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TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (Season 3, Episode 6)

Season 3, Episode 6: Red Dirt

PLOT: Things get tense between residents of Broke Jaw Ranch as they prepare to be invaded by outside forces.

REVIEW: Six episodes into the show's third season, I realized that Fear the Walking Dead is repeating itself with this storyline of Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie) struggling to rein in his homicidal son Troy (Daniel Sharman). That's exactly the problem they had Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) dealing with last season. It's no wonder they shockingly killed Travis off back at the start of this season's second episode, before he could make it to Broke Jaw Ranch; if he had been witness to the scenario playing out between Jeremiah and Troy, he would have had a major sense of déjà vu.

Even though the show has done a version of this same idea before, Troy's weak grasp on sanity does add an interesting wrinkle to the tense situation at the ranch. While the characters are worrying about an outside threat, he is the inside threat, liable to snap and kill anyone unlucky enough to be on his bad side (except maybe his family members) at any moment. He is a danger, but he is also protective and loyal - if someone could pull him in close and direct his homicidal urges in the right direction, he could be a hell of an ally. That seems to be exactly what Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) is doing by constantly having her little chats with him.

Making this even more interesting is the fact that Madison's daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is building up (and sleeping with) Troy's brother / Jeremiah's golden child Jake (Sam Underwood) at the same time. I'm becoming more intrigued by this brewing Otto power struggle with each episode.

Troy does some more very bad things in Red Dirt, which is largely a build-up episode. It was established in the previous episode that Native American Qualetaqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes) and his people aim to drive the Ottos and their people off of the ranch property, believing that it rightfully belongs to them. But wait, there are still a couple episodes to go before the mid-season finale, so we can't get to the ranch invasion action just yet. We have to drag things out a little bit. Red Dirt effectively kills some time, while also having a palpable sense of dread and unease to it at times. The people of Broke Jaw Ranch know there's trouble coming... But when? And when it arrives, how will things go down?

The ranch residents are so scared that some of them decide to bail. This makes those who remain even more nervous, as the defense is weakened by the loss of each person who leaves. It's understandable that they would be scared - when a man who kills whole patrols and bashes a man's head open so crows can eat his brain while he's still alive is setting fires along the edge of your property, you start to worry a bit.

Jeremiah Otto is so concerned by what's coming down the line that he even falls off the wagon and starts drinking again, allowing for a great dramatic scene when he goes to visit Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) while drunk. I only trust Jeremiah slightly more than I trust Troy, but the show is starting to make me like the old guy.

Red Dirt mostly consists of chit-chat and spinning wheels, but things do take a violent turn, and I was surprised and somewhat disappointed when one of the Broke Jaw characters we had come to know this season was removed from the show in a scene of gut munching and headshots. Gretchen Trimbol (Rae Gray) may not have had a whole lot to offer, but she was a fun character and I thought we'd be seeing more of her throughout this season.

As this episode comes to an end, people at the ranch start to assume the roles they'll be playing in the battle ahead, and we're one episode closer to the fight Walker will be bringing to them. Until we reach the pay-off of that battle and whatever's going to occur between the Ottos we won't really know if the build-up of this episode was worth it, but there was still enough happening in here to hold my attention while the episode on. It was serviceable.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: There was only one zombie moment in this episode, but it was a good one, featuring the loss of a likeable character and a feast on horse meat that was reminiscent of the first episode of The Walking Dead.

GORY GLORY: A family of zombies tear into the guts of an unfortunate horse before getting their brains blown out in glorious explosions of blood.

FAVORITE SCENE: It would have been better if it had been followed up by some action, but my favorite scene in Red Dirt was when the residents of Broke Jaw Ranch realize that Walker's people have set fires along the land's perimeter. The fire is first seen as a reflection in a bottle of booze former alcoholic Jeremiah Otto is considering drinking. Artsy!

FINAL VERDICT: 

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of Red Dirt?

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