Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 2 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

All that is old has not been thrown away for the new as the second episode of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” fourth season proves that it still has a strong connection to its roots. By picking up with the original band of characters and establishing a separate timeline, the story connects with Season 3 and sets its course for the future. With a aura of mystery and intrigue, as well as a plethora of even more fascinating new players, the series seems to be charting a path for its best season yet.

BEFORE

All is peaceful in the world of “Fear the Walking Dead” as Alicia, Luciana, Nick and Strand wake up and prepare for their day of work at “The Diamond,” a baseball field that has been built up into a community. There’s a brilliant connection to the first season as Madison speaks with a young girl named Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), who recently arrived at the community and is struggling to fit in; Madison’s guidance counselor persona comes out as she speaks with Charlie in a calm and comforting demeanor, attempting to make the child feel at home and like she can open up. It’s worth noting that Madison actually looks happy and content, even as it is hinted that she is experiencing some form of mental trauma; when Alicia checks in on her mother, Madison mistakenly calls her “Nick.” It’s also revealed that Madison is getting very little sleep and is working overtime to assure that Charlie has a adequate place to be a child. At the dining area, Strand surprises Alicia, Nick and Luciana with syrup, a rare commodity in the apocalypse, as a celebration of them being at the Diamond for one full year. Viewers are also given their first look at a possible new love interest for Strand in the form of Cole (Sebastian Sozzi), who seems to be quite flirtatious; typical Strand is playing hard to get, but his reasoning is given plenty of explanation throughout the episode.

Danay García as Luciana Galves and Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The main timeline of this episode is obviously set prior to the events of “What’s Your Story?,” as the characters are far less rugged and savage at the Diamond then when they cross paths with Morgan, Althea and John. Madison and the others have built something special with this community and it is clear that they intend on making it their permanent residence. Nick is responsible for growing and maintaining the crops, something that he believes will be the prime factor in their long-term survival. In the conversation Madison has with Charlie, it is revealed that she was separated from her parents and eventually found her way to the Diamond. Madison puts together a team to go out and search for the family, but some of the Diamond residents are worried seeing as how they would be venturing outside of a pre-established perimeter. It is decided that the search team will include Madison, Strand, Luciana and Alicia; there’s more flirtation and love game-playing between Strand and Cole, who offers to tag along. Nick says goodbye to Luciana and asks her to promise to come back, poking fun at her decision to leave the Broke Jaw Ranch in Season 3’s “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.” Nick is noticeably hesitant to leave the community, something that Luciana brings up to Madison in the car; his time in the apocalypse has definitely left him with some major PTSD, a factor that is further explored in the episode.

Whilst driving to the location that Charlie pointed out, the family dynamic of the group of survivors comes out as Madison urges Strand to have a drink with Cole; he shuts this down, stating that she is his only drinking buddy. Nick radios into Luciana to let the group know that the Diamond’s garden has been infested with weevils and that the crops must be burned to prevent it from spreading; this may just be a minor plot point, but it is worth noting that the Kingdom’s royal garden in “The Walking Dead” was also infested with weevils. The foursome arrives in a town and decide to split up to cover more ground with Madison and Alicia driving around while Strand and Luciana explore a store. There seems to be a rather unexpected friendship that has formed between Strand and Luciana; they discuss Strand’s bewilderment that Madison would come to trust him again after he betrayed everyone at the Gonzalez Dam, a point that Luciana encourages them to talk about with each other. Something easy to miss is the fact that Strand now carries a piece of the Dam’s rubble as a constant reminder of what he did and the consequences it had. Victor is a character that has come such a long way since the start of the series and it looks as though Season 4 will finally peel back his layers and show his human side in a way that has never been explored.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This episode serves to introduce a new character as Madison and Alicia scout the area looking for signs of Charlie’s family. They discover oil tanks that seemed to have partially exploded, along with a large white flag with a number on it, similar to the one found by Althea last episode. The whole location appears to be completely devoid of people and Infected, but Madison finds a can of food and realizes they aren’t alone. Suddenly, a gun is pulled on Madison by a woman, later named Naomi (Jenna Elfman), who orders her to hand over her keys. Madison cleverly sends a warning signal via her radio, alerting Alicia, Strand and Luciana that she is in danger. The trio arrive and attempt to talk Naomi down, but she tries to flee up to the top of one of the oil tanks; Madison and Alicia follow closely behind, offering her a place at the Diamond and questioning if she is Charlie’s mother. The roof of the tank collapses, dropping Naomi into a oily mess of Infected, but Madison jumps in to to help her fight them off; it is slightly unexpected to see Madison risk her life like this to help a stranger, but she really seems to have changed during the time jump. The two make a great team as they fight off the horrifying Infected while Alicia and Strand work to open the hatch of the tank, sending oil and Infected spilling out. This results in a great action sequence as everyone kills Infected, getting themselves covered in the sticky and slimy mess. Once again, “Fear the Walking Dead” proves, like its big sister, that there are millions of ways to have thrilling zombie action.

Night falls as the scouting group collects themselves and figures out what to do next. Luciana finds the book “The Little Prince,” which she keeps to bring back for Charlie. Naomi officially introduces herself to the group and provides a small tidbit of backstory, hinting that she has been floating around from place to place for the duration of the apocalypse. Alicia questions how exactly the Infected got into the tank, deducing that someone must have put them in there. The sound of Infected nearby prompts Luciana to fearfully rally the crew to head back home. At the Diamond, Nick becomes a bit worried as his family has yet to return. After burning some of the crops, he begins hearing music being played nearby and enlists the help of Charlie to investigate. Nick takes a car and nervously drives out of the Diamond, but he begins to have traumatic flashbacks to the explosion of the Dam, with footage from “Sleigh Ride” playing to remind viewers of what went down. He ends up panicking at the sight of Infected and crashes the car into a post, becoming surrounded; fortunately, Cole snipes some of the Infected and clears a path. Madison also arrives with her team to assist in getting Nick back inside. The circumstances of Nick’s survival after the Dam explosion seem to be a mystery that will be explored, possibly explaining the absence of Daniel; is it possible that Daniel sacrificed himself to save Nick, leaving him with survivor’s guilt?

Frank Dillane as Nick Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This episode really serves to set up Charlie as a player in the season’s story. Madison returns and checks in on her and questions what exactly happened at her old camp. She really doesn’t open up at all, but the reason becomes apparent later in the episode. More backstory is provided for Naomi as the characters learn that she is a nurse, having worked in an ER before the apocalypse. Madison speaks with Naomi about the community, revealing that after her arrival, there are now 48 survivors living at the Diamond. There’s a great moment that showcases how hard of time Naomi has had when she is stunned by the fact that the community has hot running water for showers. Outside of the stadium, Strand and Cole retrieve the car that Nick crashed; Luciana speaks with Cole via radio from her lookout post and lets him know that Strand definitely has the hots for him. The mood dramatically shifts as Luciana spots a caravan of vehicles pulling into the parking lot in ominous fashion; she calls Strand and Cole back into the community as Alicia secures the gate and orders the residents to empty the armory and prepare to defend the Diamond. The survivors look on at an eccentric man riding a bicycle around and drawing the nearby Infected into a trailer before spray painting the number “12” on a flag. Another man, later named Mel (Kevin Zegers), plants himself in a lawn chair as his people settle themselves in the parking lot. This is an eerie and disconcerting scene to watch play out, especially because the new band of characters seem to be extremely organized and calculated.

Madison proves herself to be an exceptional leader as she exits the safety of the Diamond and walks up to Mel alone, yet fully confident. Madison speaks with Mel about what went down at the oil tanks prior to her finding them, but Mel rejects that he did anything wrong. Things get somewhat predictable as Mel begins talking about the problems inside the community, even mentioning Nick by name; it is revealed that Charlie was a spy that planted herself inside the stadium to relay information back to Mel’s group. Charlie reunites with Mel, much to the dismay of Nick, who has always had a strong paternal instinct when it comes to children. Mel tells Madison that his group found Charlie some time back and has been using her ever since. An ultimatum is presented to Madison by Mel: either she hand over the supplies that the community possesses, allowing them to join the larger group, or slowly die and have what’s left be picked over by his group. The two have a discussion about what it takes to survive in the new world and Mel points out that Madison just doesn’t have it, stating that she hasn’t been tested enough. Viewers know most of what she’s been through (minus the missing year or so) and have seen her be tested time and time again. Still, it is more than apparent that Mel’s group is here to stay and they may just be the first major villain group in “Fear the Walking Dead.”

Alexa Nisenson as Charlie and Kevin Zegers as Mel. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

The next bit of the episode serves to transition between the two established timelines and provide hints of how they will eventually merge. The survivors seem to grow weary as day comes and Mel’s group is still camped in the parking lot, seeming to have established their next home at the Diamond. Luciana decides to exit the community and offer the copy of “The Little Prince” to Charlie, showcasing her good nature and kindness; this is somewhat of a juxtaposition to her character in Season 2 when Luciana’s primary mission was protecting La Colonia from threats, leading her to lambaste Nick for retrieving a candy bar for a young resident. At the garden, Nick realizes that the weevil problem is worsening, symbolizing the slowly deteriorating state of affairs at the community following the arrival of Mel’s group. The various residents notice that Madison has continued work on the room for Charlie in the dugout and decide to assist, hinting that the young girl may have a place in the community if they can get her away from Mel. There is an excellent transition between timelines as Madison swings her hammer, cutting to a shot of Nick doing the same in the “present day” story.

NOW

Following their capture, Morgan, John and Althea are zip-tied and held by Nick, Alicia, Luciana and Strand. Althea jumps up after Nick begins rifling through her belongings and discovers her video camera. After rummaging through the SWAT van, Luciana finds one of the numbered flags and questions if Althea has ties to “them,” which viewers are now aware is Mel’s group, aptly named “The Vultures” by Strand. Althea tries to get the group to lower their guns and have a civil conversation, to which Alicia tells her to take them to where they found the flag. Everyone piles into the truck and heads off down the road. Two episodes in and the mystery surrounding the past/present timelines has been given some context, but there is a lot of questions to be answered still; where is Madison and the rest of the community? Did something happen at the Diamond to cause everyone else to die or be taken over by the Vultures? Just how much time has passed between the two points?

“Another Day in the Diamond” is an excellent follow up to the Season Premiere, and certainly makes up for the under-utilization of the original characters. Catching up with Madison, Nick, Alicia, Strand and Luciana in the community that they created is rewarding and allows for some brilliant development and interactions. Season 4 has really emphasized the mystery and intrigue element, something that looks to be a recurring storytelling technique moving forward. It will be interesting to see if the series fills in the missing pieces of what happened between the third and fourth seasons, specifically in how the characters survived, reunited and ended up in Texas. This episode serves to establish a multitude of fascinating arcs that will play out over the course of the season, while also introducing more characters; Jenna Elfman brings a lot to the table with Naomi, as does Kevin Zegers with Mel. Hopefully, these two characters are given time to develop and share their backstory as both seem to be multi-layered and filled with depth. If the rest of the season is anywhere near the level of these first two episodes, fans are in for a thrilling and frightening new era of “Fear the Walking Dead.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Editor-in-Chief of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead." Reach him at editor@ninertimes.com or @JeffreyKopp97 on Twitter.

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