When mob violence erupts as the zombie apocalypse strikes Los Angeles, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) gets separated from boyfriend Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) on “So Close, Yet So Far,” Episode 102 of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead.”
“We need to get away from the city. We need to get away from people,” Travis earnestly tells Madison, reasoning that an escape to the desert is their best chance for survival.
But first he must pick up his ex-wife Liza Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and their son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie).
Chris doesn’t want to leave, however. He’s part of an angry gathering that forms after LAPD officers pump 20 rounds into an unarmed homeless man. The onlookers don’t realize that the victim was a lethal “walker” ready to prey on hapless residents.
“Dad, I’m part of it,” socially conscious Chris says while videotaping the tumultuous scene. But when cops arrive in full riot gear, Travis and Liza grab Chris and take shelter in an East L.A. barbershop.
The shop owners are El Salvadoran refugees Daniel (Rubén Blades) and Griselda Salazar (Patricia Reyes Spindola).
“We just need somewhere to ride it out and then we’ll go,” Travis assures the couple’s daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), a savvy young professional.
“This is insane,” Chris says in disbelief while peering out a window. As for Griselda, she lights votive candles and fervently prays that the chaos won’t last long.
With firebombs going off in the street and thugs running amok, Travis realizes he won’t make it back to Madison and her two teenagers soon.
“Go to the desert now! Don’t wait,” Travis insists as he calls Madison just before his cellphone cuts out. Their blended families will reunite later, Travis promises. But Madison stays put as she deals with crises of her own.
Her druggie son Nick (Frank Dillane) is going through heroin withdrawals. And her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) wants to care for her boyfriend, Matt Sale (Maestro Harrell), who’s running a high fever and apparently doomed to join the undead.
“I’m not leaving you. I love you,” Alicia tells Matt, who sustained a zombie bite on his shoulder.
“You gotta go,” Matt insists, fearing for Alicia’s life. “Go!”
Alicia promises her mom that she’ll look after Nick, but she secretly plans to abandon her older brother and return to Matt’s house. That is, however, until Nick suffers — or pretends to suffer — a grand mal seizure.
While this drama unfolds, Madison ventures back to the nearly deserted El Sereno high school where she serves as a guidance counselor.
First Madison pries open a cabinet and steals medication to help wean Nick off heroin. Then she’s startled by Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos), a student who’s ahead of the curve in preparing for the zombie invasion.
Looters have emptied pharmacies, liquor stores and gun shops, Tobias says. The school cafeteria, by contrast, is a perfect place to load up on canned goods before hunkering down at home.
“The less you go out, the less chance you get exposed,” Tobias explains.
As Madison and Tobias flee with their stash of meds and food, they encounter Principal Art Costa (Scott Lawrence), a newly turned walker eager to consume human flesh.
“Artie,” Madison calls out in a panic. “Can you hear me?”
A struggle ensues as Tobias stabs Artie with a knife and Madison repeatedly bashes his head with a fire extinguisher.
“Things will fall apart now,” Tobias points out. So forget about satellites, Internet connections and cellphone service because no one will be around to maintain them.
“When civilization ends,” Tobias prophetically says, “it ends fast!”