Fear the Walking Dead: “Not Fade Away” (S1, E4 review)

Madison realises with horror that the windows in her prison ... er, house are dirty (image via TV.com (c) AMC)
Madison realises with horror that the windows in her prison … er, house are dirty (image via TV.com (c) AMC)

 

*SPOILERS AHEAD … AND THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM (FUN HUH?)*
Early on in “Not Fade Away”, and perched on top of the roof his dad’s girlfriend’s house watching the undead world go by while he films it, Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) ironically notes that their new military protectors are calling them “the lucky ones.”

Quite how lucky they are, however, is another matter entirely.

With the zombie apocalypse supposedly stopped in its tracks, so says the swaggering and none too E.Q.-inclined commanding officer in charge of their particular “safe zone”, one of 12 stretched across the southern side of L.A., the residents of the Manawa’s neighbourhood are “enjoying” life returning to normal.

But trapped behind metres-high barricades of prickly wire fence, and with no sign of phone reception, or regular water and electricity supplies returning, and precious few freedoms, any normality is a rubbery concept, and open for debate.

Or not, as the case may be.

Because what Moyers (Jamie McShane), the golf-loving military commander in question, says goes without question, and even Travis (Cliff Curtis), the so-called “mayor” of their enclave of survivability is becoming dubious about the merits of this experiment in keeping the wolves of the apocalypse at bay.

The truth is, all signs and rhetoric to the contrary, that society is breaking down, and breaking down fast.

Outside the “safe zones” there’s no sign of life or undeath; just silent empty streets full of corpses, putrefying flesh and blatant signs that the military, in a hammer squashing a then-gnat effort to stop the zombie plague in its steps, has indiscriminately killed anyone, infected or not.

We know this, not because Moyers or any of his men are admitting to this grim reality; rather, because Madison (Kim Dickens), who looks to be the conscience of the survivors as well one seriously pissed-off mother of a refusing-to-kick-the-habit son (Nick played by Frank Dillane, who develops a cosy morphine habit thank you) goes for an authorised walk outside the fence, and Sees Things.

Unsettling, democracy is dead and buried along with much of the human race, Things.

None of which bode well for the soul of the human race.

 

Ofelia Salazar tries a little "wartime" romance, the better to help her mother get some much-needed meds with (image via YouTube (c) AMC)
Ofelia Salazar tries a little “wartime” romance, the better to help her mother get some much-needed meds with (image via YouTube (c) AMC)

 

It’s a theme that Fear the Walking Dead‘s parent show, The Walking Dead (the fear is implied, thank you), has long explored, so it makes sense it pops up here, even 9 days into their internment, and supposed salvation.

The idea that you must destroy the village in order to save it is a naturally controversial one, made all the more so by the fact that simply getting rid of people you can’t be bothered dealing with in order to save those you can reeks of some sort of abhorrently Third Reich-esque program of unnatural selection.

In this case, it appears only the good, healthy people of Manawaville, as no one but me is calling it, are going to be spared; everyone else, the healthy survivors out in the dead zones – proof that not everyone is dead is evinced by some Morse Code conversations that Chris, dad Travis and Madison have with someone in a far off building – and anyone inside the zone who may be mentally-troubled, terminally-ill, sick (Ofelia’s mum, Griselda played by Patricia Reyes Spíndola), or drug-affected (hello Nick who is inadvertently ratted out by Elizabeth, Travis’s ex, played by Elizabeth Ortiz) is grist for the the hardline mill.

It appears that less than 2 weeks after the world went to hell in an undead handbasket that any semblance of civilisation as people once knew it is gone, all protestations to the contrary.

Not only are all these “disappearances” of the sick and injured and unwell to a mysterious “hospital” 50 minutes away a sign that humanity has lost its soul at lightning-fast speed, but a worrying trend, notes a man who fled a ruthlessly oppressive regime in El Salvador and knows of which he speaks, Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades), that far worse is to come, all in the name of keeping order.

But whose order exactly and for what purpose?

Oh, it’s all dressed up as saving the world rah-rah-rah, start the ticker-tape parade stuff, but the truth is, and everyone knows it – though as in keeping with humanity’s predilection for delusion since the cave when they are threatened by forces beyond all comprehension, no one is admitting it – but civilisation is doomed and these “safe zones” are simply a pit stop, a well-run, freedom-less pitstop, on the road to the apocalypse.

It’s just that no one bar a few can bring themselves to admit that yet.

 

"Look! Look! We're saving you! Yes saving you! Isn't it fun?" (image via AMC (c) AMC)
“Look! Look! We’re saving you! Yes saving you! Isn’t it fun?” (image via AMC (c) AMC)

 

“Not Fade Away” in a brilliantly-piece of political theatre.

It doesn’t flinch from alleging that with their backs against the wall, humanity is capable of great and noble things – witness Travis helping the Salazars escape the hell of downtown L.A.  for instance – but also great barbary and deceit, all in the name of survival.

It sagely notes too though that with all the usual trappings of civilisation slipping quickly through its fingers, that any semblance of what passes for ethics, morality, a conscience or a soul is quickly cast aside in favour of simply getting through the crisis.

But then what?

The underlying idea is that this crisis is going to go away, and even if it does by some miracle – we, of course, all know, it won’t, what happens to society then? Does it magically bounce back to what it once was?

The fact is it doesn’t, and it won’t and by episode’s end, as the strong hand of the military spirits off Nick and Griselda, with Elizabeth in full fake nurse mode along for the ride, to places unknown, Travis and Madison fighting, and Alicia (Alycia Debnam Carey) appearing to self harm to cope with the stress of it all, everyone knows it.

They just can’t bring themselves to utter the words just yet.

*What horrors await the Manawa-Clarks, and the Salazars and indeed, all of humanity? We find out in next week’s “Cobalt” …

 

 

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