‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Review: ‘Not Fade Away’ Introduces a New Enemy
Recap and review of Fear the Walking Dead – Episode 4 – Not Fade Away:
With a show like Fear the Walking Dead, which seeks to depict the world before it fell into ruin, zombies can’t be the main villain every week. Hell, it seems like they can’t even be the main threat most weeks. Instead, much like with The Walking Dead, man himself proves to be the greatest threat of all. “Not Fade Away” introduces a new enemy into this world in the form of the United States military, whose shadowy method of operation only adds to the sense of dread, rather than alleviating it.
The story picks up nine days after last week’s episode, as the community has been quarantined in one of 12 safe zones within the relatively walker-free six mile radius surrounding the area. Yet, while the military men insist that the threat is being contained, and that they have a realistic shot at regaining the city, their actions don’t really bear that out. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new for fiction to depict military men as brutish jerks, and it’s a shame that nobody in this show’s version of the military appears to have any nuance whatsoever, outside of Ofelia’s meatheaded love interest and, maybe, Dr. Bethany Exner (Sandrine Holt), who convinces Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) to come work with her at the medical center the military has set up. This, despite the revelation that Liza isn’t, nor has she ever been, a nurse. Still, I can’t exactly get on board with Dr. Exner being a protagonist just yet, since her character seems so distressingly vague that it can be hard to tell whether she actually has good intentions or not. I suppose part of this depends on whether or not she’s actually taking Liza, Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and Nick (Frank Dillane) to a medical facility, or if she’s just taking them to quarantine away from all their loved ones.
Ultimately, the suspense is in not knowing for sure. And, actually, I kind of like that choice. Hell, I think it would be a pretty surprising reversal of expectations to actually have this medical facility turn out to be exactly what the military representatives say it is, since everything we know about this type of fiction suggests that the military will fly off the handle, all in the name of the greater good. While this hasn’t particularly been a show about subverting expectations, I feel as though the best way to approach this story would be for the military to actually have good intentions but terrible methods. As it stands right now, their methods seem mysterious, at best, and downright sinister, at worst, considering how they forcefully remove Nick from his home, while also refusing to allow Daniel (Ruben Blades) to travel to the medical facility with his wife. Yet, it’s understandable, from a certain point-of-view, why they would take this approach. Nick is a junkie who is tweaking like crazy after stealing a neighbor’s morphine supply to get high. That type of variable represents a risk, particularly to a military that’s all too-attuned to threat assessment. Meanwhile, Daniel being present for Griselda’s operation could introduce an unwanted emotional component. Who’s to say he wouldn’t also demand to be in the operating room with her once they got there? What if Griselda doesn’t pull through? Who knows how he’d react? He might become violent, for all anyone can tell. So it makes sense why the military would do this, even if their method of forcefully removing people, while also separating patients from their loved ones, seems extreme.
But then, this is only if the medical facility is what the military says it is. Either way, something is amiss, and it doesn’t really matter whether the military has good intentions here or not: they’re being presented as a force of opposition. In other words, we’re meant to view them as the enemy. And they make that pretty easy, since it’s implied they’re killing survivors found out in the city, after Travis (Cliff Curtis) informs one of the military men about a light Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) had seen in the distance outside of town. By episode’s end, Cliff sees a light too…but it’s not a survivor signaling Morse Code. Rather, it’s the flashing light of a rifle putting some poor soul out of his misery. While we don’t know the context of the situation (could the survivor have been saved? Were they already dead/turned?), it’s presented in such an ominous light that it’s hard to see it as anything other than sinister.
Ultimately, it’s the character work that helps “Not Fade Away” stand out from previous weeks, even though it’s a very slow, deliberately-paced episode. While I’m mostly over Travis being a tireless do-gooder who somehow continually finds himself in positions of temporary authority (with even one person jokingly referring to him as the mayor of this safe zone), I quite liked how Maddie (Kim Dickens) wrestles with her conflicting emotions over Nick. In one of the highlights of the episode, she discovers he’s been using again, and flips out on him, striking him across the face, and hitting him again and again as he cowers into the corner. It’s an outburst of pure emotion from Maddie, who’s been doing her best to try and take care of Nick and help him recover, only to find her efforts unappreciated. I could imagine it was an outburst that was a long time in coming, but always held in check by civilization, and the fact that, quite simply, there were fewer demands on Maddie then than there are now. The pressure of this situation, and all its responsibilities and stresses, cause her to break. That’s why it’s all the more heartbreaking to see Nick carted away by the military at the end of the episode, because she never got to make amends with him before that happened. The pain is evident on Maddie’s face, and all too easy to understand, and makes plenty of sense, even if her blaming Liza for this doesn’t. Daniel is also a highlight this week, as Ruben Blades continues to be this show’s MVP. The harrowing tale he tells of his youth in El Salvador, which resulted in his inherent mistrust of the military during an occupation, did more to invest me in his character than any other this season. While I’m sad for Daniel that he’s been separated from his wife, I’m relieved that the show didn’t kill him off, as I feared they might after Daniel asked Maddie to watch over Ofelia, should anything happen to him. Are all the characters as strong as they should be at this point? No. But I do think the show is still growing, so it deserves a little more leeway. I still don’t particularly care for Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), but that’s more the fault of her being given nothing to do, rather than any shortcoming by Debnam-Carey herself. Perhaps that’ll change in the coming weeks (although, with only two episodes left, they don’t have much time). For now, “Not Fade Away” is a solid, if unspectacular, episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
But what did you think of Fear the Walking Dead, “Not Fade Away”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Fear the Walking Dead, check out our review of last week’s intense episode, “The Dog”!