It turns out that ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ isn’t just going to be all about Morgan this year. For better or worse, the season’s second episode hardly shows him at all, instead catching us up with the show’s original characters. It also returns a little bit of color to the photography (drab though it still may be), of which there was practically none last week.
The episode doesn’t entirely fill in the details of what happened after the dam explosion in the Season 3 finale. Rather, it flashes back to a period only identified as “Before,” which appears to take place relatively recently, still well into the time-jump. Madison, Nick, Alicia, Luciana, and Strand all reunited in the meantime and have joined a small community (47 people total, including them) living in a baseball stadium. How they got there isn’t explained, but we’re told “The Diamond” is celebrating its one-year anniversary. As of yet, there’s no sign of Daniel Salazar.
The Diamond appears to be pretty secure and stable, though it’s currently suffering a weevil infestation on the turnip crops that Nick is tending to. Nick has some PTSD issues and is afraid to leave the confines of the stadium and venture back out into the world. This is a big change for the guy who used to love covering himself in zombie guts and gore and walking among the dead. Madison, meanwhile, has taken up mothering a young girl named Charlie. When she learns that Charlie came from a town a little bit beyond their comfort zone for outside travel, Madison gathers Alicia, Luciana and Strand for a mission to look for the girl’s family.
When they get there, they find the town picked completely clean by scavengers. Strangely, they don’t even see any zombies around. The place is just empty. A flag with the number 457 on it hangs from a building, similar to the numbered flags we saw in the premiere episode. Madison doesn’t find Charlie’s parents, but is instead confronted by a drifter named Naomi (Jenna Elfman), who pulls a gun on her and demands her car keys. Madison is able to signal her friends, who come to her aid and try to calmly talk the woman down.
Wary of strangers, Naomi backs away and climbs to the top of a water silo, which doesn’t seem like a very good escape plan. She’s so focused on the others that she doesn’t see a big hole in the roof or a pair of speakers planted there. When Naomi falls into a pool of disgusting muck, Madison jumps in after her to help fight off the dead inside until Strand and Luciana can pry open a door at the bottom and let the whole thing drain out. Madison and Naomi wash out in a flood, and the others finish off the zombies.
After that, Naomi is a little more willing to trust these strangers and tells her story. She says that she’s not from the town, but has traveled far and was just passing through. She agrees to go back to the stadium with them. Before they leave, Luciana finds a dusty copy of ‘The Little Prince’, which she packs up to bring back to Charlie.
That night, Nick hears classical music playing from outside the stadium walls. He nervously gets in a pickup truck to go check it out, but freaks out and crashes the truck when he’s swarmed by zombies. Fortunately, his family arrives just in time to rescue him and bring him back inside. Naomi reveals that she used to be a nurse. Madison invites her to stay, and tempts her with the promise of a hot shower.
Shortly afterward, an ominous group of cars and trucks drive up to the stadium and make a show of circling the parking lot a few times before stopping. Without a word, a hipster douchebag turns on a boombox playing more classical music and rides a bicycle around for a few minutes, luring all the zombies in the parking into the back of a truck, then locks them in. Someone else from the group paints the number 12 on a flag and hangs it off the truck, then the rest of them unpack some lawn chairs and sit.
After a while of watching this spectacle, Madison walks outside to ask the presumed leader what he wants. He not only already knows her name and Nick’s, he knows about the turnip blight and an unnerving number of other details, including exactly how many weapons and how much ammo they have. He introduces himself as Mel, and calls for young Charlie to come out and join him. She was his mole the whole time. Madison cringes at being played. Mel tells her that he wants everything they have. She can either turn it over and maybe even join his group, or he and his people will just sit and wait for the community to fail, as it eventually will, after which he’ll just walk in and take everything anyway. Madison responds that she’s not giving him anything and goes back inside.
Bristling with anger, Madison picks up a hammer and continues a construction project she’d started earlier, as if to prove that she won’t be scared off. Others in the community join her. Luciana walks into the parking lot and leaves the book she’d found for Charlie.
Without further explanation, we skip forward in time to where the previous episode left off (and return to the near-black-and-white palette). Alicia, Strand and Nick have taken Morgan, John (Garret Dillahunt) and Althea (Maggie Grace) prisoner. Searching Althea’s truck, they find a flag with the number 51 on it, which she had picked up in the last town. Alicia accuses them of being part of “The Vultures.” When Althea swears they aren’t and that she doesn’t know what the flag means, Alicia demands that she show them where it came from.
In its favor, this episode does a decent job of demonstrating that the old ‘Fear’ characters are still capable of carrying their own show. From the way the premiere focused almost exclusively on Morgan, that wasn’t necessarily certain. It sure looked like Madison and the rest would be given short-shrift. (Whether you consider that a problem or an improvement is up to you.) The episode is reasonably interesting and the characters (who have often been prone to behaving like idiots) don’t make too many moronic mistakes.
That said, the details of the water silo set-piece don’t make much sense. I take it we’re supposed to assume that the Vultures used the speakers to lure the zombies into the silo, but since when can zombies climb stairs?
The Vultures themselves also seem to be a mishmash of villain groups from the original ‘Walking Dead’ – part Saviors, part Claimers, and even a little bit of the Terminus gang. This just leads to the inevitable feeling that these two shows have run out of ideas and are stuck recycling old storylines. Perhaps this one will play out in a more interesting manner. It’s too soon to tell on that.