The juxtaposition of the pleasant, ironic song playing over people’s attempt at normalcy. The cavalcade of military personnel descend upon a new dystopia inside a freshly mounted fence. The cold open for “Not Fade Away” felt the most like The Walking Dead yet. In a fallen Los Angeles, no one knows what to do any more than the next person, so the only thing to do is take a jog or sit on a roof filming shit or repaint a living room to cover up blood stains and obey the orders of the camp’s “commanding officer.” They are feeding them, after all.
They’re also keeping the people under curfew, forbidding them to go outside the fence, and fostering an us-or-them mentality. This camp is the original Woodbury, complete with C.O. Moyer as the acting Governor (albeit substantially less charismatic), putting green and all. If we’re going to continue with this analogy, Travis is Andrea, giving the system and Moyers the benefit of the doubt and playing peace-keeper while ignoring any trace of his better judgment. Madison’s skepticism and rebellious streak would entitle her to the role of Michonne, or maybe that’s Chris and his curiosity. I’m sure I could keep going, but regardless of the roles the characters of Fear the Walking Dead are playing, it’s clear that something is rotten in the state of California. The ruthless nature of this new system leaves no room for humanity, and even the desperate will eventually come to their senses.
In the meantime, the overarching lack of suspicion in regard to this military state isn’t entirely unreasonable, but there’s not quite as much panic or worry as one might expect for such a situation. A lot of shit has gone down in the nine or so days since the power went out and the fence went up, but C.O. Moyers provides these people with precious little details on what’s happening beyond the fence. When are the phones going to be back up? Where is the medicine? Where are you taking the quarantined? The disenchanted mob seen in episode two would have demanded answers to these questions with gusto and fervor, but the broken residents of this government-enforced encampment fall silent when confronted with a “shut up so I don’t have to shoot you” response from Moyers. His message is ominous, but the state of things remains composed, if not teetering on suspicion.
Poor Doug seems to be the only person handling things with a level of justifiable anxiety. He’s buckling under the pressure of providing answers to the unanswerable questions of his wife and children and can’t handle the presence of the army in his front yard. “It is going to be okay. That’s all you have to say,” Travis says to try to calm him down, to which Doug replies: “Will they know that I’m lying?” If no one else, Doug understands the severity of the situation that everyone else is rationalizing as a first step to the path of normalcy. He’s assuming the worst while everyone else follows orders, but the worst just happens to be right.
The addition of Doug’s character introduces a human variable not often discussed in the world of The Walking Dead. Physical maladies are easy to spot, but psychological disorders tend to stay hidden or ignored until they’ve reached a fever pitch, like psycho Lizzie in season four of TWD. Was Doug’s compromised mental state already in place before the fall? Is the collapse of civilization just exacerbating an already fragile psyche, or is his despondency just legitimate stresses of what’s happening around him? Is he suffering an imbalance because the medicine he requires is unavailable? Whatever the case, it’s likely people like Doug don’t make it far into the zombie apocalypse, and he was inevitably shipped off to “headquarters” simply due to his inconsolable grief. (Moyers’ use of the word “headquarters” reminds me of parents explaining the absence of a pet as being taken to stay at a “farm.”) If the powers that be are threatened this much by Doug, a very small crack in the system’s foundation, their reaction to a more potent threat is going to be doubly severe.
If we learned anything from Woodbury, the delicate balance of order in a fabricated society is constantly in jeopardy because any semblance of harmony can’t be sustained for very long. The removal of Nick (in a different car than the medical unit. Is he going to headquarters? The FARM?) and the military’s refusal to allow Daniel to be with Griselda are creaking the larger cracks in the foundation. And with Travis, the system’s most enthusiastic cheerleader, witnessing the shooting in the distant house on the hill, the sustainability of this original Woodbury can’t last for much longer. The two references to Revelation 21:4 prove that with this episode, the old order of things has passed away, indeed.