** Article Contains Spoilers **
Fear the Walking Dead has been on something of a quality roller coaster as of late, coming off a solid season 3 to a so far unsteady season 4. We’ve had mediocre moments (last week’s midseason premiere), very bad ones (Madison’s death in the midseason finale), and now we have…one of the best episodes of the series last night?
Last night’s ‘Close Your Eyes’ was a “bottle episode,” what we call it in TV when we have entire episode dedicated to just one or two characters, usually in a single location for the duration. Last night focused on Alicia, stuck in a house during a Texan hurricane, and Charley, who took shelter for the storm in the same place. Unfortunately, Charley just killed Alicia’s brother Nick in cold blood not all that long ago, so that creates some uh, tension, shall we say.
The end result was an absolute acting clinic from Alycia Debnam-Carey, who I’ve long evangelized is the breakout star of Fear the Walking Dead, and really, in Alicia she’s created one of the most impressive, memorable characters in the entire Walking Dead universe across either show.
In this episode, we see Alicia come to grips with the loss of her family through the metaphor of the undead family she has to clear out of the house in order to find safety there, a family with a similar make-up to her own. And more pressingly, she has to deal with her desire to see Charley dead, contrasted with the fact that this is…a little girl, and even in this climate, shooting a child in the face is still a tall order, even if they did kill your brother.
This was essentially the opposite of The Walking Dead’s “The Grove” episode, in which Carol has to put down a similarly aged girl who has gotten so unstable she’s a liability. But here, Alicia decides against killing Charley in the end, both for revenge, but later, she can’t even bring herself to mercy kill her when it looks like the end is nigh anyway. Charley ends the episode not forgiven, perhaps, but the two have come to some level of an understanding.
It’s a fantastic episode anchored by MVP Debnam-Carey. The actress was poached from her run as Lexa on The 100, a role that has launched a thousand fangirl ships in both directions over the years, but the move seems to have paid off, as with her cast slimming, Debnam-Carey is now essentially the lead of Fear. The Walking Dead seems to believe that after snagging her, The 100 is a good talent pool to fish in. Next season on the main show we have Nadia Hilker playing Magna and Zach McGowan playing a foil to Daryl, both The 100 actors whose characters were killed off like Debnam-Carey’s.
This is far from the first time Debnam-Carey has impressed on Fear, almost singlehandedly producing amazing episodes/moments. I’m still haunted by the season 3 episode This Land is Your Land, where Alicia was forced to mercy kill bitten survivors trapped in a bunker, but due to a lack of air, everyone ends up dying anyway, and she has to kill her way through the undead members of her former community to survive. It was emotional, harrowing and different than what we saw last night, but Close Your Eyes was great in its own way. Debnam-Carey now has led probably two of the three best episodes in Fear history, and now is essentially acting as the lead of the show with Madison gone. It also does not seem out of the question that if Fear’s endgame is to march east, that she very well may end up as a cast member on the main show at some point. But honestly, she wouldn’t get nearly the screentime there that she does on Fear, and that would be a shame.
I know riding the quality waves of Fear and TWD can be exhausting, but trust me when I say you’re going to want to check out last night’s episode. I watched it early two weeks ago, and I’m still thinking about it today.