This Fear The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 4
As much as I appreciated last week’s “Good Out Here” for bravely killing off one of its main characters, I knew we hadn’t seen the last of Nick. And, true enough, through the magic of flashbacks, Frank Dillane is resurrected from the dead. But not before we see him dispatched by Luciana with a knife to his temple. We’ve seen this scene play out before, of course. But there’s something about the poor quality of the hand-held video that is both intimate and impersonal, the apocalypse reimagined by Steven Soderbergh à la the confessional style of Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
Indeed, much of “Buried” takes place at a remove, filtered through an unflattering, particular point of view, and at a distance, be it through the relative safety of a camera lens or binoculars. Our survivors become unlikely spectators in this way, even as they themselves are existing in a fishbowl, their every move seemingly scrutinized by Mel and his ever-watchful Vultures. There’s a special kind of cruelty to this, watching a once-thriving settlement struggle against encroaching, inevitable failure. The Vultures very much live up to their namesake, circling, waiting for survivors to become carrion.
But not everyone in the stadium is willing to go down fighting. Too many of them have seen this scenario play out before, be it the vineyard, or the colony, or the ranch. There is no real bulwark against the wasteland. No settlement is immune to entropy. As resources dwindle, as manufactured goods outlive their usefulness, permanent disrepair is all but guaranteed.
Bearing all of this in mind, it’s easy to understand the Vultures’ collective mindset, that to hold out hope against long odds is a waste of energy and resources. But by the same token, it’s also easy to understand why Madison is willing to fight so hard for the stadium’s continued existence. Without hope, what’s left?
Which brings us back to her fellow survivors, who aren’t as committed to the settlement as she is, whose fight-or-flight instincts fall very much into the latter category. I like to think of Strand, with his bug-out bag on four wheels as the post-apocalyptic version of a prepper. It’s not enough to merely survive the end of the world. The real trick now is to continue surviving. And to do that, sometimes you have to be unsentimental and ruthless. Books and cat posters are just fodder for misplaced optimism. And “Buried” would have us believe that rose-colored glasses are nothing more than a blindfold to this world’s many ills.
This is what I like about “Buried,” this moral gray area in which hope and heartache go hand in hand, in which the Strands of the world can justify their selfishness just as much as the Madisons can justify their selflessness. No one is wrong, and everyone is wrong. Is there strength in numbers, or is the opposite true? And in supporting Madison, are her fellow survivors essentially enablers supporting a dangerous delusion? This season’s first three episodes would have us believe the latter is true, and I’m inclined to agree. The Nick depicted in these flashbacks is not the same person who showed Ennis no mercy in “Good Out Here.”
Fortunately, there’s more to Fear (and “Buried”) than just the Clarks and their motivations. We learn a bit more about John, who used to be a cop. He’s not the first one Morgan has met since the world ended. But this loquacious cowboy is not the poor man’s Rick Grimes. Even after all these years in the post-apocalypse, John still lives by a strict moral code; the same can’t really be said about Rick—not anymore.
We also learn a bit more about Naomi. She’s not just street smart, she’s also apocalypse smart. Like Strand, she knows which way the wind is blowing. She understands the stadium won’t last. Nothing does in this world. Like hope, intimacy is a liability. Invest too much in something or someone, and you may wind up dead. It’s a nice little twist that Naomi is actually the Laura that John has been hoping to find. Garrett Dillahunt brings a lot to John as he struggles with the truth that Laura—his Laura—is dead. It’s all the motivation he and his group need to join the fight against the Vultures.
I have to say, despite my initial misgivings, things are shaping up well for Fear’s fourth season. Some viewers may disagree, but the new characters have definitely given the series renewed purpose. Hopefully this doesn’t mean Fear is biding its time as it patiently kills off its original cast. I don’t think anyone really wants that. That doesn’t mean Alicia or Strand or Luciana shouldn’t be killed off, at least not indiscriminately. Though we still get to see Nick’s story play out via flashbacks, his death nevertheless remains shocking and meaningful. He is literally destroyed by the very thing he endeavored to save. Whether the same can be said of Madison remains to be seen. But for now, I’m definitely along for this ride.
Some closing thoughts
Early on in “Buried,” Nick asks Luciana if she’s okay. It’s hard not to appreciate the irony of this, given what we know of his fate.
What does it say about me that the scene in the nursery made me think of Plants vs. Zombies? (I’m looking at you, Cactus.)
I never thought I’d see Dharma Finkelstein Montgomery killing zombies. (I’m looking at you, Jenna Elfman.)