‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Midseason Premiere Recap: ‘Grotesque’

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It was all about Nick and probably one of the best (though slowest moving) episodes so far! We pick up with the flaming shite show we left off with in “Shiva.” The Abigail estate is gone.  Our survivor family has disbanded into smaller groups.  Nick is on his own, still reeling from his family’s (arguably necessary) destruction of the semi-peaceful estate. He opens the show in a scene similar to the scene from the first episode, season 1.  He wakes alone on a mattress. There are bodies in the room with him. The woman watching over them is one of the maid from the estate.  She explains that they were close friends of hers. How they died is unclear. Murder-suicide?  The father’s face is partially missing and he seems to be holding his son’s hand. She is taking a deceased friend’s son to try to find his father.  Nick  is, of course, looking for others like Celia, those who embrace the walking dead. He asks where to find them. She tells him, but warns Nick about being out there alone. She warns him about the lawless men who have been waiting for a world like this.  Still, she sets him on a safe path, giving him supplies for his journey.  Clearly Nick’s addiction to serving the dead, as a god among living men, has replaced his addiction to drugs.  He shows no remorse in leaving his mother and sister behind.  The only memories he reaches for those of his days in rehab, spent with Gloria, his girlfriend-turned-walker in the pilot episode.  She coaches him on how to work the system and using guilt to get an earlier release.  He talks about his parents, showing concern for hurting his father.  All he has ever wanted is his father’s attention. He doesn’t want to hurt him.  He has no emotional response regarding his mother.  


As the day ends, he is attacked in his sleep by a screaming woman  whose child is hiding in the corner for safety.  She keeps his supplies, sending him running out into the night.  By daylight he is a walking target, most of the walker blood wearing off.  He steals water and a radio from a walker trapped in a car and watches as approaching “outlaws” kill every walker they find on the road. The radio flips on, giving away his location and causing him to run to avoid being shot. He barely escapes but finds his way to an open field. It is huge and the writers remind us of how small and alone he is with aerial shots of the field.  I want to be sympathetic to Nick, but it is becoming increasingly harder to feel for a character with so little insight.  He embraces the walkers as natural. He embraces his status as one of the “sensitive souls” who understands them, but doesn’t want to join them, not really.  He fights to save his life at every turn, but despises his family for doing the same.  We get it, there is  messy father-son stuff, a mother with whom he has almost no emotional connection, years of being socially and emotionally isolated.  The dying world finally makes sense to him, or so he thinks.  The writers are making sure Nick is the last to know that he doesn’t understand the world or what he wants from it.


The combination of the lack of water and a sun-drenched open field are taking a toll, as Nick is barely able to stand.  He tries breaking a cactus to eat from it, with very little luck. It makes him sick and even weaker.  Bear Grylls would be proud of his next move. He finally decides to drink his urine, and as disgusted as he is by the necessity of it, doing so buys him a little time.  By nightfall he is thinking back to his stay in the rehab center with Gloria.  His plan to cheat his way out is foiled when Maddie shows up in his father’s place. The tension is palpable  He clearly despises her.  I have had little use for Maddie, but Nick’s treatment of her makes me slightly sympathetic to her.  She is there to give him bad news.  His father has died in a head-on collision while driving home. She reaches out to console him but he refuses, pulling away from her touch.  He is unable to console her, either.   

Freudian inspired or purely accidental, by the time he  finally allows his mother to hold him, he is awakened by two hungry dogs which viciously attack him, ripping his leg open and causing him to seek higher ground for safety.  Unfortunately, they also attack an approaching walker herd and are destroyed as a result, bring an eerie smile to Nick’s face as he watches the whimpering  dogs be consumed.  All I can think of is how absurd it is that Maddie and Alicia lived in fear of Chris, but not this kid.  The vibe he gives is that he wishes he could join them, and he may soon get his wish as his pained cries turn the herd in his direction.  Again his hypocrisy is exposed.  He begins praying for protection as the herd approaches. Miraculously, a car horn blows and the herd turns in the direction of the sound.  Nick jumps from the top of the burned out van where he was hiding, consumes a handful of the dog flesh, and wrestles a crawling walker for its belt – using the belt to tie his bleeding leg.  Covered in fresh blood, he joins the moving walker herd.  How is this guy still alive?  Season 1 of The Walking Dead, you couldn’t let walker blood touch your skin or get into your mouth and eyes.  He  is practically bathing in it and has just consumed walker leftovers!  Maybe there is a side effect.  He begins hallucinating that the walkers are communicating with him, promising to take him home if he just follows them. He is not far from Tijuana, his destination, so his imaginary conversations are not too far off.  The walker conversations stop as the outlaws catch up to the herd.  Two of the men are reckless and end up as walker chow.  Nick stands over them and the writers tease us, but do not confirm, that he either ate with herd or simply waited for them to finish and walked on with them.   


Three distant observers, also covered in blood, watch him make his way down the highway with his walker family, debating whether to help him as he passes out while the herd continues on.  Luciana, their leader, vetoes the idea.  While under, he remembers being in the church with Gloria, just before she OD’d. He is reading the book Maddie and Travis found in the abandoned church in the first episode. It is a book his father gave him. It reminds him of his father, “It’s just a lot of people feeling shit and not saying anything about it.” The Grotesque/Book of the Grotesque/Grotesques – holding on to something too long or too hard and corrupting it.  Was the purpose to help him better understand his relationship with his mother?  His penchant for counting grievances and getting in his own way?  It no longer matters. We are about to watch them shoot up, and find out how Gloria became the first walker (the first we met, that is). She wants to read the book with him in the morning, but we know that will never happen.  Nick is awakened from his dream state by heavily falling rain.  It was midday when he fell.  It is currently the evening.


The next morning he reaches his destination. We hear dogs barking in the background. The steep road he has to walk down is very similar to the steep roads in his old community.  He finds a pharmacy but nothing useful, assuming his task was to clean his leg. He finds duct tape and gauze in an abandoned home,  as well as the gun toting observers, who want to know if he is infected.  They check to make sure it is only a dog bite, as he claims, give him water and take him to get help.  The exchange with the physician is too normal, and with the sound of children playing outside, you almost forget what’s going on. The bite is infected, and when he is told he would have died in the wilderness, he says that he wouldn’t have minded it.  The doctor gives him the same side eye reserved for dumb asses that I’m giving him. Why bother saving this one?  The doc calls him foolish and tells him that death should neither be feared nor pursued.  He tells the doc that he traveled with the dead because there is safety in numbers and they were better than the guys with the guns.  He explains his  mission, leaving the doctor looking exasperated.  The Dr opens the door to a huge community of happy  people.  Nick clearly has no idea what to make of it.  For a moment he forgets his mission to find a place where “the dead aren’t monsters” and joins a group of children in a game of soccer.  Oh writers, leave him there. It is the only time we’ve seen Nick look as if he could be truly happy.



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