Warning: This post contains spoilers for the mid-season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead‘s second season.
Fear the Walking Dead returned for the second half of its second season Sunday night with an hour that focused exclusively on Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) — the show’s first character-centric episode. Picking up almost right where the mid-season finale left off, “Grotesque” begins with Nick waking up as Sofia enters the house where he is staying. Nick tells her he wants to find a community that embraces the dead and she supplies him with enough food and water to make it to Tijuana before leaving with Juan in search of the boy’s father.
However, when Nick is forced to abandon his pack during the first night of his travels, things quickly go from bad to worse. After being shot at by a group of men on the road (twice), getting bitten by a stray dog and passing out from dehydration, Nick finally catches a break when a sudden rainstorm revives him from his exhausted stupor. He is then able to limp into town and is discovered by a woman named Luciana and two men who spotted him from afar earlier in his journey.
The group escorts him to a medical center where he meets Alejandro, a pharmacist who treats his dog bite wound. Alejandro tells Nick that he is not brave, he is foolish — “Death is not to be feared, but it shouldn’t be pursued” — before taking him outside into the fully-functioning la colonia, a place where it seems Nick may finally feel at home.
The present-day events of the episode are interspersed with flashbacks to one of Nick’s pre-apocalyptic stints in court-mandated rehab, during which viewers meet his yet-to-be-zombified girlfriend Gloria — who was seen in the first scene of the pilot right after she turned. Gloria convinces Nick that he needs to blame his mom and dad for his addiction in order for the judge to release him early. However, it is quickly revealed that his relationship with his father is more complicated than even he thought.
Unfortunately, when Madison shows up on parents day, she tells Nick that his dad was killed in a head-on collision. Shortly afterwards, Nick and Gloria are shown holed up in the same drug den that Gloria eventually dies in, having both turned back to heroin.
In a recent interview with TVLine, showrunner Dave Erickson spoke about how Nick’s obsession with not treating the walkers as monsters is a result of both his father’s death and his addictive personality, and how la colonia will play into that. “When we get to the end of episode eight [the midseason premiere], we’ll see that he finds a place that I think enables him to a certain degree,” Erickson said. “He’s always had a very close relationship with death, largely because of the death of his own father. It’s almost like, from an emotional standpoint, this closeness to death is a way to try to reconnect with his father, so that’s something we touch on over the course of the back half. Then, strictly from an addictive standpoint, he likes being close to it because there is an adrenaline rush that comes from it. There is a logic to it. It’s a junkie logic, but it is a logic.”
The ninth episode of Fear the Walking Dead‘s second season will air Aug. 28 at 9 p.m. EST on AMC.