Spoiler Warning for Season 4, Episode 10 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
Alicia Clark has been to hell and back multiple times in just four seasons of “Fear the Walking Dead.” She lost two boyfriends, multiple friends, countless homes, her father, her step-father, her mother and her brother. In the latest chapter of her story, Alicia is forced to come face-to-face and survive with the child solder who gunned down her brother. In one of “Fear’s” most emotional hours and quite possibly the season’s best episode to date, Alicia and Charlie are forced to take a close look at each other and themselves as the flood waters rise.
When the storm first struck, it was clear that the characters would be separated yet again; this is something that both shows like to do more often than fans would prefer. After the airing of this episode, it is clear that the separation may allow for some of the best character development all season as the survivors are paired off and must work together to survive. Enter Alicia into a seemingly abandoned house, seeking shelter after running away from Morgan as the storm began to hit. She explores this dark and dreary home, only to find four infected that she puts down using a variety of sharp and pointy objects at her disposal. She dumps the bodies outside in the mud and rain in an excellent shot that precedes a shot of a family photo, revealing the identities of the walkers she killed. She also takes down all of the remaining family photos in the house and throws them outside next to the corpses. In many respects, Alicia looks dead and lifeless, and doesn’t really seem to have any plan for moving forward. She has left Strand, Luciana and Morgan alone…but she isn’t alone herself. In fact, she is paired with exactly who she needed to be with.
The meet up of Alicia and Charlie has been a long time coming. When Alicia opens a closet on the second floor of the house, Charlie tries to make a quick escape, but the last surviving Clark isn’t letting her off that easy. Alicia pins Charlie to the ground with her signature weapon, but the young girl manages to slip away and lock herself in a bedroom. Alicia is left confused and angry that they are together in the same house and tries to flee from Charlie by making her way to a nearby car, but is ultimately knocked unconscious when the wind flings open the car door and knocks her to the ground. In a surprising turn of events, Charlie actually rescues Alicia from the storm and drags her back into the house. When Alicia wakes up and finds herself in the house again, she’s somewhat confused as to why Charlie would save her. She makes her way up to the room upstairs and demands that Charlie speak and answer her questions, but there’s nothing coming from the other side of the door. She lets Charlie know that she doesn’t want to simply kill her, because she wants her to have to grow old and live with the pain she feels and to know that no matter what, she will always be trash…harsh. There is a fantastic duality between the characters as they are divided by so, which is represented by a simple wooden door that literally separates them.
Alicia has many savage moments this episode as she tears into Charlie, even stating that she is more of a monster than the walkers; just to unpack that a bit, Alicia tells Charlie that she hates her more than the very things that are literally in the process of ending the world. There is a real internal conflict at play here as Alicia must decide what she is going to do with Charlie: does she kill her and get revenge…or does she honor Madison and work towards becoming a better person? Aside from the fact that Charlie indirectly caused the downfall of the Stadium and the death of Madison by leading Mel and Ennis straight to it, she is directly responsible for Nick’s death. Alicia painfully describes the final moments of Nick’s life as he bled out in her arms, a look of fear and betrayal in his eyes as his soul slipped away forever. Nick was aware that he was dying and he knew that someone he tried to help was the cause; Alicia states that his final thoughts may have been that his life had no meaning because of this. In an episode with only two characters, there is so much packed into the conversations and dialogue that serves to show the emotional trauma that Alicia and Charlie have experienced.
As the hurricane intensifies outside, Alicia is tasked with securing the house to assure that none of those flying walkers or any other debris come through any of the windows. She struggles to take care of the chore herself and decides to demand that Charlie assist her. This is where she begins to learn more about Charlie as she finds her cleaning the family photos that Alicia threw out into the storm. They both head out onto the porch and manage to board up the windows as best they can, but the pounding of the hammer draws several infected to their location and they are forced to retreat inside. While trying to start a fire in the fireplace, Alicia asks for Charlie’s jacket and offers to dry it when she’s done using it. Charlie tries to leave the room, prompting Alicia to grab her and discover a gun that Charlie is carrying; Alicia quickly realizes that this is THE gun that was used to kill Nick…and the whole mood changes. “Did you come here to kill me?!” Alicia questions Charlie while holding her at gunpoint. She screams at Charlie to leave and go upstairs in utterly terrifying fashion before sitting in front of the fireplace, where she discovers a grim sight; there is a burned bird that got clogged in the fireplace (which in turn caused the family inside to asphyxiate, according to co-showrunner Andrew Chambliss), something that flips a switch in Alicia as she remembers her and Nick saving Amina, the bird in the story Madison told to Althea in “No One’s Gone.” This serves as a reminder to Alicia that she can still be the kind soul she was as a child…the one that Madison wanted her to be.
This episode is dark for many reasons, but there’s the underlying bleakness that comes from such a young child experiencing the regret she does. This plays into Charlie’s decision to attempt suicide, something that was seen in the previous episode when she didn’t try to run away from a walker. Charlie sees another opportunity to leave this cold and cruel world by stepping out onto the second floor patio and feeding herself to an infected that has been impaled on a tree branch. She comes quite close to getting bit on the shoulder, but Alicia intervenes and pulls her back inside before she’s able to make an irreversible decision. The two sit down and have a conversation with the gun in between them on the dining room table, which is eerily reminiscent to “The Walking Dead’s” famed episode “The Grove,” which also shares director Michael Satrazemis. Alicia quickly realizes that Charlie didn’t bring the gun to kill her, nor did she follow her to the house, but rather she is searching for a way to kill herself. Charlie speaks up for the first time this episode and wonders why Alicia saved her, but she doesn’t exactly get a straight answer. Alicia is still questioning this herself and basically tells Charlie that she HAS to live with what she has done even if everything comes to an end soon and she ends up as just another walker. This is really where the parallels between Charlie and Alicia start to standout; Alicia has killed people in this world…who hasn’t at this point?
While sharing an awkward dinner, Charlie tries to make light conversation with Alicia about the storm and where she comes from. There’s a fun callback to the series start as Alicia notes that she has no clue how long the storm will last due to the fact that she’s from California. From this, Charlie asks what the beach is like and it is revealed that she has never been before. The viewer is finally given some definite backstory and insight into Charlie as she tells Alicia that her parents planned a trip to Galveston, but the world fell apart before they had the chance to go. She explains that she tries to visualize the beach while reading her books, but she hasn’t been able to see a clear image of it. This also allows for another callback as Alicia bluntly states that the last time she was at the beach, the dead were everywhere, referring to her time spent at the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Season 2. Later, Alicia finds Charlie in her room organizing the family photos; the two have an argument about the possibility that someone who cared about the family wanting to know what happened to them some day. Charlie seems hard pressed on protecting the photos for a reason that is explained later, but Alicia doesn’t give a shit and claims that anyone who cared about them is dead. Alicia quotes Madison’s final words, “no one’s gone until they’re gone,” but pokes a hole in it’s sentiment by stating that some people are just gone…and there’s no point wasting time on them.
Once again, the hurricane intensifies and the two realize that they are no longer safe inside the house, so Alicia leads them down into the partially flooded basement. In a frightening turn of events, the storm shakes the house and causes a cascade of debris to block the stairs and prevent them from exiting the basement. Alicia frantically searches for another escape from the basement, but the only viable option for them is a cellar entrance…which is padlocked shut from the outside. The water rises higher and higher, and Charlie lets out a somber sentence, “I don’t want to die.” Her greatest fear of all is becoming a walker, the reason being is that she witnessed her parents die and reanimate; in the time that has passed, she is no longer able to remember what they looked like before. In a dark and disturbing turn of events, Charlie asks Alicia to use the gun she killed Nick with to shoot her in the head to prevent her from turning. She breaks down and cries as Alicia wonder whether this is something she can actually go through with, holding the gun at this child’s head. Alicia closes her eyes and sees flashes of Nick and Madison’s final moments. This isn’t who they would have wanted her to be in this world. She can’t gun down a child. She just can’t and she tells Charlie this in a heartbreaking, yet touching moment of solidarity as they join hands. Two young people turned enemies by this world have finally been able to find common ground. It’s hard not to feel bad for both in this moment. They just want an end to the suffering, loss and trauma…and seconds later, they get it.
“Nature always wins,” a quote from Travis in the first episode of the entire series sums up what this show is about. The characters are facing the wrath of nature on a constant basis and it is mostly causing them harm. For once, they are given something good though in the form of the impaled walker on the porch falling and breaking open the cellar door. Logistically this makes no sense considering the door was PADLOCKED shut. That being said, this was clearly done for the symbolism of a “monster” actually saving the lives of Alicia and Charlie. The next morning, the two decide to bury the family and leave the photos next to their graves for anyone that may come looking for them in the future. Charlie tells Alicia that she can see Madison in her, something that viewers likely also see from Alicia’s actions this episode. From this, Alicia shares that she left Morgan behind in the storm, a regret she has, which Charlie promises to help resolve considering “she is good at finding things.” There’s an absolutely beautiful moment that takes place as Alicia tells Charlie to close her eyes while they are driving, stating that she is “taking her to the beach.” Alicia then describes the sights, sounds and feelings of a beach to Charlie, who is finally able to visualize it in her head; she sees herself with her parents, finally being able to visit Galveston with them. Coming from that positive note, the episode ends rather bleakly as two visit the home bases of their friends; the mansion, Morgan’s truck and the bridge have all been ravaged by the storm and abandoned. “Things don’t get better, and they’re not going to. They’re only going to get worse,” Alicia drops this difficult yet true fact about their shitty post-apocalyptic life. People die, shelters are destroyed, but you keep moving forward.
“Close Your Eyes” is probably the best episode of Season 4 yet. Not only does it do an excellent job at developing both Alicia and Charlie for their future story arcs, but it also serves as a reflection piece on their journeys thus far. The threat of the storm proves to be just what these two characters needed to find their inner peace and to build a bridge and connect with one another. While many of the storm’s visual effects from the previous episode did not look great, the intensity of a hurricane could truly be felt here. Satrazemis deserves absolute praise for his work as director, managing to deliver some truly stunning cinematography. There’s also the performances from Alycia Debnam-Carey and Alexa Nisenson, which just might be the best of the entire series. The work done from both of these actresses is Emmy-worthy and prove that they are not only two of the most talented performers on “Fear,” but also in the franchise and television as a whole. Those are bold statements, but they managed to bring such depth, emotion and pure heart to their roles that the viewer’s outlook on Charlie hopefully did a full 180. Madison and Nick would be proud of the person Alicia chose to be. The viewer should be proud of who she chose to be. Alicia has been quickly rising in the ranks to become one of the most fascinating and badass characters in the world of “The Walking Dead.” What is next for her and Charlie? What happened to all of the other survivors? Next episode looks for focus in on Morgan as he meets new characters out in the world. Is he still charting a course to return home?
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.