[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 1, “The Beacon.”]
For fans who bristled at the thought of potentially waiting several episodes to learn about what happened to fan-favorite survivor Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), fear not. “The Beacon” has you covered.
Technically, the premiere is a Victor Strand (Colman Domingo)-centric hour, as we’re introduced to his new community and his belief that he has won in the post-apocalyptic world. But Alicia is so intertwined through the episode’s narrative that it becomes almost as much her episode as it is his… even though she never actually shows up. Which, by the end, winds up being a good thing.
A guy named Will (Gus Halper) winds up at Strand’s bright, shiny new community with Alicia’s medallion — the one Strand gave her last season — in his hands. Strand’s sworn off any real human connection, preferring the comfort of material goods like paintings, pasta, and alcohol in his well-stocked tower, but when he sees her necklace, he’s startled. He demands Will take him to where he found it: He claims he took it off a walker.
Well, surprise! That’s not exactly true. After they’re attacked on the road and flee to a dilapidated lighthouse, the truth comes out. Will was a part of Alicia’s bunker community for a period of time since he was technically there first (he and the senator he worked for were in the bunker before John Glover’s Teddy took it over). As Will tells Strand, he was kicked out for refusing to go along with a plan that would’ve “saved everyone but [Alicia].” He thought that if he brought Strand back to her, Alicia might let him return to the community.
As it turns out, everyone but Alicia might’ve desperately needed saving. Fog rolls in, and the lighthouse is surrounded by walkers — walkers Will knows were once a part of the bunker group. For all Strand claims that he no longer cares about people, he certainly seems rattled by the possibility that Alicia could be gone. Will, working with a knowledge of mechanics, manages to get the beacon lit so that Strand can fight the dead and determine if Alicia is among them. The light eventually goes out, because something has to go wrong with their plan, but both Strand and Will stick around. They both care enough about Alicia to figure out if she’s there. But, she’s not.
Obviously, something went very wrong at the bunker, so that’s their next stop. They head to the hotel where they were once taking shelter, only to find it devoid of life. “It’s a ghost town,” Strand observes. But they do find a few clues. There’s a note from Alicia addressed to Will that simply says, “Padre,” and although Strand prods him for information, the most he can get from Will is that its representative of Alicia’s hope for the future and her belief that they can restore things to the way they used to be. They also find a mural she painted on the wall, which appears to be her staring after a walker as it shuffles into the distance. Weird? Absolutely.
From the reverent way Will talks about her, Strand makes an accurate guess: Will is in love with Alicia. As he tells Will once they’re safely back at his tower with the beacon from the lighthouse moved there and lit, Strand loves her, too. “She’s the closest thing I have left to family,” he says. But the discussion then takes a nasty turn. Strand tells him he can’t afford to love anymore because if he wants to keep his community thriving, he must avoid the affection-related pitfalls that befell the other leaders he once followed. He has no desire to find Alicia; instead, he wants to keep her away.
And with that, he shoves Will off the top of the tower. “She won’t want anything to do with me after this!” he yells as Will falls. He’s killed on impact with the pavement, and a horde of the dead, like moths to a flame, are drawn to his corpse. Howard (Omid Abtahi) makes the point that the light might draw others from Strand’s group in, but the leader won’t hear anything of it — he believes his moat of the dead will protect him.
- I knew I would enjoy villain-Strand, and I do. It’s clear that Domingo is having fun with the role, and this arc for his character feels genuine and earned. While I don’t think he’s the season’s “big bad” — there are still the “Stalkers” who are taking everything from the dead — having him break bad was an excellent choice.
- But wouldn’t the walkers just wander away in the daylight, once something else distracts them? Strand’s going to have to have people working to keep the walkers around. Or he’s going to have to fence them in.
- Last season, Fear killed off bounty hunter Emile (Demetrius Grosse) in the first episode, and this season, Will. I was starting to like his character, so that’s a bummer. Also, not that Alicia needs a love interest, but I was rooting for him. Thanks for nothing, FTWD writers!
- Inside Alicia’s bunker, it looked to me like there was a tree like the one in Teddy’s bunker, but this one didn’t have a walker attached to it. Wonder if that was Alicia’s choice, or if Teddy’s followers put it up and she just let it be there?
- I’m betting the “Stalkers” are somehow tied to what happened to Alicia’s people.
- Rating: 4/5. There’s still some clunky dialogue here and there, and at this point in the apocalypse, people really shouldn’t be getting sneak-attacked by walkers. But overall, this was a fun episode that definitively took Strand in a direction his character seemed to be heading in for seasons. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC