Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Not Fade Away” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Travis and Madison’s relationship has been tested by their differing viewpoints on, and trust levels in, the National Guard in their neighborhood. But after the military came into their home and took away Griselda without her husband Daniel, and drug addict Nick was dragged away by soldiers, will Travis now see that he and Maddie and their house guests need to pull together to retrieve their family members? Or will the fact that Travis’s ex-wife, Liza, had a hand in Nick’s abduction drive the teacher and his girlfriend even further in opposite directions?
Fear the Walking Dead showrunner Dave Erickson broke down the episode with Yahoo TV, including Madison’s explosive fight with Nick, how Travis has finally been forced to recognize the true intentions of the government, how Nick has not yet hit rock bottom, how Travis, Madison, and Daniel will have different plans for reuniting with their loved ones, and who definitely was not inside the house on the hill that was filled with gunfire at the episode’s end.
Let’s start with Maddie and Nick, the fight between them. Did she realize exactly what he had been doing with Mr. Ramirez, or did she just recognize he had been up to something?
I don’t think it’s an exact thing. I mean, look, she’s seen a pattern in Nick over the past several years, and she’s heard him make promises before, and she has seen him high, she’s seen him clean, and I think in that initial scene by the pool, when he is willing to pass up the Oxycontin, you know, I think deep down she wants to believe him. But I think there’s also a hint of suspicion, and there’s always doubt, because she’s been through this before. The only thing that reassures her is that it’s the apocalypse, and he can’t get past the fence… he can’t score, so the irony is, the apocalypse actually gives her some comfort. It’s not until later, when Daniel has seen the doctor come and seen the doctor speak to Nick… Daniel knows the doctor wants to take Griselda, and he’s not one to trust people in authority, representatives of the government, and I think the fact that Dr. Exner felt it necessary to speak to Nick sort of puts it on his radar, and he put it on [Madison’s]. I think when she goes to the Ramirez house to track Nick down, deep down she’s expecting to find something less than seemly, and she does.
She shouts at him, “You have no idea! You have no idea!” What does she mean by that?
It’s a number of things… “You have no idea,” meaning she knows what’s going on outside the fence. She knows now how bad and how apocalyptic things truly are, and he’s completely spaced out and doesn’t seem to care an iota. It’s also what she’s done, the things that she had to do, in episode two, to get him the drugs. She killed Art. She now knows that he was infected, and she now knows that he wasn’t going to come back, but she had to commit this violent act against a friend and a colleague. And she doesn’t really talk about it, and she probably won’t for some time, because she tends to internalize things. But she’s [referring to] that. She’s talking about what’s going on beyond, and also, deep down, there are things that she’s done in her past. She has something of a history of violence pertaining to her own family, which is something we’ve alluded to — we spoke to it a little bit in the pilot, and it’s something we will return to. So there are a number of levels to that moment. The sadder part is that that’s the last time that she sees him before he’s taken by the military.
She also must be frustrated that, even after what he experienced in the pilot with the church and with Calvin, he still isn’t serious about breaking the addiction.
Exactly. All the problems, and the conflicts, and the tension that exist in this family before the onset of the apocalypse, those are the problems that we’re going to be dealing with, and the addiction is not something that will go away anytime soon. It was always something we needed to continue to explore. It’s very much a part of who Nick is, and who he has been for quite some time. I think it’ll take something very jarring to get him over that, and even as we move into Season 2… I think he’ll always find something to feed his addiction. It’s just a question of what the drug’s going to be.
There was some concern on his part about Mr. Ramirez, the man whose morphine he stole. He’s very surprised when Exner mentions Ramirez’s condition to him.
Yeah, I think he’s worried that [Ramirez] is okay, but I think he’s really worried because if Mr. Ramirez has been taken, it means the drugs have been taken as well. It’s the interesting dichotomy with that character, because I do think he loves his family. I think he cares about people, but he loves and cares about the drug more. It comes across, I think the way Frank [Dillane] plays it so beautifully, as though it is legitimate concern. But in examining him, Exner has come to realize that his level of calm isn’t consistent with what’s going on. I think she can tell that he’s been using. Even that little moment at the end of that scene where his heart rate is elevated, and he has a joke: he’s very charming, and he says, “You’re an attractive woman.” It’s really in reaction to the fact that he just learned that his drug source might be gone.
Maddie has this info now about the area outside the safe zone after breaking through the fence. What was her main intention in doing that? Was it simply just to fill in for the lack of information from the authorities?
She saw the glint, the light on the video that Chris took, and she believes that Chris might be right. Then she gets confirmation of that when she goes up to the roof herself and sees it. Travis is very trusting and wants to believe that the military, the cavalry, really has arrived… he has a faith in institutions that Madison just doesn’t. His reaction to Chris when he sees the light is, it could be anything. It’s a glint, the sun caught [something], a wind chime. “Who knows what it is, but I’m not going to bother the soldiers who are trying desperately to protect us and win this war on the undead.” Madison’s predisposed to not trust what’s going on beyond the fence. She’s predisposed to want to get to the bottom of what’s really going on and she wants answers. [And] she stumbles upon a massacre, and what we come to realize is there have been certain neighborhoods where families didn’t want to leave. They didn’t want to be forced out, and what this speaks to is, you’ve got a group of soldiers, guardsmen, women — and this is mentioned later on in the show — who are not hardened warriors. These are folks who are accustomed to doing their weekend a month, and suddenly they’re literally placed in the apocalypse where they’re fighting people who have recently turned. They still seem human. They are trying to defend people who, in some instances, don’t want to be defended. I think the military has a better understanding of how the virus, whatever it is, is being passed on, so whenever they confront somebody outside the fence, their assumption is going to be that person’s infected. If you’re not coming inside the safety and security of the safe zone, and if you’re living in the dead zone, there’s going to be a reason for that. It’s this ramp up of fear and aggression and paranoia. One person says, “We’re not leaving,” and then things got out of hand. I think shots were fired and the next thing you knew, you had a decimated street. That’s very much what happens by the end of the episode when Travis sees the light and then sees muzzle flashes in that house on the hill. I think they went to clear that house, assuming that [the people] might be infected there, and then one thing led to another.
You mentioned Chris. I love that we have a much clearer picture of him and his personality after this episode. His line about Travis — that Travis would throw those dudes a parade if they let him — is one of my favorites of the series so far. Great line, but in it, he also refers to his dad as “Travis” instead of “Dad.” That’s a big indication of how he’s feeling about the situation right now, isn’t it?
Yeah. There’s a certain disdain that teenagers sometimes have for adult figures, for their parental units, and there’s a little bit of rebellion and independence in referring to your father by his given name. Chris is interesting. The apple doesn’t really fall far from the tree. There is an idealistic quality to him. He does want to make things better, and we’ll see evidence of that. We’ll see it as the season plays out. But he’s also hard on his dad. The divorce could have been mutual, but his dad was the one who left. Chris lives with his mom. His mom is still there, and dad was the one who went off and started a new family, so he approaches everything with a little bit of resentment towards his father. It’s a pithy comment, but it does, I think, speak a lot to where their relationship is right there.
We also meet Moyers in this episode. He has some funny moments, but he also seems kind of destined to be the guy that we’re just going to hate.
That’s good. No, Moyers is a warrior. Moyers has seen battle. Moyers looks at this as a military campaign, and a lot of the people he’s commanding right now — and he’ll refer to this at some point later — they’re not warriors. I think he’s aware of that, and consequently, he’s that much harder on the people who are under his command. He does have humor, [but] I think he has that combat experience quality where he’s all about getting the job done. He’s all about defending it. It’s not so much about “I’m saving people.” It’s about, “I have a task to do, and I’m going to do it, and don’t get in my way in that process.”
Daniel tells Madison, “If it happens, it will happen quickly.” Is the “it” he’s referring to what does happen in the end, when his wife is taken away without him, and Nick is taken away forcefully?
Yes. I mean the thing about Griselda and Daniel is they lived through the war in El Salvador, and they know that when the trucks come, and when people are contained, it’s not generally a good thing. It can be under the auspices of, “We’re trying to protect you.” It can also be in the auspices of, “We’re gathering up Communists because we want to shoot them in the head.” He’s seen the dark side of this, and his default and his understanding is there is no light to it. He knows that there are soldiers out there who are afraid. He knows that the world has turned, and he’s also, in many ways, kind of prepared for it.
He was so determined to go with his wife that he was willing to leave his daughter behind. Now that his wife has been taken away without him, how is Daniel going to be able to deal with that?
You will find out in episode five. Madison, Travis, and Daniel will have very specific reactions to the realization [of what the National Guard is doing]. The important thing to understand, and we’ll see more of this in episode five, is that a lot of the soldiers are as afraid as the civilians are, and I think that sometimes leads to rash decisions and it sometimes leads to violence. But the connective element between Griselda, Nick, the Doug Thompson character, and Mr. Ramirez, the reason they’re all taken, is because they all have the capacity to die. Doug Thompson is depressed. Is he going to hurt himself? Is he going to commit suicide? Nick is an addict and he’s using. Is he going to OD? There is reason to it, and the idea is to take the people who might be a threat — people who might turn and then attack somebody else — and to put them someplace where they can’t do that. We’ll get more of a sense of that in the next episode.
What made Liza get on that truck instead of staying with her own son, with Chris? Did she feel some guilt that she brought Nick to Dr. Exner’s attention, that Nick was taken away, and maybe this is her way of trying to keep an eye on him? Or did Exner get to her, and convince her that her help was really needed?
It’s a combination of the two, and the thing that’s interesting to me about Liza as a character is — and she refers to it in episode three — she is someone who wanted to be a doctor. She wanted to study medicine. She ended up taking a detour and was not able to realize that. Now she’s studying to become a nurse, and the irony is that in the apocalypse, she has found a way to become partly the person she always wanted to be. When Exner arrives, this civilian contractor who’s working with the military, or the Department of Health, she sees promise in Liza. There’s a very strange sort of mentor/student connection between the two of them, and when Exner doesn’t bust Liza for lying about being a nurse, and in fact, embraces her and wants her to continue to do it, I think there’s validation in that. So, yeah, I think she believes Exner really wants to help people. And then, yes, she feels responsible, because she’s been Griselda’s caretaker for the past week and a half, and she hasn’t been able to heal her, and then she also knows that she essentially put Nick’s name on the list, and so I think she feels a responsibility to that.
After the military takes Griselda and Nick, and after he sees those gunfire flashes in the house on the hill, will Travis finally start to be less blindly trusting of Moyers and the safe zone?
Yes, absolutely. When he goes up to the roof, it’s kind of a compound fracture, because on the one hand, the military has come in, in a very aggressive way, and taken people from his home. And we’ll later learn they actually took more people from the neighborhood that night. So he goes up to the roof, partly just to be away from the group because I think he’s so disillusioned by what’s happened, and that’s when he sees the muzzle flashes, and he realizes, “Chris was right. Madison was right. There was somebody out there and now they’re no more.” Were they turned? Were they people who didn’t want to leave their house? Were they people who the soldiers feared were infected? You can read into that, but the bottom line is he now realizes that the National Guard soldiers are not as noble as he thought they were.
He’s also feeling a degree of responsibility, because he went to Moyers in that golf scene and mentioned the fact that his son had seen a light… but when he sees the muzzle flashes later on, his assumption is Moyers took what he told him and that’s the result. So I think there’s a great burden on him. It’ll be interesting to see how he relates to Moyers in the next episode. And it’ll be interesting, now that Griselda has been taken, now that Nick has been taken, now that Liza is gone, to see how he, Madison, Daniel, and Ofelia contend with that, and how they try to secure the return of their family. They’ll approach it in very specific, different ways.
Okay, one more thing… Tobias. Can you confirm he was not the person who was in the house on the hill?
I would love to say that I thought about that, but the truth is, no, Tobias is not in the house. So Tobias is not dead, as far was we know.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.