Culture

'Fear the Walking Dead' Gets a Twist from Jonestown Hacienda

(Richard Foreman, Jr./AMC)

Welcome to the Hotel Baja California — not a lovely place, despite the impeccable tile floors and simmering pozole en la cocina.

Fear the Walking Dead hasn’t always been so fearsome, especially when compared to cult classic The Walking Dead and its highly developed characters in a somewhat-ripped-from-the-comics storyline. There were interesting possibilities when the group got out of Los Angeles and onto Victor Strand’s (Colman Domingo) luxury boat, headed for anywhere zombie-less as the crisis unfolded. They stopped at an island where there were issues with the residents — both the living and the undead emerging from the waves — and had to fend off piracy of sorts from less-friendly elements on the ocean.

Strand has a destination in mind, though, with his BF Thomas Abigail (Dougray Scott) waiting for him south of the border. Where is this safe haven where the lucky — eh, apparently — are being smuggled?

Ah, there are rows and rows of grapevines, a lovely hacienda and crisp attendants dressed in all white to take your weapons at the door — well, that can’t be good.

Sunday night’s episode opened with a small church vowing to form a posse and go after something evil — the zombies, we assume. Abigail peels up in a pickup to talk them out of it. The parishioners, priest and altar boys all began bleeding out of the eyes — someone poisoned their communion hosts. A la The Walking Dead, someone’s even more evil than the undead. Abigail winds up back in a comfy chair at the hacienda later, the bite-shaped bloodstains showing through a bandage on his arm.

Celia Flores (Marlene Forte) welcomes our L.A. group into Abigail’s hacienda, and we immediately wonder if this is El Terminus. Of course, the guy who senses this best is Daniel (Ruben Blades), our favorite Salvadoran interrogation specialist. Daniel is the only one who grouses about giving up his weapons, is not anxious to try that pozole, and upon investigating the grounds finds a wine cellar full of walkers. He confronts Celia about the collection, and she defends the keeping of friends and family afflicted by the zombie bug because she wants to protect them from those wicked zombie-hunters.

The one who seems to have a positive connection to Celia — we didn’t say it was a good thing — is Nick, the clean-and-sober-by-force-of-zombie-invasion junkie whose life was saved by Strand in L.A. last season when he also sensed something useful in the heroin addict. Celia tells Nick she doesn’t think the undead are really dead. To hasten others’ trip to this undead nirvana, she’s cooking up these poisoned wafers. And she’s got some for Strand and Abigail — though Strand messes up her plan by shooting his newly dead amour in the head to ensure he’ll never turn into a walker.

And Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) is having a psychotic transformation ripped straight from the storyline of little killer Lizzie in The Walking Dead — though there’s not a Carol around to tell him to look at the flowers. Madison (Kim Dickens) was on the ground with a zombie in her face, and Chris just stood there waiting, watching for her to get munched. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) saw this unfold and knifed the zombie in the head to save her mum, but of course Travis (Cliff Curtis) doesn’t want to believe that his creepy son has transformed into the second coming of Jack the Ripper who later shows up with a knife at Madison and Alycia’s bedside. Domestic drama ensues.

As Fear heads toward its mid-season finale next week, Daniel and Nick remain the best characters on a show where it’s sometimes hard to remember the names of the other characters. And if Daniel gets a hold of one of those kitchen knives, Celia’s Heaven’s Gate mission might be derailed. Or at least Chris might temporarily be deprived of a weapon.