Well, that didn’t take long. Only a couple of days into the timeline of Fear the Walking Dead and society as we see it, at least in Los Angeles, is quickly falling apart. The precariously built Jenga tower of life is toppling over, and most of the public is still unaware of the nature of the problem. Riots break out and looters wreak havoc, but not simply because there’s a horde of zombies chasing after them — the civil unrest is brought on by the “illness” going around and the behavior of those trying to quell that unrest.
Few people have likely seen and survived what’s happening to their fellow man, but Travis, Madison, and Nick have. “So Close, Yet So Far” picks up moments after the pilot’s deadly culmination. With Calvin dispatched, the trio books it back onto the open road and away from the crime scene. Calvin’s behavior is a shock to the system for Travis and Madison, both trying to contact their respective kids as they drive along.
Travis can’t seem to reach Chris, but Madison makes contact with Alicia, who is at Matt’s house. In the show’s continued clever toying with audience expectations, it appears that Matt is not sick. The cold open suggests differently: As Alicia enters Matt’s home, the door ajar, she calls out, but no one responds. As she makes her way through the house, she spots a smashed flower vase, an overturned floor lamp — signs of a struggle, but little else.
Eventually, however, she finds Matt, and despite some very walker-esque groans, he is in fact, for the moment, still human.
But he’s sick and getting worse. Alicia refuses to leave his side, even as Madison, Travis, and Nick arrive. They want to take her home, but she can’t leave the boy she loves. He’s not suffering from a simple cold, though — as Travis discovers, he’s been bitten, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes whatever it was Calvin became.
Even Matt seems to have some recognition of the gravity of the situation, as he pushes Alicia to go with her family, promising that he’ll be fine once his parents return home. She lets her love go, but depending how long the family remains in the area, I’d be shocked if the fates the writers have in store for these characters don’t include the return of a zombified Matt. (These aren’t characters versed in the ways of murder — more on that in a bit — so they wouldn’t think to put an end to Matt’s life and spare his body the transformation. They leave him to die in peace, but that means he might still be out there a few episodes from now.)
The reunited group returns home, where things appear relatively normal. Their neighbors are having an outdoor birthday party for their daughter, though the coughing next-door neighbor looks to have the same idea that Travis and Madison have — leave the city, fast.
Before they do so, however, Travis catches Eliza on the phone. He wants to come to her and Chris to help them to safety. Eliza isn’t quite listening to him — she’s more concerned about his flagrant disregard for the terms of their separation laid out in the visitation agreement — but Travis is determined to still find them. And so begins his episode-long crusade of rescuing his first family, while Madison does what she can to hold down his new one.
Nick is on the precipice of going through withdrawals, his addiction taking hold now that he’s gone cold turkey for a couple of days. His doctors aren’t answering Madison’s calls, but she has an idea that might keep her son healthy enough to survive. She leaves Alicia in charge of taking care of Nick, who within a short stay at home has gone from relatively stable to vomiting into a bucket.
Madison’s journey leads her back to school, which is empty. No one responds to the call of the front door’s alarm as she walks in, and not another soul disturbs her as she walks the halls. We know the principal is still there, but he’s absent from his office as Madison breaks in to steal his keys, which she uses to open the crime prevention office. There, she crowbars open a cabinet and begins rifling blindly through it for pills. (ASIDE: It’s tough not to see Madison as a walker hunter in training in this moment. The table beside her fills up with bags of medicine and her crowbar, the latter of which doubles as a nice, sharp weapon in a pinch, should a few walkers need to be fought off. Add a sarcastic tone to her dialogue and she’s practically an unused Left 4 Dead character. END OF ASIDE)
NEXT: An unexpected ally joins Madison just in time for a terrible encounter.