As if last week's Lennie James-directed chapter didn't already do a great job of driving home our point that alumni from "The Walking Dead" universe cast should be required by law to direct at least two episodes per season, AMC's Fear the Walking Dead makes our case for us once again with this weekend's Alycia Debnam-Carey-directed, Alex Delyle & David Johnson-written S07E11 "Ofelia." In this week's episode, the spotlight shifts back to the sub as Morgan looks to gather both guns and an army to take down Strand (Colman Domingo) and take The Tower. But Daniel's (Rubén Blades) worsening mental condition results in him, Luciana (Danay García), and Wes (Colby Hollman) being separated from the group. Because as Daniel sees it, there's no mission more important right now than to find his daughter, Ofelia… who died back in the third season. Making matters far worse and much deadlier, the trio has a fateful run-in with Arno (Spenser Granese) and the Stalkers. What results is not only one of the finest hours of television that a "Walking Dead" series has ever brought to air but also an intimate, heartbreaking, and in-your-face reminder that in this world? Sometimes, good people make bad decisions… and some lines can never be uncrossed. So before we do a deep dive into S07E11 "Ofelia, we're throwing on our "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign & throwing down an image spoiler buffer, and we'll see you on the other side…
"And The Emmy Goes To…": Look, I still believe in a fantasy world where Emmy voters treat genre shows like The Walking Dead fairly & evenly when it comes to awards consideration. So with that in mind, Blades' performance in this episode would be a slam-dunk. The modern-day Renaissance Man (because that's easier to write than all of the creative areas he's immersed in) has already blown us away with his ability to present viewers with essentially two different & distinct variants of the same Daniel Salazar. But in case you may have forgotten what Blades brings to the table as he's played more of an ensemble role in the past few seasons, the actor offers both Daniels in one man at one time, struggling for control of his mind. And while other actors would understandably find such a feat difficult to pull off, Blades adds an extra layer to his game by offering a third Daniel- the one seemingly caught between two minds. This Daniel is the "warning observer," as we see at the end when he warns Luciana of what will happen if he believes her and walks through that door in his mind to his old self, only to learn that it was all a lie. On a personal note, there were more moments in this episode that I care to remember that reminded me of what my father suffered through during his final years and that's not something I've been able to say often about a series or film.
The Good, The Bad & The Walking Dead: Tying into our previous look at Blades' Daniel, if TWD universe viewers ever needed an episode to remind them of how the world can force good people to make bad decisions then this is that one. Because walker-filled lands are bad enough, but when you add radiation walkers and nuclear fallout into the mix then the desperation triples. But what I really appreciated about "Ofelia" was that it never wagged a moral finger at anyone, leaving the viewers enough emotional space to debate among each other and internally what they would've done. Is Luciana wrong to feed into Daniel's belief that Ofelia is still alive and then further it by lying to him that Strand has her if it ends up saving lives? Is Arno really different from any other leader we've seen when he says he was just doing what needed to be done to keep his people alive? Can Wes claim a moral high ground on Luciana when we see how quickly he went to join The Tower? None of the questions that this episode raises has an easy answer, and that's what makes it stay with you days after.
Random Thoughts: This is Debnam-Carey's first directorial work? Seriously? Then righteous praise Debnam-Carey's debut, showing off a keen ability to craft intimate moments in the midst of mind-numbing horror. I could definitely see directing live theater in her future. Also, García demonstrated some of her strongest work yet on the serious, letting the moral struggles in her mind play out masterfully across her face, with eyes that told the story of her heartbreak even as she made the decision to do what she thought needed to be done.
So that wraps things up for this week, but things already look tense in the Ron Underwood-directed and Justin Boyd & Jacob Pinion-written S07E12 "Sonny Boy"- as Baby Mo goes missing and Strand continues to spiral.