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Fear the Walking Dead Just Became a Very Different Show

Illustration for article titled iFear the Walking Dead/i Just Became a Very Different Show

A few minutes into the fourth episode of Fear the Walking Dead, Madison and Alicia talk about paint. It’s an appropriate conversation because this episode was as entertaining as watching paint dry and it covered up all the goodwill won by the last episode.


Obviously, Fear the Walking Dead has to be different from The Walking Dead. It has to do everything in its power to distinguish itself from the gory original show and the third episode did that. It took the reason we’re watching the series—a zombie apocalypse—and filtered it through the eyes of our characters. The latest episode shuts that threat out completely. Now, the characters are in a fenced off safe zone, run by the government. You know, a powerful, shady organization with mysterious intentions. Just like every other show on TV. Zombies and a virus are still a presence, but they’re way in the background.

How was this revealed? Through a mountain of boring exposition with our characters that ranged between almost interesting and character building, to confusing and odd. I actually wrote it all out in order like a proper recap but I was so bored reading it back, I deleted it all, and decided to streamline it. Here’s how Episode 4, “Not Fade Away,” progressed for the characters.


Madison - Nine days have passed since the last episode and Madison doesn’t trust what’s going on. She’s mad that Travis is helping out the soldiers and leaving her with the family responsibilities. They do make up—in the car no less—but Madison continues to reiterate she feels they’re being lied to or at least being left in the dark (both figuratively and literally). So she decides to get that information herself. She sneaks outside of the fence and finds not just zombie bodies, but human bodies too. The soldiers are killing everyone outside the fence, without mercy. She tells Daniel about this and he’s not surprised. He, too, sees the writing on the wall and tells her to keep an eye on her son Nick.

Illustration for article titled iFear the Walking Dead/i Just Became a Very Different Show

Travis - He’s the “mayor” of the safe zone, which reportedly stretches six miles outside of the fence. The soldiers give him various duties, including talking to potential problem people, but these tasks force him away from his family—mainly Chris, who sees something very curious outside the fence. Eventually though, Madison (and the disappearance of another man) convinces Travis to be a tiny bit skeptical and the cracks begin to show. Everyone is lying to him. At the end of the episode, Travis finally decides to believe his son and what he sees should, finally, bring him to Madison’s side.

Chris - So what does Travis see and believe? Well, at the very start of the episode, Chris lays out the situation for the audience and sees someone signaling from outside the fence with some light. He shoots it on his camera, shows it to Madison, who believes him, as well as Travis, who doesn’t. Later, once Travis realizes things are shady, he goes on the roof to look for the signal light and sees it. Unfortunately, it’s then covered by more frequent, brighter lights—machine gun fire. Whoever was signaling them is now dead, probably because Travis mentioned it to the soldiers.


Alicia - Alicia didn’t have much to do in the episode. After playing peacekeeper between Madison and Travis (and maybe doing some painting), she goes next door to Susan’s house. There, she finds some kind of letter which makes her cry, and later starts to cut herself. What’s going through her head? We don’t know. But at the end of the episode, we realize the note she found was from Susan to her husband Patrick, acknowledging that she’s about to become a zombie, is sorry and loves him.

Nick - Like his sister, Nick had a mostly light episode. At first, we think he’s gotten off the drugs and is clean. But later, we see that he’s sneaking into a next door neighbor’s house—a very sick man—and stealing his morphine drip. When Madison catches him, she freaks out and beats the crap out of him. After this, just as Nick is finally feeling regretful, there’s a knock at the door.


Daniel - Like the last episode, Daniel is very cautious. His wife Griselda is very sick, his daughter Ofelia is very confused, and he’s trying to keep it together. Ofelia is seen making out with one of the soldiers (Shawn Hatosy) to try and get extra medicine. And when a new character, Dr. Exner (Sandrine Holt) is introduced and sees Griselda’s injury, she wants to take her for surgery. Can Daniel come? Of course he can, he’s her husband. But when the soldiers come to take Griselda to surgery, they don’t let Daniel come. They want Nick instead.

Liza - Travis’ ex was the crux of all the action in this episode. Much like Travis, she’s helping people out, going house to house and giving people medicine and care (including the man Nick steals from). Eventually Exner finds her and besides outing her as a liar for telling people she’s a nurse, asks for her help. Liza helps by introducing Exner to the ex-junkie Nick, which is how the soldiers know to take him at the end. As Madison is kicking and screaming with her son being kidnapped, Liza makes the decision to leave Chris and Travis to help Exner. In the end, Madison blames Liza for everything.

Illustration for article titled iFear the Walking Dead/i Just Became a Very Different Show

Basically, the entire point of this episode was to create a scenario so obviously bad for everyone that Travis is forced finally realize things aren’t what they seem. And this happens. While life in this almost prison camp has the illusion of normalcy, it’s actually uncomfortable, unfair, and it only took Travis a few weeks to figure it out. With only two episodes left in the season, the hope is having this new threat for everyone to band together against should make for good TV. But it just feels very removed from the zombies and what’s happening in the outside world—you know, the interesting stuff. We were promised we’d see how civilization fell and we surely still will, and this is clearly a part of that. But it’s a storyline that feels so insulated and familiar, it’s just boring and frustrating.


To be fair, being four episodes in, even if I don’t really care about any of the characters, I’m curious of how this is going to play out in a larger context. Why is the government being so secretive and evil about this? How are they dealing with issues outside the fences? Who is making these decisions? And when will their luck run out? All these are interesting questions subtextually posed by the sho; it’s just unfortunate that none of them have much to do with the characters who are actually on the show.

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There is something about the Walking Dead universe that Rick and his group took three seasons to figure out, and Fear’s cast will have down by the end of this season: In the zombie apocalypse, the most dangerous thing is other people.

This episode of Fear, which takes place in the beginning stages of the zombie apocalypse, featured no walkers. None. In fact, at the beginning, Lt. Pyle was happy to announce that there were no infecteds within six miles of the safe zone.

But really, this episode wasn’t about the infecteds. This episode was about people, and trusting authority (DON’T). And this episode nailed it. It was creepy and suspenseful, and not an infected in sight

1. That opening voice over was a little angsty, and it felt like Chris was trying to sound like it was a big deal, even though it wasn’t. Chris, THIS IS A BIG DEAL. YOU DON’T HAVE TO FAKE IT. Back when Chris went to the riot, the first thing he did was whip out his camcorder and start filming. It makes sense that he would do the same if he lived in a safe zone occupied by “the friends in green.” It feels like Chris wants to make movies, and that may have been what he wanted to do before the shit hit the fan.

Again, this show has nailed being eerie / creepy / suspenseful in its openings, watching Travis run, Nick float, and Chris monologue, OH AND HERE’S A BIGASS FENCE TOO. Another cool example: However you may feel about Chris’ opening spiel, his abrupt silence when he noticed the survivor doing Morse code at the safe zone was awesome.

2. The roof! The roof! The roof is a metaphor for having perspective and taking yourself out of the situation in order to observe it more clearly! We don’t need no wate- Oops, sorry. It’s early.

But still, that’s absolutely what was going on, right? Chris was waxing poetic about his situation, and his trust in it all came crashing down when he saw unlucky a few miles out sending signals. Madison wanted to believe Chris, and Travis almost convinced her Chris didn’t see anything, until she went up on the roof and saw it for herself. Hell, Travis was a true believer in the friends in green up until he went up on the roof and saw Pyle’s men take out unlucky. For a brief second he saw the signal and realized Chris (and Madison) were right, and then saw what his protectors were capable of. The roof was the key to all three characters “seeing the light.”

Holy shit I bet they did that on purpose.

3. I like how Chris actually listens to his parents. Chris isn’t Carl, and isn’t going to go run off outside the fences on his own. When he saw something, he IMMEDIATELY showed Travis. When Madison or Liza tells him to stay in the house, HE STAYS IN THE HOUSE. Hell, his mom leaving with Dr. Feelgood wasn’t enough to get him to run out of the house.

I also like how instead of having Chris escape and go see the horrors of the world for himself, Madison did the checking. This isn’t a show about keeping the god damn kid in the house and spending two episodes trying to find him when he doesn’t listen - this is a show where once the kids are squared away, one of the parents sneaks out and figures it out.

Great parenting (by one of the parents, at least.)

4. Like I mentioned above, this episode was more about people and trusting authority (DON’T) than the actual infecteds. It’s interesting because both Travis and Madison were in positions of authority before the world ended. Travis was a teacher and Madison was a guidance counselor. There seems to have been a difference, though: Madison was willing to bend the rules when it was warranted; Travis appears to defer to the system. Travis figured out how to stand and deliver within the rules of the system (his classroom) while Madison was willing to outright break those rules. She knew reporting Tobias’ knife would ruin his chances at college, so she kept it quiet. She knew where drugs were stored, and broke into the school to get them for Nick. She escaped the safe zone because she didn’t trust the words Pyle was saying.

The difference between Madison and Travis is that Madison started out not trusting the system (probably stemming from her history with Nick and his constant struggles. She is probably used to people “not being able to help”) and it took Travis the course of the episode to lose his trust. He went from being the “mayor” (as Pyle so affectionately called him while golfing) to realizing that his reporting about what Chris saw got unlucky killed.

5. I’m not sure if I’ve said it enough, but DON’T TRUST AUTHORITY! Especially in the zombie apocalypse. Notice the opening town meeting Pyle gave to the masses. He was happy to report no infecteds within six miles of the safe zone, so YOU’RE WELCOME. No phones? We’re working on it. No medicine? Ditto. People, calm down, you have it made, you’re one of 12 safe zones between here in Barstow, so show some respect. Or I’ll shoot ya! Hah hah hah.

He wasn’t kidding. You saw what happened to unlucky across the way.

The way he changed from happy-go-lucky Lieutenant to stone cold when Travis mentioned the signal from beyond was jarring. Seems we have our own little Gov’na on our hands here. These are the types of soldiers that Shane saw shoot up the hospital in his flashback scene in Season Two of The Walking Dead.

I’m curious about Pyle’s motives. Dr. Feelgood came out of nowhere, so there has to be some military infrastructure beyond the fences, but to what extent? If Dr. Feelgood is taking the sick and problem cases (Nick) out to be used as fuel for the spotty electricity a la The Last Ship (spoilers!) I will be pissed. I bet they just put them down in a mass grave (or at least that’s the plan). Maybe Liza can redeem herself and save Nick and the Barber’s wife.

But seriously, What kind of infrastructure is out there? I bet it’s to the point where there is no central command, and the various commanders of the safe zones and regions have free reign. Pyle looked too calm hitting those golf balls.

6. What happened to the heart patient Nick was nicking the morphine from? I have a feeling he was about to die (Nick didn’t care he was too busy getting high YOLO) and Nick knew it. When Dr. Feelgood told him and Liza that his condition was manageable, Nick freaked a little. Nick knew the dude was on the way out, and instantly knew not to trust Dr. Feelgood by the way she described the patient. Again, Nick has the highest of clarity when he’s the high. He gone cause some shit when he gets wherever they’re taking him.

7. Speaking of Dr. Feelgood, she lied about Travis’ neighbor who tried to escape. I bet the dude got out. Dr. Feelgood was willing to talk to Liza and Nick about the heart patient, but when Travis brought up his neighbor, she said she couldn’t talk about patients. She couldn’t talk about him because she had no idea what Travis was talking about and tried to bullshit her way out of it.

Much like the dude with the gun Madison found executed on the street, I bet the neighbor found the same fate (or will, with Travis watching).


I’m sure there’s a health pack close, too.

9. Speaking of speaking of, now there’s a weak spot in the fence where Madison got out. THANKS A LOT. If a hoard comes through camp, everyone can thank Madison.

10. Speaking of eeriness, remember the last few episodes how you could hear the increasing sound of emergency vehicles among the increased sounds of traffic and every day life? Nine days later - silence. I heard like two helicopters the entire episode. That has to be jarring for the characters, living in Los Angeles.

11. Barber man. Before, I had him pegged as some kind of retired gangster or cartel dude, but I was wrong. Barber man is just hardened by life, and has seen some shit. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in South America must have been brutal, and conditioned him not to ever trust authority. Hell, we see it now with those 40 students that were disappeared in Mexico. If the government comes and takes some folks and says everything is going to be fine, it most definitely will not be fine. Madison already had a distrust for authority, and Barber man’s story only solidified and reconciled how she felt with what she was seeing.

Barber man taught Chris how to load and shoot a shotgun. Travis is going to need to take some lessons right quick.