When a character on Fear the Walking Dead commits Nazi type experiments, you don’t expect to like them mere episodes later.
There have been strong reactions to Troy Otto’s character ever since he was introduced to Fear the Walking Dead in season 3. He appeared to be the obvious villain for season 3 given how easily hatable he started as. He was someone for everyone to rally against.
Indeed, our introduction to Troy certainly did not paint him in a positive light. When we first met Troy, he had captured our group and was performing experiments on people. Troy and his cronies would predominantly capture men of various ethnic backgrounds and health conditions, kill them, and keep track of how long it took them to turn. It turned out Troy and his men were also the ones who shot down the people of the Colonia at the end of season 2.
Right away we’re meant to see Troy as the villain, an obstacle for our group to overcome. He’s violent, psychopathic, and racist, and as it turns out, his father is not much different. The ranch that Troy, his family, and his people lived on had been the subject of a longstanding property battle between the Ottos and the Black Hat Reservation, a neighbouring Native American tribe. The fight became particularly hostile when Jeremiah Otto, Troy’s dad, killed Taqa Walker’s uncle and father.
When our group aligned with the Ottos, it created an interesting dynamic for our ‘heroes’ to be in, siding with unarguably bad people. Fear the Walking Dead successfully depicted the struggle the Clarks had trying to play house with racists. It also showed that the Black Hat Reservation was not only justified in their fight, but they came out as winners.
While having the Clarks win the battle for Taqa and his people presents it’s own problems, the fact is, Jeremiah got what was coming to him. Consequently, Troy and his crew were being led by people who did not share his opinions on Taqa’s group, and forced Troy to leave with the people he’s spent his whole life hating. It seemed Troy was to be the main antagonist of Fear the Walking Dead, doing whatever he could to make this new alliance crumble.
For a while this was the case. Troy made life on Broke Jaw Ranch hostile, even creating a rift between the Clarks. But something happened along the way. Through Madison and Nick, Troy was given a new life. For their own reasons, both Madison and Nick constantly defended Troy and kept him alive. His survival presumably indicated Fear the Walking Dead had big plans for his villainous arch, but now that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Subtly, Troy has woven into the group so seamlessly, you might have forgotten about his “experiments,” or the fact that he’s still a raging racist. In fact, they even make jokes about his discrimination. When Madison asks where Troy is at the bazaar, Nick says, “He’s at the bar, freaked out by all the Mexicans.” It’s accurate, and perhaps it’s funny, but it’s also just one indication of how Fear the Walking Dead is normalizing a racist character.
More recently, Troy has attached himself to Nick, creating an endearing brotherly type duo. While Nick has personal struggles, he’s never been presented as a ‘bad person,’ so when you stick him with someone like Troy, suddenly Troy doesn’t seem so bad.
Then there’s the switch that’s occurring between Troy and Nick. For some time, Troy was depicted as the crazy one, because he is crazy. Now though, Nick is ‘crazy’ due to his relapse, and Troy is meant to help ground him. Are we supposed to root for Troy now? Are we supposed to like Troy now? Are we supposed to forget what he’s done and who he is?
It’s one thing to find Troy charismatic and engaging, and to love him as a villain, but it’s a whole other circumstance when you love him as a person. Troy was not meant to be a hero, he was meant to be an awful character whose demise we rooted for. It’s true that people can change, and perhaps one day Troy will lose his discriminatory sensibilities.
However, so far Troy is not a changed person. His circumstances have changed, causing us to become endeared to him, but that doesn’t mean his character has changed. We shouldn’t sweep his previous acts under the rug so easily, and we shouldn’t humanize someone who has little to no humanity.