- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A DAY AT THE FAIR, GREAT (NON) ESCAPES, AND CATTLE FEED APPETISERS … MMMM
“Buried” was a case of almost “leaving on a jet plane / Don’t know when I’ll be back again” … well, it would have been, of course if (a) there were jet planes anymore (b) Peter, Paul and Mary were still around to sing it and (c) everyone hadn’t had an attack of hope and optimism …
Yes, hope and optimism! In the one episode!
Granted, it came back to bite them royally on the arse – better than a zombie bite but only marginally – but it was nice to see that for one bright, shiny, happy moment, three major characters all chose the blue bird of happiness over the undead hamster of rank self-preservation (yeah, not quite as popular; can’t think why).
Each of these tales of almost-but-didn’t, centering on Victor (Colman Domingo), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Luciana (Danay García) in the almost-immediate aftermath of Nick’s (Frank Dillane) gunshot death at the hands of Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) unspooled as Chronicler of the Zombie Apocalypse, Althea (Maggie Grace) filmed them in her van speeding away from yet another low point in the lives of our favourite survivors.
What was so affecting about this nuanced, and beautifully-told episode which, in keeping with Fear the Walking Dead‘s slower, more thoughtful narrative style, allowed grief to find expression in past regret, was the way each of them recounted how hope, which they had almost abandoned as the stadium spiralled ever-further into a weevil-laced death dive – cattle feed pancakes anyone? Yum! – was re-embraced when logic suggested it be best abandoned.
It’s entirely natural in the face of the death of someone major in your life to question anything and everything – how can you not? Your world, as you know it, is irrevocably altered and only a cold, hard soul would be unmoved and unchallenged – and these three did, recounting how one fateful day came to define their road to the point where they met – read held up and took prisoner – Althea, John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) and Morgan (Lennie James).
Awash in the nightmarish backwash of grief, they told Althea, who listened with genuine empathy and understanding, endearing the character even more to me, how each had set on supply runs that day, necessitated by The Vultures, who remained camped outside their stadium home, beating Madison (Kim Clark) and the gang to every major supply of food going.
Victor left with Cole (Jared Abrahamson), a man who has a thing for his travelling companion but finds Victor’s near-impervious wall of emotion impossible to surmount.
Thinking this might be a way for them to bond, in more ways than one, they scavenge plants from a nursery (handy since all their crops are failing), kill some infected, as you do in this new day and age, and then everything goes south when Victor reveals he’s been secreting supplies in the back of an SUV for awhile, enough to keep him, and one other – wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more – alive for a month or so until they can flee the stadium.
Cole, to his credit, is horrified that Victor would choose self over the greater good of the community and leaves his onetime object of great affection who he no doubt regrets getting to know this well, to some much-needed self-reflection (and Cold presumes some driving into sunsets, see ya later, adios amigo etc).
But Victor, wanting to be better than the self-interested soul who first met Madison but not quite knowing how, errs on the side of the oft-neglected better angels of his nature, and heads back to the stadium, to Madison’s delight and Cole’s befuddlement.
Meanwhile back at the local library – Madison has chosen some unlikely sources for food to throw the Vultures off their track but I doubt even she would pick a library; spoiler alert – she hasn’t – Nick and Luciana are trying to find some books and LPs for Charlie.
Well, more accurately, Nick is, and it’s almost painful watching him walk through the ransacked place – clearly fellow survivors saw reading as a high priority or, you know, burnt the books for warmth; probably, sadly, the latter – trying to find something, anything to convince Trojan Horse Charlie to rejoin the stadium crew.
Trying to steer Nick away from his thankless task – in one binocular shot, courtesy of Madison, we see Charlie looking quite happy thank you very much with the Vultures – Luciana hits on the idea of selecting a new place to go, for good, based on a random finger-drop on a road atlas of Texas.
In the present she says they should’ve picked a place and left as a group for their new home but instead they head back to the stadium, awash in excitement that if they can just grab some seeds and agricultural supplies, they can start again!
Hurrah for hope but as Luciana ruefully observes, they would’ve been better to go with Plan A, or better still not opened the road atlas in the first place.
So far, so much regret …
Things aren’t better for Naomi (Jenna Elfman) and Alicia who head off to a fun fair for hilarity, laughs and at least four churros.
Kidding – they go to a fun park alright but it’s rife with the undead, dried-up, mouldy waterslides and an abandoned camp atop the waterslide tower where they find heaps of medical supplies, and fatefully for Naomi, who has a severe case of the Morgans and just wants to get away by herself, the keys to a Land Rover parked out front.
Surviving a slide into a pit of watery zombies, and a little self-revelation – Naomi is not exactly a group therapy kinda gal, let’s be fair – Alicia assumes they’re a team only to find Naomi getting rid to get out of funfair Dodge without her.
They talk, Alicia recounts her own time out on the road all alone, saying she’s glad she’s back with her family and friends, and Naomi, an ex-ER nurse who grew to knew who would live, and who would die and who has decided the stadium as a virulent case of Terminal Community, makes the decision to give hope a shot, against her better judgement (she tells Alicia as much).
As each three of the major characters recounts the events of this fateful day – once again we only see Madison in the past, not the present, leading to great worry that she might have died alongside Naomi and the others when the stadium finally fell – you get the feeling they regret their flirtation with hope.
It’s sobering and immensely sad and all too human to watch and to her credit Althea doesn’t throw a few pithy Hallmark bon mots and expect them to get over it; theirs is grief piled on grief, gutted-hope and deep regret and all you can do is sit in it for as long as circumstances allow.
John Dorie also finds himself mired in unexpected grief when it emerges that the Laura he’s been searching for in, in fact, Naomi who’s very dead, crushing his one great driving motivator.
The moments where he steps away from the others, allowing only Morgan near, are truly, quietly, momentously heartbreaking, underscoring again that in the zombie apocalypse, you are only ever one fateful step away from your world imploding.
“Buried” is everything that’s good about Fear the Walking Dead, carefully and with empathetic insight exploring what happens to humanity when hope is embraced and found to be wanting, when grief keeps a near-constant stranglehold on you and when you begin to wonder if there’s any point to chosen the better angels over the lesser ones.
With Victor, Alicia, Luciana and Althea (against her better judgement) off to exact judgement on the Vultures, and John and Morgan left behind to wait things out, “Buried” is a stunning-exquisite piece of storytelling, a reminder than our humanity hangs by a thread and we never quite know when someone, or something, will come along and snip the last, dangling, tenuous thread.
- Next week on Fear the Walking Dead season 4 – we get to know “Laura” a whole lot better …