In this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, the group infiltrates the Enders compound and even rhubarb pie doesn’t tempt them to join up. In a world where everyone is either dead or mostly dead inside, pretty much everyone is ripe for doomsday cult recruitment. So Teddy and his merry band of composting Enders are banking on a successful recruitment drive with Alicia, Wes, Al, and Luciana. Will our group see what the Enders see?
The end of the last episode mentioned that a segment of Morgan’s group planned to infiltrate the underground bunker of the Enders. This episode picks up in the elevator of the compound. We have seen the surrender and capture scenarios a hundred different ways, so I’m glad we jumped right to the bunker itself.
We see shots around the underground lair, and they are chock full of gardens with grow lights, pens of chickens, an omelette bar, and an art installation of a walker smack dab in the cafeteria. Over all these pictures, is the worst possible talk radio of all time. Teddy (John Glover) preaches non-stop over the speakers about death being inevitable and life being cyclical. Sometimes I can see the appeal of a cult, but often, like here, it means listening to a man chatter all day about his philosophy of life. Hard pass. It was barely tolerable in small doses on the NXIVM documentary.
THE FRESHMAN TOUR
As our group looks about, they see a The End is the Beginning mural in the main room, and it is enough to confirm they have found the Enders. The group’s tour guide, Riley (Nick Stahl) talks about their leader Teddy and his philosophy, and I do not need to meet Teddy to know that he will look like a bearded hippie when he does return to the bunker from his trip topside.
Riley shows the group how they run walkers through a grinder and use their pulp and bones to make fertilizer and chicken feed. I’m a bit confused by this since previous exposure to walker byproducts like tainted well water made people sick. Is it just a matter of waiting for the compost to ripen? I mean normal compost takes time before it is ready for use, but it doesn’t seem that it would make illness less likely for the end user of zombie meat.
Riley references that the group has arrived in time before they close their doors forever. I don’t know if this is a hard sell tactic (Buy now! Supplies limited!), or if there is something genuinely horrible in the future. The latter is obviously more likely. We are in the Walking Dead world after all. But in any case, the group clocks the threat and files it away for discussion later.
BAND OF LOST BROTHERS
One thing I did not notice about this group is that Alicia, Luciana, Wes, and Al have all lost brothers. Riley draws this information out of each as he places them before the walker art installation and asks them what they see. The set piece of a walker wrapped up in ivy against a post acts as a sort of Rorschach test of the potential recruits. What do they see? Riley hints at a right answer while also saying there is no right answer. Classic indoctrination. Once you guess the answer the cult members think is the right one, we will act like you had a bold breakthrough. Fail to guess correctly, and you are unenlightened and cut loose.
Riley is positively vibrating when a scouting party returns, because Riley believes leader Teddy will be on the elevator. Instead of Teddy, the first man to exit the elevator is Wes’s long-lost brother, Derek. It appears Derek did not die as Wes had believed, but instead he joined up with Enders. Wes asks the question that would be on any survivor’s mind: did you look for me? Derek says he did, but since we know Wes painted half the trees in the region with their shared logo, I find it hard to believe that Derek was ignorant of his brother’s presence in the area.
Still, Wes is ecstatic to see his brother alive, as anyone would be. Right off the bat, Derek is giving me strong “Join our Cult! Ask me how!” sales vibes. When Wes asks for information about the Enders, Derek is practically telling the group to pay for classes to learn their ways.
I’M TELLING Y’ALL, IT’S SABOTAGE
While Alicia, Al, Luciana, and Wes talk over a fresh, delicious meal, Derek continues to give the group the pitch on the benefits of the community. After a quick suggestion to try the rhubarb pie, Derek is mysteriously whisked away on an errand. No one asks about where to find the pie before Derek leaves, which is just one more way that I am not like our heroes.
Wes is adamant that his brother can be trusted. Luciana reminds Wes that the Enders sabotaged Tank Town, but Wes stresses that his brother would not have been a part of that attack. Luciana has her own experience with groupthink, and she warns Wes that desperation makes people fall in line with a group.
Wes argues that the Enders may have only posed a threat to Virginia and her people. When Al reminds Wes of what the Enders did to the group in the office tower that had been unaffiliated with Virginia, you can see Wes’s defensiveness weaken a bit. Al suggests that she and Wes search Derek’s bunk. When they do, Wes discovers maps and plans of the places that had been attacked. Also in the papers, maps from the Civic Republic Military group.
LET ME PAINT YOU A PICTURE
When Wes approaches his brother at work on a mural later, there is no point in easing into the conversation. The mural depicts each of the places that had been attacked, including Tank Town and Lawton. Wes asks if Derek had been part of the attack, and Derek says yes. Wanting to believe the best in his brother, Wes says, “This ain’t you.” Wes tells his brother that he lost friends at Tank Town, and he shows Derek his scar from the attack.
Wes appears to convince his brother to leave with them, but Alicia isn’t buying it. Fresh off of Dakota’s betrayal, Alicia wants to leave Derek behind. The point is moot though, because the Enders put a stop to the escape. The Enders escort the group to an embalming room. The basic explanation is that if you can’t pass the test to get out of holding, the Enders will embalm your body so that you cannot decompose and continue to be the cycle of life. Brutal, high-stakes rush program at underground university. Wes begs his brother to show him what he sees.
IN THE ARMS OF A WALKER
Derek takes Wes to the walker art installation to ask him what he sees. After a moment, Wes notes that he sees someone as dead inside as the walker. Derek smiles. Apparently that is the answer the group has wanted all along. The Enders want you to feel dead inside. It is much easier to fill you up with philosophy and orders if you are an empty vessel with no fight left.
Wes corrects his brother. Wes meant Derek. But since that was the right answer to the question to join the Enders, ultimately, Wes did see what Derek saw: Derek is dead inside. Still, this means that Wes does not see himself in the same light. Thus, Wes is bound for an embalming cleanse in the bunker’s spa. Wes grabs for Derek’s weapon, and they fight for control. After a struggle, Wes manages to shove Derek into the art. The art interacts back and tears out Derek’s throat.
When Wes returns to the embalming office, the group gets the upper hand in the fight against the Enders, and they escape into an inner room. With the door behind them blocked with a wedge, the group sees they are in a roomful of some of the creepiest walkers yet. Rows and rows of embalmed zombies, mouths sewn shut, each one hanging from a chain. Their faces and bodies are pristine from embalming except for their milky eyes. As the group slithers past the hanging walkers, the walkers are unable to do anything but nuzzle their prey since their mouths are sewn shut. However, I think an animated corpse like this is scarier because their muscles and ligaments will make them ambulatory longer. You can’t outlast what doesn’t rot away.
While half the group works to pry open an exit door, Al notices a female walker in the military dress of the CRM. After a quick check, Al confirms the walker isn’t her lady love. Al dispatches the corpse when it gets a little too bitey. Al points out the embalming fluid leaking out of the dispatched walker, and the group decides to light it up to block their escape. Alicia orders the group to head on without her while she finishes up the preparation. Alicia slashes and pokes her way through the rows of pasty fresh walkers, spilling gallons of embalming fluid onto the ground, and she lights it up.
With the floor literally covered in flammable fluids, this is a tricky escape for Alicia. Common sense would tell you strike the watch from the hallway outside and then throw it into the room. But the room is dark, and Alicia does not immediately light up herself, so she likely got away.
NO ONE LIKE YOU
When Al, Wes, and Luciana return to the dam village, they update Morgan on the situation. Alicia has not caught up, so the group discusses rescue options. Back at The End is the Beginning bunker, two surviving members have recaptured Alicia. While Riley goes to find Teddy so that he can have the honors of embalming Alicia, Alicia attacks the remaining Ender. It does not end well for him, and he becomes an unintentional blood donor. About 10 pints worth.
When the guide returns with Teddy, he asks to be left alone with Alicia. Teddy quickly pulls some Cult leader mojo: part psychology, part preacher, part just being plain observant. Alicia is not having it. Alicia tells Teddy that she does not buy his bullshit. Fair enough. Teddy still wants to recruit her. “I’ve been looking for someone like you for a long, long time,” Teddy says. Teddy doesn’t go into details, but I can’t imagine there isn’t much he has to offer to change Alicia’s mind. Unless that Rhubarb pie really is that good.
The episode moved quickly, and that is always the mark of a good episode. Though the reveal of the Enders seems to be a basic run of the mill cult, I am still intrigued. What does Teddy have planned for the surface? Why does Teddy think some people are worth testing and others are worth killing outright? Why was Teddy so adamant that Alicia “ruined” all their plans? There is still a lot to discover about the Enders purpose, and why Teddy is obsessed with Morgan. Teddy seems like a talker though, so I assume we will get to that next episode.
The moment when it is revealed that the art installation is meant to reflect the deadness of the person studying it is meant to be a surprise. It is also a textbook cult move. Besides, you’d have to be dead inside to willingly live in an underground bunker with talk radio on the speakers all day. So the big reveal is pretty anti-climactic, but there are plenty of other moments to make the episode worth watching.
ODDS & EGGS
- New Walker name: This group calls walkers Posters since they are used for compost.
- Living in a bunker isn’t a bad idea if you are worried about herds. This may be the closest a nickname for walkers has come to sounding like a band.
- Teddy says everything was ruined – how could the loss of a roomful of embalmed walkers be such a loss to the Enders? At the rate the Enders kill, they could restock the pen in no time.
- Nick Stahl’s appearance in this episode marks the first time that an actor looked less dirty in the Walking Dead universe than in other roles. See Carnivàle.
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