Elena Is Another Season 2 Fear The Walking Dead Guest Character Making A Good Impression
The show's recent move to Mexico allows for more diverse casting in the Walking Dead universe.
Many, many moons ago, when it was first announced that The Walking Dead was getting a spinoff set somewhere else than Georgia and the east coast, I was thrilled...until I found out it was going to be in Los Angeles. No disrespect to L.A., but the idea seemed played out before it even began. The idea of zombies milling around the Hollywood sign or shambling atop the Walk of Fame gave me two seconds of joy before it just made me tired. But the first season of Fear The Walking Dead made so little use of Los Angeles/Hollywood iconography that it really could have been set anywhere with a coastline and some sun. Maybe the show's writers and producers figured that out, too, because after that short first season, it was time to hit the high seas, and not long after, Mexico.
I've long contended that if you're going to make another Walking Dead show, it should be set in a place completely different from what we've seen over so many seasons of Original Flavor TWD, preferably a foreign country (how great would Walking Dead: Tokyo be?). And now that I've gotten my wish as the show settles in for however long south of the border, another byproduct of the locale is in the casting. While The Walking Dead has been a great showcase for black actors including Danai Gurira, Lennie James, and Chad L. Coleman, it has not been super in casting Latinos to play memorable characters. Remember that embarrassing "Vatos" episode from the first season? I'd rather you didn't. "What about Rosita?" you ask? Rosita, who was introduced wearing giant hoop earrings, a halter top, and booty shorts in a zombie apocalypse, and who's never come into her own as a character beyond being Abraham's ex-girlfriend who shoots guns really well? Yeah, no.
Fear The Walking Dead, on the other hand, has gone the other way, making a South American family part of the main cast, led by the great Rubén Blades (sadly missing from the latter half of this season). I haven't been a big fan of Ofelia as a character, but that's a lot less to do with the actress playing her, Mercedes Mason, and more with how little they've given her to do that matters to the larger story. And as the action has moved to Mexico, the show has followed through by casting some stellar guest stars, including Marlene Forte, who was an excellent villainous catalyst for the first half of the season as Celia Flores.
And now we've got Danay Garcia, who plays Luciana, and Paul Calderon as Alejandro, a warrior woman and a doctor looking out for Nick and keeping a wary eye on his antics in a secured Mexican town.
In this week's episode, it's Karen Bethzabe who is introduced as Elena, a hotel manager with a very dark secret who saves Alicia's life and shows her how she's been able to use the building's hallways to route the undead and move around the place with the help of her nephew, Hector. In a less enlightened time, you could imagine the role being for a crafty, but tough hotel maid who has managed to survive by using her knowledge of the hotel to stay out of sight. Instead, axe-wielding Elena is a problem-solver who had to make a terrible decision in the gripping cold open. After the father of the bride at a ballroom wedding goes zombie and chews his daughter's face off, Elena closes the doors and locks everyone in to seal off the infection. Of course, this catches up with Elena when she helps Alicia get downstairs at the hotel to find her mom.
A group of survivors from the wedding have kidnapped Hector and will only give him back if Elena gives up the hotel's master keys. Opening the door to a horde of undead solves that particular problem and she and Hector join Madison and Strand with Alicia for however long the show will have them.
It's hard to say how great a character Elena will be on the show, but I already love that she's even a character at all, along with all the other major and minor parts cast this season for Mexico. It's not note-perfect, exactly. The idea that entire towns in modern-day Mexico would uniformly believe in worshipping zombies as a twisted variation on ancestor worship (even to the extent of keeping them fed with sick people) seems a little dopey to me, but it's an interesting contrast to the current timeline on The Walking Dead, where humans are getting more desperate and willing to kill each other for practically any reason.
There was a time when Latinos like me tuned in to TV shows we didn't particularly care for as a show of support when one of us was in the cast or in a guest role. It's nice that with shows such as Jane The Virgin, Superstore and now, Fear The Walking Dead, it's not a special occasion, it's simply part of the story.