The Walking Dead will enter its 9th season in a few weeks, and comparatively speaking, it still almost feels like Fear the Walking Dead is in its infancy. But Fear will wrap its fourth season next week before limping into its fifth season next year. Five seasons is as long as Breaking Bad. It’s a season longer than The Wire. It’s as many seasons as Boardwalk Empire.
Fear, however, has never really felt like its own show. It’s always carried the label of companion series, or spin-off. It’s never been able to live outside of the shadow of The Walking Dead. It’s cycled through showrunners, a lot of different characters, and several different settings, but Fear always feels like a show still searching for its identity, still trying to separate itself from the parent show.
I genuinely don’t think that’s the plan anymore. New showrunners, new characters, and a new setting could not kick new life into Fear. The ratings have not rebounded; in fact, they continue to slowly decline. It used to be that Fear had great ratings compared to everything else on basic cable except The Walking Dead, but now it’s slipping behind some of the FX shows and is in danger of becoming the third highest-rated show on AMC, behind Better Call Saul.
I think the new plan might be that Fear is a five-season origins story for a handful a new The Walking Dead characters. Morgan may have gone to Fear to help boost viewership numbers, but now I think he’s there to act as a bridge for the surviving characters of Fear to walk into The Walking Dead. The idea of Morgan returning to Virginia seemed like a passing thought seven episodes ago, when Morgan unsuccessfully attempted to recruit the rest of the Fear characters into making that journey with him. But now? These characters don’t have a home to return to in Texas after a hurricane wiped them out, and now that the characters have bonded, they’re all onboard. Virginia is their exit plan.
That bonding process gelled in this week’s episode, “I Lose People…,” arguably the best episode of the season’s back half. Things have finally started to come together for this group, who have bonded through their separation. When the hurricane arrived, these different factions had very little interest in each other — in fact, Alicia hated Charlie and June, had no interest in Morgan, and John Dorie was nursing a wound for which Alicia’s camp was responsible. Honestly, aside from a few walkie-talkie conversations, not that much has changed, except that they all seemed to have decided to rally around Morgan, which is a little bizarre if you think about it.
By the episode’s end — after Morgan helps to get the hospital crew off the roof, save for himself — everyone has decided that they’re not going to let their leader die on up there. I understand why John — who Alicia saved along with Strand by stealing Al’s armored vehicle back from the Filthy Woman and driving it over the river to rescue them — has a strong interest in saving Morgan because they bonded in the first half of the season. Likewise, June and Morgan have grown close in the last couple of days. But why is Strand all, “We’d never leave you, buddy” to Morgan — a guy he barely knows — while June and Alicia are cooperating together as though Alicia didn’t nearly kill John while trying to kill June? Meanwhile, the last time that Alicia saw Morgan in person, she basically told him to buzz off, but now Morgan is her new mentor.
Not that I have any great objections to the fact that a lot of character work was simply skipped over, because Fear — like the parent series — is always better when everyone is working together, and that is no exception in “I Lose Myself” when the team comes together to get themselves off the hospital roof and then return for Morgan. Jimbo — who began the episode as a “class A asshole” even as he was dying — found some redemption in throwing himself off the hospital roof to his death in order create a distraction that allows Morgan to climb down (with the aid of John’s sharpshooting skills) a fire-truck ladder.
It is a mostly fun episode, in part because there is a lot of action, and because it ends in a victory where even the guy who dies gets his moment. Jimbo (the guy who died) is now the zombie pet of the Filthy Woman, and perhaps the less said about how that happened, the better, because none of it really made any logical sense. During a shootout with Alicia, she collapses and passes out; Alicia ties her up in the armored van while they rescue Morgan; and somehow she escapes while no one is looking and retrieves Jimbo’s re-animated corpse and Sharpies his beer recipe onto his face. Don’t ask.
The point is: By the end of the episode, the team has all come up with a name for the dead guy’s beer (“Jimbo’s Beerbos,” ugh!), and June asks, “So, where we going?” They all look to their new leader, Morgan: “I told Jim about Virginia … that that’s where I was headed. He’s not going to make, but I think we can. So, let’s find Al, and I say we make our way there. Together.”
And that seems like the plan. They’re certain to run into problems over the course of that trip, and I am certain they will lose a few people along the way, but ultimately, that’s where I see Fear headed, although there is a chance that they get sidelined in Ohio and instead of joining The Walking Dead, the remaining Fear characters will merge with The Walking Dead in season 10, or possibly season 11. Ultimately, however, that’s the end-game. Fear the Walking Dead will not end; it will be absorbed back into its parent series.