TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Red Dirt’

"Good people die easy as bad."

| July 3, 2017

Spoiler Warning for Season 3, Episode 6 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark and Sam Underwood as Jake Otto. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

War is brewing and life at the Broke Jaw Ranch has become far more dangerous than anyone could have predicted. Season 3 has focused heavily on the Clark family as they settle into their new home and acquaint themselves with the Ottos. The latest episode furthers this and explores themes of loyalty and trust. While far slower-paced than previous episodes, this does serve as a yet another strong chapter, developing the characters and setting the stage for an epic Mid-Season Finale.

This episode picks up not long after last week’s, with the characters slowly figuring out that the Ranch isn’t the safe oasis they originally believed it to be. Jeremiah trains Nick with his new gun at the firing range, but it’s clear that Nick doesn’t have his head in the game, fearful about the fact that Madison hasn’t returned yet. At the lookout post, Alicia expresses her own worries to Jake while laying in bed with him; after what happened with Travis, it makes perfect sense that the Clark siblings would be scared for their mother. Troy’s militia is shown stumbling down the road to the Ranch; each soldier is in terrible shape, exhausted and struggling to walk after having their shoes taken. Everyone reunites outside of the gate, but some heavy tension forms as Jeremiah wishes to discuss what happened in private, much to the dismay of Vernon and some of the other Ranch residents who believe that everyone deserves to know about the threat. Vernon’s son preemptively announces to the crowd that they were captured by a group of Native Americans and that they need to flee the Ranch lest they be killed. At the Otto cabin, Jeremiah speaks with Troy, Jake and Madison about Walker’s threat; each character has their own viewpoint on the situation, but Jeremiah’s stands out as being the most dangerous. He believes that Walker is simply trying to scare them, but Madison states that they must fight. Jake explains that Walker’s group believes that the Ranch is on stolen land and that he faced off against him in court prior to the apocalypse. This discussion delves into a bit of a political discussion, which feels somewhat out of place and irrelevant in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Nevertheless, hearing the variety of viewpoints highlights the mixed leadership style at the Ranch.

Frank Dillane as Nick Clark and Daniel Sharman as Troy Otto. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

A huge part of this episode (and this season) is the Clarks slowly deconstructing the members of the Otto family, as well as the other Ranch residents. Following the militia’s return, Nick and Alicia treat Madison’s foot wounds while catching up with each other; Madison finds out that Luciana left for Mexico, allowing for a touching moment where she commends Nick for being strong, clearly thankful that he has chosen to stay with his family rather than leave again. Later, Alicia checks in with Jake as he is practicing at the firing range; she gets some shooting tips while giving Jake some advice about his future at the Ranch, urging him to be more of a leader. I’m not exactly sure why Alicia needs gun training as she was already shown to be killing Infected with headshots; still, I’m glad we got this scene because the series really skipped over the characters having any form of weapons training. Madison learns of trouble in the ranks when Gretchen comes to speak to her about her family’s impending departure; Vernon, one of the “Founding Fathers” of the Ranch is planning on taking his family and leaving, possibly heading to a colony in Colorado. Thus far Gretchen has been portrayed as a calm and collected character, so seeing her so frightened is enough proof that the Ranch isn’t as safe as it was initially presented to be.

“Fear the Walking Dead” has done a fantastic job at mixing survival drama with elements of horror; the disgusting crow scene from “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame” is a prime example of this. We see another case of this here when the Ranchers are awoken in the night to find the property surrounded by fires at specific points; this creates a feeling of claustrophobia and impending doom while raising the stakes of the threat. There is some truly incredible cinematography as the camera focuses on the characters with the burning fires in visible in the background; there is something about a fire burning in the darkness that makes for an eerie shot. In the morning, Jeremiah, Madison and Jake inspect the fires and deduce that they were set to scare the Ranchers into leaving and that they may not actually have the manpower to attack. Still, there is a growing sense of panic felt in the community and the pantry becomes a hotbed of this fear as worried families collect supplies before fleeing the Ranch. Vernon finds Jeremiah and tells him that he is leaving with his family, but Madison urges him to stay and fight; Jeremiah almost seems unmoved by the fact that his close friend is leaving and he doesn’t try to stop him. A major part of this episode is the fracturing of Jeremiah’s role as leader while Madison slowly asserts herself in a position of power.

Frank Dillane as Nick, Dayton Callie as Jeremiah and Kim Dickens as Madison Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Troy has already been shown to be unstable and murderous, but the past few episodes have really peeled back his layers and revealed him to be a multi-dimensional character; however, this episode showcases his darker side again. As the Trimbol family is leaving in their RV, Troy tries to stop them at the main gate by basically holding everyone hostage. He threatens to shoot the main guard in the head before screaming at Vernon and Mike. Jake steps forward and tries to calm Troy, but there is no stopping him and things get physical as they shove each other, prompting Jeremiah to step in and punch Troy. Nevertheless, the Trimbols are allowed to leave; Gretchen waves goodbye to Alicia, effectively signaling the end of their “Bible studies.” Later, Madison checks in on Troy and learns that he is broken up over the fact that Mike left; it’s revealed through dialogue that Mike looked out for Troy and that they were best friends for years. Madison urges Troy to lead and he winds up giving a passionate and empowering speech to his militia about leading by example and keeping the Ranch safe; I found myself liking Troy more than ever this episode with his speech making him really stand out as a character.

Troy isn’t the only Otto struggling to come to terms with the Trimbols leaving; Jeremiah has been in a downward spiral the entire episode, but he really hits a low point when Nick finds him drunk in the burned out house. He and Nick had been remodeling it and Jeremiah has taken a break to get completely wasted and ponder about the fact that he is the only remaining “Founding Father,” with Vernon gone and Russell and Phil now dead. Jeremiah tries to get Nick to drink, but he refuses and states that he is “high on life.” I’m really proud of Nick for remaining strong and fighting the urge to give up his sobriety; this is such a turnaround to his character in Season 1, when his addiction pretty much defined his entire existence. Jeremiah’s anger turns into violence as he grabs Nick’s gun and shoots at the ground; he’s completely irrational and Nick has a look of worry on his face. However, when morning comes around, Nick pretends to have no knowledge of Jeremiah’s slip-up, showing that he believes that one mistake does not define someone. Jeremiah spots a single horse just outside of the fence and becomes immediately fearful after realizing that it belongs to Vernon. There’s just something incredibly foreboding about a lone horse in the apocalypse setting; it’s almost a warning of death and despair.

Rae Gray as Infected Gretchen, Dayton Callie as Jeremiah Otto and Kim Dickens as Madison Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Feeling like something is very wrong, Jeremiah enlists Madison and Nick to join him on an investigation. They leave the Ranch and search for the Trimbols, but Jeremiah makes it clear that he believes them to be dead. They come across the RV and horse trailer in the middle of a road, only to find it riddled with bullet holes. Jeremiah enters the RV and two gunshots are heard as he puts down Infected Vernon and Kathy. Nick hears Infected snarling and searches the area, locating Mike dead and an even more gruesome sight; the other horse (WHY DO HORSES ALWAYS DIE IN THE “TWD” FRANCHISE?) is being devoured alive by a some Infected. Madison, Nick and Jeremiah kill the Infected one by one, but are saddened to find that Gretchen has also turned. She snaps at them and Madison hesitates to shoot her, prompting Nick to step forward and do it for her; its clear seeing Gretchen as an Infected is devastating to Madison as she just spoke to her the day before, plus the fact that Gretchen is similar in age to Alicia. After loading the bodies in their truck, Nick points out that this doesn’t seem like something that Walker would do, considering the RV, horses and supplies were left behind; he believes that Troy may be responsible, but Madison doesn’t agree, even though Jeremiah clearly knows his son is responsible. I love how sleuth-like Nick is in this scene as this is a trait that he has been shown to have multiple times.

Madison’s growing power is asserted even more when she and the others return to the Ranch with the bodies in tow. Everyone is shocked to see their friends have been murdered, but Madison really steps up and takes control of the situation. She gives a rallying speech about how the Ranchers have accepted her family into their community and how they have come to love living there. When discussing the Trimbols’ murderer, she slyly covers up the fact that Troy is responsible and places all of the blame on Walker’s group; this is meant to make the Ranchers fearful to flee, but also make them angry and ready to fight for their home. Special attention must be paid to the fact that Madison specifically uses keywords such as “us” and “we” when referring to the community; the Clarks are now members in this community and they are along for the ride. Troy looks very uncomfortable as she gives the speech and Alicia runs off, clearly distraught over the recent developments and the death of her friend. Earlier in the day, Jake left the Ranch to try to meet with Walker and discuss a solution to their conflict, much to the dismay of Alicia. She collects some supplies and presumably leaves to catch up with him; while peaceful negotiation typically doesn’t end well, it’s very possible that Jake will be able to talk Walker down and come up with a solution that works for everyone. In the pantry, Nick calls Madison out for lying and not including him in the plan; he states that he understands her reasoning, but also tells her to remember what kind of a person Troy is. Later, Madison meets with Troy and gets him to confess about killing the Trimbols; he claims that he simply lost control, but Madison flat out tells him that his actions were unacceptable and that he will need to control himself if they wish to survive what is coming for them. The relationship between Troy and Madison is so fascinating and this episode really dives into just how deep their connection is.

Frank Dillane as Nick and Kim Dickens as Madison Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

“Red Dirt” is yet another strong episode of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” best season yet; I’ll admit that I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as its predecessors, but I definitely appreciate the character and story developments. The Broke Jaw Ranch really is rich with story and it’s very interesting to see how each of the residents deal with the dangerous situation they are currently in. Madison has risen to power and her relationship with Troy gives her access to the militia, which will definitely come in handy as she protects her family. Alicia’s relationship with Jake is also furthered, but she tells Madison that she doesn’t actually love him and is really only with him for companionship, which is perfectly understandable given the circumstances. Nick remains my favorite character and this episode shows off why I love him so much; his care for others and desire to keep people safe makes him undeniably likable. The Otto family continues to impress me as characters and I really look forward to their stories moving forward, especially since they are each so different. Will Walker launch an attack on the Ranch? Will the residents be forced to flee? Who will be the next victim of the cruel apocalyptic world? AND WHERE IS OFELIA? (Pay close attention to the promo for next week and you just may have an answer to that last question!)

Be sure to tune in to the two-episode Mid-Season Finale next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”


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Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”