Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis and written by Ian Goldberg & Andrew Chambliss, this weekend's episode of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead brought an intensely impressive seventh season to its midseason finale with hope, heartbreak, revelations, and exactly the kind of punch-in-the-face cliffhanger ending I was hoping for. As you can tell from the episode title "PADRE," we find the now-returned Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) in need of Morgan's (Lennie James) help in getting her people to the mythic safe haven. But with Alicia back, it was only a matter of time until Victor (Colman Domingo) showed up with his forces for a painfully brutal reunion. And if you're like me and you thought that there was a whole lot more to Will (Gus Halper) than what we were introduced to in the first episode, then you were definitely not disappointed as we also looked back at Alicia's time while locked in the bunker. So with that in mind, we're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throwing down an image spoiler buffer ahead of our deep-dive into "PADRE."
Even with spot-on direction from Satrazemis, Goldberg & Chambliss's intimate understanding of the Fear TWD universe, and strong support from Domingo & Morgan, the only way that "PADRE" was going to work was if Debnam-Carey and Halper could make viewers believe that they were something. And by "something," I mean that they had the challenge of getting viewers to buy into Alicia and Will as two people who made such a connection in such a short period of time that he would be someone Alicia would be willing to go to war over. And then they had to pull it off in flashbacks while sharing screen time with the here-and-now actions. Not only did Debnam-Carey and Halper stick the landing beautifully, but they also did it in a way that turned Strand into a bigger big bad- which we weren't sure was possible. Because even though the Victor we see in this episode appears to be reaching out to Alicia on an emotional level, seeing what Alicia & Will had before Strand murdered him only made me look at Victor with more disgust every time he appeared.
S07E08 "PADRE" Takeaways: Between heart-hitting quotes, interesting themes that appear in-play, and observations about some similarities with the rest of the TWDU, there was a lot of ground to cover before the end credits rolled on the midseason finale of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead. Here's a look:
Throwing Alicia's belief in walkers' having "echo memories" and the introduction of Senator Vazquez with what's been going on over in The Walking Dead & The Walking Dead: World Beyond, it feels like the TWDU is shifting its focus away from the walkers and more onto what brought along the zombie apocalypse and if we really know as much about what the walkers as we think we do. I'm particularly interested in how we're seeing & hearing more about the government and military's involvement (like when the Reapers' Pope (Ritchie Coster) explained over on TWD about what went down went things first went south).
Will having to stay hidden and listen as Sen. Vazquez and the others were killed was some rough intel to learn, but not nearly as painful as when Morgan name-dropped his son's death when pushing back on Alicia's belief that walkers still retained some echo memories. And the irony of watching two of the biggest walker-killers in the TWDU franchise in Alicia and Morgan risk their lives to keep one "alive" was not lost on us.
Serious bonus points to Goldberg & Chambliss for swerving us on Alicia getting bitten. Sure, our badass hero got bit- but back when she was still trying to get free of Teddy's bunker and not when she saved Morgan from being killed by Victor. It made for a shocking surprise (props to the effects team for how they portrayed Alicia's arm) and also helped to further establish Alicia and Will's bond. Will wants Alicia to live & build the kind of world that he already knows that he would want to be a part of, while Alicia sees in Will a realistic reminder of what could still be. A near-perfect give-take was established between the two, so near-perfect that it makes you hate Victor even more for what he did. But perhaps the cardinal sin Victor committed from which there is no turning back? Stealing Will's chance to tell Alicia he loved her himself, with Victor making Alicia hear it for the first time from his lips and not Will's.
The idea that Alicia is still fighting the infection and that she believes she is dying was also another twist that I didn't see coming, especially after learning she was out for a week and that her raging fever broke during it. It's what made an already impressive scene between Alicia & Morgan where Morgan explains that he's essentially looking to pass the torch to her that much more heartbreaking. Because while Morgan may be feeling tired, Alicia is looking to stay three steps ahead of The Grim Reaper. Maybe it's the war that Alicia ends the episode threatening Victor with that will end up being the right kind of inspiration to keep her alive when AMC's Fear the Walking Dead returns in 2022.