It's something that "The Walking Dead" has already forgotten how to do, but "Fear the Walking Dead" continues to show the way. In the third episode of the season, it looks like the junior member of the "Dead" empire just offed one of its main characters in one of the most shocking manners yet for either series.
It was a moment that was both stunning and beautifully filmed, and a solid send-off for a fan-favorite character who'd been with the series since the premiere. Now, we're willing to concede the very slim chance that this person is not dead, but based on the dramatic death sequence, the glaze on their open eyes and the grief of their loved ones, we think this was it.
In a way, we're kind of glad, too, as the character had gone about as far as they could, and proved even in this hour that there's just no cure for stupid. Okay, enough of the teasing and hemming and hawing. Let's just out with who died, already.
Nick (Frank Dillane) has proven as impulsively stupid over three-plus seasons as his mother Madison (Kim Dickens) is ruthless, single-minded and driven. Over 40 episodes now, neither character has been able to grow beyond these archetypes, which may be why "Fear" seemingly decided to eliminate both of them from the series. The only member of the Clark family worth a damn has been Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and now she may well be the last survivor.
We don't yet know Madison's ultimate fate, as the new season continues to play across two timelines and Madison has yet to show up in the "NOW." But there were plenty of hints both in the "BEFORE" segments and the "NOW" this week to hint that she may already be a goner, and it was a certain charismatic Vulture named Ennis (Evan Gamble) who figured equally in both eras.
With Nick and Madison on a food run in the "BEFORE," it was Ennis who proved to always be one step ahead of them, with the help of young Charlie (Alexa Nisenson). In the "NOW," we learned that Nick has been hunting Ennis with the intent to kill him; clearly for revenge over something. Considering we've seen no sign of Madison in the "NOW," the death of his mother might be just cause in Nick's mind for the path of rage he's following.
Add to that the crytpic sequences we saw of Nick and Madison together, where she imparted some wisdom on him of finding beauty in the world to maintain hope that there is goodness. Her example then was a field of bluebonnets. In the "NOW," Nick picked up a bluebonnet and carried it in his pocket, looking at it when he met his end. As his eyes glazed over in the "NOW," we cut to a shot of him lying peacefully in the bluebonnet field from "THEN."
SO IS NICK DEAD?
Despite Morgan (Lennie James) urging him to choose another path, Nick went through with killing Ennis, only that decision set up his own ultimate demise, though not at the hands of anyone we'd been following in the "NOW." Morgan gave Nick his book "The Art of Peace" to read and told him it was never too late to find another path. Only it totally was, because suddenly Charlie showed up and shot Nick through the chest.
She fled as he collapsed to the ground, quickly surrounded by his family and both groups of survivors (who are slowly becoming one group). He sputtered and flailed for a bit, but never spoke any actual words and then lie still with his eyes open as Alicia wailed and Luciana remained stoic. Stranger things have happened, but he certainly looked dead, and we couldn't be more excited. Nick was one of the more annoying characters on the show, but more importantly, it proves that "Fear" isn't afraid to offer up shocking deaths of major characters at any moment.
HOW OLD IS CHARLIE?
One of the biggest questions this season has been how long of a gap we've been dealing with between "BEFORE" and "NOW." With the appearance of Charlie this week in the "NOW," it doesn't seem to be that long. Ennis looked largely the same "NOW" as he did "BEFORE," but he's also an adult. Charlie, on the other hand, is a little girl. That makes her a great visual marker for how much time has passed.
Based on the fact that the actress is only 11 years old, the gap appears to be even smaller than expected. We'd be surprised if Charlie was even a year older in the "NOW" than she was when we first met her, which means there's not a whole lot of story to tell between Madison's battle with the Vultures and the Clark family's assault on Morgan and his new friends in the season premiere.
While we know what needs to be done in the "BEFORE," as we need to fill in that gap and see what sent the Clarks on their path to becoming post-apocalyptic highway robbers, we have no idea the larger story ahead for the group in the "NOW." It could be that the Vultures are still a problem back at the stadium and they'll make their way back there, but it also felt like the Clarks had moved on from that chapter of their lives.
Maybe it'll just be about this new group coming together and bonding before some new threat emerges and makes their lives a living hell for a while. In the short term, a likely mission would be to find Charlie, but that could turn ugly in a hurry. We don't know what all she did in the "BEFORE," but so far it's been nothing good. And she just shot and killed Nick in the "NOW." We're not sure Charlie could survive being found, but it seems unlikely she could just show up, shoot Nick and then disappear forever.
Hopefully the surprises keep coming as "Fear the Walking Dead" continues to make its very strong case for why it is not only a worthy successor to "The Walking Dead," but it is a far better show than "TWD" has been in years.
"Fear the Walking Dead" airs every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on AMC.