Fear the Walking Dead was always going to have an uphill battle when trying to match the calibre of its predecessor and this week’s episode definitely doesn’t do it any favours. It would be fair to assume that the majority of the people watching Fear will have also watched at least some portion of the five series of The Walking Dead currently available and as a result,will know so much more about the world that our characters are moving towards than they do themselves. Hence, when an episode is as much of a slow-burner as ‘Not Fade Away’ is, it is very easy for these viewers to lose interest.
The introduction of a military perspective during the early days of the outbreak is something that has hardly been touched upon in The Walking Dead and therefore it could very easily have been an extremely interesting point of exploration for Fear. Instead, a decision was made to skip over part of this timeline and to jump right to where the military have set up a perimeter and cordoned off the survivors from the outside world. No resistance, no negotiation, no danger, nothing. The very nature of being a prequel means that Fear the Walking Dead has a finite amount of things to explore before it catches up to a point that their audience is already familiar with and has, therefore, seen (to some degree) before. To simply skip over a period with so much potential for good storylines and scenes of conflict is sloppy and just generally a bad decision.
Furthermore, when we do finally get to see how the military responds to the crisis, it is taken in a highly predictable direction. Aside from our main cast, the characters we are introduced to this episode are all either mentally unstable, critically ill or military figures who are just a bit too cool and collected for the situation at hand. Alongside this, it is continually suggested throughout the episode that there’s something happening outside the fences involving the military that they don’t want the survivors to know about. Then when the sick and weak start being taken to some magical, fully functioning “facility nearby” where they can miraculously receive the medical help they need, it all begins to become clear. The reality of what the soldiers are doing is supposed to be revealed with a big pay off in the final scene where Travis sees gun-fire in the building that had been sending signals throughout the episode, but by that point, thanks to the episode’s own exposition and overuse of suggestion, we have already guessed what is happening and as a result it isn’t all that dramatic of a moment. Perhaps if they had used a little less obvious hints as to what was happening, it might have made for an overall better episode and plot point.
Probably the most redeeming part of ‘Not Fade Away’ is that its slow-burning storytelling allowed our characters some down-time to respond to all that has happened to them over the course of the series so far. Some of them have just taken a business-as-usual approach to life, whereas, more interestingly, some others haven’t been able to return to this normality. The most interesting of these is probably Alycia. Not only has she seen one of her babysitters/neighbours become a reanimated corpse and the other be taken away by the military, she has also had to leave her sick boyfriend to his almost inevitable death all alone in his home. Understandably enough, she is the character that we see mourn the most this episode; she breaks into her neighbour’s house to find a drawing she once made for them and also cuts the heart drawing her boyfriend drew onto her arm into her skin so that it will permanently scar. However, she doesn’t allow this to distract her from the world around her and she keeps a relatively alert and clear perspective on the situation. She’s increasingly becoming a favourite of mine and I would bet that she will pull ahead as one of the stronger figure as the series progresses.