While I still have some reservations that this season is treading a little too closely to the type of storylines we’ve seen countless times on the original show, ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ does something genuinely surprising and ballsy this week.
It appears that, at least at first, episodes this season will be split between flashbacks (in full color) and flash-forwards (in near black-and-white). They’re interwoven with each other throughout the episode, but I’ll describe them chronologically.
Still under siege from the obnoxious Vultures, Maddie and Nick leave the baseball stadium to go on a supply run. The Vulture leader named Mel sarcastically bids them good luck finding anything. When Nick asks his mother how she can bear to keep going out into the world, Maddie tells him that she tries to look for “one good thing” on each trip, to remind her that there is still beauty or goodness even in the apocalypse. Nick is skeptical.
At their first stop, they find the Vulture named Ennis is already there ahead of them and has picked clean anything that might be useful to them. When they wonder how he knew where they were going, it’s revealed that young Charlie is helping him. She stole a walkie-talkie from the stadium and had been listening to their conversations back to the community. Nick gets into an argument with Ennis and threatens to slit his throat. Maddie has to pull him off. Nick feels guilty that Charlie saw him behaving like he’s unhinged.
Before they return home, Maddie finds her good thing – a field of blue bonnet flowers.
Nick, Alicia, Strand and Luciana have captured Morgan, John and Althea. Even after they steal her S.W.A.T. van and try to act threateningly, Althea remains defiant, even cocky. She fights with Nick and causes the truck to crash down a hill, where it gets stuck in a ditch. Nick hits his head and passes out as he sees a swarm of zombies heading toward the commotion.
In a convenient way of compressing time and saving the show’s budget, Nick wakes up to find the situation handled. A bunch of zombie corpses are piled next to the truck, and both his friends and supposed foes are working together to get the van out. Unfortunately, they don’t have any luck. It’s hopelessly stuck. Rather than abandon it, Althea insists that the would-be bandits need to help her tow it out. Luciana remembers seeing a tow truck in a town they passed shortly earlier. The two groups forge an uneasy alliance. Nick is handcuffed to the van and left there as collateral to ensure that his friends come back. Morgan, who was shot in the leg last episode and can’t do much walking anyway, will stay to watch him. The rest head toward the town.
Nick tries to act like a badass, but Morgan bats him around with his stick and, to show how completely unthreatened he is, unlocks Nick’s handcuffs and leaves him at the van while he hobbles up to the road to do some stick practice. Nick roots through Althea’s things and watches the videos of Morgan’s interview. Morgan runs back to the van, dropping his stick in the process, when he sees an unfamiliar car on the road coming toward them. He and Nick hide in the van until it passes, but Nick uses the distraction to fight with Morgan, which results in the van’s horn getting stuck on a constant blaring. Nick then runs away to follow his friends, leaving Morgan to fend for himself, stick-less, against more zombies drawn toward the sound of the horn.
Meanwhile, all the others make their way to the town and spend a good amount of time fixing up the tow truck and finding gas for it. Althea insists that she wants to record everyone’s story, because “The truth matters.”
On the way to the town, Nick stops to pick some blue bonnets on the side of the road and is attacked by Walkers. He can’t fight them off until master ninja Morgan somehow catches up with him on his wounded leg, stick back in hand, and kills the zombies. They band together again and walk to the nearest town (not the one their friends went to), where they hole up in a building to wait.
By this time, all of their friends have actually driven right past them all the way back to the van, which they find teeming with zombies. They know Morgan and Nick aren’t inside because Morgan left a sign behind indicating which direction they went. John suggests that they just wait for the van’s battery to die and the horn to stop, but Althea won’t hear any of it. She insists that they get it out right away. Eventually, Alicia pulls a ridiculously risky stunt of fighting her way through the zombies, crawling underneath the van, and attaching the tow cable to it.
Morgan can tell that Nick is troubled by something and has vengeance on his mind, so he tries to initiate Nick into his pacifist ways (which I guess he’s fully returned to). Nick is dismissive of the idea and they squabble some more, then separate again. Walking through the town, Morgan encounters the Vulture Ennis. He tries to warn him off, but Ennis thinks he’s just a crazy old man. Nick then spots Ennis and charges at him, hammer in hand. Morgan holds him back as Ennis taunts him. After a minute, Morgan decides that he can’t stop Nick from doing what he’s determined to do, so he lets him go and walks away.
Nick follows Ennis into a building, fights with him, and impales him on the antlers of a mounted deer head. Morgan walks down the road a bit, but then thinks better of it and heads back for Nick, whom he finds with blood (literally) on his hands. Morgan gives him his copy of ‘The Art of Peace’. Nick sits down and contemplates this, as well as the blue bonnet flower he’d picked earlier.
Finally, the S.W.A.T. van follows Morgan’s sign and arrives in the town. The group meet up with Morgan, but before they can find Nick, a gunshot rings out. It’s Charlie. She saw Nick kill Ennis and has taken her revenge. With a bullet wound in his chest, Nick collapses to the ground. Alicia chases Charlie but the girl gets away. She returns to her brother’s side and is distraught watching him dying in front of her. There’s nothing anyone in the group can do to save him. Nick dies before all their eyes.
The episode ends with another full-color return to the flashback, to witness the still-alive Nick lying in the field of blue bonnets.
The death of major characters is nothing new to either ‘The Walking Dead’ or ‘Fear the Walking Dead’, but this one still comes as a shock. Nick isn’t just an important character, he’s one of the main core characters the whole show was built around, and his death so early in the season comes with little warning. We don’t even know what his beef with Ennis was really about, though it’s worth noting that we haven’t seen Maddie in any of the flash-forwards so far. Did Ennis kill her?
Nick isn’t quite off the show yet, of course. He’s still alive in the flashbacks, which we will presumably see a bunch more of to explain what led to his murder.
This event is powerful enough to leave a very positive impression of the episode. However, I have to admit that I found a lot of the plotting leading up to the climax pretty contrived, especially the way Morgan miraculously saves Nick from the zombies on the road. The various in-fighting among characters also feels like filler material to pad out the running time.