It took three episodes of scene-setting and character establishing to get Fear The Walking Dead into the zombie-meat, but “Not Fade Away” finally struck a pretty solid balance of family drama and zombie horror, which may have had something to do with the fact that there weren’t many zombies involved.

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It was an interesting choice to fast-forward a few days and set up this new phase of zombie-human relations: I liked that Travis almost immediately embraced the new normal, heading out jogging and getting cozy with Lt. Moyers. He trusts that the government has his family’s best interest at heart, at least for the moment. It’s easy to understand that kind of attitude in a horrible situation, because you want that burden taken from you. These people are here to help, so you let yourself believe. And if the problem doesn’t get too out of hand, they probably are. But they’re going to keep a lot of their knowledge from you—that’s the trade-off.

But Madison can’t handle not knowing, so she crazily, almost unbelievably, uses wire cutters to get through the perimeter, only to discover the horror show outside. I don’t recall if The Walking Dead ever made a big deal out of the stench of zombies, but I thought her reaction to the stink was pretty interesting. But what did she have to gain by heading outside? It seemed like a crazy-dangerous move for a woman who’s shown herself to be both tough and pragmatic. (And what if the zombies find the hole she cut?)

Speaking of her toughness, was there an audible cheer in your household when Maddy finally smacked Nick in the face—twice—wasn’t there? I pictured her doing the same thing to the showrunner, following it with, “Let’s wrap up this fucking heroin plotline so we don’t have to spend 10 minutes every week trying to find this kid some dope!” But I will admit that it did actually lead somewhere: The new doctor figured out his scam and he made the dreaded hospital-visit list.

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Now of course, we don’t know quite what that list means yet, and it’s tough to imagine that just nine days into a zombie apocalypse the government is going to murder someone just because he’s a heroin addict. (Maybe because his story is boring, though.) Still, it’s incredibly easy to believe that the government—presumably knowing what our main characters don’t know yet—would want to quarantine and study pretty much anybody who might be in danger of dying. That includes Griselda and Nick, apparently. I also can’t imagine that the doctor is in on anything nefarious just yet.

Obviously that whole ending scene sets us up for some kind of search-and-rescue operation, since Daniel is clearly not going to let his wife be taken away from him and murdered, nor is Maddy likely to let her little boy go without a fight. (This was a great line from one of the soliders: ““C’mon man, free medical, care of the U.S. Military!”) I like that there’s just a seed of a doubt that their loved ones might not be coming back, and I liked Daniel’s childhood story to Maddy, about the men in his town being murdered. (And it’d be nice for the show’s two best actors to get some more scenes together.)

Chris, Alicia, and Ofelia, meanwhile, remain not terribly interesting, though the relationship between Ofelia and Shawn Hatosy’s soldier character—not sure if he even has a name yet—could develop into something sinister. Hatosy, who was incredible as a cornered weasel on Southland, is great at playing his boyish charm as something slightly scary, and we already saw that in his one scene. I could see him developing into an important part of the show, as the leak between the military and the civilians (especially the one who’s going to make out with him on his Humvee).

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Susan’s suicide note cleared up that dangling plot point from last week: She saw the apocalypse coming, and being a God-fearing woman, decided to join Him sooner rather than later. (Little did she know that she’d briefly become a zoo animal in her own garden.) I hope we get a bit more nuance like that in the future: It reminded me of the preacher in The Leftovers, who’s one of that series’ most interesting characters because of his crazy reaction to events.

So where do we go from here? Presumably the world outside the fence gets much more intense, causing the armed men inside to do the same. At some point in this series—maybe sooner, maybe later—the military will likely have to decide to stop defending the civilians and fend for themselves. It seems hard to imagine a scenario in which those heavily armed, very tough, and well protected soldiers will be overrun by zombies, but I guess that’s what we’re here to find out.

Stray observations

  • I thought Chris’ video diary was going somewhere, but I guess it was just an excuse to say “they took the rest of them outside the fence, one suitcase a piece.”
  • “Perfect Day” was a nice touch.
  • The whole power grid thing is still vexing me, but I guess it’s good for dramatic tension.
  • “You guys are the lucky ones… Count your blessings! Be nice! So I don’t have to shoot you.” Between that and the golfing, Moyers might as well be wearing a black hat and twirling his mustache.
  • At least he gave poor Doug a chance, though.
  • “Was that makeup sex? We gotta fight more”
  • We’re pretty clearly setting up Liza as our inside woman, right?
  • “If it happens, it will happen quickly. And you must be prepared.”
  • “What I saw was godly, and I think it’s overdue.”

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