With last week's episode of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead finding our heroes shifting their focus onto this season's (and quite possibly longer than that) real big bad, those "The End is the Beginning" folks. Following up on a theory from Dakota (Zoe Colletti), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Althea (Maggie Grace), Luciana (Danay García), and Wes (Colby Hollman) infiltrate an underground location that takes them directly into the heart of darkness. Waiting to greet them is Nick Stahl's Riley, but things quickly de-escalate from there as our survivors begin to understand just how dangerous (and far-reaching) this group is. And before the end credits rolled and we found ourselves screaming at the screen for ten more minutes, Wes would suffer a tragic loss… Al would head out to make a very important contact… and Luciana would make sure Morgan (Lennie James) understood the gravity of the situation. As for Alicia? Well, it appears she's going to learn what the true mission is directly from the top- Teddy (John Glover). So with that in mind, we're going to throw on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throw up a spoiler buffer image- and we'll meet you on the other side to let you know our thoughts on "The Holding."
Thank you, director K.C. Colwell and writer Channing Powell! Because after three intensely crafted episodes, this is exactly the change-of-pace episode we were wanting. This was a "fun" episode- which I know is a weird way to describe an episode that involves a doomsday-like cult, Wes killing his recently-reunited-with brother Derek (Chinaza Uche), and Alicia in the clutches of the cult's supreme leader. But I'll get to that in a minute- first, it's time to recognize the acting standouts this week.
First, props to Debnam-Carey's ability to have evolved Alicia into a character who can speak four sentences with a single glare but is more than ready to put aside "strong but silent" for a verbal smackdown every now and then. Stahl's Riley might be one of the more disturbing characters we've met in the TWD universe in quite some time. Putting across a character who preaches his philosophy in such a matter-of-fact and assumed-true way that it becomes easy to buy into whatever it is he's peddling (or shoveling), Stahl establishes an understanding with the viewer straight from the jump that it's a no-brainer why Riley is Teddy's right-hand person.
Speaking of Teddy, does anyone do "reasoned insanity with moments of rage" better than Glover? Hell, his voiceover during the opener had us wondering if maybe they're not so bad (they're bad). But Glover knows how to play devils and how important it is that they have the seductive charm to at least get the other person to pause and question their position. Do we see it working with Alicia? no, but having Glover in this role makes the possibility intriguing.
But this was Hollman's episode, working with writer Powell's words to present the best, most well-rounded view of Wes yet. Because it felt real- all of it. From how he reacted to seeing his once-thought-dead brother alive, to the horror and disgust he felt after learning what Derek had done, to the heartbreak of knowing that his brother would choose Teddy over anyone- even his own brother. And while we're certain that Derek's death at his hands (total self-defense) will continue to haunt him down the road, I also respected how Wes held onto the beliefs he once shared with his brother and wouldn't allow Derek to try to rationalize them away- some of the most impactful moments this round came when Wes was forcing Derek to face what he had done- to acknowledge the lives he had taken. If this doesn't earn Hollman series regular status in the seventh season (assuming Wes lives) then I don't know what is.
Now for the "fun" part because this was where my inner-TWD fanboy came out because there's nothing better than a "big bad" so big and so bad that it's potentially going to connect all three shows in the WD universe. In a movie that reminded me a bit of how American Horror Story connected all of the seasons in a simple, direct way during AHS 1984, Al and Wes learn after going through Derek's stuff that Teddy's folks have been attacking settlements for some time now and that they have a very broad reach- and that reach has included some CRM settlements. Yup, mind blown. And that's why this episode was so "fun" and was sorely needed after three emotional gut punches in a row- because now i's turned the season into an interactive experience. Let the Charlie Kelly-It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia conspiracy boards begin- and props to the showrunners and writers for not exaggerating when they teased that this could be the biggest danger any series has ever faced.
So what's the group's game plan? I'm thinking live underground and set off a nuclear device on the surface to go scorched earth. So how do they know about Morgan Jones? Sorry, Grace (Karen David)- my money's on you having sold out Morgan since what? The fourth season? A steady stream of intel gave them all they needed to know about him- but how much of an advantage is it? And while all of this is going on Al's taking off to see if she can make contact with CRM via Isabel (Sydney Lemmon)- will the enemy of my enemy truly prove to be a friend? Who knows? And that's what I loved about "The Holding"- questions brought answers that brought more questions, leaving us feeling both satisfied and counting down the days until the next chapter.