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Three episodes down, three to go. The fourth episode of this bite sized first season of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD — entitled ‘Not Far Away’ — was another fascinating progression for this tale of civilization in decline. There is so much to ponder while watching this show, and ‘Not Far Away’ was no different. Not a tremendous amount happened in terms of plot but that’s okay, that’s not this shows style and that’s just fine with me.

This week basically boiled down to the following: things are bad, but not as bad as they could be — at least on the surface of things. As we saw last week the army has arrived to seemingly save the day, and we pick up things with Travis’ neighbourhood fenced in, now a safe zone protected by the military from the territories beyond, territories we are told that are pretty much gone, lost to the infection.

But the real intrigue of this episode came from similar themes as the episodes prior, how civilisation reacts when faced with such horrors, what humans do, what a civilised society does when forced to react to it’s possible extinction, and even more interestingly how the government tries to keep some semblance of control, keeping up the facade of safety and order when things are clearly too far gone — even at this early stage.

Character however, and the exploration of it, is what drives this series. It’s clear already that this is what we will be getting from this show and each week I am becoming more and more fascinated with these people, with Travis’ extended family, how they are behaving now, and what they all might come to look like in the near future. With the military — as mentioned — providing the illusion of control and safety for this small community around their home, Travis and Madison are first spotted behaving in a way that isn’t exactly befitting of two parents trying to survive the apocalypse.

Alicia hits the nail right on the head when she slams her mother and step dad for acting like normal people in a normal situation as they argue in their kitchen, bickering like they might any other day of their relationship. This scene was indicative of the circumstances the world and its characters find themselves in. Things seem okay right now, but we know that they are not. We know that just beyond those fences; death awaits and that this attempt at normalcy is only a speed bump on the road to despair.

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A fascinating thing to think about, something that I can’t help but not think about while consuming this series, is the future, and more specifically what it means for these characters at the start of their journey.“You guys are the lucky ones” one of the soldiers tells the residents within his control. It’s a line that we can’t help but smirk at. I mean on one hand sure, yeah, they are lucky, these people aren’t infected, or fighting off the infected, or even dead for that matter, but they are a part of the peoples that will form the survivors of the new world. Every day for them will be a nightmare soon enough. Let’s ask them — the ones that survive — how lucky they feel in five months time.

The real meat of this episode is elicited from the contrasting paths of the two main leads, of Travis and Madison, how they are behaving and the signs they are giving us to help picture what their future might hold. With Travis, my opinion has swung rather dramatically already. 

I started off believing he would be the hero of the show, the man that would grab the apocalypse by the throat and drag his two families directly through its centre as best he could. He seemed to get things at the shows commencement, he seemed open to the horrors of the world and aware of the things that might need to be done, but with every minute that goes by this seems to be coming less and less the case. This every man hero — I think — might be a red herring. The problem is when he behaves in perhaps a perfectly normal way for someone in his situation, ignoring obvious signs to us — people with knowledge he is without — it can make him a frustrating character, but only for now, because it’s only a matter of time before the scales fall from his eyes. And the scales will fall, there is no question about that, but I am starting to worry that it might take a while, that it might take too long for a certain someone very close to him, and it might become quite the problem for everyone involved.

That person is of course Madison. She is turning out to be the very opposite of Travis, she is fast becoming the person I believed Travis to be at the start. She is the one with the wherewithal, with the open eyes and mind, the ability to sense that things are very wrong here, that things aren’t going to get better and action will have to be taken. She’s obviously a strong woman, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that she will usurp Travis as the shows lead, she will be the one to guide whatever pack amasses around her, for better or for worse, her personality will force her to rise to the top. The problem here lies that there is something about her that just doesn’t feel right and it could make for some magnificent television.

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You see, Madeline is one of very few that gets it, that really understands the colossal change happening around her. The next weeks are going to change her, probably very dramatically, and I don’t think it’s going to be for the better. She could become dangerous and not just Rick dangerous, but worse, much worse. I found myself picturing a scenario where some very tough decisions would have to be made, by her, regarding Travis, the weakness he shows and how that wont vibe with her moving forward. If Travis doesn’t wizen up and if he puts her and her kids in danger, well, let’s just say she is starting to seem like a woman that will make the tough and almost unthinkable choices. It’s hard to pin point exactly why this image of her has come my way, right now it’s more of a gut feeling than anything else, but I see a villainous path in her future and I wonder how brave the writers will become with her character. For the series sake, I hope very.  You get the feeling with Madison that the more she sees, and if something were to happen to her children, she would become capable of some truly terrible things. It could be quite something to watch.

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD is a beautiful show, it looks superb and is entrenched with an aesthetic that I enjoy very much. The atmosphere is so rich and alive, that it’s just an enjoyable experience to witness when it’s on. The pleasantness of its presentation is a perfect counter to the wholly unpleasant action on screen. This was another tense episode, not in the same way as last week, but in a more sustained, impending dread like way. Again plot is really secondary here, at least so far.

Sure there is stuff going on, I mean it’s plain to see whatever the military are doing in these ‘facilities’ they keep mentioning, these off site bases for the sick and needy, are suspect to say the least. And sure things took a turn for the worst at the episodes conclusion, when they started taking the sick away, including Chris, and this racked up the tension in a more story driven way, but it’s the large themes at play and how they are presented that make this show work. I can’t wait to see what the last two episodes have in store and what questions will be answered. What will Madison’s evolution look like by the end of the season? Will Travis prove me wrong? Is the military intervention the last false dawn or is there some other life raft still to be thrown? It’s going be interesting, this show is nothing if not interesting. Bring on the fear.

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Film and TV Journalist Follow: @SamuelBrace Follow: @filmandtvnow