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TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead - Season 4, Episode 4

Season 4, Episode 4: Buried

PLOT: Alicia, Strand, and Luciana reflect on the day when their lives took a turn for the worse.

REVIEW: Fear the Walking Dead has become quite an exciting show to watch since its fourth season began airing on AMC, and that's not only because the time jump flashback structure means it has to pack a bit more story than usual into the episodes while scenes play out in two different time periods. It has also been exciting because it has made sure to present the walking dead of the title as a real physical threat in every episode so far - and this show and its companion series The Walking Dead can sometimes become so focused on the character drama that the zombies appear as an afterthought. Episodes in the past have gone by without any notable zombie action at all, but the four episodes of this season have each featured some kind of memorable zombie set piece.

Buried has a couple, the first being a moment in a greenhouse where we see there is something even worse than being attacked by decaying, flesh-hungry corpses. That is to be attacked by decaying, flesh-hungry corpses that are covered in cactus needles, so if they lay their hands on you those needles end up being passed to you. Just as I was processing that idea, the episode then topped the greenhouse scene with a sequence set on a slide in a water park where zombies are waiting to munch on anyone who comes down the slide.

I had seen the promotional image of Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and the mysterious Naomi (Jenna Elfman) walking up the water slide before watching the episode, and while it made for an interesting visual I couldn't imagine why anyone would be walking up a water slide a couple years into a zombie apocalypse. As it turns out, it's because they're on a supply run and find that someone had a pretty nice set-up at the top of a slide with barricaded stairs. A cool idea, especially since they had a belt-fed machine gun to protect themselves with up there. But apparently it wasn't enough protection, since the water park resident doesn't appear to be around anymore. Whatever happened with them, their zombie-infested former home provided Buried with a great, suspenseful centerpiece.

Alicia and Naomi's eventful supply run occurred on the day that Alicia, Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), and Luciana (Danay Garcia) all agree was the day their lives at the baseball stadium began to fall apart. That day is the focus of the flashbacks of this episode, as each of those returning characters tells their perspective of the day to new character Althea (Maggie Grace). Althea is filming all of this for her documentary - a project I've been unsure of ever since she first whipped out her camera. The structure of Buried calls for frequent cutbacks to Althea interviewing Alicia, Strand, and Luciana, and these moments came off as being extremely cheesy to me.

The interviews weren't the only goofy thing going on in Buried. While Alicia tells the story of her trip to the water park and Strand reveals that he was continuing his selfish ways even while they were living in the stadium, packing up a secret getaway vehicle at a different location, Luciana admits that she had one of the worst zombie apocalypse ideas ever: with the group known as The Vultures sitting outside the stadium, waiting for things to go wrong for the stadium's residents so they can swoop in and take their stuff, Luciana handed Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) a map and suggested picking a destination at random. Wandering off to wherever your finger lands on a map doesn't seem like a wise survival tactic to me. Thankfully, Luciana and Nick don't end up doing that, although present day Luciana wishes they had.

As the title implies, Buried does deal somewhat with the funeral of Nick, who met a shocking end in the previous episode, but his burial isn't really a big thing here. I was surprised that the episode didn't go further into the aftermath of his death, and that we didn't get stronger displays of emotion at his graveside. Even the impaling of Nick's brain so he wouldn't rise as a zombie was a minor moment, shown in "found footage" style as Althea filmed it for her damn documentary. The show is already moving beyond that major character - while still keeping him around (for now) in the flashbacks, which weakens the monumental death a bit.

Lest we forget, Althea's fellow new character John (Garret Dillahunt) and The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) are still around, and while Morgan's main purpose in this episode was to pay his last respects to Nick, there was something interesting done with John. In a twist I didn't see coming, the true identity of John's lost love that he has been searching for is revealed, and it's someone we know. Someone who is said to be dead at this point, although it will be much better for the show if she's not. I'm now invested in John's search, and look forward to seeing where that storyline is going.

Buried had its issues (the interview moments, Nick's lackluster funeral), but overall it continued this season's streaks of intriguing, solid episodes. It deepened the mystery of what happened at the stadium, made the stories of a couple new characters more compelling, and delivered some fun zombie action. 

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: As awesome as the cactus needle zombies were, they can't compete with the moment when Alicia and Naomi go slipping down the water slide and find themselves on the edge of a circular area packed with flesh-eaters.

GORY GLORY: There wasn't any great gore to be seen in this episode, we just got the usual zombie head stabbings.

FAVORITE SCENE: My favorite scene in Buried was the scene I'll always remember this episode for: Alicia and Naomi facing the zombies trapped in the water slide.

FINAL VERDICT

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of Buried?

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