Spoiler Warning for Season 3, Episode 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.
Daniel Salazar is the badass apocalypse king that we all need. The latest episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” takes viewers on a journey to show how Daniel ended up at the dam, while offering insight into his personality, history and planting seeds for his future. By introducing a handful of interesting new characters and breaking ground with nearly all dialogue being in Spanish, this episode ranks as one of the best in the series and establishes the character of Daniel as quite possibly the most intriguing.
Daniel had a difficult time adjusting to his new life in the apocalypse during the first half of Season 2 with the fiery end to “Shiva” showcasing his deteriorating mental state; setting the Abigail mansion ablaze could have resulted in his own death, but instead set him on a new course. This episode picks up the morning after the Baja house was burned down with Daniel stumbling away and making his way down a highway (the same one that Nick traveled in “Grotesque“) to Tijuana; not only is Daniel severely burned, he is so dehydrated and weak that he literally moves like an Infected and could probably be mistaken for one by a survivor. A passing herd of Infected prompt Daniel to hide, but a lone straggler spots him and begins chasing him, leading to a tense struggle under a car; a German Shepherd comes out of nowhere and draws the Infected away, saving Daniel’s life. I just have to point out how much I appreciate the creativity that the wardrobe department is displaying with the clothing on the Infected on “Fear”; a major complaint that I have with “The Walking Dead” is the fact that the clothing on the walkers is incredibly bland, with many wearing almost identical outfits.
This episode does a fantastic job at introducing compelling characters. Efrain (Jesse Borrego) immediately stands out as he rescues Daniel from an Infected, but instead of just killing the undead attacker, he recites a religious verse first. Daniel begs for water and Efrain brings him to a shopping center in Tijuana where they drink from a fountain; Efrain tells Daniel that the fountain only flows with water at a certain time once a week. Next, Efrain and Daniel ride in a rickshaw through the streets of Tijuana as a speaker recites the word “agua” repeatedly; countless Infected follow the rickshaw and Daniel has a look of utter fear and confusion on his face as he tries to figure out what exactly Efrain is doing. They meet up with a group of people, but the pain from a burn on Daniel’s leg causes him to black out. Sometime later, Daniel awakens to find Efrain and a woman named Lola (Lisandra Tena) preparing to tend to his wounds; Daniel’s pants have been burned into his skin and must be scraped away to prevent infection. Not only is this scene absolutely unsettling to watch, it demonstrates the good-nature of Lola and Efrain as they are putting themselves at risk to help a survivor that they don’t know. For a brief moment, I was worried that Daniel was about to join Hershel and Bob as survivors that have lost legs, but thankfully we (and Daniel) were spared from that horror.
Later, Daniel and Efrain make their way to the Tijuana River, where they search for supplies and “free” a few of the Infected; Efrain seems to believe that killing the Infected is putting a merciful end to their suffering and therefore allowing them to pass to the next stage of life. At night, Daniel and Efrain discuss their pasts and there is a touching callback to life before the dead walked the Earth; Daniel gives Efrain a “professional haircut” as a sign of gratitude, one of the first times Daniel has actually thanked someone. There is clearly a lot of pent up guilt inside Daniel and he decides to open up to Efrain, sharing his story beginning in El Salvador and moving to Los Angeles, but also about the fact that he has killed 96 people in his lifetime. There is also a bit of heartbreaking dialogue from Daniel where he reveals that he believes he may have killed Ofelia in the fire that he set at the Abigail mansion; obviously viewers know that she is alive, but Daniel hasn’t seen her since and from his viewpoint, it would be very possible that she perished in the fire. Efrain can clearly sense the guilt that Daniel feels and offers some advice to him, but falls asleep before he can finish. Daniel isn’t one to be very vulnerable, but this episode completely changes him and he repeatedly asks for forgiveness from people that he encounters, showing an evolved man who wishes to repent for his sins.
Daniel seems to have lost his will to live and decides to head out at night in the middle of a fierce thunderstorm. In the river, Daniel fights off two Infected, but realizes that he is simply too weak and gets on his knees to pray; this is quite surprising as he has never shown himself to be religious, even though his wife was. What happens next is rather ridiculous, but does serve as a possible example of divine intervention (this is the second time that nature has saved him, first with the dog). A massive Infected acts oppositely to how the mythology states the undead should act by standing still and growling at Daniel before being struck by a bolt of lightening; while it is interesting to see weather interacting with the Infected, this could have been filmed better. Is Daniel being watched over by a higher power or was this just a coincidence? Regardless, Daniel finds himself in a tricky situation when he awakens in a sewer drain, coming face to face with two workers at the dam from the previous episode. The workers take him into a room where he reunites with Lola; she takes him on a tour of the Gonzalez Dam and explains how the distribution system works under the rule of Dante. Lola quickly puts together a cover story for Daniel and he becomes the dam’s newest custodian, something that is desperately needed to keep the Infected corpses from contaminating the water. It’s established from her dialogue with Daniel that Lola is fearful of Dante and his harsh leadership style.
After a hard day’s work of picking up dead bodies, Daniel and some of the other workers eat in the cafeteria; Dante arrives and the workers, minus Daniel, stand up in a sign of respect, similar to how the Saviors bow down when Negan enters a room. An altercation arises when one of Dante’s men disrespects Daniel, prompting him to stab the bodyguard in the hand with his fork (what’s up with the season and the characters using silverware as weapons?). Dante steps forward and studies Daniel, quickly deducing that he was a high-ranking member of the military in El Salvador and that he is a “killer.” Dante realizes that the dam needs a hardened survivor and immediately promotes him to another job; Dante explains that someone has been stealing water from the dam and that he wants Daniel to help find out who this is. With a team of Dante’s men, Daniel heads into Tijuana where they come across the water fountain from earlier; Daniel looks very unsettled when he realizes who the water thief actually is…it’s Efrain and he realizes that his only option is to turn him in. When he returns to the dam, he’s met with anger from Lola, who proclaims that Daniel and Dante are similar, referring to their dark nature. While working, Daniel notices some commotion at the dam’s main gate; this turns out to be Strand’s arrival from last episode and viewers are treated to an alternative perspective of this scene. This is also the point at which Daniel’s story syncs up with the present timeline, allowing for a not-so joyful reunion with Strand.
Daniel visits Strand in his cell, but there is no time for small talk; Daniel wants to know what happened to Ofelia (don’t we all, Daniel?). Strand explains that they all thought that he had died in the fire and that he escaped the compound with Madison, Alicia and Ofelia before they settled at the Rosarito Beach Hotel; Strand enters lie territory as he tells Daniel that Ofelia is at the hotel and that she is waiting for her father to return. Daniel catches him in this lie and there is a look of disappointment on his face as he comes to believe that Ofelia is actually dead. Daniel and Strand have always had a rocky relationship and they have never really trusted each other and this only adds to their lack of trust. Later, Daniel is asked by Dante to interrogate Efrain to get him to admit to stealing water and to reveal the person at the dam that he was working with. Daniel tries to show some mercy to Efrain by stating that he will kill him quickly before proceeding to punch him repeatedly; he then grabs a hammer, but Lola steps forward and puts an end to the torture, but also exposes herself in the process. This leads Dante to plan a mass execution of the “traitors,” even rounding up the two workers that found Daniel in the drain; as shown in the previous episode, Dante’s way of killing people is by tossing them over the side of the dam into a pit of Infected. With the help of Daniel, Dante does this to one of the workers; however, before Lola meets the same fate, Daniel has a change of heart and decides to shoot all of the henchmen and ultimately, Dante (this marks one-hundred people that he has now killed, a reference to the episode title). This badass move by Daniel seems to win Lola over as he asks for her forgiveness, which she accepts. Could this be the start of a new team of leaders at the dam?
“100” is simply outstanding from beginning to end and really showcases the fact that Daniel is one of the show’s most fascinating characters, thanks to his journey both before and during the apocalypse. Rubén Blades delivers some of the best performances in the entire series, portraying such a broad range of emotions and feelings over the course of the hour. His interactions with Strand, Efrain and Lola serve to demonstrate just how layered of a character he is; he isn’t a bad person, but if you cross him or prove yourself to be distrustful (in the case of Strand), he will not get along with you. The introductions of the new characters, specifically Efrain and Lola, are handled perfectly and I found myself caring about them right off the bat; Lisandra Tena is listed as a series regular, so hopefully we will see a lot from her character moving forward. This episode is also excellent in terms of displaying the bleakness of the apocalypse, with supplies and water running low; the locations shown in this series are also worth noting as being incredibly refreshing and unique. Major props should be given to AMC for having the courage to make an episode almost entirely in Spanish; in this day and age, they could have easily copped out and gone the unrealistic route of making Spanish-speaking characters talk in English to appease American audiences. It isn’t clear what Daniel will do now and if he will try to get more information out of Strand about Ofelia; by the way…WHERE IS OFELIA?
Be sure to tune in to “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.