This week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead is not just the best episode of Fear the Walking Dead to date, it’s maybe best episode in the entire Walking Dead universe. It’s a terrific episode of TV that boasts great storytelling, great acting, and a heartbreaking surprise death that no one saw coming.
And yet, it made perfect sense.
There will be spoilers below, and for those of you who might have checked out of Fear the Walking Dead last season or the season before and are dropping in to see what’s so “devastating” about this episode, I encourage you to stop here. Go back to the fourth-season premiere and start watching again. You’ll find that this is a different series. Not just a better series, but a show that is suddenly worthy of serious attention. Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have reinvented this show, and they are taking no prisoners. I have never seen a series reboot itself as successfully as Fear has done this season. It has melded great character drama with genre storytelling and completely transcended what we’ve come to expect from The Walking Dead universe. So, again: I warn readers: There are spoilers ahead.
Let’s go ahead and rip the band-aid off. Nick Clark is dead. There will be no heroics. There will be no trickery. Nick Clark got the Walter White and the Jack Shephard camera angle. He’s gone.
Characters do not come back from the overhead camera angle.
Nick did not die because of a zombie bite. He did not die because of a Negan-like villain. There was no fight, or a big action sequence leading up his death. There was not martyrdom. In the late afternoon in the backwoods of Texas, Nick was gunned down suddenly and without warning by an adorable, shy 12-year-old girl by the name of Charlie. Even after he was shot, it took 30 seconds to register what had happened because it came as such a gut-punching surprise. He was shot in the chest. He bled out while holding a bluebonnet flower. His sister and his girlfriend wept over his body. Their shock and grief were our own.
Wow. Just, wow.
What I appreciate most about “Good Out Here” is how well it genuinely illustrates Morgan’s long-held philosophy about how “all life is precious.” It’s something Morgan has said dozens of times on The Walking Dead, but in Fear, writer Shintaro Shimosawa finally shows us what Morgan means by way of using Nick’s life as an example. Exacting revenge does not take away the pain. It turns grief and anger into shame, as we see in Nick after he kills the Vulture he’d been seeking for reasons that still remain a mystery. There is nothing Nick wants more than to kill that man, and yet, after he did, Nick seems embarrassed and remorseful. It’s the same look that Charlie possesses a few minutes later when she shoots and kills Nick.
“It’s too late,” Nick says to Morgan when Morgan tries to sell Nick on the preciousness of life.
“No it’s not,” Morgan says. “It’s never too late.”
But it is. Nick met Morgan a day too late.
If there’s any consolation in Nick’s death, it’s that he finds what’s good in the world before he passes on to the next world. He finds the bluebonnet, the Texas state flower and a reminder of his mother, who may or may not be dead herself.
What’s most remarkable about Nick’s death in the context of the series, however, is that this isn’t a ratings stunt. Chambliss and Goldberg didn’t kill Nick to shock the audience. They did it in service of the story, in this case, Morgan’s story. Through Nick’s fate, we better understand Morgan’s guiding philosophy. But it may also have huge consequences for Morgan, who continues to insist and fear that those close to him die. Nick is but one more example of that. Morgan let his guard down. He let Nick in. He told Nick about his life. And then Nick died. “You lose people, and then you lose yourself.”
“It’s not because of being out here,” Nick told his mother in a flashback. “It’s because of what being out here does to you.” Nick’s fate was sealed as soon as those crops died, and as soon as he abandoned the baseball field, and returned to an outside world that rotted his moral compass. “Mama tried,” but once outside, Nick lost his way.
Rest in peace, Nick Clark.
— I loved the callback to the peanut butter protein bar in The Walking Dead, which — recall — Morgan nearly killed Rick over back in season three.
— It looks like Althea really is paying homage to World War Z, building an oral record of sorts for the post-apocalyptic zombie world. Those tapes are for future generations if any should exist. I’m very intrigued by what “The Bog” means.
— We also still don’t know if Madison is alive. The anger Nick felt for the Vulture suggests not, but if Madison is dead, does that also mean Naomi is, as well?
— Though Nick is dead, it’s not the last we will see of him. He will continue to live on in the flashbacks on the baseball diamond, which will make future scenes with him that much more heartbreaking. I’m a little worried that by the time the flashbacks are done, none of the original Fear characters will remain — they’ll all be ghosts walking around a baseball field.