Major spoilers below for the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead, so be warned!
With the episode "Handle with Care," Fear the Walking Dead dropped an unexpected doozy on Rubén Blades' Daniel Salazar, revealing the resident badass to be suffering from legitimate mental issues after having faked memory loss throughout the anthologized first half of Season 6. In true fashion for the AMC zombie drama, Salazar's reveal didn't come quietly and clandestinely, but in a way where he unwittingly seemed to do everything possible to put literally everyone around him in dire jeopardy. And you better believe the actor is just as curious and intrigued by his character's twist as fans no doubt are.
CinemaBlend spoke with Fear the Walking Dead star Rubén Blades ahead of the time-jumping "Handle with Care" debuting on AMC, and he spoke at length about taking the usually confident and cocksure Salazar to such a vulnerable place. As well, Blades shared just how suspicious he is about the episode-ending offer made by Colman Domingo's Victor Strand. Let's dive into that mind-shifting mayhem below.
How Rubén Blades Feels About Salazar's Memory Twist
In no ranked order of fucked-upped-ness, Rubén Blades' Salazar sabotaged Grace and Charlie's escape, stole the community's entire armory, and allowed walkers to breach the outer walls. While his intentions in each case were on the level in one sense, there was clearly a breakdown at some point in Salazar's mental circuitry, flipping him from being an essential soldier to a potential powder keg. For the actor, it was important to first understand why this was even happening to Salazar at this point. According to Blades:
More than most Fear the Walking Dead characters, Daniel Salazar has experienced an abundance of violent, traumatic and life-changing moments that are depressingly front-loaded by the deaths of his wife Griselda and daughter Ophelia (portrayed respectively by Patricia Reyes Spindola and Mercedes Mason). Salazar's story took a mysterious turn after he learned of Ophelia's death in Season 3, when he went AWOL following the dam's explosion, but returned in Season 5 as a somewhat more chilled-out, cat-loving dude, though it was clear he went through a particularly rough patch during his time away from the other protagonists. But now, it wasn't renewed agony causing Salazar to retreat mentally, but rather a well-earned sense of peace and calm after John's brutal death (and Virginia's) that sent him askew.
Rubén Blades further explained how parts of Salazar's past laid the groundwork for his current situation, while also acknowledging other characters being seeded with doubt.
As suspect as it is for anyone to posit genuine memory problems after publicly faking them for an extended stint, surely Fear the Walking Dead's survivors know that Daniel Salazar is smart enough to know how dumb it would be to fake that. He's definitely aware of how ridiculous it would look to double-up on the faux amnesia, and I seriously doubt his pride would accept others seeing him as an intentional self-saboteur. To that end, Rubén Blades talked about how Salazar's exit was also partially fueled by not wanting to be seen in a lesser-than light by Morgan and the other survivors.
Of course, getting the fuck out of there at this point means tagging along with Strand, Sherry and that merry band of marauders. And even though Salazar may be going through some thangs, that doesn't mean he's automatically 100% on Strand's side.
Why Ruben Blades Is Super Suspicious Of Strand's Offer To Salazar
When Daniel Salazar attempted to make an exit to handle some self therapy, Colman Domingo's Victor Strand offered him the olive branch to travel with them to Lawton, which viewers haven't seen since before Virginia was gloriously capped by June. So while there's a more obvious and necessary reason for Salazar to accept the offer, Rubén Blades confirmed that his character is going into this with only the vaguest amount of trust in Strand, considering the events that coincided with Salazar's mental lapses. In his words:
I can't imagine that many viewers were quick to take Strand at his word during the episode. Even though Salazar's trust issues with Strand over the weapons appeared to be misguided - and I still have some glued-down doubts about all that - he was still too quick to make excuses for the explosion. It's very easy to believe that Strand wants Salazar in Lawton to keep a close eye on him as much as he wants Salazar to get better, as it were. (And Strand is fully aware that the post-apocalypse has a way of making sick characters better.)
In the same vein, Rubén Blades hints that Salazar was probably agreeable about Strand's offer largely so that he could scope out what the situation is in Lawton with all those ex-Rangers and formerly masked quasi-villains.
I hadn't really considered Strand having ulterior motives specifically against Morgan, but it's certainly possible. As much as fans love Colman Domingo's performance as the ego-driven leader, he has rarely (if ever) put someone else's needs completely above his own. And even in those cases, there's always some kind of advantage for him to reap. So what's it going to be this time?
Find out when Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, and stay tuned for more inside info from my chat with Rubén Blades.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.