Fear the Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 4 - Suspense and Mystery Defy Post-Apocalyptic Expectations
Fear the Walking Dead has come out of its sketchy beginnings relatively unscathed, and from the wreckage they've conjured a potential gem. The fourth episode pays homage to a famous line by Rick Grimes in season 5 of The Walking Dead. The military have become the very people our protagonists have begun to fear.
Spending a chunk of its time as a suburban drama, the legwork in the opening of the episode continues the tedious quality of the three preceding episodes. The difference here is that this mild opening builds itself toward a stellar, one-sided conflict.
It's apparent that episode 4 attempts to bring a few of the lesser developed characters to the fore, though Ofelia Salazar's (Mercedes Mason) time is forgettable and bland, and hinges on a lackluster romantic angle built solely to add to the military intrigue. Travis (Cliff Curtis) begins to realise, belatedly, the nature of the military's presence, epitomised by an almost loss of innocence in the episode's closing moments.
Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) too continues a steady run of increased screen-time. A variety of scenes that aid in her developing an interesting mind-frame, one that could cause serious rifts as the post-apocalypse approaches. Her closing narration is particularly striking. Her viewing the events taking hold of her family and home as 'godly' juxtaposes the sense of doom on the faces of her family members.
In many ways though, this was Madison's (Kim Dickens) episode. Her general lack of logical thinking and nagging neglect of sense begins to subside here, making way for the new way of things to finally become apparent to her. As she ventures into a town outside the safe zone, where she has spotted, thanks to Chris' (Lorenzo James Henrie) keen eye, a light where there shouldn't be one. Her discoveries are horrifying, and finally we feel the suspense.
The element that Fear has failed to capitalise on, one that its parent show has mastered so well, episode 4 nails the suspense. The building, ambient music grows from eery to foreboding to frightening, and all this without a single walker payoff. This brilliant build-up leads to a climax that is spot on.
Frank Dillane continues to play a suave but unsettled Nick with finesse. Nick's tale as he battles withdrawals is purposefully stagnant for a good portion of the episode, until it launches with an action that is immoral and yet befitting of the difficulties a person such as he might experience. This revert leads to a scene of domestic violence that is brutally quiet. And before Madison can speak another word to her son, we're launched into a thrilling finale.
And yet, that episode is completely absent of walkers. It is confident enough to feature its draw-card not even once, and instead of witnessing the characters plunder through another walker showdown, we get genuine human drama.
The final scene is startling and chilling. The military take position as the true villains of Fear the Walking Dead, or at least its first season. After a shaky introduction to the armed soldiers in the early part of the episode, the intrigue and mystery only grows before the show grabs hold, and demands our attention going forward. Fear is setting itself apart from Walking Dead in the best way possible.