By Rob Bradfield
All joking about Madison's "Most Likely to Jeopardize the Safety of the Group" award aside, she has really stepped up as a leader — particularly in this episode. Leading a pack of zombies off the edge of a pier showed she is worthy of leading the group not only because she's a smart person, but because she is also willing to take on big risks herself. It was a semi-suicidal move in that both tides and zombies are unpredictable. Even with a rescue boat at the ready, she could have easily been a seafood buffet. In fact, that may be the only flaw in Alicia's whole "Pied Piper" plan: tides go both ways.
Still, without Nick, Travis, and even Chris to worry about — and a potential stronghold in the form of the Rosarito Beach Hotel — Maddie's mind is, for the most part, on the work in front of her. Even Strand keeps his negotiation skills in check while she negotiates with new(ish) characters Oscar Diaz (Andres Londono), his brother Andres (Raul Casso) and mother-in-law Ilene Stowe (Brenda Strong).
In fact, since the mid-season premiere, Strand has seemed a little off his game. Perhaps it is because, having lost the compound, the Abigail and now his truck (to say nothing of his partner, Thomas), he has no real power position save for what he can contribute to the growing group.
The addition of the Diaz/Stowe family is a good thing. Well, for everyone except probably Elena and Hector (Ramses Jimenez). Maddie made a convincing case for cooperation, maximizing the hotel's supplies and potential as a stronghold without a doubt. However, this is still the world of The Walking Dead. Without law enforcement to keep certain impulses in check, people tend to take things into their own hands. Ilene said it herself: in her heart, she believes Elena killed her husband and daughter.
Ofelia remains M.I.A. as does her father. Until they find Alicia, Strand assumes that Ailica and Ofelia are dead or that they were the ones who took his truck. My theory is that Strand is actually half right. While Ofelia took it at face value when the others told her that her father was dead, she never saw a body. She probably has a good idea of where the Abigail compound was, and if there is any hope of Daniel being alive, she will take that chance. It could be, like Carol (Melissa McBride) in the parent show, Ofelia has holed up in a room, but she does not have any keys.
Last but not least, Nick. With all due respect to Madison, separating from her may have been the best thing for Nick. Throughout the series, it has been implied that the skill-set Nick picked up from his life as a junky might be what separates him from his fellow survivors as the world continues to circle the drain. So far, we've seen him steal a lot of stuff, deal with a number of physical traumas, and even provide a friendly shoulder for Ofelia to cry on.
In this episode, it was straight up Junkie Summer Camp as Nick teaches Alejandro to cut their dwindling supply of pain killers and other narcotics with baby formula, prolonging both the meds and their good graces with the gang that controls the supermarket. The EDM soundtrack over the scene almost made it like watching some of the bonding moments shared by the characters in Breaking Bad.
Fear The Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC.