Fear the Walking Dead impresses once again in the Strand-centric, Lennie James directed “Welcome to the Club”.
This recap of Fear the Walking Dead season 6, episode 2, “Welcome to the Club”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Last week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead was the first one I’ve enjoyed in at least a couple of years. And here’s some good news: I enjoyed “Welcome to the Club” even more. In part this is because Lennie James leaves the limelight – we return instead to the show’s OGs Victor Strand and Alicia, among others, who, however good Morgan’s episode was, feel much more in tune with what this show was originally about. Lennie James, as it happens, swaps that focus on his character for a stint in the director’s chair, and he does a bang-up job of deconstructing a man whose fluid morality remains his greatest weakness and most interesting quirk.
“Welcome to the Club” also feels like more of a direct continuation from last season’s finale. Virginia intentionally split the core group up then, but obviously hasn’t done a good job of it considering Alicia and Strand end up pulling latrine duty in the same settlement and quickly encounter Daniel, feigning amnesia and cutting Virginia’s hair. Oh, and Charlie is there, since she and Daniel come as something of a two-piece now, even if he’s pretending not to remember her. This calculated bit of deception is, I hope, a precursor to Daniel rediscovering his prior identity as Salvadoran executioner and one of The Walking Dead universe’s all-time badasses, rather than an avuncular older dude who plays songs and has a cat called Skidmark. (Jesus, this show got so bad.)
At least, though, we haven’t totally forgotten what the show was all about back in the day since we’re returning to the seemingly bottomless well of Strand’s innate cowardice and soft moral center. This has always been his arc. He’s concerned virtually entirely with himself and is willing to do just about anything to preserve his safety, but deep down he’d like to pretend he’s the altruistic team player that Alicia and more recently Daniel have tried to convince him he can be. “Welcome to the Club” says to hell with that and, like Morgan’s reinvention in the premiere, takes the first steps along a new, more interesting path for the character.
The sacrificial lamb for this transition is Sanjay (Satya Nikhil Polisetti), part of a bigger group that includes Strand, Alicia, and Charlie, and also Janis (Holly Curran), who’re told by Virginia’s younger sister Dakota (Zoe Colletti) that an old sugar warehouse contains a secret weapon and so set about clearing it out. This enables the zombie gimmick of the episode, which is that they’re all covered in spilled molasses and as such are impossible to escape from once they grab you. This is a fun concept and “Welcome to the Club” runs with it for a while before eventually stacking the odds against the group enough for Sanjay to abandon his post and flee. Strand takes his opportunity, following him to a trailer where he’s hiding and eventually sacrificing him to save everyone else, thus beginning the “Anakin kills Mace Windu” portion of his fall to the Dark Side.
Good. Sympathies to Sanjay, of course, but he was useless anyway, and morally compromised Strand is much better than whatever version of the character we got last season. Virginia also sees the appeal, though admittedly based on his efficiency in clearing out the warehouse. There’s no secret weapon there, but the whole process works as an audition for the role of Virginia’s strategic military commander, which comes with a key to the city. That’s two major characters in possession of keys now (Morgan got one last week) which can’t be a coincidence. Whether it’s some kind of overarching plot point or just a superficial way of linking the anthological stories is anyone’s guess. There’s also the question of why Virginia needs a military force in the first place, though one imagines it isn’t for anything good.
Either way, Strand uses his newfound privileges to assign Alicia to another settlement, which is good since it means she won’t have to share space with him in her own episode, which I’m probably not alone in quite eagerly anticipating at this point. If you told me last year I’d be saying that I’d have said you were ridiculous, so I think that’s a good sign.
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