There has not been a shake-up at the top on Fear the Walking Dead, and it doesn’t appear that the writer’s room had a major overhaul between the fifth and sixth season. However, through the first two episodes of the season, at least, the series has hit its highest gear yet, as it continues to tell narrowly focused, stand-alone stories that will eventually connect all of the disparate characters and storylines.
This week’s episode, “Welcome to the Club,” zeroes in on Alicia and Strand, who have been sequestered together in what appears to be villainous Ginny’s home community, where they have been relegated to latrine duty. Cleaning up people’s sh*t does not suit them, however, and when Strand pops off on one of the rangers, he and Alicia are reassigned to another task in a separate community: They are forced to clear scores and scores of zombies trapped in a factory and covered in molasses. The molasses is an interesting wrinkle because it is both slippery — causing people to fall — and sticky, making it difficult to escape the grasp of the zombies (the storyline also reminds me, vaguely, of the Great Molasses Flood that killed 21 people in Boston in 1919).
Relocated to what appears to be a sort of prison colony, Strand and Alicia also reunite with Charlie and Janis (and if you only vaguely remember Janis from Season 5, leave it that way. The less said about her and Tom, the better). Strand decides, however, that he’s had enough, and he initially tries to orchestrate a break-out with the help of Dakota, Ginny’s younger sister, who seems to revere Strand and Alicia. He eventually allows Alicia to talk him out of the reckless plan, but Strand does manage to lead Alicia, Charlie, Janis, and several of the other prisoners toward completing their mission of clearing the molasses zombies. It requires that Strand make a ruthless human sacrifice of one of the prisoners in order to lure the zombies away from two rangers who were killed by zombies, allowing Janis and Alicia to take possession of their guns and mow down the zombies. It’s a Season 1 Strand move to throw an innocent at the wolves to save himself, and I love it: we have all very much missed this Strand.
Meanwhile, his plan is the sort that probably should have gotten them executed. Instead, Ginny admires Strand’s ingenuity In fact, she promotes him to lead an army of his own, though the purpose of the army remains vague and unclear (Ginny’s motivations, however, seem to mirror those of Elizabeth in the CRM). Surprisingly, he chooses not to include Alicia in that army and instead to send her away, because Alicia brings out Strand’s humanity, and Strand decides that his humanity is getting in the way of his ability to escape and save the rest of his people (Strand without his humanity is also a far more interesting character). Mostly, I think, it means that Fear will be able to do a stand-alone episode where Alicia and Strand are paired with other characters.
Meanwhile, we also get to see Daniel, who works as a hairdresser in Ginny’s community. He puts on the act of a doddering old man whose memory of the last several years has been erased, and he maintains the act for Charlie, Strand, and Alicia, despite their attempts to trigger his memory. However, in the episode’s final scene, the act finally falls in truly dramatic fashion when the newly reborn Morgan pays him a visit outside the community in one hell of a crowd-pleasing reunion. “You look like you could use a haircut,” Daniel says, dropping the ruse, as newly bad-ass Morgan peers out from beneath his cowboy hat.
Six seasons in, and maybe Fear the Walking Dead has finally found its stride. Let’s hope that it can maintain it as the series shifts focus to stories about some of the other weaker characters. Next week, it appears that Morgan is going to get that haircut, and we’ll also see a story unspool with Dwight (and maybe the return of Sherry!) and Althea, who hopefully will finally have dropped the video camera act. Next week’s episode is directed by Colman Domingo, and it’s also worth noting that this week’s excellent episode was directed by Lennie James, who has fully become the Rick Grimes of Fear, and it’s never been as good as it is right now (knock on wood).