Fear the Walking Dead: Not Fade Away

Fear the Walking Dead

Hey, remember when this summer, when the world was green(ish, if you live in California) and lovely, when you could float in your pool, or go for a jog, or tend to your mother’s gangrenous limb, or film the long, slow destruction of your neighborhood and the world outside your razor wire-topped fence?

Wait. Right. Zombie apocalypse. This isn’t an end of summer retrospective; this is Fear the Walking Dead‘s fourth episode, “Not Fade Away!”

Chris films their new neighborhood from a rooftop and, in a handy voice-over, fills us in on the latest: there are rumors of pockets of survivors elsewhere. It’s been nine days since the power cuts and the riot. Travis is the kind of guy who’d stick a flower in the end of a firing squad’s guns. When Chris starts talking about the futility of struggling against nature’s inevitable indifference, I look around for the plastic bag that must be about to dance into the frame. Instead, we see that off in the distance, in the abandoned zone outside the fence, someone is sending a message with reflected light! OMINOUS CREDITS TIME.

Madison is in the kitchen watching the clock — it seems that the power comes back on for only a few hours a day. She tells Alicia they need to paint the family room again. I guess semi-gloss doesn’t hide bloodstains as well as they’d hoped. Travis finishes his run and mentions that he’s been invited to some kind of community announcement later. Madison starts complaining about how much she has to do around the house, and Travis argues back. Alicia, who has been trying to get a signal on her phone in the background, yells at them about how ridiculous it is to be bickering in the midst of the end of the world. Cue awkward scene break.

Travis finds Chris flashing (not like that) his mystery signal buddy, and orders him inside to help Madison. Although Travis so far seems to have faith in everyone else in the world with little provocation, he doesn’t believe Chris has proof that anyone is alive outside the fence.

Nick is still floating in the pool. Madison offers him the pill he “forgot” to take that morning, and he says he’s ready to go cold turkey. Griselda needs it more, he tries to reason. (Oh, Nick. Griselda doesn’t need anything but a swift amputation and a metric ton of antibiotics.)

A military commander type addresses a crowd of mostly surly teenagers. They are infection free. They are at war with … something. The virus maybe? The crowd gets surlier as the commander keeps talking but not answering the questions they pepper him with. But then he puts his clipboard down and starts getting real! This neighborhood is one of twelve safe zones in this part of Los Angeles! They should be grateful for what they have! Be nice so he doesn’t have to shoot them! (That is probably supposed to be a joke but is super not funny because he has a thousand handguns under his camo probably!)

At the rations truck, Ofelia flirts with a soldier played by Shawn Hatosy. Go Ofelia! I question your choices a little but thirst has no master in the wastelands.

The commander walks Travis down the street and asks for his help reasoning with someone who’s being “irrational.” I wonder if I’ll ever reach a point where I take anything the commander says at face value, or will I have to put his words in quotations forever?

The irrational man is named Doug. His two kids and his wife are dressed in hazmat suits but he is in normal street clothes. The house is surrounded by armed soldiers. Doug sits in a bathroom and says he doesn’t think he can do it. Life, I guess. He’s freaking out, which is understandable! They are in a bad situation! Travis tries to appeal to his paternal instincts, but Doug is having none of it. He and his beard cry a little, and —

We cut to Alicia, who is breaking into Susan and Patrick’s house from last week. Poor Susan. Poor Patrick. And poor Alicia, who strokes the permanent marker tattoo Matt gave her in the pilot, and cries.

And back to Doug! Doug is getting checked out by a medic. Travis tells him he’s okay and is clearly over the whole situation.

Next we see Liza visiting one of her patients, who lives on the other side of the Idiot House. A patient she’s hooked up to a fresh bag of morphine —

Oh! I think we just figured out why Nick tells Madison he doesn’t need his pills. Oh, Nick.

In the house, now that the painting is done, Chris tries to convince Madison that he’s got evidence of someone alive outside the fence. She doesn’t seem impressed. She also doesn’t seem to get why anyone wouldn’t ask the soldiers for help. How have Madison and Travis worked in an urban public high school for so many years and maintained all of their ingenuous ideas about power structures and the goodness of authority? Like, literally, how?

Ofelia and Shawn Hatosy make out in the back of a Humvee. Ofelia asks if he’s had any luck getting the medicine her mom needs, which he hasn’t. He doesn’t know it quite yet, but he’s definitely not getting anywhere near lucky anytime soon.

But Madison and Travis are! We join them after some intimate time in their car in the garage, and as they dress they seamlessly transition into critiquing each other’s parenting tactics. Madison gets in a good dig about the attention Travis isn’t paying to Chris. She brings up the video and tries to goad Travis into telling the soldiers about it. He finds that idea as ridiculous as it is, but not for the same reasons Madison and I think it’s ridiculous. She lists a bunch, but the main reason is: the soldiers have not delivered on any of their promises. How can they trust them?

This conversation is interrupted before it can get into anything weightier, as Maria comes banging on the door. Her husband, Doug, has disappeared, along with his car. Which is a big no-no inside the fence. Man, I really dislike these military types. Set up a drag race or something! Get those surly teens involved! Surly teens are into drag races, as I know from my many years of watching fifties greaser and beach movies.

At sunrise, Madison is on the roof, with a flashlight that she uses to signal the house Chris was watching. Travis walks down a hill along the fence, where he finds Doug’s car abandoned. In the distance, it sounds like there’s screaming but my captions didn’t mention it so maybe it was something in the distance at my house. And someone answers Madison’s signal.

Travis tries to talk the commander into sending out a patrol to look for Doug, but, uh, well, it seems they already picked up Doug and transferred him to … headquarters. Sure, headquarters! Where he’ll get responsible mental health care, sure, yeah, that’s the ticket! Travis believes it! Travis is like Mikey, except with lies instead of Life cereal. Travis tells the commander about the lights Chris saw, but the commander assures him that they went door to door through the entire city and didn’t find any other survivors. Hopefully next Travis will ask if there are any neurologists in the neighborhood because he must have sustained a major blow to the head at some point that’s still scrambling his thinking.

Liza goes next door to talk to her patient, Hector, who is missing. (Also missing: Nick, who is no longer nodding out under the bed on Hector’s morphine.) A new woman introduces herself: she’s a doctor with the government. She gives Liza the third degree about the care she was giving to the neighbors and reveals that Liza isn’t a nurse. But instead of the obvious move of threatening to out her little malpractice secret, the doctor asks Liza if she’s willing to keep it up.

Madison sneaks through the neighborhood with bolt cutters, evading several soldiers on patrol. She gets through the fence and starts wandering, passing a shrine to missing and dead loved ones and a poster with a Bible verse — the same Bible verse referenced on a fence where the commander was playing golf earlier: Revelations 21:4, which is about the End of Days, naturally.

A few blocks past that, Madison staggers into a street, overcome by the stench of the decomposing bodies everywhere. They all seem to have been shot in the head. A military patrol comes over the hill ahead of her, so Madison crawls under a car, where she finds yet another dead body and gags.

Back at the house, the doctor examines Griselda and says she has to go to The Facility for an amputation. Rubén Blades says he has to go with her. I believe not a single word out of the doctor’s mouth about The Facility! Next they find Nick in the backyard, where he lies about the last time he got high. Liza reassures Travis that everyone is going to get the best care at The Facility, like Doug and Hector. When Nick hears Hector’s name, he gets nervous, but Travis takes everyone at their word. Again. Does no one else hear the ominous capital letters whenever anyone refers to the facility or the hospital or headquarters or whatever they’re calling it this time?

Next door, Alicia makes her tattoo permanent in solid junior high and/or prison fashion, and I gag at the fake blood welling up. It’s still better than the head/neck chunk last week, though.

Madison returns to the house, where she tells Rubén Blades about the bodies she saw. They were uninfected, shot through the head. Rubén Blades tells her about his childhood, specifically the time he found the watery mass grave of a bunch of people from his village who were abducted by some military folks. His father tried to teach him not to hold hate in his heart for anyone, but his father was a fool. He warns Madison that whatever is going to happen, it’s going to happen fast and she needs to be ready.

He also warns Madison to keep Nick close, so she goes to find him. He’s ransacking Hector’s room, looking for more drugs, and Madison loses it. She slaps and hits him, knocks him to the ground, and walks away.

That night, Alicia tries to get Nick to talk to her. I hope she’ll also talk him into brushing his hair. She doesn’t, but she does get to hug him.

Madison is drinking and crying in the garage, and a vehicle pulls up outside. Soldiers carry Griselda out of the house. I regret advocating for leaving her behind in previous episodes and even more the thing about the amputation earlier. I’m sorry, Griselda! I hope you’ll get a line or two in before they kill you! Rubén Blades tries to follow her, but the soldiers block him. They only have two names on their transport manifest: Griselda, and Nick.

Nick, at Alicia’s urging, runs. The soldiers follow, knocking Madison to the ground. They take Nick into custody and force him from the house. A soldier who might be Shawn Hatosy draws his weapon on Chris and Rubén Blades. Liza tries to talk the doctor out of having Nick transported but the doctor tells her to come to the hospital to help. Liza mouths, “I love you, don’t worry,” to Chris, and jumps in the truck.

Everyone left in the house goes to their separate safe places to cry, drink, be angry. In a voiceover, Alicia reads a note she found at Susan’s house: a goodbye letter to Patrick. It gives an emotional depth to our transition to a new and even more screwed up world, and acts as a bookend to Chris’s overwrought voiceover at the beginning of the episode. On the roof, Travis finally sees lights from the house where Chris spotted, but it’s not anyone in there sending a message. Well, it kind of is someone sending a message, but not the friendly kind Chris presumably saw. Instead the house lights up in the gloom because someone is inside shooting the place up. Whoops? Maybe don’t tell the commander everything from now on, Travis. Maybe that’s an idea.

It seems like the end of the world kind of blows! Who knew?! At least next week we’ll get to visit the hospital, where I’m sure everything is a-okay. Right?

  • Kidding aside, one of the aspects of this show I love so far is how realistic the teenagers feel. They are as frustrating as being a teenager was and as dealing with teenagers as an adult can be. I completely believe that Alicia would descend into wordless sulking and Chris would climb a house to make arty videos of the end of the world. Kudos to the writing team and the actors for that!
  • All I know of East LA I learned from Cheech Marin movies and comedy albums, so I’m happy to know all the ways in which the show doesn’t reflect it properly. We can take the lack of black residents in Los Angeles as a given.
  • It feels like the show is picking up the pace with a world that’s expanded a little further (even with the fence) and potential non-zombie threats from the military and the doctor. The family drama against a disaster background was a nice change, but there weren’t high enough stakes once the initial danger passed. Glad to see them punch it back up again as we head into the final two episodes of this first season!

Photo Courtesy of AMC

About Lisa Shininger

Lisa Shininger spends way too much time thinking about fictional characters but, somehow, it's never enough. She co-hosts Bossy Britches, and yells about pop culture at lisashininger.com and on Twitter @ohseafarer.