This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 2
We’re only two episodes into its fourth season and Fear the Walking Dead already finds itself in a precarious position with its viewership. On the one hand, if you’re a faithful viewer who’s been with the show from day one, being reunited with the extended Clark family (who themselves have been reunited) is a cause for celebration. After all, it’s Madison, Alicia, Nick, Strand and Luciana who helped build Fear. We’ve stuck with these characters through thick and thin, watching them escape conflicts that were often of their own devising.
We’ve also watched them stumble into various successes—again, despite many decisions that might have doomed those with lesser plot armor. Whether or not these characters are worthy of their survival is beside the point. For better or worse, our money has been on the Clarks. And in the space of three seasons, we’ve witnessed their trials by fire. Alicia especially experienced a significant transformation at the end of last season, becoming the kind of leader that Madison wasn’t equipped to be.
But then last week’s premiere, “What’s Your Story?” quickly signaled to faithful viewers that that was then, this is now. Season four kicked off with new characters—Morgan, John, and Althea—and a new aesthetic for the show. More importantly, Fear experienced a significant time jump, one that allowed for Morgan to cross over from The Walking Dead. As I wrote previously, I loved the changes introduced in “What’s Your Story?”—so much so that I could have easily followed the adventures of Morgan and his traveling companions.
“Another Day in the Diamond” catches us up with the Clarks a year after the dam’s destruction. Madison and company have carved out a nice life for themselves in a converted stadium replete with indoor plumbing, crops, livestock, and even maple syrup. Living conditions are so comfortable that supply runs are almost a thing of the past. Indeed, this whole setup seems idyllic enough, save for the zombies swarming in the parking lots outside.
We’ve seen these sorts of safe havens before—from the Abigail to the seaside resort to the vineyard to La Colonia to the ranch. (We’ve seen this before on TWD as well, from Hershel’s farm to the prison to Alexandria.) And we know that such idylls tend to have a short lifespan before everything goes to hell. This is simply a fact of life for survivors on either show, just as surely as it’s a trope that both shows cannot (and will not) escape. For all the bells and whistles that signaled the TWD crossover event, and with the crossover’s attendant changes on both sides of the camera, it’s how the Walking Dead extended universe handles its tropes that signifies not only its future success, but its relevance to the zombie-apocalypse genre in general.
Which brings us to another reliable trope, namely that the living are more dangerous than the dead. Again, we’ve seen this play out plenty of times before, from Fear’s pirates to drug cartels to the Ottos and eventually to Ray McKinnon’s Proctor John. So the introduction of a new villain, Mel (Kevin Zegers), so soon into the season is a bit disappointing. Not just because Mel immediately calls TWD’s Negan to mind, but also because the Vultures are a pale imitation of the Saviors. Plus, really, haven’t we had enough of these sorts of villains by now?
Mel’s one saving grace is a wry acknowledgment of the tropes governing this world. “There is a natural cycle to a place like this,” he tells Madison in their first encounter. “And yours is about to run out.” Honestly, he’s not wrong. Sometimes survival is a waiting game, a matter of patience rather than grit or being good with a gun.
As for Madison (Kim Dickens), she’s still very much a survivor. At one point she gets a bit meta as well, reflecting wistfully on her disastrous misdeeds with the kind of calm one can only attain with the passage of time. No more stealing reliquaries for her (hopefully). This is welcome character growth for someone who had a penchant for making bad situations much worse. She’s still prone to bad choices in the moment, like when she risks life and limb to save a mysterious new stranger (Jenna Elfman) from a dark storage tank filled with the undead. This is meant to convey bravery, but it’s foolhardy at best. (And yes, it would be stupid if Nick or Alicia did the same thing.)
As for Nick (Frank Dillane), he hasn’t fared very well since last season’s finale. We don’t know how he made it off the dam, or how he’s been reunited with the rest of his family. “Diamond” drops a few breadcrumbs about what led to this auspicious reunion (as well as hinting at what brought Strand and Luciana back into the fold), but I would have much preferred to see these events play out as they happened, and not relegated to a few uttered asides. I’m assuming we’ll learn more details post-dam, but in the meantime, we’re left to contend with Nick, who’s lost his signature fearlessness. He’s skittish now, preferring to stay behind as others forage for supplies. When he does step beyond the stadium’s safe confines, he’s no longer comfortable among the dead. Plus, the only blood he wears in “Diamond” is his own.
By episode’s end, we flash forward, back to Morgan’s fateful encounter with Alicia on that dusty road. John offers these strangers some candy, despite the threat they pose. And Althea holds her own, despite staring down the barrel of a gun. I want to see these disparate sets of characters interact more. What I don’t want, however, is this jumping back and forth in time. This is Fear trying to have it both ways. We need to pick a timeline, and we need to fully commit to it. Until then, faithful and new viewers alike aren’t truly getting the show they both signed on for.
Some closing thoughts
I never thought I’d say this about a zombie show, but the biggest threat now seems to be weevils.
If I’m Jenna Elfman, I’m thinking once the Vultures show up, I’m taking a shower and moving on. She owes Madison and her people nothing.
“The fallen” is introduced into the Walking Dead lexicon as yet another term for the undead.