TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 3 “TEOTWAWKI” sheds more light on Broke Jaw Ranch

Last week’s odd decision to kill off the show’s strongest and most interesting character in a very off-hand fashion was a bold move. Fear the Walking Dead’s writing team has to date proven to be inconsistent, impatient and unable to squeeze the horror-survival for all the juicy potential it has, but there have been moments of great strength.

Last season’s finale was a high-point, as was this season’s premiere; though the second episode left much to be desired as it mostly served as an introduction to Broke Jaw Ranch, a doomsday preppers safe haven, which Madison, Nick and Alicia are now a part of. The third, “TEOTWAWKI” (the end of the world as we know it), doesn’t do much to pick the quality back up; though effective in its exploration of the ranch, giving us several new seemingly uninteresting characters, the story is clumsy as the writers attempt to re-position Madison following her grief over Travis, as well as ramp up tension between Troy and Nick.

The episode beings with an awkward infomercial (?) from Jeremiah Otto, said doomsday-prepper, and his family long before the apocalypse actually happened (when Troy and Jake were still children and their mother was in the picture). The reveal is obviously setting up mystery to float around Jeremiah, although the stakes of which remain to be seen. It’s not as interesting as finding out what happened to Ophelia, seeing as Jeremiah was the last one to interact with her in the tail-end of season 2; that’s a question remains unanswered when this episode wraps up.

Madison’s intentions are kept hazy through the episode, illustrating a more suspicious and careful character who already has an outwardly hostile foe in Troy. Troy makes it clear that he feels Nick is a threat to the ranch and that he doesn’t belong, making it known to Madison that he has it out for her son. It’s all fairly straight-forward there, and although the threat does make for an interesting dynamic – especially when Troy’s brother Jake swears to protect Madison and her family – there’s just not enough here, at least not yet, to suggest FTWD have finally found the tension they have so desperately needed.

A confusing scene between Nick and Troy on a faux-hunting trip seems to be the sole scene of suspense in this largely zombie-free episode, but even that stumbles. Nick gets the jump on his newfound frenemy and Troy begs to be killed in the name of science – a move that makes no sense given the antagonist’s survival instincts – but of course that doesn’t happen, and instead Nick tears a few pages out of Troy’s journal, giggles like a child, and then the two conclude that they could be friends. It’s all very ridiculous and is yet again another example of the show building tension and then smothering it just as fast.

Instead the suspense falls on Madison, who by the end of the episode has volunteered to head out with a “search and potentially rescue” party, which includes Troy. We know Madison plans on “taking over” Broke Jaw Ranch if need be, backed by her two barely competent kids, and that she will stop at nothing to protect Nick from Troy, but the gesture could also just be to better integrate her family into the community seeing as the ranch is obviously extremely well-stocked and that Jeremiah, as shady as he is, doesn’t appear to be an outright unfair leader.

Some moments of levity come with Alicia’s odd new friends, a faux-bible study group who sit around puffing on bongs and talking to a dead zombie head (in a birdcage) named Geoff. It’d possibly be a good place to take Alicia’s arc, who is obviously dealing with internal guilt from killing her first human (she stabbed someone to protect Travis last season), if her new friends weren’t incredibly boring characters.

Brief stops over with Strand have him leaving the hotel in his rear-view and being thrust into a new storyline featuring a cartel-like figure named Dante, a ghost from Victor’s past and one who is quite obviously suspicious of the show’s anti-hero. The setting is a dam, meaning that Dante here has built a supply-demand empire from controlling the distribution of water and he most certainly doesn’t trust Strand around such a lucrative source, so after nearly killing him he chucks Strand in prison.

And prison is where the episode ends, relying on the major reveal of a returning character to cap off a fairly uninteresting episode with at least the promises of something much better to come.

Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

You can catch Fear the Walking Dead in Australia express from the U.S on FX, Foxtel, Mondays at 7:30pm AEST.

Feature Image: Michael Desmond/AMC.