I’m not sure if I’ve posted at all about this sorta-kinda prequel show to “The Walking Dead” since its introduction on AMC a couple years ago. Just to summarize, the series takes place on the west coast from LA and into Mexico, and began at the very start of when the zombie apocalypse infection began. Basically its the “when the world went to shit” phase that Rick Grimes slept through during his post-shooting coma in a Georgia hospital. FTWD follows a woman, Madison Clark, and her two grown kids and the various few others that they have collected along their trek out of Los Angeles into Mexico and the South West border.
Along the way of this series we have seen things we did not see in TWD. Planes falling out of the sky. Whole cities being firebombed by the military in an attempt to contain the infection and zombie uprising (we saw a glimpse of this in TWD when Lori and Shane watched Atlanta get firebombed from a highway hilltop.) We realize the ocean does not stop the zombies, that they can float beneath the water until they reach shore and you are not safe even if you fall off a boat into the Pacific. We see makeshift facilities where the alarmed military held people suspected of being infected or vulnerable to become infected, where they collected and exterminated walkers, and where medical staff figured out a blow to the brain was the only way to stop a recently deceased human from turning into a zombie, and the only method to kill a zombie. We watch as civilized society completely breaks down and finally collapses and total confusion and anarchy take over.
In the first season of FTWD we see the Clark family struggling to find focus in their fleeing the constant danger, destruction, death, and the growing walking-biting dead population in the congested, and now lawless, city. they and their group meet up with a high-rolling smooth-talking conman named Strand who tells them all he has a boat. They escape LA and head to Strand’s boyfriends elite compound in the hills of Mexico, only to find his boyfriend is dying and soon to turn, and his mother cloistering away walkers and protecting them as holy souls.
After a massive cluster-fuck at the posh Mexican compound and a blaze the group ends up scattered and on the road again. Fast-forward to this season…
After a dangerous and deadly crossing over the Mexican border back into the U.S. the Clark family finds themselves in the company of a family of survivalists and their massed militia who have their own huge compound of “stolen” Indian land. We also discover the lone Strand comes upon some thugs that have taken over a dammed reservoir and are playing god with the water as multitudes of people file there everyday.
Back at the militia ranch Madison decides she will accumulate power over the set-up and eventually take it over.
The mid-season finale had The Nation, a compound of a tribe of Native Americans, is threatening war on the survivalist compound because the founder stole the land from his grandfather and father. We later find out the militia leader of the compound actually murdered the two Indians decades ago. So what we have during this chapter of FTWD is an old fashioned Indians vs white man situation, the apocalypse having thrown everyone back to the old west mentality. Now, city dweller Madison Clark takes full advantage of the major land rift and does her own deal with the head of the tribe to broker a peace … and it involves not only the death of the faltering militia leader, Jeremiah Otto, but his head.
Through all of this the lone-wolf Victor Strand is trying to find his purpose, if any, in this cruel world order where any power of skills-power to wheel and deal are gone. The meek have inherited the Earth and they no longer recognize the former world people like Strand is still holding onto. Of all the episodes thus far of FTWD, especially this season which I have found more annoying than interesting, there was one golden moment and it involved the tall, dark and arrogant Strand.
He found his way back to the shoreline and discovered the yacht that had brought him and the Clark family and others to Mexico, but it is hopelessly stranded in the shallows. Those that had been guarding it and using it for a party boat were now zombies. Strand methodically goes about exterminating the once human vermin. However, he soon discovers the boat is useless, even outside the scuttled situation. He puts on his old white tuxedo jacket and begins drowning his sorrows on a final bottle of Champaign.
When he wakes the next morning he discovers the radio still works and is stunned at the voice on the other end. It is a Russian cosmonaut stranded far above the end of the world in space. He was supposed to have returned to Earth by now, but it all went to shit just days before his scheduled return from the presumed space station. This is where Strand is awakened to the stark and horrifying reality of the global extent of this vile infection and its undead aftermath…
For all Strand’s loneliness and isolation he is to realize the cosmonaut is either the loneliest man still alive … or the luckiest human not to be directly experiencing the extinction of mankind and life as they knew it. The Russian will die in his spacecraft alone and eventually crash to Earth when it loses orbit. Was he spared whatever infection that befell the Earth while so far above the stratosphere? And what of the rest of the crew that might have been with him? He has resigned himself to the fact that no matter how much he would like to have a chance to live life for as long as possible, his situation has him in a slow death timeline as his supplies run out. The Russian has resigned himself to the fact he sits in his coffin in a grave far above the human chaos and carnage on the ground below. Strand sobs for the man, for himself, for humanity, for the world, and for the fact that he must bury his own past in order to deal with his situation still on the spinning infected globe. He sets fire to the yacht and leaves it behind as he walks away to return to the struggle ahead.
The episode had a few dialogue ‘Easter eggs’ I caught that harkened to other movies, but the Strand-Russian cosmonaut unworldly exchange was very “Gravity” when astronaut Ryan Stone believed she was dying in space and managed to pick up an Eskimo out on the Earthen frozen tundra far below and had a brief conversation with him. I am sure the writers did this on purpose, as TWD writers and producers tend to pay partially hidden homage to their own favorites from time to time. In the theatrical version of the feature film we only saw Dr. Stone’s end of the conversation, much like with Strand on the yacht. There was a spin-off mini-film of the “Gravity” scene that did involve showing us the other side of the conversation on the frozen ground below. Neither party could understand the other because of the language barrier, unlike Victor Strand and the English-abled Russian cosmonaut who instead of a soothing lullaby exchanged lines from classic books from memory, and realizing all memory of such things would all die with them…
As we saw in “Gravity” Stone decides not to die but to leave the ship in order to try for a return to life. Strand’s torching of the yacht and hauling his loaded backpack away from it in the dark was very akin to that. This was Victor Strand’s TWD CDC moment of truth, as Rick had when he was told the whole world had fallen to the infection/infected and there was no way out but to just forge forward and live with it. At the end of the radio exchange with Strand and the cosmonaut I, atleast, was left unsure if the spaceman had committed suicide. I will re-watch the scene a couple times and decide if that was a real possibility, as Strand’s reaction at the end of the conversation and the Russian’s silence brought him to a breakdown of sobs and tears…
Last words are for fools who have not said enough. Marx. Karl Marx. Tell me about your champagne, Victor Strand.
Strand: It’s a 1985 Dom Perignon vintage.
Strand: Mr. Vachenko?
Russian: You are breaking up my friend. The world turns. [static]
Were these be the last words Strand might ever hear from a fellow human?
We know odds were it would be for the Russian cosmonaut.
This is why out of the entirety of “Fear The Walking Dead” I find this the most, and possibly the only, poignant moment of the series that appears to be as disorganized and chaotic as the apocalypse itself. In my opinion, Victor Strand needs to be made more of a central part of the series. While the writers look to make Madison Clark the Rick/Carol of this series (and there is running speculation she could be a relative of one of those two), it is Strand who offers more of an interesting dynamic to the post-apocalyptic world ahead, removed from anything we have experienced from the various “The Walking Dead” characters over so many seasons.
We see the inklings of Victor Strand’s passage into this new world disorder.
While Madison’s inner leader is emerging we also see changes in her kids.
The drug addict Nick cuts his long greasy hair and picks up a gun, even killing a living man.
Alecia buys into some of the Native American prophecy of the world righting itself of man’s wrongs, and sheds her LA girl existence for the rugged frontier maiden amid the battles of men. Neither she nor her brother Nick is quite ready to give up cultural norms of right and wrong, until they realize it means survival and Nick does what needs to be done to bring peace between the tribes.