have to chop him up to unblock their exit. Watching her pass the head and the arm and other bits back to Strand, who passes the body parts to Qaletaca, is squirm-inducing television at its most disgusting, which if you like zombie shows is probably a good thing.
Down with the Water Queen
Daniel and Lola's guys are on the run from rioting members of the community who want their water and are none too happy with Water Queen Lola. One of the guys is shot and Daniel shoots back into the crowd from the escaping truck. After they return, Daniel sees someone by the sewer opening and realizes it's his least favorite person in the world, Strand. But then Madison pops up, followed by Qaletaca, and she tells Daniel she knows where Ofelia is and that she's safe.
Daniel takes Madison and gang to Lola where Madison offers her a deal, weapons and other supplies for water. Lola tells them no, but lets them stay the night.
Qaletaca is angry and tells Madison that there are consequences for her actions in not making the water deal (and probably because she stole his gold to get Strand out of his gambling debt). He tells her the ranchers will have to leave the ranch because there's not enough water for them and his people.
Meanwhile, Daniel struggles and wonders if it's better that Ofelia thinks he's dead. He knows Lola needs him to keep the dam safe. When he thanks Qaletaca for saving Ofelia's life, Qaletaca tells him that she's a hero to them because she poisoned his "enemy" by exposing them to anthrax. The look on Daniel's face when he realizes that the daughter he protected all her life has done horrible things since they parted ways is heartbreaking.
The wonderful Rubén Blades, who plays Daniel Salazar, fills the episode with quiet, powerful moments that speak volumes and prove how much he's been missed when he isn't around. Now that this episode has brought the characters back together, hopefully he's back for good. Whether Daniel is talking to Lola and trying to convince her that they'll need to fight to protect the dam, or he's contemplating the possibility of seeing Ofelia again, or he's putting Strand on notice that he knows what a snake he is, Daniel becomes a richer character every time he's on screen.
The Madison and Strand of it all
Kim Dickens and Colman Domingo also do terrific work in this episode. Madison and Strand have become such an interesting couple. Madison trusts him, even though she probably shouldn't, and to what extent he can, Strand trusts her. That's nice considering she saved his life and all.
In a great scene between them, Strand asks Madison what she really wants. He asks her to go back to a time before her kids, and says, "It was what, the late '80s? I bet you had a perm ... what did Perm Madison want?" They hold hands in the most non-romantic, yet connected way and laugh at the thought of Perm Madison. And when she tells him she really wants to stay at the ranch, that's an important moment for Strand.
When she asks what future he sees for himself, he tells her, "One where I don't fail my friends." We know Strand doesn't have any other friends, so he really saying that he doesn't want to fail her. It's that moment that sets up the rest of the episode and gives Madison a solution to her problem.
Qaletaca and Daniel both know what Strand is and aren't afraid to call him on it. He's the snake in the grass who they believe can't be trusted. Qaletaca heads back to the ranch.
Meanwhile, Strand's made a decision to do whatever it takes to help Madison get back to the ranch with water. So he blows up the dam water truck, an event which is blamed on those in the community outside the dam, and suddenly Lola is more than ready to trade weapons for water. Lola seems too pure of heart to last very much longer in this world, especially when she's so easily manipulated by Daniel, Strand and Madison.
The one odd note here is why, after the truck is blown up, does an angry mob about to storm the gates magically appear as if on cue. Where did they come from and why are they all bunched together in an organized group? Strand couldn't have set it up any better, but he couldn't have had anything to do with the mob. Still it cements his set up that a mob was ready to attack. And Daniel, feeds Lola the lie too, because he believes the dam needs to be protected, and maybe so he can see Ofelia again.
Madison also realizes immediately what Strand's done. But with the deal with Lola done, she's grateful. On the way back to the ranch in a water-filled tanker with a deal in place for more water, they travel down an empty highway and pick up Qaletaca, who smiles when he realizes Madison's kept her promise after all.
Shockingly the episode ends on an unusual happy note. It's a nice change of pace to let the characters enjoy that rare happy moment. Of course, it won't last.
One of the continuing problems with the series is that the walkers are nothing more than an inconvenience and not a real threat. The living don't seem to be very afraid of The Walking Dead. The characters seem to be able to travel pretty far distances with little zombie problem, other than some easily distracted road walkers. The roads are empty and there don't seem to be any bandits around to cause trouble.
Still, it was a good episode that offered a realistic way for the characters, who've been apart for far too long, to get back together. "La Serpiente" took its time to give us some of the most beautiful character moments, along with the ultimate in gross zombie dismembering.
Lines of the Night:
"Ofelia thinks I'm dead. Maybe it's for the best." - Daniel
"It's not possible to have a sense of tragedy without having a sense of humor." - Strand
"She's not willing to sacrifice that part of herself ... I admire that." - Madison, talking to Strand about Lola
"That ranch has problems to spare, but it's the closest thing to what I know. It's where I want to be." - Madison
Here's a look at next week's Fear the Walking Dead: