Spoilers ahead for Fear the Walking Dead's “Minotaur/The Diviner” episodes, because hey ... it's a TV Recap.
In the two-episode mid-season premiere of Season 3B of AMC's Fear The Walking Dead, “Minotaur” and “The Diviner,” Madison and Nick worked through their guilt issues about the murder and coverup of Jeremiah Otto, while Qaletqa Walker and his people moved into the ranch and made themselves at home. Things did not go smoothly, not between the ranchers and the Nation, nor as a start to the midseason.
While there's plenty of tension with the uneasy peace that Madison brokered with Walker, the leaders involved sure do make a lot of questionable decisions. Between that issue and the looming water shortage, the walkers seem to be a minor concern.
The good news is that Strand and Madison finally reconnect, and it looks like Daniel Salazar is destined to discover the fate of his daughter, now that Madison knows about the dam and where Ofelia is. And, of course, because this is Fear The Walking Dead, even when Madison and the others make bad decisions, they still are fascinating to watch.
Why the heck did they call it “Minotaur”?
A minotaur is a fantasy creature from Greek mythology that is part man and part bull. I'm guessing this is in reference to Troy's actions in the episode ... maybe?
The episode opens with Madison waking up, we learn Jake hasn't fully recovered from his bout with anthrax, and Troy and Nick and the militia are out killing walkers. But the big news is that it's Moving Day for Walker and the Nation as they move into the ranch, much to the ranchers' anger at what the truce means. Jake, who has taken over after his father's death, shows Walker the supplies and gives him one of two keys to the weapons. Jake and Walker each give a speech to the two groups, but nobody is happy about the situation.
It doesn't take long for Troy's grumblings to push the right buttons and one of the ranchers tries to shoot one of Walker's people, only for the shooter to get choked and left with life-ending injuries. It's at this point that strange things start to happen. Walker gets furious and wants to grab the guns and do something with them. Don't know what. Jake tries to talk him down, reminding Walker that the guy who shot the gun and wounded his follower is going to die from his injuries. But that's not enough for Walker. So Madison, who can't stop herself from manipulating every situation she finds herself in, suggests that Walker get total control over the guns. And Jake caves.
What could possibly go wrong with Jake giving Walker total control over the guns?
Walker, Madison, and Jake get freaky
Walker's an interesting combination of a man filled with pride and anger who has led his people for a long time, and helped them survive. If his evil plan is to worm his way onto the ranch and kill off all the ranchers eventually, then his actions are perfect. Go Walker. However, if he has any intention of honoring the peace and sharing the land and resources, what the heck? Earlier, he asked a perfectly logical question of Madison: What's she going to do about Troy if he becomes a problem? Then he's ready to raid the guns and escalate the situation? He's a smart man. He knew it was going to take some time for the two sides to settle in, but he's unwilling to make an effort to stop the madness?
As for Madison, she could have just as easily talked Walker down instead of recommending Jake give up the guns and any leverage he has in the situation.
And then there's Jake, who's absolutely spineless in this situation. He's not stupid either. Yet he's willing to give Walker control over all the weapons? Really? I know he's still sick, but really? Why in the world would any of the ranchers go along with this? After Walker gets control of all the guns in the armory, the ranchers and militia are supposed to give up the guns they have and be left defenseless during the zombie apocalypse? Really?
And then there's Troy
Apparently the only one who's acting consistently in this situation is Troy, the psychopath. He refuses to give up his guns (shocker!), and brother Jake has vanished, leaving Madison and Nick to try and talk him down. They are not successful, and Nick has to put himself between Troy's gun and Walker's people. Walker AGAIN huffs and puffs and refuses to give Nick a minute to try to defuse the situation. Both sides start firing, and Nick's caught in the middle with bullets flying. In an effort to stop Troy from getting them both killed, Nick admits that he was the one who killed Troy's daddy, Jeremiah Otto, to stop the war. For some reason that stops Troy in his tracks, and he doesn't shoot Nick, and they give up.
The next day Madison convinces Walker to banish Troy and let Nick off with punishment. Since Nick put his head between Troy's gun and Walker, his punishment in a hot box seems odd, to say the least. Jake isn't anywhere to be found. Is he sick? If so, wouldn't Alicia let at least let her mom know?
Jake does reappear to say goodbye when Troy is shipped out with Madison and Walker's guy, Claw. But then he pulls a vanishing act again.
The Wicked Witch of the Apocalypse
Madison drives Troy and Claw out to the middle of nowhere, but it doesn't take long before he gets the best of them, stabbing Claw and knocking him out, and wrestling the gun away from “The Wicked Witch of the Apocalypse,” aka Madison. Locked in a disturbing and violent embrace, Madison manages to get away from him and get the gun. Ready to shoot him, Troy admits that he's tired, but finally walks away from her, away from the ranch. I'm guessing he'll be back at some point.
Beyond some minor moments back at the dam with Daniel Salazar and Lola, about Daniel's search for Ofelia and the trouble they're facing with the increasingly thirsty crowds, it's just enough to remind us how important water is for the survivors.
Overall, “Minotaur” was a frustrating opening to the season. The leaders should have been thinking about how the ranchers and Walker's people would get along. If not Walker, and not Madison, how about the missing Jake? The enemy has taken over, and apparently the ranchers are just supposed to bend over and take it. At any point, Jake, Walker, or Madison could have eased tensions and stopped things from getting out of hand. They chose to go another way.
I'm hoping we get more of the Walker we met in Season 3A and less of the blowhard who seems insulted that he might be asked to do something that might keep the peace. And I'm hoping Jake reappears, but to help out in an actual crisis.
Not a drop to drink
If “Minotaur” is about escalating tensions, “The Diviner” is about desperation. With Troy out of the way, at least for now, Madison snoops around Otto's office and learns that the ranch has only six weeks of water left. Again, Jake's not around, so Madison tells Walker, and they decide to set off to The Bizarre, a marketplace where they might be able to trade for water.
Rather than wait a week or so till things have calmed down, Walker leaves Crazy Dog and Ofelia in charge, and Madison gives Alicia a walkie-talkie and tells her to leave the ranch with Nick, “if things go sideways.” With Madison gone and Jake M.I.A., the militia eventually turns to Nick, who, after seeing dehydrated delusions of Troy, has been released from the hot box. Everyone is given a ration of two gallons of water a day, and that sets the two sides against each other even more deeply.
With Madison gone, Nick and Alicia end up at odds, and she admits that she figured out that he killed Otto. There's a nice moment where Alicia says that at first she was “upset that I wasn't a part of it. How sh**ty is that? Then I felt relieved, because what a burden it is being mom's favorite.”
With Madison and Walker gone, Alicia seems to be the straight-thinking adult in the group. She goes to Ofelia and Crazy Dog to tell them she's heard that some of their people were getting double rations, and she's basically told to get her people under control. Again the rising tension with Walker's people is brushed aside with threats as the only response.
While Alicia is trying to keep the peace, Nick's fried brain seems to kind of be on board with the militia's talk of rebellion. He's given the only gun that escaped the weapon's sweep, and the ranchers seem ready to go to war with spears and sticks against the Nation's stockpile of weapons. Again, where's Jake, the one person who could calm things down?
Strand's back and he's causing trouble
Madison and Walker make their way to El Bazar (aka The Bizarre), a “safe market in unsafe times," a bustling marketplace where you have to offer something up to trade to get in and Madison has to give up her walkie-talkie (and her lifeline to Alicia). As soon as they get there, they find the one lady who can give them 10,000 gallons of water for the coins Walker brought. But then Madison sees Strand being carted off for gambling debts.
Madison helps him escape with the aid of a shovel, and Walker's stuck in the middle of the fight. They escape to a room where Strand says they can hide out. Madison's connection with Strand hasn't missed a beat. The next morning while Walker is off doing something, the two have the most powerful, heartfelt moment the show's had in a long time when she tells him her kids are alive, but Strand understands what she's really saying. Strand holds her and tells her, “You found Nick, lost Travis. God's a feckless thug.” In the world of Fear The Walking Dead, yes he is.
And then, of course, Walker's forced to give up Strand's location when he's caught. Apparently Strand has to pay off his debt by being chained to the gate and killing all the walkers he can until his debt is paid off or until he dies.
And then Madison does what she does best
The look on Madison's face when Strand is dragged away, you just know she's going to do something epic to save her friend. And he is her friend -- almost as important to her as her children. We don't necessarily know what she's going to do, but we know she will find a way to save him. And she does.
As Walker's ready to make his big trade for water, which will save the ranch, Madison has traded away his stash to pay off Strand's debt. Just as Strand's about to go down surrounded by walkers, he's rescued and set free.
A furious Walker lays into Madison, who simply tells him not to worry. They'll have all the water they want because Strand's going to tell them where the dam is.
It's hard to imagine that Strand could have gotten a big debt gambling; after all, why would anyone give him credit to gamble on without the booty to back it up? For some reason his debt was big enough that Madison had to turn over all Walker's coins, which were equal to 10,000 gallons of water in the desert. Hard to imagine. It's also hard to imagine that Walker doesn't kill her for stealing his money and threatening the ranch's survival.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...
Things begin to get out of hand when the ranchers try to get more water than they've been rationed, and Alicia spills her mom's secret, that there's only six weeks of water left. Then things really do start to go sideways, until Crazy Dog and Ofelia fire off a shot and threaten to take over the well. Nick pulls out his gun and leaves when they see the militia and the ranchers tighten ranks.
The ranchers decide to start hoarding water. Alicia watches them, but then she sees some of Walker's people using a divining rod, and she considers there may be another way to approach the problem.
Later Nick and the ranchers get ready to attack Walker's people with their handmade weapons, and Nick spots Alicia and others digging. He gives the gun back to one of the militia guys and goes to help her. The ranchers and the Nation put down their weapons and go to help dig. And so, without Walker, Madison, or Jake, it was up to Alicia and Nick, and they finally got the two sides to find common ground: survival.
While it looks likely Madison, Strand, and Walker will be headed to the dam, it's also likely Madison will get her water. After all, she does have information that Salazar is desperate to have. She knows where Ofelia is, and that means it's likely we'll get our heroes back together in one form or another soon.
“The Diviner” improved my hopes for the rest of season three by opening up the world away from the ranch with The Bizarre, by bringing Madison and Strand back together (yay!), and by (hopefully) getting past the war between the ranchers and Walker's people. It's time to bring on the zombies, which far too often in Fear The Walking Dead seem like an afterthought. After all, where's a good walker herd when you need one?
Lines of the Night:
“We were at war. Now we're not. Get right with that, brother.” - Jake
“You are what my father would call 'A real God damn Pandora.” - Troy
“I don't want to be the strong one anymore.” - Alicia
“Who is this handsome man you're traveling with?” - Strand, asking about Walker
Best Line of the Night:
“She got a way, don't she. White witch of the apocalypse.” - Troy
Here's a look at next week's Fear The Walking Dead: