‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season 2 Episode 6 Review: Disturbing ‘Sicut Cervus’ Marks Turning Point
Recap and review of Fear the Walking Dead – Season 2 Episode 6 – Sicut Cervus:
So I’ve mostly critiqued Fear the Walking Dead for being a show where it doesn’t feel like a whole lot happens. Even when major changes go down, it mostly feels segregated within the given episode. In a way, the show has had a procedural approach, where the people we meet and lose within that hour have no real bearing on what comes next. Granted, the show is gradually getting away from that approach by integrating recurring characters into the cast. This is probably why the disturbing “Sicut Cervus” feels so momentous. The things that are happening are beginning to stick, marking a turning point for these characters.
Case in point, it feels we’re at a crossroads with Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie). Early in the episode, he freezes during a walker attack at a church, and nearly lets Madison (Kim Dickens) get bitten. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), after rescuing her mother, is understandably livid. But Chris is quick to go on the defensive — and the offensive, strangely enough. He not only tells Alicia he didn’t want Madison to be killed, he goes on to threaten that he might have to hurt her if she goes around implying that he did. It’s a genuinely creepy moment, made all the more striking by Henrie’s performance. I haven’t been crazy about the character of Chris, or Henrie’s angsty portrayal, but it makes sense for what he’s gradually becoming. What we have here is the kind of person we end up seeing farther on down the line in The Walking Dead — the type of person who, shaped by tragedy and made to feel that strength/might is the only form of control, ends up going crazy. Of course, we’re not exactly there yet with Chris, but that seems to be where this is going, and I think it’s a really effective direction for the story to take since it divides the group, in a way. Madison remaining mad at him over the Reed shooting is a sticking point with Chris, and it prompts us to wonder how much of his inaction at the church was genuine panic, and how much of it was revenge against at Madison for doubting him. Chris feels he was totally justified in shooting Reed, a guy who he believed was turning, and wonders why no one else feels the same way. It creates a certain amount of paranoia in Chris, and further separates Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Maddie who, for the first time that I can recall this season, decide to bunk separately, choosing their respective children over each other. It makes for an interesting conflict, since Travis thinks Madison should help Chris. I mean, Chris’s apparent mental issues aren’t all that different from Nick’s addiction, right? And he did what he could to help Madison and Nick through that rough patch, so why shouldn’t Madison help Chris? But Travis doesn’t recognize the fundamental differences between the two situations. It’s not like Nick (Frank Dillane) threatened Chris’s life while high. But that’s essentially what Chris did to Alicia, so she doesn’t exactly feel safe around the kid, nor does she feel safe allowing Alicia to be around him. And yet, it IS something that needs to be deal with soon, so why not just help Chris now? It’s these types of back-and-forth suppositions that help drive the story and create compelling conflict between the characters. Travis chooses his son, showing faith in Chris’s inherent goodness. But Chris ends up swiping a knife and sneaking into Madison and Alicia’s room, intent on doing Lord only knows what. In essence, we see the mental and moral degradation of Chris throughout the episode, and it’s a story that’s been a long time in coming, especially after Reed’s claim last week that Chris was the useless member of the team. He’s been carrying a lot of baggage since losing his mother, and he’s been eager to prove himself, which is why he balks when other people don’t think he’s capable, or when they question his judgment or motives. But then, they’re not exactly wrong to question Chris with, at the very least, a strained “What the f***, dude?!” Hell, he might have actually done the unthinkable had there not been the sound of gunfire from off in the distance. Which brings me to one of the other positives of the episode.
On the one hand, I wish Thomas Abigail had stuck around longer, if only because he provides a window into the real personality of Strand (Colman Domingo), rather than the image he wishes to project to the rest of the group. On the other hand, I’m not sure what else the show could have really done with Abigail but kill him — which is exactly what the episode ends up doing. As it turns out, by the time the group reaches Abigail’s sanctuary, he’s near death from a walker bite. To make matters worse, he’s not the only person they’ve lost, as Luis (Arturo Del Puerto) joins the ranks of the undead early into the episode, a fact which doesn’t seem to bother his mother, Celia, who believes the condition isn’t so much death as it is the next stage (seems to be a bit of a running theme in this universe, I guess). Celia’s reaction to her son’s death, particularly her assertion that he’ll find his way back home, is foreshadowing for the disturbing cliffhanger that anchors the episode. With Strand struggling to decide whether or not he wants to join Abigail in the afterlife, Daniel (Ruben Blades) discovers that Celia poisoned the parishioners of the walker-filled church at the start of the episode, creating a strange community of captured walkers she feeds every day, not unlike Hershel’s barn from The Walking Dead Season 2. This is what Strand means when he tells Abigail that Celia would look out for both of them if they both ended up turning. This collection of walkers gives us a macabre twist that is compelling in its own right, but which doesn’t undercut the power of the personal stories being told. That gunshot we hear when Chris goes to (presumably) kill Madison and Alicia? It’s Strand putting Abigail out of his misery, showing compassion rather than giving in to Celia’s loose definition of the afterlife. It’s a strong moment for Strand that, admittedly, might have had more resonance had we known Thomas for longer. But I’m just happy to get any sort of character development at all. Ditto for the flashbacks with Daniel, which show us a bit more of his complicated past in El Salvador. I’m totally up for the show adopting flashbacks as a narrative technique, particularly for characters we don’t know a whole lot about (we don’t really need flashbacks for Madison and her kids, or Travis and Chris). However, I worry the show might start to rely on flashbacks too much, or continue to do them when it no longer makes sense (looking at you, Arrow). So I guess I’m torn on how the show should present its narrative going forward. But, at the very least, I was stoked with how this episode turned out, and I haven’t been able to say that a whole lot this season. Fear the Walking Dead might turn into a worthy companion series yet.
But what did you think of Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 6, “Sicut Cervus”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Fear the Walking Dead, read our review of last week’s solid “Captive”!