This week’s episode of Fear The Walking Dead, “Buried,” managed yet again to tell an entirely new story in The Walking Dead universe, to flip the script on a common theme, to ask: What if those beliefs that keep settlements alive — community, hope, and selflessness — are the very qualities that get them killed? It’s what happened to Nick, as we learn this week through a story that Strand, Luci, and Alicia relay to Althea, forever documenting the zombie apocalypse. They chose to believe that they could save their baseball stadium settlement, that they were stronger together, and that by working as a team, they could save each other.
In the end, that solidarity resulted in the collapse of the stadium settlement. It got Nick killed. Naomi and Madison may be dead because of it, too.
And yet, they persevere, and Alicia, Strand, and Luci do so together because now they’ve found a common goal more powerful even than saving a community. Now, they have a shared interest in revenge, more than ever after the death of Nick, who still clung to the hope that he could save Charlie until the very end.
This week’s story is told mostly in flashback. Three teams split off from Dell Diamond on a supply run, and all or part of each team nearly doesn’t return. In Strand’s case, he sees the writing on the wall and nearly makes the decision to take his stockpile of canned good and leave, but Cole’s refusal to join him — and decision to selflessly stick with the failing settlement — convinces Strand to share a month’s supply of food for two people with a community that would go through it in a day.
Nick, meanwhile, found himself searching for a reason to convince Charlie to abandon her Vulture family. Luci, recognizing that Charlie is probably a lost cause — attached to a family she doesn’t recognize is bad for her — decides that she, too, wants to leave. Nick, however, strikes upon another plan: Move out beyond the boundaries of their stadium and find goods they can use to rebuild their settlement. We know, of course, how that ends: Charlie kills Nick after Nick kills Ennis.
Noami, meanwhile, nearly abandons Alicia on their supply run, too, because she could predict that the stadium is dying, just as she could predict who would live and die among those who came into her emergency room before the apocalypse. It’s Naomi’s story that is most heartbreaking, because we learn that she had belonged to another community that had collapsed, one that perhaps John Dorie also belonged. Ultimately, she took a chance that Madison’s settlement wouldn’t die, too, and she paid for that decision with her life, possibly.
I’m not convinced, however, that Naomi is dead. I suspect that she — and perhaps Madison — got left behind and are presumed dead, but instead now belong with the Vultures in some capacity. I refuse to believe that this series has given up on hope, that the season will end with that much more tragedy.
The episode also comes as a twist of the knife into poor Morgan’s heart. After losing Nick when Morgan couldn’t convince him not to kill Ennis, Morgan had hoped that the rest of the group would learn from Nick’s mistake — that blood only begets more blood — and end their vendetta against the Vultures. However, their thirst for revenge only seems stronger in light of Nick’s demise. Morgan and John, who stay behind when Al takes the rest of them to the Vulture’s new location, aren’t in any position now to save them from themselves, either. I hope their journey, however, somehow leads them to Naomi, and that the three of them can find a way to step in and stop the tit-for-tat before someone else — potentially Charlie — becomes another casualty.
In either respect, Fear continues to put in one strong episode after another, telling great self-contained stories that play well into the larger arc of the season. As it moves ahead, however, it leaves behind a number of unanswered questions about the past. What happened exactly to the baseball-diamond settlement? Is Madison still alive? How did they all escape the dam at the end of season three? What happened to Daniel? Where did Luci go when she disappeared in season three? What convinced Madison to save Strand?
Most pressing, however, is the backstory on John and Naomi/Laura, a question I expect next week’s episode, “Laura,” will take up.
— Like The Walking Dead, Fear continues to try out different approaches to storytelling, here using Althea’s video camera to create a few documentary-style moments, but director Magnus Martens smartly does not overdo it.
— These Vultures really are an interesting group of “villains.” They aren’t violent. They pick the surrounding areas of all supplies and wait for “enemies” out, but not without offering them the option to join. They’re not so much villains as they simply have a different philosophical approach: They move around, instead of building settlements, because they recognize that settlements all eventually fail. From what we’ve seen of The Walking Dead universe, so far, they’re not wrong.
— Interesting to note that John Dorie joins Rick and Shane among the ranks of former police officers in The Walking Dead universe. It also explains his ability with a gun, and perhaps his reluctance to kill.
— I really like the buddy dynamic between Morgan and John.
— We learned a little more about the rock that Strand keeps — he keeps it to remind himself of the man he doesn’t want to be. My guess is that the rock comes from that dam in season 3.
— I guess the one question I have about Naomi and John is, if they were so close, why didn’t she tell John her real name? Or maybe John’s attachment was one-sided?