THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 610, “HANDLE WITH CARE.”
On this week’s Fear the Walking Dead, Daniel recounts a confusing day in his life. Part Murder on the Walking Dead Express, part Reservoir Dogs, and part Knives Out, this episode includes a who-done-it, a long overdue confrontation about resentments, and a boat load of trust issues. Wrapped up in the words of an unreliable narrator, this makes for a very interesting outing of the series with one of the most compelling characters.
All the groups are meeting at the dam village to discuss the End is the Beginning people. For a million different reasons, the various factions are wary of one another. However, their long-standing intertwined history gives them a lot of reasons to make an effort at a peace as well. Morgan tells Sherry, Strand, and Sarah that he wants everyone in their groups to share intel on the Enders. As everyone heads inside the village, Morgan directs Daniel to check all the weapons in the storage shed. Reluctantly, the visitors comply.
With Grace having possible contractions, Sarah radios June for help. June has apparently stayed with Sarah, so I guess June has decided not to go it alone after all. With revenge against Virginia firmly checked off on June’s to-do list, June likely went back to her hospital network. Sarah determines a fetal monitor is needed for Grace, and Morgan volunteers to pick up one he had previously set aside.
WHILE MORGAN IS AWAY, THE CAT WILL BE KINDLY RETURNED
With Morgan out in the MRAP, Daniel is left in control of the village. Victor starts the meet-up with a bribe to smooth things over: Skidmark is returned to Daniel. In a world where people’s faces are gnawed off with alarming frequency, the safe return of Skidmark the cat was a little bit of business I didn’t even know I needed.
As the groups set down in a tent to talk, the snipes at one another get angrier. No one, rightfully, trusts Dakota, but they also don’t trust one another. As Daniel and others point out, everyone in the tent has lied; so now no one wants to trust anyone. It is an interesting conundrum. In a world where you sometimes have to lie to survive or protect your people, those actions can haunt you later. The calculation works in the short term, but the long term damage is that it erodes trust.
THEN IT’S YOUR FAULT THEN
In an apocalypse, trust is one of the most important assets a group has in their arsenal. Trust gives you confidence in a fight, and it fortifies your instincts to mesh with the group. Betray that trust, and you have started to erode the foundation of that group. That is why all these people know and love one another in their own ways, but even after trauma bonding and support, they are at a place now where they can not help but wonder about traitors and double agents.
Daniel urges everyone to hear Dakota out, and an explosion goes off outside the tent. As you can imagine, this does not support those arguing for trust. Daniel determines that a rock had fallen on the box of dynamite that they had set aside. Luciana points out the sabotage at Tank Town had appeared to be an accident at first. With the seeds of doubt not only planted but sprouting at an alarming rate, the talks begin to unravel.
At this point the episode goes from Agatha Christie to Tarantino, with everyone pointing metaphorical guns at one another. That is when the walkers start rolling in. Quite literally. Walkers are rolling down the hillside. Outside the gates, the river bed guides a growing number of dead out front. The blast may as well have been searchlights for a club opening, because the undead have got their shimmy on and they are on the march to the hottest club in town.
When Daniel goes to get actual guns to deal with the situation, they have disappeared. At the start of the episode, Daniel mentioned that only he and Morgan had a key to the shed. A line, once uttered, that could only come back with a vengeance. That the Chekhov’s gun in this episode is a key to a shed full of guns is a bit amusing. With a threat looming and the means to battle it off the table, Daniel scrambles to protect Grace and the town. Daniel sends Grace to a nearby fishing shack, and he sets a trap for the thief.
BUILD A BETTER TRAP
A breach in the village lets a few walkers stumble into the visitors’ tent. It is a bid odd that these seasoned fighters had such difficulty fighting off this handful of undead. I understand the scenario was meant to be a dramatic moment, but I don’t believe for one second that this group of people could not have dispatched the walkers with any one of a dozen items laying about. After a brief, if unbelievable struggle, Strand shoots the walkers. Daniel reveals that the walker breach had been a ruse to lure out the person that had stolen the guns.
Now for anyone that knows Victor Strand, it is no surprise that he did not hand over all his weapons. Strand handed over like three weapons, and we all know the guy is probably carrying an arsenal more on par with Riggs in Lethal Weapon. But Daniel argues that the gun is not Strand’s but instead evidence that Strand stole the weaponry from the shed. Daniel is a smart man. There is no way that Daniel would jump to that conclusion with any other person. But the history between Daniel and Strand is violent and full of betrayals of trust.
A LONG TIME COMING
Daniel puts Strand in a jail cell, and he interrogates him about the guns. Strand claims he is innocent. Furious, Daniel talks about the constant physical pain that he endures because of his gunshot wound to the face. A wound inflicted by Victor Strand once upon a time. Daniel plucks out a piece of orthodonture from his cheek to show the sunkeness of his actual face. Horrified, Strand asks Daniel for his forgiveness. With a shrug, Daniel admits he had bluffed and that his wound actually does not bother him all that much.
One reason Daniel has been one of the most fascinating characters of this series is his deviousness. Daniel strives to be a better man to honor his daughter and to redeem his past, but the strategic brilliance is still there. The way Daniel gave such an impassioned speech about his pain, and then casually mentions it was a bluff, is a beautiful way to remind us of Daniel’s brilliant mind. Strand’s response is also a great way to remind us that Strand does have a heart. Daniel refuses to believe Strand, and he comes within seconds of executing his perceived enemy.
IT ALL UNRAVELS
Morgan’s timely return with the MRAP, eliminates the threat at the gates. After a few quick questions, it becomes clear that Grace is missing and things are not as they seem. When the group finds Grace and Charlie, they explain that Daniel had sent them to the caverns, not the fishing shack. Confused, Daniel is insistent that he had not done that because the caverns had not been cleared of walkers. Charlie shows Daniel the map with his instructions. Shortly thereafter, the weapons are found in a different shed. Daniel refutes all the evidence against him.
The group looks at Daniel with suspicion, but Morgan understands immediately that Daniel is not faking a thing. Locked in the cell, Daniel undergoes an examination with June when she arrives. June confirms that Daniel’s issue appears to be psychological and not neurological. This is good news on the dementia front, but bad news in that we have yet to come across a psychiatrist in their travels. It does not matter if no one trusts Daniel any more. Daniel no longer trusts himself.
“You spend your whole life giving people a reason not to trust you, and then one day, you can’t even trust yourself. I deserve this,” Daniel says. Daniel is willing to give up, but Strand is not. The confrontation between Daniel and Strand had been a long time coming. But both men are very different from who they were in the past. Daniel may not know how to forgive, but Strand is trying. Strand invites Daniel to accompany him back to Lawton to give him space to be alone without being completely alone. With the Enders on the attack, these groups must make this coalition work. Everyone needs to stay close.
NOT A METAPHOR
After several rounds of Dakota bashing, Dakota finally works up the nerve to make her voice be heard. Dakota tells the group that when she had heard Virginia talk about the Enders going underground, she had assumed that they were laying low. Dakota posits: What if the Enders are actually, physically underground? In an effort at making a go of the new coalition, the group decides to trust Dakota’s instinct and send out scouts. And that sends us onto the next phase of the season.
The showdown between two of Fear’s most compelling characters was a long time coming. I like that in Daniel’s greatest moment of vulnerability, Victor is the one to offer a lifeline. Victor may be a survivor above all else, but his continued efforts to survive while maintaining morals makes for an interesting watch. The way the episode unfolds is a nice mystery, and that alone makes it a good episode to watch. The confrontation between Daniel and Strand is a definite bonus though. For fans of Daniel, this is a can’t miss episode.
ODDS & EGGS
- The title works on several fronts including: the dynamite, the shaky truce, Daniel’s brain, Grace’s pregnancy.
- I know June says she isn’t qualified to rule out neurological issues, but she sure ruled those out fast. I am not as convinced that Daniel does not have some early signs of dementia.
- The soap opera fan in me immediately wondered if the Enders had somehow brainwashed Daniel. What are the chances that the End is the Beginning folks are lead by Stefano DiMera? They didn’t call him the Phoenix for nothing.
- Did Daniel leave Skidmark in the village?
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