It’s the little things that have already begun to set season four of Fear the Walking Dead apart from both the first three seasons of the series and The Walking Dead. Last week’s episode established Fear as a different series with a new tone, new characters, and a new setting. With this week’s episode, Fear raises the bar for the writers’ table on Angela Kang’s next season of The Walking Dead.
There’s more attention to detail than ever before — note the organic gardening book Nick is reading over the breakfast table in the cold open or the Armadillo coffee mugs they drink out of, a nod to the baseball team who once inhabited the stadium where the characters on Fear now live. Or the Waylon Jenning’s song that opens the episode, “Mama Tried,” a clue to the direction of the series. The characters are trying to live right — honest, helpful, altruistically — like their Mama (Madison) tries to tell them, but their turn back “towards the bad” is almost inevitable, as the introduction of the villains later in the episode and their ambush of Morgan and Althea in the present timeline portend.
My favorite moments, however, come in the little foreshadowing hints we get from Charlie, the young, innocent-seeming girl without a home who Madison invites into the Diamond. “What’s your least favorite food?” Madison asks her. Charlie explains that it’s salmon patties — canned salmon, breadcrumbs, and onions — and Madison talks about what a waste it is for a salmon to spend its whole life swimming upstream only to become a patty. “Should’ve swam the other way,” Charlie says, in what may as well be a warning to Madison.
A couple of scenes later, Charlie also drops a Robert Johnson reference on Nick. “Did you know he only lived until he was 27? And did you know that people think he might have sold his soul to the devil?”