Spoilers ahead for Fear the Walking Dead's “Things Bad Begun” and “Sleigh Ride,” because hey … it's a TV Recap.
Fear The Walking Dead's explosive two-episode Season 3 finale gives us a sendoff of a main antagonist and brings in a new antagonist, a scary fellow named Proctor John, as our antiheroes end up in a fight for their lives.
Once again, walkers are pushed to into the background as the living fill the range of despicable to heroic, and everything in between.
“Your day will come.” -- Madison
You've got to love an episode that begins with a blood-stained shopping cart with a bad wheel full of walker heads. Of course you're thinking, “Hey, is the Governor going to show up?” But then it's Nick chopping off heads and chucking them into the shopping cart so he can sell the fresh ones for their locus coeruleus, which will be synthesized into norepinephrine, which “some say that it's a high worth dying for,” the head narco tells Nick. It looks like Nick's figured his way back into the drug trade, but then Troy gets wind that the Proctors are going to attack the dam. So he grabs Nick and they head off to warn Madison.
At the dam, Strand and Madison look out over the lake and Madison talks about wanting to get back to a world where she'd be making a Christmas turkey dinner. She says she thought they'd have that at the Ranch, but now her kids are gone. They start drinking. Strand asks her if she's ever killed anyone. She admits she has. Strand hasn't though. “Good. You're lucky. Your day will come,” she tells him. And you have to think sooner means within the hour, considering it's the finale and all.
Then Nick and Troy arrives and the dam gang learn that the Proctors are coming. Daniel and the others put a plan into place with a final “bargaining chip” that involves blowing up the dam. Strand tells Madison that she and Nick have to leave, but she's not ready to do that.
Madison finds Taca and Crazy Dog, who admit that they're not ready to die to protect the dam. “It's been good walking with you, Madison Clark,” says Taca.
The proper incentive
Alicia and her new BFF, Diana, are driving toward the Trading Post to sell stuff and discussing whether Alicia should sell her hair. It's not a plan Alicia's in favor of. Suddenly they're blindsided by another vehicle and in a fight for their lives when a group of bad guys attacks. Alicia's able to drive them away with her rifle, but Diana's leg is broken.
At the Trading Post, Diana is being attended to by Doc Eddie. He tells Alicia by setting Diana's leg she may have saved her life. He asks her if she has any medical training, but she tells him no, just volunteer work at a hospital. Still, he asks her to help him out with a surgery that's coming up. For some reason Alicia agrees. He doesn't offer to pay her, and he doesn't seem to require payment from her for Diana. She asks later on where his last assistant went, and it seems like it'd be better to ask before she gets involved. And sure enough it's a bad decision on Alicia's part to get involved.
The surgery is for Proctor John, who runs the Trading Post and founded the Proctors. As Diana vanishes from the story, we learn Proctor John is not a good guy. He has a tumor pressing on his spine, which is paralyzing him. So while Doctor Eddie operates without anesthesia, Alicia's supposed to keep Proctor John occupied because “I've seen one woman hold down a man that 10 men couldn't,” according to Eddie.
Proctor John promises that good things will come to Alicia if the operation is a success. But if not, they'll both be executed. He admits he wanted to give them an incentive "to do your best work.” Then they start to operate and Alicia keeps her head and helps Proctor John get through it. Once the tumor is removed the Proctor can move his toes and sits up. Instantly he insists that it's time to go after the dam and tells Alicia that she'll be joining them.
“I'd do it again.” -- Troy
Strand insists to Nick that he has to get his mother away from the dam immediately. He admits that he made a deal with Proctor John to “facilitate a takeover ... I cut a deal to save my friends and set myself up.”
Nick rushes to find Madison, but runs into Daniel instead. Daniel wants to know how Ofelia got bitten, and he knows Nick is lying about something. Daniel locks them in and promises to do what he has to do to find out what happened to his daughter. Eventually Nick tries to convince Daniel that Jake was the one who led the horde to the Ranch. Daniel appears to buy it and lets Nick go.
Nick quickly finds Madison, who's setting explosives at the dam wall. Nick tells her they have to leave because Strand sold them out and because Daniel will kill Troy if he sees him. “Why would Daniel want to kill Troy?” Madison asks.
Troy admits that he led the horde to the Ranch and that “I'd do it all again.” Then Nick watches as Madison whacks Troy in the head with a hammer. Twice. He falls down looking very dead. Nick looks on in shock.
It was a shocking and odd exit for Troy, assuming it was an exit. Why Madison doesn't just let Daniel kill Troy appears to be only because he took away her dream of that ranch life with her kids, and maybe some grand babies, could be. Without a regret she acts, taking Daniel's justice away from him.
As for Troy, he was certainly going to die at some point. He deserved to die. But I'm not sure how he went from crazy to being the responsible one between him and Nick. In the end he just wanted to be part of Madison and Nick's family. But it was a shocking development.
“Berate me later.” -- Strand
Lola and Daniel discover that the water is running the wrong way, which means the entrance is unprotected. As she's about to fix the problem, Strand shows up and pulls a gun on them. Daniel doesn't think Strand has it in him to kill them, and he jumps Strand. As they battle the gun goes off, hitting Daniel in the jaw. Unable to kill them, Lola helps Daniel escape.
At the wall of the dam, Madison grabs the remote detonator and heads out with Nick following her to find Lola. But the bad guys have arrived, and gun battles erupt, with the Proctors overtaking the dam people. Strand informs one of Proctor John's guys that “The Water Queen and her general are dead.”
Strand quickly runs across Madison and Nick, but Madison is none too happy to see him. “Berate me later. You've got to hide. Follow me,” Strand tells her. Strand takes her and Nick to an isolated room. He promises that he'll do everything he can to keep them safe as he takes the detonator and locks them in.
“Things Bad Begun” is fast-paced and seems to go in one direction before taking a left turn toward another direction entirely. We start out thinking this might be about Nick getting involved with the drug trade at the Trading Post, but no. It's not about Alicia and her new bestie, Diana, who ends up with a broken leg. Alicia suddenly gets roped into a very bad situation with the new creepy bad guy, Proctor John. Daniel doesn't get his justice, and Madison can't get past her anger at losing the Ranch. And Troy gets a totally deserved double hammer to the head. Strand proves to be the snake in the grass we always knew he was. It's a good setup for the final hour.
Christmas in Hell
The second half of the finale, “Sleigh Ride,” delves into Madison's loss of the Ranch and her desire for family and Christmas. Many of the important dead characters from the show return for a sort of Christmas in Hell vision quest that opens the episode and pops up a couple times.
“Sleigh Ride” opens with a house on the Ranch decked out for Christmas and Madison pulling a turkey out of the oven. She sees a car arrive and goes out to meet Nick and Luciana, who's holding a baby. As Madison passes several tombstones for the Otts, she comes up to the couple. They are looking at Alicia's tombstone. They ignore Madison and leave in their car, leaving her alone.
Back to reality. Proctor John, his gang, and Alicia arrive at the dam in boats. The Proctor is none too happy with Strand, since he was supposed to kill Lola and Daniel so the takeover would be easy. Alicia and Strand get a minute, and she discovers that her mother and Nick are hidden and safe for the moment.
While “nurse” Alicia is changing Proctor John's bandages, he asks her how she knows Strand. She tells him that Strand helped them escape Los Angeles and that she really was just trying to make sure her mother was safe. He agrees not to kill Madison if she goes with him to Houston. Reluctantly she agrees.
“Your time has come, hasn't it?” -- Madison
Strand brings Nick and Madison uniforms they can escape in. Madison believes that Strand just might have killed someone and asks him, “Your time has come, hasn't it? … Who was it?” He admits that he shot Daniel, but that he and Lola were alive when he let them go. Nick tells him, “Good. There's hope for you.” Still, how many people was he responsible for killing when he sold out the dam?
Hiding in one of the drains, Lola attends to an injured Daniel. She decides to go off to get help, so Daniel gives her his gun. However, what Lola finds is that her people are dead, including Ephram. Just as Strand is trying to sneak Madison and Nick across the bridge to escape, Lola starts shooting and is quickly killed by Proctor John.
In one of the control rooms, Madison, Nick, Strand, and Alicia are being questioned by Proctor John. He finds out that Madison is Alicia's mother and that Nick is her brother. He also learns that Nick and dead Troy were asking questions at the Trading Post, which he knows means that they gave a warning to the dam people. When he finds out Madison killed Troy he tells Alicia, “What a perverse family you have, Alicia of Los Angeles."
Proctor John decides that he has to kill Nick because he warned the dam people, which means he has to kill Alicia and Madison as well. So rather than just shoot them all right there, Proctor John and his bad guys march the four onto the bridge.
“This is my suicide note.” -- Nick
On the bridge, Proctor John tells them to say their goodbyes. Madison, Nick, and Alicia hug, and then Nick goes over and hugs Strand. Just then Strand decides it's time make his play. He tells John that the dam is rigged to blow and he'll blow it up. However when Strand goes to pull out the detonator from his pocket, it's gone. Just as he starts to freak, Nick admits he has the detonator and pulls it out and arms it.
Proctor John, seeing the possibility that he could lose the dam and it's water, realizes that Nick just might be serious and that the detonator just might be real. “I'm not negotiating, John. This is my suicide note.” John agrees to let Alicia and Madison, and even Strand, go for the moment with a promise that he'll catch them later.
The three head off to a boat waiting below. However, the boat cuts out shortly after they leave and Alicia has to fix the wires to get it to start again. On the bridge things are getting tense since Proctor John realizes that if Nick blows the dam, his family will be caught up in the rush of the water. Just as they're about to take him, a shot rings out and one of the Proctors is dead. Someone's trying to help Nick. It takes a couple more dead Proctors to stop them from getting to the remote. All the while, Nick is checking to see if Madison, Alicia and Strand are far enough away.
Up high on a hill, Taca and Crazy Dog, are keeping the Proctors from advancing on Nick.
“Civilization is born of violence.” - Proctor John
Daniel looks in rough shape as he approaches three guys. He asks for their help and then kills them like a super ninja. He's back! And why the heck couldn't he have taken down Strand again? Daniel finds Lola dead and you just know he's going to take out some more Proctors.
On the bridge, Nick watches as the boat makes it way to the center of the lake, while Proctor John tries to distract Nick with phrases like, “Civilization is born of violence.” Nick realizes his time is up and hits the switch on the detonator just as Daniel shows up and takes out a few more of Proctor John's guys. Proctor John however, escapes.
The dam blows up and water rushes back, pulling Madison, Alicia and Strand's boat back toward the dam and through the very large hole to the other side. On the bridge, Daniel tells Nick that it's time to go. From up high, Taca and Crazy Dog decide to head North.
And it's Christmas time again with Madison having a dinner with some of the dead and living men who've been in her life. The Ottos are there, Taca, Daniel, one of the dead Rancher dudes laughing and then Strand shows up for dinner with presents.
Then things go badly as Madison pulls the lid off the turkey platter to find Jeremiah Otto's head. Some of the men start fighting and there are body parts on the table. Yes, it's Christmas in Hell. Strand leaves and Madison follows him, but she's surrounded by tombstones. As she walks through the tombstones she's pulled down into a grave and suddenly she's floating. Someone pulls her up, and it's Travis, but he lets her go. She floats and then pulls herself out of the water.
Her vision/dream/hallucination is over as she pulls herself up on the river banks. Dozens of people are filling up jugs with water. But Madison looks and discovers she's been dragged down the river somewhere and that Alicia and Strand are gone.
Overall it was good finale with a lot of death and destruction. Everyone died except our main characters and the new bad guys. The Ranch people are gone, bye Troy! The dam people are gone, bye Lola! We know Madison survived, and it would be really bad form to kill off Alicia, Strand, Nick, or Daniel off screen. We know Proctor John is alive and it looks like Diana is alive and recovering from that broken leg.
Whatever happens in season four, it's going to be a brand new environment with new people since the Trading Post seems off limits for our gang. I do have to admit that I'm worried about anyone else Madison and crew come across. The people they run into don't seem to have good survival odds.