Not Fade Away, the fourth episode of the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, actually provides us with a mini-season within the freshman series. The episodes jumps ahead and kicks off a completely new angle for the series. We see a new story where our heroes have taken up residence in a ‘safe-zone’, a fenced off area. If the military’s information is to be accepted, this area is one of the twelve safe zones that exist below the San Gabriel Mountains. The most important question that was asked this week; what to believe and what not to believe? Who to trust and who not to trust?
It was definitely a risky move on the part of the show to cut the story-telling short, especially when it was getting really interesting and picking up speed and taking us smack in the middle of an environment where there is no walker in sight. Risky doesn’t mean the move wasn’t good; however, switching stories like this just when it was getting intense undoubtedly took guts. While not all elements may have worked out perfectly, there were certainly parts that appealed to the audience. Just like we had anticipated, Nick’s drug addiction turned into a bigger problem than before.
Nick had been evolving into one of the sensible characters of the show and everyone was hoping that due to the overwhelming horror and change his world is going through, he would put his drug habit aside, but it is fairly tradition for teenagers to act selfish during times of sci-fi or horror crisis. Nick was able to feed his addiction as they were living in a sectioned-off and guarded suburb so he could easily steal the morphine from his sick neighbor. When you break the rules, you deal with the consequences, which he did.
He got slapped by Madison and was eventually carted off. While this may seem a bit harsh, but the fact remains that the military knows a lot more than the Clarks do and they don’t have time to deal with Nick’s issues. Thus, in a terrifying scene, Nick was dragged from his own home and there is no possibility of him coming back unless someone decides to pursue him because there is a huge mystery. When Madison escaped from her confinement, she saw bodies riddled with bullets even though they seemed perfectly healthy. Based on his previous experience, David had also said things about the army intervention they were witnessing.
He had made it sound as if the troops were executing people after taking them out of sight and earshot. This meant that anyone who was a source of disturbance, even if they cannot control things emotionally. Travis and Dough aren’t much different if we think about it. Travis may be able to maintain a calm demeanor, but he was freaking out on the inside. Therefore, it seems ironic that he is trying to calm people around him when he also feels powerless. This is a very frustrating element of the series as Travis doesn’t show any resistance and angers everyone for one reason or another.
At the end of last episode, it had seemed that Travis might just buckle up, but the change in stories keeps his character ineffectual. However, it is unlikely that he would act like this in the next episode when he has seen the signal lights and the machine gun fire in the distance for himself. Regardless, the jump in story seemed a little strange because the show decided to skip off on the introduction of a few characters. Olfie is having a fling with Reynolds played by Shawn Hatosy’s, although we aren’t sure if she was using him for getting medicine for her mother or really into him. Likewise, we meet Lt. Moyer, played by Jamie McShane after he has been working with Travis for keeping people calm. Cutting on the details of these characters isn’t exactly a good decision, especially if any of them becomes a villain. It is a tad scary to be under the control of armed men who may not necessarily be following well-meaning directives. It is remarkably similar to the original series where Atlanta cops threw their weight around as they had resources, strength and guns.
The episode manages to work even without the gnashing and creeping zombies, but there were some problems obviously, especially at the end. Just when Nick was taken and Liza decided to go with Dr. Exner, Madison told Travis that Liza was to blame for Nick’s fiasco. The Nick moment could have gotten everyone on the same page just like we were hoping, but it seems to have caused even more cracks in the group. Also, this makes Madison come off as a bit dense. Initially, this family seemed to be ahead of everyone else and they had a plan to escape, but now the power is reversed and the Clarks don’t know anything at all now. In fact, the family is falling apart.
Even though the show now has an authoritarian presence, we still don’t know much and it would be a downright pisser if Alicia also becomes infected and dies the grieving girlfriend just by carving over Matt’s spiral drawing. Things changed for the dramatic in this episode and while it is an interesting hook to put the crumbling military in charge, Fear the Walking Dead may be brought down by familiar bickering. The blame game wasn’t at all sensible and Maddie smacking Nick around for being an addict was also unwanted. Alicia’s anger at Maddie and Travis for getting involved in petty nonsense was exactly that; petty nonsense.
Nonetheless, mysteries are developing for the first time since the series kicked off. The episode ended on a cliffhanger that could work really well for the remaining season if it is played right and the music used in the episode also set the stage right for the events that took place. The episode may have been zombie-free, but was all about the zombies.