This week's episode starts with an arresting pre-credits sequence. As Nick floats in the pool and Travis jogs around the suburbs, it appears that everything is getting back to some kind of normality. Then we see Chris, sat on the top of the house, gazing out over newly-erected fences. The National Guard have bedded in, soldiers are roaming about and there's a strict divide between the safe zone and the rest of the world.
We are in Fear The Walking Dead Act 2 now, and you can practically feel the gears cranking up as we head towards the finale. It's not what we expected, but that's good, right? Well... kind of. For while the show appears to have dispensed with one set of zombie movie clichés for now, it's fully embracing another.
After last week's explosive climax, we're back in the quiet with the tension coming not from the walkers, but instead from the military forces bossing everyone around. “Be nice, so I don't have to shoot you,” jokes Lt Moyers at one point. Ha ha ha, no, that's not ominous at all. Good one, pal.
As we see later on, that's pretty much exactly the situation, as Madison finds evidence of a massacre. Surprised? You shouldn't be. The first rule about surviving the zombie apocalypse (well, after “boil your water”, “aim for the head” and “don't get bit”) is “never trust the military”. Certainly the main show has proved the point many times already that you should be wary about groups of heavily armed men.
The character arc of the first few episodes has largely been about this group of people (and indeed the world) coming to realise that what is happening is real. But now here we have Travis in denial again, while Nick also falls back into bad habits (this, at least, makes sense – he's a drug addict and it would have been a mistake to simply forget that). It's a deliberate choice, part of the showrunners' attempt to show us the slow unravelling of civilisation, but boy is it frustrating.
That said, there were some strong moments. The lack of zombies worked in the show's favour, adding a sense of the calm before the storm. Daniel gave a chilling speech about his own reasons for disliking the military. And Nick's capture by the National Guard finally shook up the family dynamic in an interesting way. Then there was the episode's very final moment, as Travis watches gunfire on the horizon and understands what's going on. If the show can build on these elements next week then it may all prove to have been worthwhile. Still, we're two thirds of the way through the season now and it still feels as if Fear hasn't quite found its voice.
This is the first episode not to be directed by Adam Davidson, which might explain its rather different visual style. Kari Skogland is also set to direct next week's penultimate episode, “Cobalt”.
So, is Ofelia's romance with that squaddie for real, or simply a way to get more meds? It seems to have blossomed very quickly. Then again, it's not like there's much in the way of entertainment in the apocalypse.
Hey you, what's that sound?
The song that's playing over the pre-credits sequence is, of course, Lou Reed's classic “Perfect Day”. It has an additional layer of relevance to Nick's story – the song is often thought to be about, in part, Reed's own addiction to heroin.
Fear The Walking Dead airs on AMC in the US on Sundays, and on AMC (exclusive to BT) in the UK from Monday 31 August.
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