Fear the Walking Dead makes a play from its parent show’s handbook this week, following a big cliffhanger (that major storm brewing at the end of the last episode) with a small bottle episode focused on just a couple of characters. Surprisingly, it’s one of the better entries of the season.
We last saw Alicia ditching Morgan in a huff and hiking away on her own, unconcerned about the incoming storm. At the beginning of episode Open Your Eyes, she takes shelter in a creepy house. She searches the place as the wind whips through and continually blows doors open and closed. Before she can settle down, she has to clear out a zombified family of four. (Amusingly, she impales one with a replica statuette of the Washington Monument that just happens to be sitting on an end table.) Alicia dumps the bodies outside in the yard and strips the house of photos. This is her place now, and she doesn’t want to be guilted into thinking about the previous tenants.
After boarding up one door and discovering that the basement is flooding, Alicia hears a noise above her and goes upstairs to investigate. Through a window, she sees a Walker impaled on a tree branch dangling above a second-floor balcony. However, the source of the noise turns out to be young Charlie, who wound up seeking refuge in the same house. Alicia is pissed. Charlie killed her brother, and Alicia also blames her for her mother’s death.
Charlie runs and hides. Furious, Alicia stomps out of the house to leave and find somewhere else to stay. Unfortunately, she gets blown to the ground by a gust of wind and is knocked unconscious. She wakes up back inside the house. Charlie obviously dragged her inside, but the girl then locked herself in a bedroom and refuses to speak. Alicia warns Charlie that, if they stay in the same house, she’ll probably kill her. “I know what you did, and that makes you garbage,” Alicia admonishes her. Ouch.
We see that Charlie still has a handgun, presumably the same one she shot Nick with. She also collected the family photos that Alicia threw outside and stares at them obsessively. She believes that the house still belongs to them and someone may return later wanting to know what happened to them.
When the storm gets worse, Alicia makes Charlie help her board up some windows and batten down the house. Their hammering draws the attention of nearby Walkers, who lurch toward them. The girls are forced to go back inside with the job only half completed.
Alicia finds the gun in Charlie’s coat and takes it from her. She quickly surmises, however, that Charlie wasn’t planning to kill her with it. Rather, the girl is suicidal and has contemplated taking her own life. She becomes so despondent that she even goes out onto the balcony and nearly lets the Walker hanging there kill her, until Alicia pulls her back inside. Although she saved the girl, Alicia makes it clear that she’s still mad and doesn’t forgive her. Nevertheless, she cleans out the fireplace, then makes a fire and allows Charlie to share a can of beans she cooks.
Their meal is interrupted when one of the windows gets smashed in by Walkers. Alicia and Charlie try to hide in the basement, but it’s already half full of water. As they turn around to go back upstairs, the floor above them collapses and blocks the stairway. They’re trapped, and the water level is rising. The only other exit is a bulkhead that’s chained shut from the outside. The windows are too small to squeeze through. Before long, the girls are forced to stand on crates to keep their heads above water.
As their predicament worsens, Charlie has a breakdown. She cries that she doesn’t want to die and become a Walker. She watched her parents turn and is terrified of that happening to her. She begs Alicia to shoot her in the head and end it for her right now. Alicia considers it, but ultimately can’t bring herself to cold-bloodedly murder the girl, no matter how angry at her she is.
While they both cry, something outside crashes into the bulkhead door and caves it in enough that both Alicia and Charlie can climb through the hole. Once out, they discover that the zombie upstairs fell from the tree and landed on the bulkhead. In a bizarre twist of fate, it was a Walker that saved them. Alicia still kills it, of course.
The Next Day
When the storm finally subsides, Alicia buries the family that previously owned the house. Inside, Charlie finds Alicia’s special knife carved from a machine gun barrel and tries to return it to her, but Alicia tells her she can keep it. I guess they’re reconciled now.
Alicia suddenly feels very guilty about abandoning Morgan. Charlie offers to help her find him and the rest of her friends. They boost a working car and drive to Strand’s mansion, which is in disarray with nobody inside. Down the street a little, they come across the school bus John had been living in, overturned on its side. Charlie is very upset by this and wants to find and save John and June. Alicia chides her that, “Things don’t get better,” and then takes back her knife to kill a zombie coming towards her.
Looking strictly at plot, there isn’t much to this episode. It’s a simple two-hander with minimal stakes, and the outcome probably won’t affect the greater narrative in future episodes all that much. I can understand someone already impatient with the show writing this episode off as filler. That said, I found it to be a very strong character piece, which is quite surprising given that I don’t typically care much for or about Alicia.
The episode is also very effectively atmospheric, and allows long stretches to go by without any dialogue. In fact, the first word isn’t spoken for almost ten minutes. That’s a welcome rarity in episodic television, and I enjoyed that aspect a lot.