To Victor go the spoils in the Season 7 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead. Spoiler warning for Season 7 Episode 1, "The Beacon." In the fallout of the explosive end to Season 6, where Teddy (John Glover) locked away Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) in a bunker and brought about "the beginning" with ten warheads that detonated across Texas, Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) is living large in the nuclear zombie apocalypse. Strand's selfish survival instincts led him to The Tower, a Houston high-rise building where he watched the great destruction with post-apocalypse historian Howard (Omid Abtahi). But like a phoenix from the ashes, "the end" was just the beginning for Victor Strand.
A growling walker shambles through a bomb-blasted wasteland. A survivor wearing a hazmat suit finishes it off and riffles through its things, scanning it for radiation with a clicking Geiger counter.
The survivor steps through the smoke and ashes of a flaming forest. Inside his mobile fortress — a makeshift shelter of an old van — the stranger removes his mask and breathes heavily: it's Will (Gus Halper), someone we've never seen before. In his possession is a book: "Protective Action Guides and Planning Guidance for Nuclear Events."
Will studies a map of locations marked all over with red "Xs." He slices another notch into the van door. Another day done living in the nuclear zombie apocalypse.prevnext
In the glowing orange haze of day, Will scavenges again. Another red "X" on the map. The dead desert is completely barren except for walkers not killed by Teddy's bombs.
And then life. Will cocks his gun as a pack of people in gas masks and protective gear search nearby. Will's search brings him to a lighthouse manned by a lone walker with exhausted supplies. Back on the road, Will roasts half-eaten roadkill and cries. A walker tries to eat him but it's gunned down by the gas mask gang. "Who the hell are you?"
The flash from a camera, a picture snapped by a hazmat-suited stranger who says nothing. "You the ones who've been stripping the dead?"
Another tries to grab Will. He runs and trips, rendering himself unconscious with a fallen branch. Will wakes up to the sound of scraping scissors and tearing fabric. The strangers strip Will and hose him down in a cage. Decontamination.prevnext
Spaghetti and Scotch
A fancy elevator takes Will to the top floor of a building where Will escapes. He grabs a sword to defend himself in this museum of artifacts, but he's stopped cold by the clicking of a gun.
It's Victor Strand, hissing a history lesson of the sword Will is ordered to hand over.
Over a vintage bottle of scotch whisky poured by Howard, Strand stares down his guest. Will scarfs down a plate of pasta in exchange for answering a few questions.
What's your name?
What did you do before, Will?
Before the dead started walking, or before someone decided to blow them up?
Will was something like an aide for Senator Elias Vazquez, handling his PR and campaign strategies.
Where did you come from?
Oklahoma originally, before a settlement that protected Will and his group from the blast. But things went bad and Will ended up on the outside. The senator didn't make it. Will's been out there 50 days, give or take.
What have you seen? Who have you seen?
"Not much. Not many," answers Will.prevnext
Everything I Need
Strand's scouts said Will mentioned people stripping the dead. "Stalkers," Will says. "That's what I call them. Couple of times I caught sight on them, they were sneaking up on the dead."
Why are they doing that?
"I haven't figured that part out yet."
Who are they?
"There's no faces out there anymore. It's just masks." Will has a question of his own. "When was the last time you were outside?"
"Why should I leave," says Strand, stroking his glass in his luxurious palace, "when I have everything I need right here?"
Strand will show him. He escorts Will through a collection of treasures reclaimed from department stores, homes, museums. "Anything worth preserving is here," says Howard of the people and things found by Strand's Rangers.prevnext
The small community enjoys such small luxuries as indoor mini golf, painting, and yoga. Strand saves strays — if they're of value.
On the wall is a collection of Polaroid pictures: photos of every walker the Rangers have encountered.
"You looking for someone in particular?" asks Will.
"Some of my denizens still have loved ones out in the world," Strand answers. "I believe in giving them closure."
"I meant you," Will says. "Anyone you're hoping to find?"
Strand reminds him: "I have everything I need right here."
The rooftop is where Strand's community thrives with a garden and solar panels. It all came together after "the great destruction."
"The world saw fire, ash, devastation. We were gifted with growth, vitality, a new dawn." Only Howard was holed up in the place when Strand arrived. Now it's a Tower looking out over a kingdom.
"We looked out on the horizon together and watched as the world was destroyed before our eyes," Strand recalls. "We thought it was the end. But when the dust settled, we were still standing. As well as this place."
Weather patterns took the fallout away from them, leaving the Tower the only inhabitable place for miles. "What we're doing," Howard explains, "is nothing less than laying the foundations of a new civilization. We're making history."prevnext
Strand credits his instincts for their survival, making him self-assured — and as selfish as ever. Strand's instincts are why he ends Will's tour prematurely and orders him ushered out of the Tower.
"You're just not quite what I'm looking for," Strand says. "Nothing personal, Will. Just an instinct."
Will says he won't make it out there. "I'm sorry. I'm not sorry," says Strand. Why the tour? "I had to see if you shared my vision. You don't."
Will hands over something he found out there, something meant to help people carry heavy burdens. "I think you're gonna need this more than I do." It's a Saint Christopher medallion.
"Where'd you find this?"
"I told you. Out there."
He found it on one of the dead, Will answers, taking it in the hopes it would bring him good luck. Strand cuts a deal. "Take me to where you found this, help me find the owner of this necklace… and I'll spare you the horrors of a life out there and let you move into our humble abode."
Will guide's Strands Rangers into the wilderness with a warning: "You don't have to worry about the ones that were killed by the blast. It's the ones that died from radiation are dangerous."
Out here, it's not exactly spaghetti and scotch. Will says he's not welcome where he's from. "Let's just say my exit wasn't by choice. I've been trying to find a way to make it up to those people ever since."
Strand says success is the best revenge. "Don't spend a moment trying to make things right. Focus on showing them they were wrong. That's how you win. If you procure a place at The Tower, you'll see that you don't need to remember anyone from your past. History is written by the victors. I'm gonna ensure that's us."prevnext
It begins to rain, making the search more dangerous as the water pulls contaminants out of the air. Will leads the Rangers to an underpass for cover — for the last 50 days, it's been home.
They photograph another walker stripped naked. "The handiwork of those people you were telling me about?"
"Stalkers," Will says. "What are we really doing out here? Whoever that medallion belongs to, you must know them."
Will calls him out: Strand said he had everything he needed in his tower.
"How come you're out here looking for her?"
Strand perks up. Smiles. "I never told you I was looking for a woman." He places his hand on his sword and rallies his Rangers.
"Gentlemen," Strand says, "I believe that we have been lured here under false pretenses."
He gets in close. "Where is she?"
"Who?" asks Will.
They come under gunfire from Stalkers and flee for cover. A bullet clips Will's leg. The gunfight draws walkers out of the ashy mist. Strand gets Will to safety inside his van as the Rangers return fire on the Stalkers. The screams of Strand's Rangers being torn apart by walkers is the background for an interrogation.
"Where is Alicia?"
"I told you, I don't know." Strand digs his fingers into Will's wound. "I don't know who that is!"prevnext
Will's medical supplies give him away: they're from The Franklin Hotel where Teddy took Alicia. "I was right the first time," Strand says, his instincts correct once again. "I don't need you. I'll make the journey myself."
Will begs him to stop. "She'll never forgive you if you do this."
"What makes you think that's what I want?" asks Strand.
"Because I know who you are, Victor. She told me. And I think you want to make things right with her."
"Nice try. But no."
"Then why did you risk all of this just to find her?" Will asks him.
"I want to show her how wrong she was — about everything. That's how I win."
Strand bursts out of the van, leaving the injured Will just enough time to get the doors closed before it's swarmed and surrounded by the dead.prevnext
Strand rides to the old lighthouse and creeps upstairs. A map shows he's not far from The Franklin Hotel. From out of the fog, the sound of footsteps and a cocking gun. It's Will, ordering Strand to remove his hand from his sword. "There's only so many places to hole up around here," Will says. "I know."
He holds Strand at gunpoint to ask his own questions. "You tried to kill me twice today. You left the comforts of your humble abode. You sacrificed every single one of your guards, all so that you could find Alicia and tell her how great you are? I just don't buy it, Victor."
"You knew who I was the minute you saw me, and yet, you lied anyway. Why?"
"Because Alicia said you weren't exactly trustworthy," Will explains. "I was testing you. To see if you were worth saving."
He wants to know why Strand thinks showing Alicia the Tower will change her opinion of him. The Tower "succeeds because of me," Strand says. "My choices. My instincts."prevnext
Forget Who I Am
Will says Strand's style isn't leadership. "I learned more about it from her," Will says of Alicia. She didn't want to be in the bunker. "She was locked up by that psycho who dropped the bombs on us. She was locked up with his followers, and she could have become a cynical asshole like you. But no. You know why? Because she knew what Vasquez knew. You cannot lead alone. If you want people to believe in you, you have to believe in them."
"You think she's so wonderful," Strand spits back, "why aren't you there with her?"
Will asks about the medallion. Strand slowly hands it over. "Truth is, I needed this as much as you," Will reveals. "She asked me to do something, and I couldn't do it."
"What did she ask you to do?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Why didn't you do it?"
"It would have protected everyone there, except for her."
Strand says it must have been bad for Alicia to cast him out.
"I've been looking for a way back every day since. I didn't think I'd find it. Then I woke up in your tower, and I thought — maybe if I brought you to her, maybe that would do it. But after what I've seen today, I doubt she would even recognize you."
"No," Strand agrees, "I don't think she would."
Strand tells Will he's the one who gave Alicia the medallion. He already knows — and knew it would get his attention.
"I gave it to her so she could remember who she was. Because I feared I wouldn't be able to do the same for myself." Strand softens. "I guess we both held up our end of the bargain."prevnext
Something in the Fog
Strand reaches out his hand and asks politely to see the medallion. As Will gives it up, Strand takes advantage and twists his arm, tossing Will against the wall and wrestling him for the gun. Will wins and again trains his weapon on Strand. "That's three times now, Victor."
Will goes to open the door. "I thought if I took you there, it might have brought us together. But she's better off without you. Everyone is." Walkers lurking in the fog shamble towards the lighthouse as Will freezes up. Strand shoves him back inside and closes the doors. They're trapped.
"I know them from the bunker," Will tells him. "Something bad must've happened." Strand worries for Alicia.
"That's not possible. We were underground. We had enough food to last 10 years. Air and water was filtered. That place was built to outlast all of us."
Strand asks if he saw Alicia — out there. He didn't, but he didn't see all of them.
"Let's find out," says Strand, axe in hand.
Will pours diesel into a sputtering machine. He races upstairs and ignites the beacon atop the lighthouse, lighting Strand's way into the walker-filled fog.prevnext
Strand's sword slices and slashes through the small horde of walkers as the beacon's light extinguishes. Will desperately tries to turn it back on as the dead surround Strand in the thick, dark fog. Will steps out, a lantern leading his way, cutting down the dead in his search for Strand. There he is, racing out of the darkness with a saving kill. Will returns the favor, firing his gun at a walker about to sink its teeth into Strand's throat.
"I didn't see her," Strand says, helping Will up.
They need to get to the hotel.
"Wait. Why did you save me? You could have just walked away, but you stayed."
"You still care about her," Will tells Strand. "You don't run into the fog like that because you want to prove a point to someone. You do it because you want to save them."
"Then let's go do that."prevnext
They ride a few miles to the rubble of the fabled Franklin Hotel. What's left of it. They force open a door and descend into the grimly-lit halls of the bunker. Inside, a deserted room outside of a decontamination door. No signs of life anywhere.
Will and Strand search the bunker's living quarters. Empty. The self-sustaining shelter is a ghost town. What the hell happened to everyone? All 128 of its survivors are gone without a trace.
"Whatever happened, happened a while ago. It was me, Senator Vazquez, a few other staff before Teddy's scouts found the place. Scouts killed everyone while I was doing maintenance in the air filter. I stayed up in the service corridors until we all got locked in here."
Will calls out for Alicia. No answer. Will and Strand step into a conference room with a rotted-out tree in the center — just like the one where a strung-up walker was surrounded by growth in The Holding, the underground parking garage converted into one of Teddy's bunkers.
The Franklin shows no signs it was attacked by Stalkers. What happened? On the wall is a mural that wasn't there before. It's a painting of Alicia and a walker. Pinned to a podium is a note: "WILL."
"Did she paint it?"
"Yeah," says Will, reading the note. "I think she did."
In the note is a single word: "PADRE."prevnext
"What is Padre?" asks Strand.
"It doesn't matter."
"Because it's probably gonna get her killed."
"Is it a person? Place?"
"I don't know. I don't know. Nobody knows. It might not even exist."
"Something better," Will explains. "At least the possibility of it. I thought maybe if I found it first she wouldn't have to, but… if anything happens to them, to her… that's on me."
Will should have been there. He should have found a way to make things up to her.
"You loved her," Strand realizes.
Will scoffs. He sniffles. "It doesn't matter. It's all for nothing, anyway."
"It wasn't all for nothing. You were right," Strand says. "This wasn't about proving something to her. It was about proving something to myself. That I didn't need her. But I do. As do you."
Maybe that's the point. Maybe they're supposed to find her. Together.
Strand grins. "Or perhaps she'll find us."prevnext
Their horse leads four walkers attached by rope to a cart carrying the beacon. Strand's people install the signal at The Tower and the rotating light of the beacon shines out into the dark and dead city, where it will be seen as far as 15 miles.
Walkers walk towards the beacon like moths to a flame. On the roof, Strand, Howard, and Will look out with binoculars.
"She'll see it. She'll follow it. She'll find this place," says Will.
Alicia is "the closest thing I have left to family," Strand admits. "You're not the only one who loves her. I never had the chance to tell her, but I would've. If we found her. And perhaps she would have reminded me of the man I once tried to be."
"She still can," Will says. "She can help you be him."
Strand says he never should have left this place. He didn't trust his instincts, and it nearly got him killed.
"I can't let that happen again. It could destroy everything I built here."prevnext
All For Nothing
Will tells him he'll make The Tower even better. "You both will. Together."
"You said you can't lead alone. You're wrong," Strand tells him. "It's the only way."
He's watched others try and fail to build places like this, but they all fell short for the same reason. "Love."
"Attachments don't make you strong, Will," Strand says. "They destroy you."
Will realizes the light isn't to draw Alicia to The Tower.
"No. It's to keep her and everyone else as far away as possible."
Will tells Strand it won't work. "She'll find this place. She'll get through to you."
But he's wrong. Strand shoves Will off the roof, looking down at his corpse on the ground below. "No, she won't. She won't have anything to do with me after this."
Howard asks Strand if he wants to send someone down to take a picture for the wall.
"No one in here's looking for him."
"Someone out there might be," Howard says. "That's gonna draw more than the dead. Maybe even some of those people you were with before. People like Morgan Jones."
"I'm not worried about him," Strand asserts. "Or anyone else. Anyone who tries to get to me… is gonna have to get through them."0comments
Below, the light of the beacon shines out on a zombified Will, now part of Strand's horde of walkers. End of episode.
New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 premiere Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD and stay tuned to ComicBook for coverage all season long.prev