Fear the Walking Dead shows the calm before the storm in “Not Fade Away.” Even though everyone knows there’s a rampant infection, there are attempts at normalcy in their occupied safe zone. Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) starts a romance, Travis (Cliff Curtis) helps out around the neighborhood, Madison (Kim Dickens) fixes up the house, and Nick (Frank Dillane) goes back to his drug-seeking habits. Same old, same old. Of course, the cynical Daniel (Rubén Blades) isn’t the kind of man to lie to himself, but he has his injured wife Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) to care for, which limits his choices.
It’s the adolescents, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) that are most annoyed by this act. The adults want to make the kids feel safe, and perhaps allow themselves a moment of hope and respite. But no one’s better at identifying abnormality and asking annoying questions than teenagers. Even Nick, in his extended adolescence and drug-induced haze, has realized the world as they know it has come to an end.
After a few action-packed episodes, “Not Fade Away” slows things down a bit. Though it appears most of Los Angeles has been lost, there are 12 safe zones south of the San Gabriel Mountains. In “Not Fade Away,” Fear the Walking Dead presents a society that is being held together by the last vestiges of authority—doctors, soldiers, and government decrees.
Inside the Fence
We see the East LA neighborhood waking up as Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” plays. Chris is documenting what’s been happening, continuing to record with his camera. Let’s hope all his footage ends up on a DVD extra someday. From up on the roof of the house as he watches the decimated city outside their protected community, he narrates:
“Another one burned last night. Better than TV. People outside the fence, they took the last of them four days ago. People just like us run like cattle, piled into trucks, one suitcase apiece. Headed east. At least that’s the rumor. Bakersfield, Vegas, who knows? It’s safe inside the fence. Outside, everything’s dead, everyone’s gone. This is day nine. Nine days since the lights went out and that fence went up, and our little green friends moved in. Travis says we’re the lucky ones. He’d throw those dudes a parade if they’d let him.”
There’s a lot of tension inside the house. Madison is a woman who likes to be in control, and this situation is about as out of control as they come. Travis and Madison start to argue. Madison complains that with Travis helping out in the neighborhood and Liza tending to the sick, no one’s around to help. Alicia interrupts their fight to tell them to stop bickering and acting like everything’s normal. Well at least she’s acting like her normal petulant self.
Chris has spotted what appears to be a signal from a house in the hills, where everything is supposed to be dead. He tries to tell his dad about it, but Travis doesn’t want to hear it. Chris is frustrated that his dad isn’t listening to his concerns about people who may need help. Travis already has his hands full trying to help his own family.
Nick is enjoying the pool in the midst of the chaos. He seems to be pretty mellow, despite not taking the medication his mother is offering. Madison is concerned if he doesn’t take the medication it will lead to further problems with Nick. After seeing him try to break into the neighbor’s at the end of the last episode, “The Dog,” we suspect it’s already too late.
The National Guard commander, Lt. Moyers (Jamie McShane), has an announcement for the neighborhood. He tells them that the tide has turned and they’re on the offensive, and they won’t be evacuating. When the crowd starts to complain about electricity and asks where those outside the fence were evacuated to, he tells them that they’re the lucky ones: “You guys—you get to stay in your homes, ride this thing out, all right? So, relax, count your blessings, be nice. So I don’t have to shoot you.” He gives the impression that he’s joking, but we believe he’d do it. The National Guard is enforcing security measures such as staying within the fenced area, not driving, and staying inside after curfew.
Identifying the Weak
Lt. Moyers wants Travis to talk to a neighbor, Doug Thompson (John Stewart), who refuses to be screened. Travis goes into the house and sees the Thompson kids are wearing contamination suits. That’s the most sensible thing we’ve seen so far, but only because they don’t know that everyone is already infected. Doug’s wife Maria (Alison Araya) tells Travis that Doug was acting strange last night and she didn’t think it would be a good idea for the soldiers to talk to him. That doesn’t sound good. When Travis goes into the room, Fear the Walking Dead fakes us out once more, because Doug’s not a zombie. Travis tries to reason with Doug, who doesn’t know what to say to his kids about everything that’s happening:
Travis: “It is gonna be OK. That’s what you say. That’s all that you have to say.”
Doug: “Will they know that I’m lying?”
Travis: “Doug, your family needs you, now. They need you to go outside that door and tell that guard you’re gonna be okay. Show ‘em you’re gonna be okay. That’s all.”
Travis knows all about this, because he’s become an expert at trying to be a reassuring figure for those around him. He seems to provide the same reassurance for Doug, because he agrees to come out and get screened.
Alicia is carrying supplies, but decides to take a detour to the now empty home of neighbors Susan and Patrick. Susan took care of her while she was growing up, so she is especially upset at losing her. She also remembers her boyfriend Matt, who we can only assume is walking the city as a zombie. Alicia looks at the fading design he drew on her arm and decides to create a homemade tattoo with the design.
Liza is helping Hector Ramirez, a man in the neighborhood suffering from congestive heart failure. She gives the bedridden man a morphine drip to help with his pain. Nick watches as Liza and Hector’s wife Cynthia leave the house. He sneaks into the house and hijacks the morphine drip, lying on the floor under the sick man’s bed. Super creepy. Nick seems to have hit a bump on the road to recovery.
Ofelia has started a romance with one of the National Guard soldiers. They’ve taken his truck and found a spot with a view for some alone time. She slows things down, then asks if he was able to get the medicine she asked for. He tells her, “They got it all locked down tight. I guess they’re stockpiling for the big push to take the city back.” She brings up her mom being sick and he seems to get a bit annoyed. Could medicine be Ofelia’s ulterior motive in this relationship? Regardless, finding a little bit of joy as the apocalypse descends is never a bad thing.
Travis and Madison are also trying to get some privacy, but they find it in Madison’s car which is parked in their garage. Not a bad place for romance when your house is full of kids, evacuees, and an ex-wife. Travis tries to get Madison to talk to him about what’s going on with her, but she deflects and tells him he needs to give Chris more positive attention. For a house full of people who can’t work, watch TV, use their computers or phones, or leave the neighborhood, they don’t seem to be finding much time for meaningful communication. It must be Monopoly night every night.
Chris has shown Madison the video of the flashing light in the hills. He seems to have gotten her thinking. She asks Travis if he thinks it is strange that the soldiers haven’t done more: “They promised medicine, doctors, electricity, information. Where is it? What about the phones? Don’t you wonder why they can’t get a landline?” Madison suggests that maybe they don’t want the phones to work. Travis isn’t the type to question authority and thinks she’s being paranoid. He tells her not to encourage Chris with that kind of thinking. They’re interrupted when Maria Thompson and her kids show up, knocking on their garage door. Maria is panicked because her husband Doug took his beloved car and left, even though one of the rules of their occupation is that they aren’t allowed to drive in the neighborhood.
When daylight comes Travis goes out looking for Doug and finds his car abandoned by the fence. When Travis tells Lt. Moyers about the car, Moyers acknowledges that they found Doug by the fence, crying, and took him to headquarters to get help. Moyers tells Travis that he can’t “worry about some guy going psycho inside the fence.” Travis tells Moyers about the light Chris saw one of the houses in the hills, but Moyers assures him there’s nothing alive out there.
Liza comes to check on Hector, but he’s gone. His wife Cynthia is there with a doctor, Dr. Bethany Exner (Sandrine Holt), who has been sent by the government. They’ve taken Hector away, and his wife will be leaving shortly to be with him. When Liza tries to find out where they’ve taken Hector, Dr. Exner changes the subject. Dr. Exner is impressed with Liza’s work in difficult circumstances and asks her if she can continue to help out.
Beyond the Fence
Madison has gone beyond the fence into one of the neighborhoods where the soldiers claim no one remains alive. She finds a lot of dead people and signs of violence. There are boards in front of houses spray-painted with the words “No Evac” and “Staying.” A patrol comes down the street and Madison has to hide from the soldiers. She lies under a truck, next to a dead woman, whom she resembles. The neighborhood looks similar to her own as well. This could have been the fate of Madison and her family if things had gone down slightly differently.
Identifying the Sick
Back at the house, Dr. Exner looks at Griselda’s crushed leg. She wants to take her to a facility for an operation. When Daniel asks how far it is she says it’s about 50 minutes away and it’s secured. When Daniel says he will go with his wife, Dr. Exner responds, “Of course. She’s your wife.”
Liza takes the doctor to see Nick, telling her that he needs methadone. Nick tells Dr. Exner otherwise, that he’s already kicked it. Travis asks about the facility where people are being taken, but Dr. Exner says she can’t talk about other patients. Liza says, “Excuse him. He worries about everyone else. Your friend is in good hands. Just like Hector Ramirez. Just like Griselda will be.” Nick takes notice at the mention of Hector Ramirez being taken to a facility. When Nick realizes that he won’t have access to Hector’s morphine drip his heart starts to race.
Madison returns from her journey outside the fence and Daniel asks her what she saw. She tells him that she saw lots of dead, some of whom didn’t appear to be infected. Daniel tells Madison about people being taken away by the government in his hometown in El Salvador, when he was young. Daniel’s father was given reassurances of their return, but Daniel later found all of them dead in the river.
“My father told me not to have hatred in my heart. He said that men do these things not because of evil. They do evil because of fear. And at that moment, I realized my father is a fool for believing there was a difference. If it happens, it will happen quickly and you must be prepared.”
Despite his suspicions, Daniel realizes he must go with his wife because she won’t survive without surgery. He asks Madison to watch over Ofelia if he doesn’t return. He also warns Madison to keep Nick close.
Madison goes looking for Nick and catches him looking for drugs in Hector’s now empty room. She hits him several times, saying, “You have no idea.” We’re guessing she’s upset that she went to all the trouble of crushing her principal’s skull in order to get Nick medication to detox, and he’s throwing it all away.
Later that night Nick is hiding out in his room. He doesn’t want to let Alicia in, but when she sees his bruised face, she insists. As they start to argue, Travis tries to intervene since he sees himself as the family’s problem-solver. Alicia assures Travis that she’s got this and he leaves. Nick lets Alicia in when she threatens to get their mother. She hugs him and he starts to cry. Alicia finds herself in the position of providing reassurance as she tells him it’s going to be okay.
Forced Evacuation of the Sick
The military unexpectedly arrives. They have come to take Griselda away, but they are not taking Daniel with her. Instead, they want to take Nick. Alicia tells him to run, but a soldier knocks him out and they take him away. The soldiers hold everyone in the house at bay and Travis steps in to prevent the soldiers from getting aggressive with the others in the house. Travis pleads with the soldiers to just let him talk with Lt. Moyers, but they refuse.
Liza is too busy helping with Griselda’s evacuation to realize what’s happening inside the house. Once she sees they are taking Nick too she tries to convince Dr. Exner to let him stay, but Dr. Exner is not one to be persuaded. She tells Liza that they need her at the hospital and that she must come with them, saying: “We’ll come back for your son. He’s safe here for now. But Griselda, the others, they need you. I need you.” Liza looks back at the house where she can see the others being held inside. Without even saying goodbye to her son, she gets onto the truck and leaves with them. Madison has managed to push her way outside in time to see them drive off with Nick. Liza appears to be signaling something to her, but it’s not clear what. Though Madison doesn’t see it now, Liza appears to be trying to deal with the situation she helped create by going with them to the hospital where she can try to protect Nick, and possibly Griselda.
After the soldiers have left, Alicia reads the suicide note she found earlier at Susan’s house. Apparently Susan had seen something related to the infection that led her to believe the rapture was beginning. She must’ve decided to take things into her own hands, rather than wait. The note she left for her husband indicates she’s hoping to see Patrick soon, but she doesn’t sound convinced he’ll be joining her.
Travis sits on the roof. He sees the light Chris had been telling him about, followed by gunshots. Perhaps this, along with Nick being taken, will finally help him see that the government and military might not be the saviors he hopes them to be. So much for the parade.
In “Not Fade Away,” Fear the Walking Dead shows us the varied response to the infection in different neighborhoods. Is it just luck that they happen to live in one of the safe zones, or did the neighborhood just have few enough infections that they could get it under control? The jury is still out on Lt. Moyers and Dr. Exner. They both seem a bit cold and manipulative, but we suspect they are both doing what they think is right in very difficult circumstances. And perhaps segregating the sick away from the healthy is a good way to keep things under better control. We suspect that most any response, especially in an urban setting, would have been harsh and ultimately ineffective. But you never know; maybe Fear the Walking Dead with give us some unexpected happy ending. Seems unlikely, though. “Not Fade Away” presents the feeling of temporary safety. We can’t wait to see how long that will last as Fear the Walking Dead continues.
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