[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for AMC‘s Fear The Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 7, “The Portrait.”]
Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of his own actions. Maybe Strand (Colman Domingo) shouldn’t have been so picky about who he let into his tower, huh?
Granted, all the most powerful communities have some kind of vetting system—Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had his three questions, the Commonwealth has its extensive tests—but Strand, as we see in this episode’s opening, is turning away people with valuable skills. That comes back to haunt him (and hurt him) in “The Portrait.”
But Strand, being Strand, is mostly concerned with Strand. As an artist paints his portrait in the first few minutes, he reflects that he wants her to paint him, not herself (a voiceover Wilde quote explains that portraits are often expressions of the artist rather than the subject). The phone rings, he turns survivors away. This seems to perplex Howard (Omid Abtahi), but he goes along with Strand’s commands.
One call comes through, though, that Strand doesn’t turn down. Morgan (Lennie James) is standing outside with baby Mo; she’s sick, and she needs to see June (Jenna Elfman). Reluctantly, Strand allows Morgan inside: June sees to the baby, and Strand has a drink (coffee) with Morgan. He says that now that Morgan owes him, he’s obligated to do something for him, but he won’t say just what it is. Then, the window shatters and, as if catapulted, a walker comes sailing through.
It’s dispatched in short order, but in its wake, Strand is left with two problems: A group of people he turned away are outside his doors and literally launching walkers—some with pieces of a nuclear warhead inside their bodies—at him. And he’s been poisoned. Yep, there was something in the coffee, and his health starts to rapidly deteriorate. Is it fatal, he asks? “Depends on how much of it you drank,” June says.
She maintains that Strand needs to rest, but he’ll hear nothing of it: He accuses each of his friends in turn of being the poisoner. Then he recognizes the need to be able to communicate with Grace (Karen David) and others who could help as the dead are raining down on them. To do that, someone will have to go to the lower level and retrieve the radios. Morgan volunteers, and Strand goes with him. They take baby Mo.
What follows this is some classic Morgan-speak juxtaposed with genuine emotion from Strand as he’s left with the baby. He all but admits to envying the child, saying that his father “never even looked at” him—certainly not the way Morgan regards Mo. In a precarious sequence involving an elevator shaft and trapped walkers, Strand hands Mo down to Morgan on the lower level…and then he passes out.
When he comes to, there’s a syringe in his arm (fluids, as he was severely dehydrated). The worst of his poisoning side effects are over, and Sarah (Mo Collins) and team took care of the attackers. Strand thanks Morgan for going to get the doctor, and together they make tentative plans to go and find Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). They shake on it. Strand makes a key realization: Morgan’s fingers are blue.
That’s right. Morgan was the one who poisoned Strand. He doesn’t even deny it. “You gave me no choice!” he exclaims. Having regained his strength, Strand demands that Morgan be taken to the top of the tower and thrown into the walker pit below…and they make it as far as dangling him off the edge before the phone rings. It’s Grace, and she has a deal for Strand. While the live threat was dealt with, the nuclear walkers weren’t—Grace can help him with that, but if she does, he has to let Morgan live. Strand takes the deal, but he reminds Grace what that means for her and Mo: Once they come inside, they can never leave.
Morgan then runs into Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista), who were sent to find him. (Three guesses who sent them, and the first two don’t count.) It’s Alicia. She’s the leader of the group that’s wearing several layers of clothing (do they have a name?), the one that teamed up with Sherry and Dwight at the end of their episode. She says there’s something she needs from Morgan, but before she can explain further, a few walkers descend on the camp. Her group fires on them—bad move, because all of them were nuclear—and they explode, releasing gas across the beach. “Everybody run, now!” Morgan yells, so it remains to be seen whether they can outrun the radiation cloud.
- This was an improvement over last week’s episode, mostly because Colman Domingo is so much fun to watch. Whether you’re a fan of this season’s pacing or not, there’s no denying he’s having a grand time playing villain Strand.
- You’ve gotta feel bad for the artist. She spent all that time painting Strand’s portrait only to watch him throw it off the top of the tower…and then bring it back inside and say it looked better after the dead trampled on it.
- Speaking of that particular scene, what’s with Strand wanting to be Mo’s “new father”? I agreed with Howard: I really thought he didn’t like kids.
- Is anyone else having a hard time keeping track of all the groups this season? We have Morgan’s group, Strand’s group, Alicia’s group and the group that kept stripping the walkers down. That’s…a whole lot of people.
- Rating: 4/5. The show continues to be slow, but “The Portrait” is worth a watch for Colman Domingo’s obvious enjoyment of the role and the at-long-last return of Alicia Clark.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC