At first glance, “The Beacon” may seem to hold hope over its titular searchlight, but this story isn’t a tale of optimism after all. Instead, this is an episode filled with some really dark moments, thanks in no small part to Strand. If “The Beacon” is anything, it’s an engaging character study that offers insights (some new, some not) into Strand’s grandiose mindset. Unfortunately, showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss (who also wrote the premiere) can’t decide who or what Victor Strand really represents within the larger Walking Dead universe. Is he a sympathetic antagonist? A very flawed hero? A man with real vision, or just repeated (and unlikely) luck? Can he really be all of the above and function as a recognizable character?
After six seasons, hopefully we can all agree that Strand is not a good person. He would like to see himself as the hero of his own story (and in the stories of everyone in his orbit), but the truth is that Strand has always been more of an anti-hero. Buoyed by hubris and an uncanny knack for failing upward, he confuses success with happiness. The two are of course not mutually exclusive. But for an insecure, petty person like Strand, “success is the best revenge.” Indeed, all his ill-gotten gains are meaningless if he can’t brag about them, right? Luckily for us, Colman Domingo manages to shed light on Strand’s lingering humanity, making him sympathetic even if the character’s motivations suggest we should feel differently.
As for where Strand is now, he’s carved a good thing for himself, literally looking down on the rest of the world from the roof of his thriving settlement. He is in his element and leads a charmed life of wealth and privilege. This is no mean feat considering there is so little comfort left to go around. Where he was once a scavenger himself, he now manages both treasures and survivors. If they add value to his community, he will keep them.
Compared to the Ginny’s or the Negans of the world, Will could have done a lot worse for himself. In Howard’s own words, what he and Strand are doing is ‘nothing less than laying the foundations for a new civilization. We are making history.”
And yet Strand is not a man of peace. You see, he’s become obsessed with finding Alicia, but not because he cares about her well-being. No, for a man who considers success the best revenge, he wants to show Alicia what a true winner looks like. Strand may rebuild the world as he sees fit, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer petty.
But the truth is that for all his cockiness, for all his roars, Strand is trying to prove to himself that he doesn’t need Alicia – to be successful, or to be morally upright. He doesn’t just hunt her, he hunts his demons. For all his success, for all the acolytes in his high tower, Strand is lonely, a man without real friendship.
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