With “Ner Tamid,” Fear the Walking Dead continues its unfortunate streak of clumsily-executed fifth-season episodes. There are a whole host of problems with the fifth season of the series, but chief among them may be the series’ inability to ground itself in a time and place, as well as problems with script supervision (a script supervisor is in charge of continuity, but there’s been little continuity even with script supervisors themselves on Fear, which has seen four different script supervisors in five seasons, including two this season alone).
Take, for instance, the vast area in which the cast members were trapped in the first half of the season. The only way they could get in or out of the area was by airplane, and without an airplane for escape, everyone in the area would have died from contamination after the meltdown at the nuclear power plant. We never had a great feel for how large an area that was, but it was large enough that it encompassed the area in which the plane crashed, the plant itself, the place where the kids were living, the old-Western town, the truck stop, the place where the hot-air balloon shaped like a beer floated in, and a stretch of miles and miles where Dwight and John drove around in search of Sherry. Despite the fact that no one could get in or out of the area without an airplane, however, John and June discovered Dwight there, his ex-wife Sherry made it there (and may have also escaped) and Wes painted a tree seen by Alicia in that same area before he was discovered in the other area to where the plane escaped. The plane presumably needed to get a good 100-200 miles away from the nuclear power plant, and yet somehow (without a plane) Wesley also ended up there.
It’s one of the many continuity issues this season, including one that was the subject of the episode this week. Charlie — who we have barely seen this season, despite being upped to series regular — runs away from the convoy because she’s tired of wandering from place to place, and she’s in desperate need of a central place to call home. She finds herself at a synagogue with Rabbi Jacob, and she decides she’d like to plant a flag there and make it the convoy’s home. However, when June and John arrive to help the Rabbi keep his eternal light going (the episode’s title, “Ner Hamid,” is Hebrew for “eternal flame”), June tells Charlie that, while she agrees they need a central location to call home, the synagogue is unsuitable because it’s not big or well-protected enough. And yet, there have been a number of places this season that might have been suitable, including Daniel’s garage; a giant mall with beds, food, and generators; or even the original plant that Logan took over but handed back to the convoy in the midseason finale. Why not move into any one of those places?
Another continuity issue this season is the fact that gas loses its potency in about one year, and yet we are several years into the zombie apocalypse now, and all of a sudden, the gas starts going bad. Gas had not been a problem before. Gas wasn’t an issue for Grace and her truck, or the kids and their van. Daniel and Charlie drove around in Daniel’s car and listened to music. The helicopter people had good gas. They also had gas for the plane to fly in and out of the contamination zone. All of a sudden, however, the only people who have access to good gas is the convoy. In fact, just last week, Logan set up a roadblock because he ran out of gas, and yet, he drove the very same 18-wheeler that had run out of gas last week to the oil fields this week while his henchman, Rollie, chased Sarah and Dwight’s convoy around in his car. Where did he get the gas? There only seems to be a lack of gas where it conveniently serves the story, but when cars or other modes of transportation are needed, suddenly, there is good gas to be found.
Continuity issues aside, this week’s episode, written by showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss, wasn’t as bad as the recent run of eps, in large part because of the introduction of Rabbi Jacob (Peter Jacobson), a legitimately good new character. Granted, Rabbi Jacob’s story borrows some elements from Father Gabriel’s, but it is good to have a character around to discuss God and issues of faith in a zombie apocalypse. I wish Father Gabriel discussed those issues more on The Walking Dead, and I would actually love to see Rabbi Jacob cross paths with Gabriel at some point.
As someone who enjoys Shabbat dinners every Friday night, I also appreciated the Hebrew prayers in the episode, and the fact that there were no major faux pas where it concerned Judaism or the synagogue in the episode. Character aside, however, the storyline itself is not particularly good. Rabbi Jacob, Charlie, John and June are pinned inside the temple by Jacob’s own zombified congregation, which requires that John and June use a ladder to navigate across the roofs of a number of cars. Once they are stuck on top of one car surrounded by zombies, however, Rabbi Jacob uses his shofar to attract all the zombies inside the temple where they are trapped. One wonders, however, why the high-risk ladder trick is even necessary to attempt when Rabbi Jacob could have used his shofar at any time to lure the zombies into the synagogue while they (presumably) ran out a back exit. It’s yet another needless continuity problem with the episode.
Rabbi Jacob’s storyline, meanwhile, is bookended by another Logan appearance. He presumably used Althea’s videotapes he found last week to locate the oil fields, and used Rollie to cause a diversion by driving the convoy into the opposite direction while Logan drove to the oil fields. The episode ends with Logan about to enter the oil fields, which just might bring us slightly closer to understanding why Logan so badly needs all that gas for himself.
— The Ner Tamid in this episode was actually crafted by a Minneapolis artist named Claude Riedel, who had never before heard of Fear the Walking Dead before he was asked to create the light for the series.
— I’m sorry, but that ladder sequence was really bad. I was a little embarrassed for Garrett Dillahunt and Jenna Elfman.
— Next week, it looks like we’re going to get a showdown of some sort at the oil field. There’s still four episodes left, so it’s my hope, anyway, that Logan and his men actually behave as proper villains for once. Perhaps it will wake these characters up to start behaving in ways more in line with the zombie apocalypse.