AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 6: “Red Dirt”
Directed by Courtney Hunt
Written by Wes Brown
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Unveiling” – click here
At the ranch, Nick (Frank Dillane) is doing a bit of shooting with his new buddy Jeremiah (Dayton Callie). In bed, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) worries about her mother Madison (Kim Dickens), not back from her search with Troy (Daniel Sharman) to find out who took down their chopper. Jake (Sam Underwood) assures her nothing will happen, his brother promised to take care of Madison.
Then the crew arrive, shoe-less, feet bleeding. Some of them worse than others. Some of them having witnessed things about Troy that are… troubling. Meanwhile, Troy and Jeremiah want to talk together, “in private” – doesn’t sit well with a few of the guys who were there, too. Neither do people at the ranch like this secrecy. Mike, brother to Gretchen (Rae Gray), the one most injured on the outing, won’t let it slide. He tells everyone what happened: “If we stay, we die.”
Things are shaken up, Jeremiah isn’t happy with his boy. Madison actually picks up for him, saying they were cautious. All the stuff about the land of the ranch being stolen from the indigenous people of that region comes out. Jeremiah chastises Madison for her “liberal judgement” when she speaks of Qaletqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes). The old man is full of piss and vinegar and misogyny. Starting to wear thin on Madison.
At least she gets to relax for now, not on the road anymore. Nick and Alicia take care of her, tending to her wounds. We also see the influence of the old fella on her son, he’s carrying a gun regularly now in a holster.
Jake: “Most people here are libertarians, they don‘t take orders very well.”
Above all, I’m wondering how long until Jake completely breaks from his family. He isn’t like his brother, and it’s increasingly clear he isn’t totally like his father, either. He’s got the whole military stance, something bred into him by Jeremiah, he can handle guns and he’s partly, because of his upbringing, a survivalist. But that’s where the similarities end. His legacy is tied up in the ranch, his dad and the whole TEOTWAWKI philosophy. However, it’s evident with every scene he’s in that there’s a different destiny, a wholly other fate from that of his family towards which Jake is headed.
Gretchen talks with Madison, her family’s starting to feel the ranch isn’t safe anymore with everything that’s happening. Her dad knows of a “colony in Colorado” and thinks the Rockies are where they ought to be; them, along with others, anyone who’ll hear him out. Madison doesn’t like the sounds of that, she’s becoming a semi leader, though not openly. She wants to try keeping the good they’ve got.
Problem is, much as we want to believe it, one bad apple DOES spoil the whole bunch. And I think there’s more than just one bad apple at this place. That night, a fire starts; several fires on the horizon near the gates of the ranch. A message from Walker and his tribe. Yet ole Jeremiah’s dragging his feet. Still.
Down in the storage room, Troy finds a couple of the Trimbol family looking to take a few things and leave the ranch. Things get tense, as Nick watches on. Although they defuse themselves, just barely. Outside, Gretchen’s dad Vernon (Hugo Armstrong) talks to Jeremiah about leaving. He wants to get out of there, Madison tries talking him out of it while Jeremiah couldn’t care less. More and more we’re privy to the real Jeremiah, as well. He’s getting a bit crazier.
At the same time he’s losing control of Troy, who’s refusing to let the Trimbols go. This puts the two Otto brothers at odds, they throw fists, and Jeremiah even punches Troy in the face. Holy shit, what a mess of a family. Finally, the Trimbols are allowed to leave, safe on their own terms. Everyone else left behind in ruins.
Jeremiah: “Some men have kids, turns ‘em into women.”
Madison is still watching Troy, keeping a close eye on him using trust to her advantage. The young man is damaged. Deeply. He has issues with people leaving, whether friends or family. Seeing Mike leave has him unsettled. Madison plays mother figure, trying to guide him to where she feels will be safest for everyone. Yet he’s unpredictable. Not sure how long this tenuous relationship will last.
We almost see a microcosm of the idea of open borders epitomised in this fictional apocalypse. Troy sees people leaving, those wanting to get in – even though the land IS native land, surely – and he feels cracking down, setting an “example” for everyone else, militarising further is the answer. I can’t be positive Madison’s able to control him past this point. He’s feeling power, a small army behind him. Could be a struggle seeing as how his father would rather the other brother in that position.
Jeremiah’s back on the bottle, too. He fell off the wagon, hard. He’s real drunk, offering Nick some; the former addict refuses. This shows us how Otto is falling apart inside, the composed outer shell beginning to slip. Nick is sort of like a third son, from outside able to see inward where the other two have their heads wrapped up in other things. I wonder where their relationship goes, the endgame. Right now it’s friendly, a kind of comfort for the old guy.
When he wakes in the morning there’s a horse in the field, it belongs to Vernon. Uh oh. So he, Madison, and Nick head out in a truck. “They‘re dead, I know it,” says Jeremiah. Did Walker do it? Or just the ugliness of the post-zombie apocalypse life?
Simultaneously, Jake wants to go talk to the tribe, having known Walker for years because of the family’s legal battles with the tribe. This is where we’re able to see the attachment Alicia’s forming for the Otto brother, pleading for him not to leave.
Jeremiah, Madison, and Nick find the Trimbol vehicle; bullet holes in the windshield. They discover the whole family, zombified, several of them feeding on one of the horses. Old man believes it’s his son, as does Nick. Madison isn’t particularly sure. I would not put it past him. Not for a second.
They get back to the ranch, showing everyone the bodies of the Trimbol family. Madison takes a lead and implicates Walker, his tribe in taking down the chopper AND killing the Trimbols. This scares me. I worry for what this place is doing to Madison, urging trust in the ranch’s militia, siding with the Ottos in all their various ideals. And I know Nick isn’t so hot on it, regardless if he’s been playing with guns a bit more. I guess it’s mostly about staying safe, doing what it takes. She talks to Nick after, telling him it’s all just necessary. Problem is she isn’t trusting in her son enough. He wants her not to forget that Troy is a monster, despite how they might need him for the moment.
Later, the monster admits to his stand-in mother that he went out there and murdered the Trimbol family. She trusts he can control it, that she can from behind the scenes. Again: he can’t, nor can she. And there’s a strange psychosexual thing between them, coming solely from his side, that I worry about every step of the way; others say it isn’t implied, yet I’ve been scared of it since Troy first watched her sleep. He’s got mommy issues, and then some.
Nick: “How do you tell a lie that big and sleep at night?”
Another fascinating chapter in Season 3. I mean, wow! I’ve loved this show since day one, but they keep on surprising me, making it deeper and more relevant and compelling all the time. Truly worthy of more praise than it gets. “The Unveiling” is next week, I’m wondering if something big is about to happen. I’d bet on that.