- A seemingly redeemed villain on Fear the Walking Dead proves in “Sanctuary” that he’s hardly the changed man he claimed he was.
- This former villain takes a valuable person hostage to use as ransom in the conflict against Troy Otto.
- Fear the Walking Dead challenges the dichotomy of good and bad characters, with morally gray figures making difficult decisions in a world without law and order.
The following contains spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 9, “Sanctuary,” which debuted Sunday, Nov. 5 on AMC.
Victor Strand’s comeback on Fear the Walking Dead was an anticipated one, even if he was only gone for six episodes. He’s always been a constant on the show — a safe haven of sorts when the show kills off beloved characters. Yet, for other characters on the series, the return of Strand only means trouble, as he’s always cooking up a plan that will divide people.
Strand’s return was accompanied by a new storyline for the character, including a boyfriend, a son and a new identity as Anton. It’s a different ballgame for Strand, for past versions of himself would probably never believe that he would get a happy ending as this one. Now that this seemingly perfect life is put at stake thanks to Madison and Troy’s conflict, it’s time for the peacemaker Anton to take a step back. His contribution to ending this conflict is an extreme decision that will likely be met with ambivalence: he takes Troy’s daughter, Tracy, hostage at PADRE.
Strand Proves You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks
Strand’s actions in “Sanctuary” are incredibly infuriating, but that’s the point. Strand’s middle name has never been “loyalty” or “goodness.” He made himself a con artist from his first appearance in Season 1, and has constantly switched sides in order to save himself. The way he cleverly manipulates people around him makes him the person pulling the strings, and yet somehow is always winning the trust of those he breaks faith with.
It’s nearly brilliant how he gets away with so much, even when it’s exhausting how often he reverts to being a scammer. This has always been who he is, so no one should be surprised that he would kidnap a child to get what he wants. He did just that in Season 7 with baby Mo, so the pattern remains unbroken. Now he’s gotten members of his own community behind his plot, which spells trouble for the original members of PADRE (Madison, Dwight, Sherry, June, etc.).
Strand’s people were made out to be pacifists who gave everyone a second chance — it was literally their motto. But now these people seem to be cool with kidnapping a screaming child who is obviously in distress, and has taken no issue with Strand revealing his true colors. There’s no doubt he turned up the charm and created an entire speech about how necessary their actions are, emphasizing that Tracy won’t be hurt in the process.
What Strand Plans to Do With Tracy
The outcome of Strand’s plan with Tracy is still up in the air. More than likely, he’s using her as a bargaining tool or bait to get Troy to surrender and leave PADRE alone. It’s possible Strand is secretly scheming to take Tracy in as his own, as he attempted to do with baby Mo, but he was up front with her from the get-go: he needs her help to save PADRE. If history has proven anything on Fear the Walking Dead, it’s that promising to return hostages is the number one way for a person to get what they want out of an enemy.
Strand also has a history with Troy and knows how he ticks. Troy doesn’t submit and back down from a fight. If he traveled from Texas to Georgia just to take PADRE as revenge against Madison, then he’s not just going to walk away after Strand threatens the safety of his daughter. Strand probably has a back-up plan to raise Tracy in PADRE, just in the off-chance Troy gets caught in the crossfire to prevent a bigger threat.
There Are No Good Guys on Fear the Walking Dead
Whatever Strand’s final plan is, it’ll either lead him to disaster or actually winning the conflict. Strand is willing to make the hard and questionable choices that others aren’t willing to make — a notion that is the focal point of Fear the Walking Dead‘s final episodes that even Season 11 of The Walking Dead failed to achieve. There was a striking dissonance between the “good” and “bad” guys in the few final seasons of The Walking Dead. Daryl Dixon and Maggie Rhee were, at times, cookie-cutter heroes whose job was to save their people and the Commonwealth from the criminal mastermind leaders. But in Seasons 3-6, it was sometimes difficult to defend the protagonist Rick Grimes’ actions.
It made the viewing experience more frustrating, but that was the appeal of it. It was never supposed to be easy to differentiate who was good and bad in a world without law and order. The world isn’t so black and white, a philosophy that The Walking Dead: Dead City and The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon both succeeded at conveying. Fear the Walking Dead is not a perfect show, that much is true. It’s notoriously been critically panned for the past four seasons, and its constant evolving door of experimentation and subpar characterization hasn’t improved matters. But if there’s one thing Season 8 did improve on, it was erasing this polarizing way of thinking.
Morgan’s “all life is precious” philosophy for Season 4 onwards was close to an infectious disease that softened the core group of Fear the Walking Dead‘s characters. No one would dare make a bad decision or step over ethical boundaries, unless they were coined an official antagonist. At least in Season 8, there’s less distinction between the good and the bad. Strand is a confusing, morally gray character who kidnaps the children of his enemies to save a community of children. Madison sent a child to their death for revenge, undermining her mission for redemption. For once, Fear the Walking Dead refusing to make things so simple is actually its blessing, rather than a curse it can’t escape.