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TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (Season 3, Episode 14)

Season 3, Episode 14: El Matadero

PLOT: Madison tries to get Daniel's daughter back to him, while her own daughter struggles to survive on her own.

REVIEW: Some viewers say that AMC's The Walking Dead has gotten too predictable, that you know nothing major is going to happen outside of the season premieres, the mid-season finales, and the season finales. Fear the Walking Dead is clearly doing its best not to be predictable, and in fact the only thing that is becoming predictable about it for me is that the show is going to subvert my expectations. Every time I think I know where it's going and/or where it should go, it branches off into a different direction. Season three's mid-season finale didn't play out like I expected, the living situation at Broke Jaw Ranch fell apart much quicker than I anticipated, and now the show has gone and removed another fairly major character just when I thought everyone was going to be happily reunited.

Before we get to the loss of a charater, we also have the introduction of a new character - and we're sort of in need of those, when the show keeps dropping leads and has drastically whittled down the supporting cast that was established this season. While Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) distances herself from the others and tries to make it on her own, she comes across fellow survivor Diana, played by Edwina Findley. Sporting a pick axe and collecting zombie teeth and fingers for sale and trade, Diana is a road-hardened survivor who could be a nice addition to the show if she sticks around long enough... And the skills she displays when Alicia first sees her are so badass, she deserves to be around for a while.

Diana also seems like someone who would be right at home on Fear's companion series; Fear doesn't often embrace the franchise's comic book roots like The Walking Dead does, and Diana's collecting habits and signature weapon make her a slightly more comic booky character than the average person on this show. 

While Alicia is off scavenging and making friends with Diana, her mother Madison (Kim Dickens) is going through a rough time with somebody else's daughter. It is revealed early on in the episode that Ofelia Salazar (Mercedes Mason) was bitten by a zombie during the events of the previous episode, and is now desperately trying to cling to life long enough to meet up with her father, Daniel (Ruben Blades).

Ofelia is the character we lose this episode, and even though I don't have any strong feelings about her leaving the show, I did find her death to be heartbreaking simply because I wanted her to be reunited with her father for Daniel's sake. That guy has had a nightmarish life, and he deserves some happiness. He's my favorite character on the show, and he deserved to be with his daughter again. Ofelia makes it so far into the episode, then succumbs to her bite just seconds before Daniel can see her. It was devastating.

Kudos to El Matadero for the expert emotional manipulation. The fact that such a large portion of the episode dealt with a character dying from a zombie bite also reminded me of What Happened and What's Going On, a season five episode of The Walking Dead that dealt with the character Tyreese dying from a zombie bite. I certainly enjoyed El Matadero more than I enjoyed What Happened and What's Going On, which ranks as one of my least favorite Walking Dead episodes.

Tyreese's bite caused him to have hallucinations. We're not privy to any hallucinations Ofelia has, but she's not the only character who's tripping out of their minds in this episode. Former drug addict Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) goes off the wagon and takes Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman) with him. Not only is this a bad idea for Nick himself, but Troy is also a very bad choice of a drug buddy. Someone who's already crazy is probably not the best person to be popping pills and chewing brain stems with. Nick going back to the drugs and drink was a disappointing turn of events, mainly because I really don't want to see the show spend more time on his addictions. For the sake of my own entertainment, I hope Nick climbs back on the wagon real quick.

With new showrunners taking over Fear the Walking Dead next season, I assumed that one of the reasons why the show had everyone ditch Broke Jaw Ranch and head for Daniel's place at Gonzalez Dam would be so that all of the main characters would be together in one place, after being scattered around for this whole season (and longer). That would sort of give the new showrunners a clean slate to work with. That may still happen by the end of the season three finale, but for right now the show is still working to keep them apart, whether that means killing them off or sending them out on their own.

I'm still looking forward to all of the main characters ending up at the same place, but it's a shame that Daniel won't have his daughter with him when they do all gather together.

El Matadero did things I didn't like, but it didn't lose me when it did them. I could appreciate the drama of it all and am eager to see where things are going.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: The best zombie moment was the best Diana moment. She comes into a place where there are several zombies hanging out and proceeds to take them all down with her pick axe within seconds. Then she starts cutting off fingers and pulling teeth.

GORY GLORY: Zombie heads are smashed, brains are stabbed, and fingers are snipped off, but things get the bloodiest when Nick shows Troy his old trick of covering himself with zombie blood so they can walk among the dead. This trick used to be majorly overused on this show, but I kind of liked this callback to the days when I would watch and think, "I can't believe they're doing this again."

FAVORITE SCENE: The introduction of Diana.

FINAL VERDICT

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of El Matadero?

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