Review Scorecard: Fear the Walking Dead 'Not Fade Away'
The initial shots of normalcy +3
The artsy Walking Dead openers have varying degrees of success, and this one was no exception. But I liked to see the first few shots of Nick in a pool, Travis running, Chris shooting a documentary. Other than the fact that the families don't seem to get together very often, it could easily have been a flashback, and the ambiguity made the teaser much more powerful, illustrating that the characters are trying desperately to hold on to some sense of normalcy.
Sex scenes +2
I always thought the lack of sexuality on The Walking Dead was unrealistic, especially when things start to calm down and people really have nothing better to do, but Fear has already had approximately as much sex as TWD had in its first two seasons. It's not strictly necessary, but it is more realistic, considering that there are a bunch of super attractive people cooped up and scared together.
The fence +7
The fence was terrifying, but insidiously so. Instead of portraying cabin fever in the residents right away, the show just subtly hinted at their captivity in "zoo," as Chris calls it. Between Madison's "What if they don't want the phones to work?" and the almost casual given that "We're not allowed to drive inside the fence," tension is sufficiently built and the audience spends the entire episode waiting for the other shoe to drop.
A street full of corpses +5
And drop it did. Watching TWD characters who are accustomed to zombies, we forget exactly how pungent they must smell. Madison's reaction to the corpses' smell was extremely visceral, and the idea that streets lined with both zombie and human corpses is what lies "beyond the fence" made the ending even more powerful.
Casual mentions of the apocalypse +2
The apocalypse has just started, but people are already starting to accept it as the new status quo. Some, like Travis, are borderline in denial, acting like everything is literally normal, while others are just trying to take it in stride. The government doctor casually mentions that there's "not a lot of traffic these days" and the ever-trusty Nick says he got his last fix: "When did the world end? A couple of days before that." It's refreshing, and reminds me of the doomsday humor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "If the apocalypse comes, beep me!"
The thesis statement +3
Daniel's story about finding dead bodies as a child was affecting, but the best line was, "My father said people do evil out of fear. And then I realized he was a fool for thinking there was a difference." This essentially serves as a thesis statement of the entire show, and it was a little on-the-nose to say it explicitly, but Rubén Blades is a good enough actor that he pulled it off.
Madison beats Nick +3
Many were happy that Madison beat Nick, because he's such an annoying, frustrating character and could use a smack upside the head, but I actually felt bad for him. Maybe I'm just a sucker, but I thought this scene worked because it showed that Madison is not immune from doing evil acts out of fear, especially considering that this scene came right after her scene with Daniel.
The relationship between Nick and Alicia +5
Although neither character is very interesting on their own, this might be my favorite relationship on the show so far. There's a lot of resentment, especially on Alicia's side, but ultimately there's a tenuous bond of trust between them, and even through all of their issues they're always on each other's side, and the scene in which Alicia comforts him after his beating illustrated that bond perfectly.
The entire third act +10
The episode's pacing was impeccable, a slow burn leading up to a powerful third act that saw Nick taken away by the military and Liza joining the dark side. It had the distinct feeling of people being led to a slaughterhouse, and especially after the street full of corpses, the audience believes along with Madison, Travis, et al that their loved ones are never coming back.
Susan's suicide note +3
"I think it's Godly, and I think it's overdue."
The overwrought narration -3
Fear the Walking Dead isn't terrible, but it certainly isn't profound enough to have earned melodramatic philosophical musings like "Nature takes everything back. It all belongs to her now."
"Be nice so I don't have to shoot you." -3
I'm all for a critique of the military, but this palpably smug, smirking soldier who does some blase golfing during the apocalypse openly jokes about shooting civilians was incredibly over-the-top.
Alicia's grieving for Matt -5
I know that it's only realistic for her to grieve for her boyfriend, but at the same time, the relationship wasn't nearly developed enough for us to care. Maybe keep a black character alive for more than two episodes next time, just saying.
Madison gets petty -5
Everything in the third act worked, except for Madison blaming Liza. Madison has her flaws, to be sure, but she's been primarily portrayed as an emotionally mature person, and for her to dramatically blame Liza for everything, even as she clearly knows that something is amiss with the soldiers and doctor, was not consistent with her character. Plus, the line, "Liza. She did this" was the soapiest line of the episode.
We still don't care about Chris -5
Alicia and Nick can be annoying, but at least we're getting a little attached to them in spite of ourselves, purely because they're developing relationships with other characters and have adequate screentime. But the goodbye scene between Chris and his mother fell completely flat because Chris has been entirely ignored in the general proceedings.
Total: +22 points
This was the first genuinely strong episode, and while Fear the Walking Dead still isn't revolutionary, or even as good as TWD's first season, it's proving itself to be a show worth watching.