I’ve been one of the many people decrying Fear the Walking Dead‘s lack of anything interesting to latch on to. It’s a slow burn of a show, but was poorly handling why we needed to stick around to see the result. But surprisingly, I may have to eat crow this week as Fear finally figured out how to balance its slow building apocalypse alongside all of the central familial drama.
When I first saw the military encampment last week, I figured it was going to stall the show way more than it needed to. But who would’ve guessed that it would take this wholly unnatural happenstance to get the show going in a good direction.
We’re two episodes away from the season finale (and before the season six premiere of the parent series), so whatever the seeds the show has been planting had to emerge now more than ever. It’s a shame to took something major like the US military (or whatever this is a semblance of, actually) to shake stuff up. But whatever. At the end of last week’s episode, a military convoy showed up and bordered off the suburb. In this episode, it’s been nine days since the military took over (coupled with a stupidly ironic cover of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”) and characters have settled into new rhythms that’ll carry through the season finale: Travis grows accustomed to the military and becomes the middle man between them and the citizens (because of course he would), his son Chris discovers people asking for help outside of the fence, his ex-wife Liza fakes being a nurse in order to give people peace of mind, Madison and Daniel are suspicious of the military, Ofelia is working a military dude for drugs, and Nick is going through MacGuyver-esque lengths for a new fix.
And like the previous episode, this one comes down to activity vs. inactivity. As a way to enhance the series’ focus on intimacy (as evident through the copious close up shots), the familial drama and the apocalypse finally combine into a legitimate threat. Rather than follow its parent series’ focus on how each individual decides to survive (as we watched Rick slowly evolve into a shadow of his former self through six seasons), Fear seems to focus on how the family wants to survive together. And that’s become the show’s greatest strength. Rather than fall onto water cooler zombie attacks to keep itself going, one of “Not Fade Away” biggest moments comes from a mother and son. As Madison literally (and more importantly, lovingly) tries to knock some sense into her junky twerp of a son, it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to her. For once, Madison felt human instead of just being the show’s main character. The military’s lack of info forces Madison out of her pragmatic nature and causes her to make some pretty reckless situations as she escapes from the fence and sees the chaos outside.
Although this stuff seems minimal, it’s still very exciting. The military finally reveals their ugly (but strangely logical) motive and starts removing slighted damaged people from the safe zone. I could’ve done without all of mustache twirling from the army general (as he plays golf and says things like “don’t make me take him down”), but the end result is worth it. Fear actually had a tense moment as the military comes into Madison’s home and takes her son away along with Daniel’s wife Griselda under the guise of medical help. This was set up wonderfully too as Fear takes advantage of its ethnic characters as Daniel tells a horrific story of the government taking people away in El Salvador. There’s a brewing distrust and all of it seems like its leading to a season finale where Madison, Daniel (and Travis now that his innocence and trusting nature has been crushed) break into a compound to bust them out. Walking Dead seems to love ending in military compounds.
- We need more scenes of Madison and Daniel together. Clearly there’s a major benefit in letting the series’ two best actors work off each other.
- Shawn Hatosy (who I remember from The Faculty) was cast as the military guy who Ofelia is trying to work over for her mother’s medicine. He’ll surely take a sinister turn later when the military folks decide to take care of themselves rather than the citizens.
- “Free medical, care of the United States of America”
- “Not a lot of traffic these days.”
- I’m kind of impressed with how Nick gets a drug fix in this episode. Hopefully that all comes to a stop. He’s become rather annoying.