In the fourth episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “Not Fade Away,” the military has rolled into town. The show has jumped ahead to the ninth day of the zombie apocalypse, robbing viewers of the opportunity to witness the fall of Los Angeles. Last we saw, it was mired in looters and rioters, and now a city of 3.8 million people has been completely decimated. All who remain are those in fenced-in safe zones, like the suburban East L.A. community where Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Madison (Kim Dickens) are holed up. Outside, it’s a ghost town full of tumbleweeds and corpses with bullet holes in their heads.
The decision to skip ahead was probably a wise one on showrunner Dave Erickson’s part, even if it did deprive the series of the opportunity to quickly add to the onscreen death count with scenes of mass casualties and zombie hordes. The series, after all, had nearly ground to a halt in the first three episodes, rotating through generic zombie-movie tropes and tedious games of Monopoly as it zeroed in on the first human threat of the show: The military.
Now, we’re finally getting somewhere.
This is where The Walking Dead has been so successful: Narrowing the scope to an isolated enclave, like the prison, Woodbury, or Alexandria. It allows the show to focus less on the zombies and more on those who threaten or control the safe zones, although Fear the Walking Dead has the added element of a citizenry within the community being oblivious to what’s going on outside.
“Everybody is dead,” Lt. Moyers (Jamie McShane) — the series’ most amusing and droll character, so far — tells them. “You guys are the lucky ones! So relax, count your blessings, and be nice, so I don’t have to shoot you.” Is that a joke? A threat? or both?