[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 9, “Follow Me.”]
To get the obvious out of the way: No, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) does not make her triumphant return in this episode. But she does get a name-drop in a very key scene, which informs the midseason premiere’s themes.
Namely, Alicia’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) suffering, and not just from her mysterious illness. She’s having nightmares about a walker leading her to Padre, and she’s wracked with guilt from the casualties her pursuit of that utopia caused. An encounter with a mysterious stranger might get her to reframe her mindset about leading… and push her to create a community entirely her own.
Alicia has the walker-nightmare, and when she wakes up, she’s in unfamiliar territory. She investigates and finds her mysterious savior about to be killed by a walker. He doesn’t hear it, so she takes care of the problem… and breaks the stereo that was blaring Beethoven in the process. “What did you do?” her new friend yells. Turns out, this man — whose name is Paul (Warren ‘Wawa’ Snipe) — brought Alicia to his home and gave her medicine after finding her passed out in a barn. She thinks that’s location’s not quite right, and there was a girl who saved her, but Paul never saw a girl (what is the truth, Alicia?!). During this conversation Arno (Spenser Granese) barges in and searches Paul’s house for Alicia, but he doesn’t find her.
Here are the details on Paul: He’s deaf, and had been slowly going deaf before the apocalypse. He lost his wife and what remained of his hearing on the same day when the bombs fell, and he has a set of bagpipes that belonged to his wife that he hasn’t touched since her death. (As with any object with a sad backstory in the TWD-verse, you can bet they’ll be important later.) He wants that stereo fixed, and he wants Alicia to help him fix it. “You help me get what I want,” Paul tells Alicia, “and I’ll make sure you get back to your people in one piece.” And thus, the deal is struck.
Of course it goes sideways. They take a detour to a college where they find a stereo, but of course, Arno barges in and messes the whole thing up. Walkers flood the area, Arno doesn’t get Alicia but he does get away, and the duo gets stuck in a car. The second stereo gets dropped and is now useless. Greeeeeat. Isn’t it convenient, then, that the car they get stuck in has a stereo Paul can remove and use?
In the car, Paul and Alicia bond over their respective traumas; Paul continues to blare music because it’s the only thing that can get rid of the sound of his wife’s dying screams, while Alicia reveals she’s been having that walker nightmare every night for months. Why? She can’t let go of her regret over getting people killed in her pursuit of Padre. And, in the form of Arno, it’s literally hunting her down.
Alicia and Paul make a plan to free her from Arno’s wrath. Paul radios Arno and pretends Alicia turned on him to lure him and his group to his house at dark. They rig the house so that the stereo blares once Arno and his group arrive, which draws in walkers that take out a few of his people. From inside the house, Paul and Alicia take down the walkers (and humans) that get through. But it’s not enough. Arno gets through and shoots Paul. Alicia maintains she won’t leave him there, but Paul says she has to… and in the end, left with no choice, she does. Paul plays “Ode to Joy” (his wife’s arrangement) on the bagpipes — see, they were important later — so she can get away without being heard. As Alicia flees, Arno kills him.
That’s where things get weird. Alicia ends up seeing the mysterious girl who she thought saved her; the girl says that Alicia “can help [her],” and maybe she can help Alicia. But is she even real? Alicia then passes out and has the dream again, but instead of seeing the walker leading her, she sees herself. “Padre,” she tells herself in the dream, with all her people behind her, “follow me.” This is likely a result of Paul’s advice — just before the fight, he told her that the walker talking in her dreams was her own inner voice, and that she should believe in and listen to herself. As it turns out, his words had a huge impact.
Conveniently, Alicia wakes up at Morgan’s (Lennie James) base in the submarine. They have a chat about Padre and why Alicia wanted to go there, and in the end, Alicia says she doesn’t want to anymore: She wants to build it herself. “I’m going to give [people] what they want — a safe place to live,” Alicia says. “That’s how we build our army, and that’s how we take the tower from Strand.” But she might have a bit of a problem doing that. As the episode ends, Arno and his pals discover a pit of radioactive walkers — “a herd must’ve fallen in,” they say — and the decide to take the tower for themselves. Suffice to say, Alicia’s got a battle on her hands.
- I like Alicia’s character, and I wanted to like this episode. But I do wish Fear would stop with the overly convenient plot contrivances; in this episode alone, we had the super-convenient stereos, the walkers surrounding the car just kind of plodding away so Alicia and Paul didn’t have to deal with them, Arno being reachable easily by radio and Morgan randomly happening upon Alicia and bringing her in.
- Does anyone else think Arno looks a little like James from Twilight? Just me? Okay.
- Early in the episode, Paul makes a big deal about his house being soundproofed. But if that’s the case, how did the walkers hear the music and get drawn in to attack Arno and his men?
- I have to wonder what Alicia meant when she said Nick (Frank Dillane) “had his dream.” I don’t necessarily remember Nick having grand visions of the future the way that Madison did, or Alicia does. Her bringing up Madison in that context absolutely makes sense, but what would Nick’s “dream” have been?
- I really don’t know why we need Arno in this half-season. I had hoped the focus of 7B would be on the Strand-Alicia conflict, since their relationship has real emotional weight and the stakes there are high.
- Rating: 3/5. A fine enough episode, but too many plot contrivances and yet another instance of an interesting “one episode and done” character. Fear’s pulled that card quite a bit lately.
Fear The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC