Review: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Not Fade Away’: Who guards the Guardsmen?

Senior Television Writer
09.20.15 58 Comments


A few thoughts on tonight's “Fear the Walking Dead,” and the first season so far, coming up just as soon as I decline your nice offer of methadone…

As you may recall, I was pretty lukewarm on “Fear” after seeing the first two episodes, appreciating the idea of the things it was trying to do (establishing its characters pre-apocalypse, and painting a picture of how society actually fell apart) even as a lot of the execution left me cold. The riot scenes in episodes 2 and 3 looked embarrassingly cheap and amateurish for a franchise whose technical expertise has tended to be its strength, the teen angst was fitting in here about as well as it generally does in adult cable dramas these days, and even interesting performers like Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis didn't seem to have enough to play.

“Not Fade Away” didn't abruptly fix all these problems. The show is still taking a budget approach to the apocalypse, for instance, by keeping us confined to the fenced-in neighborhood and skipping over all the chaos that happened as the National Guard unit made its way there. But the sense of tension and dread was more effectively maintained with this new status quo. Though we remain ahead of the characters in ways that just can't be avoided with the show's timeline, the episode smartly played with our understanding, as well as our assumptions based on the parent show. To Travis and some of the other people in the neighborhood, the Guardsmen seem like heroes, but we know how these things work in the “Walking Dead” universe, which makes it easier to spot all the trouble signs in this new status quo and its maintainers. And it makes Maddie, Chris (a character in desperate need of a quick rehab) and Daniel all seem savvier for sensing the same things we can.

Daniel's story comparing the current occupation to his childhood in El Salvador was a nice showcase for Ruben Blades. It remains to be seen whether the younger actors are up for what's coming, but the adult cast is very strong, and this was the first episode that really let Blades, Dickens, and Curtis really start to strut their stuff, as each of them began to realize at different rates that the peace of the moment is very, very temporary.

Like the first season of the parent show, six episodes just seems too short to build up any real momentum, but I'm looking forward to getting a look at this hospital – where, presumably, the old and/or infirm are being euthanized to prevent them from being a drain on resources – and maybe a better sense of exactly how the military might have failed at this stage of the outbreak.

What does everybody else think? Is “Fear” trying your patience at this point, or are you starting to appreciate the different approach it's taking from what Rick and Carol and friends are doing over in Atlanta?

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