Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 3 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. “Fear the Walking Dead” just delivered its largest blow in the form of the most devastating death in the history of the series. Season 4 has been labeled as a “soft reboot” of the series, and this death proves just that. While blending the two shows, the message of people being more alike than different becomes the focal point of the story. This episode marks the end of an era for the series, something that is both bittersweet and intriguing at the same time. The question remains: where do we go from here?
Most of the story of this episode takes place in the “NOW” timeline, but there are a few flashbacks to what happened “BEFORE.” In the flashbacks, Nick pulls up all of the infested crops and burns them to prevent the weevils from spreading anymore. This is clearly upsetting to Nick, and he is disheartened by the fact that the Diamond is now facing a food shortage. He decides to go along with Madison on a supply run in the hopes of finding more food, although Mel lets them know that they have picked the surrounding areas clean. Mel also returns the copy of “The Little Prince” that Luciana offered to Charlie, stating that she doesn’t like children’s books. After heading out, Madison tells Nick that they will flip Charlie back to their side, but Nick doesn’t seem to believe her. He questions how she is able to keep leaving the safety of the Diamond to which she responds by explaining a game she plays; Madison tries to find something “good” each time she goes out into the apocalypse to remind her that not everything is a hellish wasteland. Madison and Nick go from place to place in search of food before winding up at a church, however, Mel’s brother Ennis (Evan Gamble) and Charlie have already arrived and claimed all of the supplies inside. Madison and Nick try to convince Charlie to rejoin them, but Ennis talks a lot of shit and ends up having Nick’s knife at his throat. Madison pulls Nick away, not wanting the standoff to turn into violence and potentially cause a war at the Diamond. These flashbacks appear during crucial times in Nick’s story this episode, building up to a climactic moment in the final moments.
In the “NOW” timeline, the two combined groups travel in Althea’s SWAT truck to the apparent location that the numbered flag was found. Nick, Alicia, Luciana and Strand are dead set on finding the Vultures, and Althea uses this to her advantage by refusing to give them full directions until they provide her with their stories. Althea then takes Nick hostage and orders Luciana to stop the truck, but a small herd of Infected in the road prompts a fight between the survivors that ends in the SWAT truck swerving off the road and into a ravine. Nick falls in and out of consciousness as John, Althea and Morgan retake control of the situation, all the while killing the Infected. The truck is stuck in mud and Althea refuses to leave until they have freed it; Luciana tells the group of a nearby truck that can pull the SWAT van out, but she uses Althea’s tactic and refuses to reveal the location unless she and her people are freed and allowed to help. They all agree to head out, but Althea ties Nick to the truck as insurance for his family to return; Morgan decides to stay behind, leading to a unique and entertaining “friendship” between two originals from both shows. There’s something so magical about having a character from each series that appeared in the Pilot episode of their respective show finally interacting, especially when they both have so much in common.
The character of Eastman in “The Walking Dead” only appeared in one episode, but his legacy has been carried into “Fear the Walking Dead” via Morgan. While tied to the truck, Nick asks Morgan, who is reading Eastman’s copy of “The Art of Peace,” to let him get some food from his pack; Morgan decides to cut Nick loose, but knocks him to the ground as a show of force that doubles as a show of the subtle humor in the series. Nick snacks on a peanut butter protein bar, which he offers to share with Morgan; this is a rewarding easter egg that ties into a recurring joke in the original series that began when Michonne stole this same snack from Morgan in “Clear.” While Morgan heads up to the road to practice with his staff, Nick rummages through Althea’s belongings and finds her camera. He watches the interview with Morgan and learns a few tidbits about his past. A tinge of panic strikes the duo as the striking blue El Camino from the Vultures’ camp drives down the road. Morgan tries to lock himself and Nick in the SWAT truck, but a struggle erupts when Nick tries to chase after the car. Numerous Infected are drawn to the area when the fight results in the truck horn being set off. Bluebonnets play a central role in this episode, specifically for Nick; he comes across a field of them after losing track of the car. A few Infected overwhelm Nick, but Morgan steps in and saves his life. It’s important to note that Nick is quite reckless at this point, and Morgan sees this furthering the parallel between their characters.
Aside from the Nick and Morgan dynamic, this episode really begins to plant the seeds for a plethora of interesting relationships between characters old and new. Luciana brings the team to the truck and they collectively prepare to transport it back to the crash site. Strand questions Althea as to why she wants to know their stories, opening up a fascinating discussion about the future of the world; Althea notes that regardless of if society is rebuilt, the experiences of humans living through the apocalypse needs to be documented to assure that the truth is being heard. This is quite similar to what Milton Mamet did in keeping detailed records of daily life in Season 3 of “The Walking Dead.” This small team eventually makes it back to the site of the crash, but are concerned when they find several Infected surrounding the truck with Nick and Morgan nowhere to be found. An arrow was left on the ground by Morgan leading them in the direction they went, but Althea refuses to leave her truck, stating that she has important things inside. They decide to split up, with John and Luciana going ahead in search of Nick and Morgan while Alicia and Strand stay behind to help Althea pull the truck out of the ditch. There is some excellent teamwork…and badassery at play as Alicia uses her new weapon to kill Infected while attaching the tow cable to the SWAT truck; she worms her way through the undead, crawling under the truck as Althea snipes the Infected. Thankfully, Althea’s truck wasn’t lost to the world as it is undeniably the best vehicle to traverse the zombie apocalypse in.
Nick seems to abandon his search for the El Camino, realizing that Morgan is injured and needs assistance. They team up and kill two Infected before using a pharmacy as a temporary refuge; this may not be intentional, but this pharmacy really resembles the famous one from Season 2 of “TWD” in which Glenn and Maggie consummated their attraction. There’s some remarkable dialogue as Morgan warns Nick against continuing down the revenge path that he is on, hinting that he has been down that same path several times himself (viewers are fully aware that this definitely the case). Nick is curious about Morgan’s past and tries to get him to open up, citing the video Althea recorded, but he refuses and leaves the pharmacy. Later, Morgan stumbles upon a collection of silos that are being unloaded by Ennis; Morgan urges Ennis to leave, clearly trying to protect both him and Nick from the implications of their conflict coming to a head. Nick arrives and tries to attack Ennis with his hammer, but is stopped by Morgan, who reiterates his belief that revenge is not the answer, but also states that Nick has to do what he thinks is best. Morgan leaves the area as Nick follows Ennis into a silo, leading to a tense fight between the two adversaries; both men get a few licks in, but Nick ultimately ends up throwing Ennis’ body onto deer antlers. Nick pushes Ennis further into the antlers as blood gurgles out of his mouth. It’s a haunting sight that displays Nick’s brutality and blood-thirst, a jarring juxtaposition when compared to his calmer demeanor in the “BEFORE” timeline.
It’s apparent from Lennie James’ subtle facial work that Morgan is conflicted in whether to connect with Nick or not; things fell apart after Morgan took Benjamin under his wing, so it makes sense that he is hesitant here. Morgan ends up returning to the silo just in time as Nick exits, covered in blood and shaking from the trauma of his fight with Ennis. Morgan decides to open up to Nick and tells him that he lost his wife, son and friends in the apocalypse, even handing over “The Art of Peace” and offering to listen to anything he has to get off his chest. Nick worries that he may be too far gone, but Morgan assures him that he isn’t, referring to the fact that he came back from the same dark place himself. On the road, John tries to learn more about Luciana’s relationship with Nick, even offering her a piece of candy as a sign of peace and trust. Luciana opens up to John, telling him about the fact that she once left Nick even though she was in love with him. It still remains to be seen exactly how Luciana came to rejoin the group, but it is clear that her decision to leave during Season 3 created some tension between her and Nick, as well as some stress and trust issues. There’s a brief scene wherein Althea is relieved to find a collection of her recordings still in the truck; it’s certainly possible that these are all of the interviews she has conducted, but these could also be recordings of her family, friends or even members of a group she was with before it fell apart. Regardless, this opens up some interesting possibilities for her backstory moving forward.
The SWAT team eventually makes its way to the area where Nick and Morgan are. As the truck arrives, Morgan greets the group and Nick sits reading the book he was given. Another flashback to the past shows Madison and Nick coming across a field of bluebonnets, the one “good” thing they manage to find on their supply run; just like Madison promised, they found something that proves that life is still flourishing. In the present, the sound of a single gunshot changes the mood drastically as Nick notices blood is spilling out of his stomach; Charlie stands feet away having just fired a shot at him before running away. He collapses to the ground as Alicia, Luciana and Strand rush to his side and try to save him while also tearfully pleading for him to cling to life. They’re too late though. He bleeds out and slips away. Forty episodes after his debut appearance, Nick lay dead in the Texan grass from the bullet of a child soldier. An incredible transition cuts between Nick’s lifeless corpse on the ground covered in blood to him laying in the field of bluebonnets. He closes his eyes and the screen cuts to black as millions of fans cry out in devastation. Nick’s story began with him opening his eyes in a drug den in Los Angeles and his story ends here, coming full circle. As Morgan says, everything gets a return.
— The Walking Dead World (@TWalkingDWorld) April 30, 2018
The time has come to pay tribute to the fallen soldier of the episode. Without any doubt, Nick Clark is the heart of “Fear the Walking Dead.” He is the character that we began the story with back in the very first episode, letting viewers see the onset of the apocalypse through a pair of fresh eyes. He is a character that the audience can connect with due to his kind nature, compassion and curiosity. He loves his family and wants to keep them safe, as seen in his decision to execute Jeremiah Otto last season, as well as his killing of Ennis in this episode. Nick’s struggle with addiction is both real and visceral, showing a real life issue against the scope of a global epidemic; Nick was able to become more than just the stereotypical “junkie” character, developing into a hero that the audience can both root for and look up to. Nick has flirted with darkness, but he is ultimately a good person and the lines he crossed can mostly be justified. There’s so much greatness packed into this character and Frank Dillane portrayed him perfectly for his entire run on the series. The loss of Nick and Frank is simply too massive to be put into words. It’s hard to imagine “Fear the Walking Dead” without the charm, humor, badassery and soul that Frank portrayed in Nick. His story will hopefully be carried on in those he leaves behind, in particular Alicia and Luciana. It goes without saying that this is the most shocking and devastating moment in the show’s history…and that may never change.
“Fear the Walking Dead” has taken a lot of risks in its four seasons, some have paid off and others have not. It remains to be seen just what impact Nick’s death will have on the story. At the moment, it is jarring and upsetting, but there is a ton of potential to push the surviving characters down some dark paths. This episode is yet another excellent addition to the “Fear” canon, taking the series into a totally different direction that anyone could have guessed. Each character is utilized and is able to show off their skills as the human and Infected threats are blended nicely. There is some stunning cinematography in this episode, particularly in the scenes with Nick and Madison. The performances also deserve praise, specifically Alycia Debnam-Carey and Frank Dillane. It should also be pointed out that the Texas setting is allowing for some fresh and exciting environments for the characters to explore. With another member of the original cast down, how will the series move forward? What happened to Madison and Naomi? Will anyone try to hunt down Charlie for what she did? Will the death of Nick cause Morgan to snap back into “clear” mode? Season 4 is only just beginning and it looks as though we are in for a wild ride.
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.