Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead! Proceed with caution, survivors. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched tonight’s episode, “Captive,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.
It’s fitting that this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead should air on Mother’s Day, since it primarily serves as a vehicle for Madison. As competently played by Kim Dickens, with a minimum of muss and fuss, she’s long been the show’s most likable character, as well as its central protagonist. The closest thing we have in this corner of the zombie apocalypse to a Rick Grimes, she’s one of the strongest moms on television.
As “Captive” opens, Alicia’s still in the hands of the pirates with whom she went willingly last week. Their chief, Connor, in the manner of any cult leader, tries to win her over (with a steak), learn her worth, and see if she’s worth adding to his flock. But it isn’t long before she figures out she’s been taken to a docked freighter and gets her “boyfriend” Jack to help her out of her gilded cage.
Travis’ cage is a little less gilded. And his jailer turns out to be one of his past sins come back to haunt him, Charlie (last seen in “Ouroboros”), who tells Travis she was forced to kill her friend Jack, after he placed them in a raft tethered to the Abigail. “I’m no better than the man that cut the rope,” he tells her. Yup, there’s a lot of guilt going around this week. But Alicia at least can take comfort in the knowledge that Charlie, as it turns out, is the person who was really responsible for Connor’s people finding their yacht.
Meanwhile, on the Abigail, with Strand out of commission, Madison has taken control of things and embarks on a rescue mission. She admonishes the boat’s captain for sending Nick on the mission to meet his contact (who reminds everyone that he’s only secured passage for two), but Strand tells her he knew what her son was capable of within five minutes of meeting him. Like any mother, she has a hard time letting go, and her natural instincts are magnified one thousandfold under the circumstances. All things considered, she can easily be forgiven for seeing how comfortable her son has become with a gun.
Elsewhere on the boat, Chris is a little less comfortable with watching their own prisoner, Connor’s brother Reed. Dying from the injuries he suffered last week, Reed tells Chris that 1.) life sucks and 2.) his family will eventually put him down (a statement echoed by Jack when he tells Alicia her family will abandon her). Chris kills him before he can turn, but he doesn’t quite finish the job (no doubt prompting more viewers to complain that these characters are pretty clueless compared to their Walking Dead counterparts), forcing Madison to counsel the would-be slayer.
Madison, it must be said, has balls the size of boulders in this episode. Especially when she pulls a Captain Kirk-worthy bluff and tells Connor and his people via radio that her promise of safe passage to Mexico was broken and that she wants to trade Reed for Travis and Alicia. Arriving along, with a zombified Reed, his head hidden under a sack, she sets the walker onto his own brother, grabs Travis, and scoops up Alicia after she dives into the harbor.
“Captive” is noteworthy in that, amid the teen angst and coming-of-age anxiety, it’s the first episode this season in which Madison and Travis are really made to take on the role of parent for each other’s kids. The fact that Madison is so much better in her role than Travis stokes my feelings, if only a little bit, that he isn’t all that necessary a component of the show, and that he could very well one day suffer the same fate as Connor. Contrary to what Reed and Jack believe, he’ll never cut the tether with his own family. But might the show eventually cut its tether with him?
— There’s not a lot of zombie action this week, and just one walker in the form of Reed, but what little there is makes for the best bits. I’m all about zombies eating their own family members, and it’s neat as all hell when Reed gets impaled to a cabin wall for safe, convenient storage.
— So why exactly didn’t Connor’s people bring guns to the hostage exchange? Or did they bring them and I didn’t notice it because they just decided not to use them?
— Patsy Cline is awesome, but she might not be the best choice of music with which to win over a 21st century teen.
— “We can be more than what we’ve become, can’t we?” Oh Madison, if you only knew.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).