A treat for long-time fans of the show as a character thought long dead returns ... and immediately points a gun at Victor Strand.
Tonight's episode of "Fear the Walking Dead" was a wild ride for both the plane crash survivors and Victor Strand. The latter is on a quest to find a plane to save his friends, but he finds an old friend instead. Okay, friend is perhaps too strong a word.
Long-time fans of "Fear the Walking Dead" know that Victor Strand was an absolute mess of a human being for the first three seasons of this show, making more enemies than friends as his cowardice and self-centered nature almost always got the best of him. He is genuinely trying to make amends of that, but it's a hard sell for anyone who knew him then.
In perhaps the most remarkable survival trick of all, Daniel Salazar is alive and well. We saw a glimpse of him on one of Althea's tapes last week, but it's still remarkable to see him in the flesh. It's a nice token of appreciation for original "Fear" fans who have been with the show since the beginning as Salazar was one of the strongest characters in that early cast.
Unfortunately, he really hated Strand back then, which made it a truly bad idea when Strand decided to go by himself to try and appeal to Salazar's better nature. Why on earth would he not bring Sarah and Wendell with him. Hell, bring Charlie and show Salazar that even a young girl can see that Strand is a better man than he was.
Instead, Strand goes alone and the inevitable happens. Even after convincing Salazar that he is genuinely trying to help his friends, Salazar still turns him away. He figures they need help but they'd be better off not getting it from Strand. So... couple of questions.
Is Salazar so hardened that he'd rather they just die than dare help Strand rescue his friends? Or is he perhaps inclined to try and help them himself? Why didn't Strand try telling him about Sarah and Wendell and Charlie to let Salazar know that he's not even alone right now. The whole thing felt like too much fan-service and not enough logic.
Or perhaps it's that Strand didn't want his new friends to see what a scumbag he was and what kind of reception he knew he'd get from Salazar. That we can believe, as it fits his personality. And he might just be arrogant enough to think he could silver tongue his way back into Salazar's good graces after all these years.
Oh yeah, and we have another questions. How the hell is Daniel Salazar alive. He said it himself, he got shot in the face and pushed into a waterfall, essentially, so how did he come out of that and looks perfectly fit and fine all these years later. Also, how did he wind up the curator of this museum of junk. Someone has an interesting story to tell.
As AMC has started teasing us about the upcoming third series for the franchise -- which they promise will be something completely different than these first two -- we find ourselves looking at every untold story as possible fodder for further exploration. That said, there's no way we think Salazar's story would warrant a full series of its own.
We met our new cast-member, and with her came another compelling and interesting angle to consider in this post-apocalyptic world. These are the kinds of ideas that would make for interesting series or mini-series, so we're hoping the new idea is as rich and compelling as the notion of trying to avert a nuclear meltdown.
In this case, Grace was in charge of a water reactor and was unable to avoid a core meltdown. It may not be "Chernobyl"-level dangerous, but it's nevertheless a pretty bad situation and it's also led to a slew of radioactive walkers roaming the countryside, which Grace has made her personal mission to find and kill.
Oh, and like the staffers at Chernobyl, she's been exposed herself and expects to die. It's a fascinating exploration of this world in a way we might not have considered, and each time we explore some new facet of life in this world we can see how AMC believes this can be a franchise on the scale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Karen David brings a lot of heart and compassion to the role of Grace, making a strong entrance as someone who believes in doing the right thing as much as our intrepid crew. She could just accept her fate of death and live out her life as she wants rather than hunt down all the irradiated dead, but even now she's thinking of others.
There's something of penance in her deeds as well, much like Father Gabriel on the parent series, in that she feels she failed her people. In her case, though, she took them in believing the world would go back to what it was and while they were in her care is when all hell broke loose. Guilt and blame are a helluva beast.
Alicia is carrying a world of it. Alycia Debnam-Carey has been carrying the show from the original cast and continues to turn in stellar work, carrying her broken warrior with a darkness and vacancy that looks all too familiar to Morgan. He, too, once lived this world, though he lost his way to the point of near madness.
It was touching watching him try to connect with Alicia in an intimate way. In a way, he's like a father figure to her and someone she does seem to have some respect for. He's also someone who understands her inner struggle more than anyone else and yet he's leading by example to show the path to a better, healthier existence.
His advice to her that the way out is to open the door and let people in is exactly right. The easiest thing to do is to harden yourself and keep people at a distance. That way, they can't let you down and you can't let them down.
Right now, Daniel Salazar has his door slammed to Victor ... and we're not sure how open it is for anyone else. But as he's a main cast-member again this season, we expect he'll come around in some capacity or another. Grace, too, needs to learn to open her own door and let in Morgan and Alica's offer of help.
With all of that going on, it's easy to forget that we're building not one, but two longer arcs on top of these immediate concerns. Whoever else is running around the contaminated zone paid a visit to the truck stop and left a strong message for the survivors. That Luciana was unconscious inside and they let her be was certainly interesting, considering they took Althea (unless that's yet another group of people).
Grace said she has nothing to do with the strung up bodies and intestines, and yet it's interesting that they have't bothered her, either. She drives around as bold as can be on her mission to kill the radioactive dead. How has she not run into them or even seen them? Surely, they've seen her as they've seen our gang.
It's dangerous enough to know there is a danger zone marked by a perimeter with a melted reactor core in the center of it and radioactive dead roaming the countryside. There's also a very disturbed group of people prone to hanging walker heads from various things as a way to send a message of warning.
And speaking of fun groups, if the gang can handle all of this near the quarantine zone and Strand can find a way to get a plane over and rescue them, they still have to deal with Logan who took over their headquarters ... unless they're just going to let him have it and move on with their lives. But that seems pretty unlikely.
Last season had a lot of work to do, introducing the new cast and establishing a whole new dynamic in its first half. The second half saw them face a singular threat in Martha, but she was just one crazy person so there was no real sense of overwhelming danger that could prove too much for our surviors.
This season, the writers have rectified all of that, setting up perfectly in these two episodes a whole slew of obstacles in the way of our survivors and their mission to do good and bring light into this dark, dark world. It started off a little bleak, and even though this episode didn't really offer any new hope, seeing Salazar again and meeting Grace reminded us that there is still goodness out there.
"Fear the Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.