The walker threat hits too close to home as Travis and Madison reunite.

By Jonathon Dornbush
September 13, 2015 at 11:35 PM EDT
Justina Mintz/AMC

Fear the Walking Dead

S1 E3
  • TV Show
  • AMC

Fear the Walking Dead is, for the most part, keeping track of the outbreak from moment to moment, letting little more than a few hours skip by (I honestly was surprised the episode didn’t end with them staying up all night defending the house). “The Dog” picks up directly where “So Close, Yet So Far Away” left off: Travis, Liza, Chris, and the Salazars holed up in the barbershop while Madison, Nick, and Alicia wait patiently at home for Travis to return.

But this night in particular is dark and full of terrors, forcing both separated groups to fend for their lives before they can reunite in relative harmony. The most immediate danger presents itself to Travis’ troupe.

They’re locked in as riots rage in the streets inches away from them, but Travis keeps trying to reassure the group with platitudes that would be surprising if he even believed them. He pays lip service to the idea that the cops will settle everything down, that they’ll be able to ride it out without fear of looters—what would they want to steal from a barbershop anyway?

Of course, the shop is also the Salazar home, and Daniel Salazar believes there’s more at stake. The value of the store becomes a moot point, however, when Chris notices the walls are heating up. Looters surround them and fire could threaten the safety of their chosen hideout, so they collectively decide to make a run for it. Travis’ truck is nearby, and the two families group together, preparing to make a break for it as soon as the door opens.

As soon as the door opens, however, looters spill in and begin tearing the place apart. They’re not so much there to steal as they are to cause general anarchy, and the flaming cacophony of overturned cars, dead bodies, and broken glass engulfs them as they flee the scene. Walkers are already attacking, biting cops and pedestrians as civil unrest gives law enforcement two unique challenges to overcome — the civilians who are still alive and those who are dead but still walking.

The two families make their way through the rowdy crowds, escaping underneath a rampart that looks like a Les Miserables setpiece. Nearly everyone makes it out unscathed, despite the police unleashing powerful hoses on the public. But the matriarch of the Salazar family, Griselda, is pinned down by a falling barricade, which crushes her leg. Trapped, the family doubles back to save her, and Travis carries her as the rest of the family piles into his suspiciously unscathed and fully intact truck.

The group escapes, riding away from the scene and returning to Madison’s home, but that looks to be the only upside to the situation. Griselda’s leg is badly bruised, and Daniel tells Travis they’re all returning to his home so he can call for family to pick them up. Why not a hospital, you ask? Well, the only hospital they pass on the way home is overrun with police as doctors, nurses, and patients flee the scene. The hospital is in utter disarray, turned patients having to be shot down in the parking lot. It’s a scene that, as shot from the perspective of Travis’ car, feels eerily similar to the beginning of The Last of Us, though comparing this show to one of the best stories ever told in a game would do the early episodes of any series no favors.

A much more affecting shot comes shortly after as they’re driving along the highway, and the lights of Los Angeles shut off, each individual power grid failing like a patchwork quilt until the entire land before them in shrouded in darkness.

The blackout affects everyone, including Madison and the kids. Though she’s tried to keep them preoccupied with a game of Monopoly, Alicia is shaken by the noises she hears outside.

By the time the power shuts off, however, the reality of the situation is making itself apparent. Danger, although less omnipresent than it was for Travis and his family, could be feet away. Nick doesn’t like the idea of waiting around for someone who has already found a family to stick with, but Madison is not giving up hope on his return.

NEXT: Who’s that knock, knock, knocking on the back door?

The burden of waiting is momentarily forgotten when they hear noises at their back door. Alicia still doesn’t know the truth about what lies in waiting, but luckily, they discover it’s only a dog pawing at the glass door. They let it in, only to discover its hair is matted down with blood—though thankfully not the dog’s own.

Though the dog may have been a false alarm, there is real terror waiting at their front door. The dog’s barking alerts them to a walker shambling across the street toward the source of the noise, and the family, understandably not as well trained as Rick and his crew, flee in a panic. This is where Fear the Walking Dead showcases one of its biggest differences from The Walking Dead. One walker alone is enough to send the characters into a frenzy, whereas Rick, Daryl, and the rest could take a single foe down without much of an issue.

But in the days following the walkers appearing, this domestic family is ill-prepared to fend off someone familiar and yet altogether unfamiliar at the same time, so Nick directs them to the neighbors’ home, where he knows a gun is kept. The trio escape over the fence of the backyard and through the garden maze of their neighbors’ yard.

When they break in, Nick begins rummaging through the house in search of a weapon, while Alicia strays from the pack, looking through the house. The power flickers on and off, and though they find a shotgun and shells to use, it appears they’re already too late to save everyone. Alicia spots the walker — she still doesn’t understand its true nature — entering their house, and once obscured from view, she hears the dog growling at it. But the barks and growls transform into yelps of pain. To make matters worse, Travis has arrived home, unaware of what awaits him in the house.

Madison and the others rush to save him, but he enters to find his neighbor chewing into the dog on the carpet. Travis foolishly tries to talk down his neighbor, communicate with him on a human level, but his good-natured attempt only lands him in trouble. He and his undead friend begin fighting with each other, until Madison arrives with the gun.

Yet Travis doesn’t want to kill him just yet. He believes they can talk some sense into their friend Peter. He must just be sick (and hungry for flesh), but Daniel is having none of it. He blasts half of Peter’s face off, and when that doesn’t quite stop him, he takes the gun right to Peter’s face to make sure the shot goes clean through. Brains and blood splatter onto the curtains, causing Chris to run outside and vomit.

It’s a good thing he escaped to the backyard, though. He spots Alicia, who is tussling with a walker, caught by the fence. She ran back to the other house, spurred on by Nick, to retrieve more shells for the shotgun, where she saw the feet of presumably another walker. But here she comes face to face with one, seeing the reality of the situation for the first time in full effect. Chris pulls her free from the woman’s grasp, who turns out to be their neighbor Susan, and in return she elbows him in the nose, putting Travis’ old and new families at odds yet again.

In case Alicia didn’t take the hint, Nick lays it out clearly for her and everyone else regarding the neighbor’s condition. “She’s not sick. She’s dead.” It’s a statement that sends Alicia into tears, fearing for Matt’s condition, while Travis is angered that Nick would put things so bluntly.

And so three makeshift families come together for the night. Travis deals with Chris, who fears for the state of his face, while the Salazar’s set up a bed for Griselda for the evening. Ofelia knows something is being hidden from her, as her father told her the entire family was buried back in El Salvador, and yet he tells everyone else that some cousin will come for them in the morning. Ofelia would much rather stick with Travis and Madison.

NEXT: Is there any hope for survival?

Luckily for her that won’t be an issue for the evening, as Madison wants to leave that night, afraid that more danger will come and find them, but Travis convinces her to ride out the night at the house. She agrees, but only if he cleans up the mess of Peter’s body, which he does so by burying it in the backyard.

Not that the night will be an easy one. Liza fears for Griselda, whose leg is badly damaged, the cells within it dying. And if they die, what’s to stop the rest of her from dying and turning into a similar creature like the one that attacked Travis. Liza also deals with Madison, trying to appeal to her motherhood, suggesting that they work together for the kids’ sake. Madison wants something more from her, though. She wants Liza to kill her if she ever turns into one of those things so that Travis never has to. It’s quite a lot to ask of someone, but her reasons for doing so become clear in the morning — Travis doesn’t have it in him yet to kill these things, let alone one in the body of someone he loves.

That morning begins quiet enough, though tensions start to surface almost immediately. Daniel decides to teach Chris how to use the shotgun, something Travis is not pleased with happening unbeknownst to him. And before Travis’ old and new families leave, Madison has to take care of one last thing.

She goes outside to face Susan, a hammer in hand to end the suffering. But here comes Travis again to stop her. Madison seems certain that this is the right thing to do, but Travis suggests that they don’t know everything, and if there’s even a sliver of hope for Susan and everyone else who’s been infected, she can’t do this. Although Madison seems willing to, in a move Daniel calls weak, she hands the hammer to Travis and walks away.

And while we as the audience may know what the future holds for society in some sense, these characters don’t. So as frustrating as Travis’ actions may seem, it’s understandable that someone at this juncture would feel that way, wanting to keep hope alive.

Travis’ sense of hope is only bolstered by the episode’s end. While the two families leave, Madison doubles back when she sees Susan’s husband, Patrick, returning to their home. She knows she has to warn him, so she chases Patrick into his backyard, where he comes within inches of being bitten by the shell of his wife. But a shot rings out that strikes Susan’s body, and a military troop storms the yard. They pull all the civilians away as Patrick is shepherded away because he was so exposed to Susan.

The military clearly doesn’t know what’s exactly afoot, unsure how whatever is causing this outbreak is transmitted, and so they run down a set of questions with Travis and Madison’s family. They want to know if anyone else has been in contact with one of these creatures, and they want a list of everyone still alive in the house. (Nick also, while checking a set of locked windows to break open, runs across a little girl watching him from a nearby window. She seems happy, surprisingly content, and perhaps it’s just to see another living human after the horrors they’ve faced.)

Travis gives all of their names while Madison lies about never being exposed. Oh, and that mound in their backyard is the dog they lost, no need to explain how he died. But the presence of the military calms Travis, he expects things will get better now that the cavalry has arrived. Houses are being marked clear or not, and there is now a healthy military presence in the neighborhood. Yet while it soothes Travis, it worries Daniel, who says it’s already too late.

Too late for them or for their society? That’s a question we may know the answer to, but that they’re only beginning to find out.

Episode Recaps

Fear the Walking Dead

  • TV Show
  • 5
  • AMC