Is it too early to declare ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ a bad television series? It’s certainly not too early to call it a disappointing one, and that disappointment continues in Episode 4, an entry so inconsequential that viewers don’t get to see a single Walker during its entire running time.
The episode starts promisingly enough, with our main characters going through daily routines to the tune of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” Travis is out for a morning jog, Nick is lounging in the pool on an inflatable, and Chris is up on the roof of Madison’s house videotaping his own little personal documentary. We soon discover, however, that the National Guard has fenced in their area of Los Angeles and this is one of the “safe zones” that the military has set up around the city.
While Chris is up on the roof, he notices a flash coming from another house outside the safe zone. He soon realizes that someone is signaling back to him. Later, when he shows Travis the video, his father – perhaps the dumbest member of our clueless group of heroes – passes it off as the reflection of the sun or something. However, when he shows the video to Madison, it piques her curiosity.
The military leader assigned to their safe zone asks Travis to talk to one of his neighbors, Doug, who has refused to submit to a medical screening. Travis pays a visit and is able to talk him into allowing the troops to check him out, but not long afterwards, Travis learns that Doug has taken off in his car. He goes out looking for him, but is only able to find his abandoned vehicle. When Travis talks to the National Guard leader about it, he finds out that Doug has been taken outside of the zone for further evaluation because they believe he’s a threat to their ongoing safety.
Nick spends the first part of the episode acting like he’s kicked his drug habit, but it’s just a ruse. He sneaks over to a house where Liza has been taking care of a sick man (who’s hooked up to a morphine IV). Nick removes the IV from him and sticks it in his foot as he hides underneath the bed. Before the episode concludes, Madison finds out about Nick’s deception and gives him a proper beat-down – the most exciting thing to happen this week, believe it or not. (Do you think AMC is going to get letters from domestic abuse groups? Or do you think everybody will be happy that someone finally slapped this kid?)
Madison sneaks outside the fence in an attempt to perhaps figure out who’s signaling from the distant house. She doesn’t find anything on that front, but discovers a lot of dead bodies on the streets, all of them shot in the head. Many of them appear to have shown no signs of the Walker virus. She hides under a car (with another dead body) when troops patrol the area she’s in, but she’s able to get back inside the safe zone without getting caught.
Liza gets a visit from Dr. Bethany Exner (Sandrine Holt from ‘The Returned’), who informs Liza that she knows she’s not really a nurse, but would like her to continue to help the sick in the safe zone. Grizelda Salazar’s foot injury has become more serious, and Dr. Exner tells Daniel that she’ll need to be transported to a military hospital they’ve set up that’s about 50 miles away. Daniel agrees, but insists that he must go with his wife. He then goes to talk to Madison and relays a story about when he was younger and the military came to his hometown in Chile and took people away… people who Daniel later discovered were dead. He warns Madison to keep those she cares about close to her and then asks her if she’ll promise to take care of his daughter, Ofelia (who appears to be in her mid-30s, by the way, so I’m not sure why she needs a parental figure) if he doesn’t come back. Ofelia, incidentally, has sparked up a romance with one of the local military grunts – whom I’m pretty sure she’s got at least ten years on. (Again, the actress playing her seems much older than the character.)
The episode wraps up with Grizelda being transported off to the military hospital – with a few twists. First, the military personnel (including Dr. Exner) have no intention of allowing Daniel to go with them. Secondly, they also take Nick – whose drug habit Dr. Exner has learned about. Exner also asks Liza to come with them to help, and she agrees. Madison, naturally, is furious about her son being taken away and tells Travis that she blames Liza for what just happened. Personally, I blame the writers for this whole silly mess.
I’d like to think that Nick being dragged off at the end of this episode means we won’t have to see him again, but we all know that’s not going to happen. I also wonder if we’ll ever find out who was flashing that signal in the other house, but I’m also guessing that’s just a red herring and won’t be mentioned again. I also hope that Travis will get a clue before he’s officially declared the dumbest character on cable TV.
I hate to be so cynical about ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, but I’ve had a theory for a while now that this series was little more than AMC’s attempt to make a cheaper version of the golden goose series so that, a few years from now, when production and cast costs on ‘The Walking Dead’ get too high to sustain continuing it, the network can end that show and make this one the primary zombie series. What we’ve seen from ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ so far certainly indicates that this show has gone the cheaper route. I’m not sure how much each episode costs, but I’m guessing it’s significantly less than ‘The Walking Dead’, even when one doesn’t count the cast salaries involved.
I’ll still stick out this show for the final two episodes (if only so I can report back on them here), but unless there’s a huge sea change in the final two weeks, I don’t see myself coming back to this series next year.