Well, what do you know? There may yet be some life in this show about shambling corpses. By far the best Fear the Walking Dead episode of this season, this week’s installment — “Blood in the Streets” — is the closest this series has come to an episode grabby enough to hook new viewers. All the writers had to do was take Elvis Presley’s advice: A little less conversation, a little more action.
It’s the second consecutive FTWD that’s been markedly improved by telling multiple stories at once. Last week’s episode did it by cross-cutting between two life-or-death situations: one on a zombie-filled beach and the other on a busted boat. This week, the series expands the scope, shifting between an invasion of the Abigail, a mysterious excursion to the shore, and a key bit of “once upon a time” backstory for this drama’s most valuable player, Victor Strand. There’s very little set-up or hand-holding here. Credited writer Kate Erickson gets right to business, and trusts that everyone at home can keep up; even better, each of the various pieces are completely integral to each other.
The hour’s primary story concerns the hostage situation aboard Strand’s yacht, which pays off a threat introduced way back in the season premiere. Remember when Alicia was having idle conversations on the radio with a seemingly nice guy named Jack, and the captain warned her that all strangers are threats, because they want the boat? He was right: Immediately after the opening credits, her new friend and two gun-toting accomplices storm aboard under false pretenses and then seize the helm.
In an instant, the Feariverse expands. Jack, it turns out, is an emissary of a shrewd schemer named Connor, who in the mere months since the apocalypse has been storing up useful items — and also acquiring people. He intends to add Alicia and the handy Travis to his team, and promises to let Madison, Ofelia, Christopher and Daniel take a boat to shore. But he leaves those four with his meanest lackey, Reed, who describes his boss as “big heart, strong mind, weak stomach.” Just when the henchman is getting ready to liquidate the remaining passengers, another raft motors up, bearing a sniper who wipes the bad guys out.