(Warning: Hefty Fear The Walking Dead spoilers will be found below.)
This week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “Still Standing,” is marginally better than last week’s low point, but that’s only because it didn’t end with a hot-air balloon shaped like a beer bottle crash landing in a field surrounded by radioactively contaminated zombies. Instead, in this week’s episode, Charlie and Strand used the material from the hot-air balloon to build a make-shift fence to shield themselves from the radioactively contaminated zombies long enough for Morgan to arrive in a hazmat suit and slay the zombies with his mop stick.
Remember earlier this season, however, when Grace confiscated Morgan’s stick from him after he used it to kill one radioactive zombie? This week, Morgan killed scores of them with his new stick and just kept on using it, radiation be damned. The internal logic of Fear the Walking Dead has fallen apart — no one is bothering to sweat the details, and if there’s anything we’ve learned from showrunners like Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), it’s that the details are everything. When a showrunner sweats the details, everything else falls into place.
In this week’s episode, Fear once again fell back on a series of speeches to move the plot along. Alicia gave another speech to Annie trying to convince her to flee the area. Annie gave another speech to Alicia to explain why she wouldn’t. Victor gave a speech to Charlie about why he wasn’t on the plane that crashed at the beginning of the season, and how he and Charlie did something “extraordinary,” by which he means they used a hot-air balloon to fence off zombies (extraordinary?). Dylan and Alicia swapped speeches about how everything is a nightmare. June and Althea traded speeches. Dylan gave a speech to Annie about how to keep them safe. John and Dwight traded speeches again. And Morgan delivered a whopper of a speech to Grace.
It’s not just that the entire series seems to progress from one speech to another, it’s how poorly written so many of those speeches are. There’s a lot of acting talent on this series, and the actors are doing the best they can do to sell these speeches, but how many times are June and John going to give speeches about how much they love each other? We can see it in the way they behave toward one another. They don’t need to express it twice in every episode. Grace also gave a heartfelt speech this week about how, since Isabel left, she feels like she’s missing a piece of herself. She knew Isabel for two days, and most of that time she spent as her hostage. That’s a crush, not a crippling loss. Meanwhile, Morgan’s big speech mined his relationship with Eastman back on The Walking Dead. Lennie James has a BAFTA nomination, and he had to spend yet another episode talking about how “all life is precious.”
In last week’s episode, John couldn’t bring himself to give a letter from Sherry to Dwight asking him to stop searching for her. In this week’s episode, John gave Dwight the letter and had to give him a big speech about how sorry he was that he waited (less than 24 hours), while Dwight had to give John a big speech about how he understood why John didn’t immediately give him the letter. These are two great characters, and they’re stuck in a dead-end storyline that’s just spinning its wheels.
By the end of the episode, everyone is back at the truck stop or headed that way. They’re all trying to get on a plane and leave the area before another nuclear meltdown. They’re going to need to get as far away as possible as quick as possible. I don’t know much about nuclear meltdowns except for what I know from Chernobyl (which may be more than the Fear writers understand about nuclear meltdowns), but they’re going to need to get at least 1000 square miles away (or the size of Rhode Island), because that was how big the Chernobyl exclusionary zone was.
In the meantime, Morgan convinced Grace to go back with him to the truck stop, and Alicia managed to convince the kids to return to the truck stop to get on the plane, but in saving the kids from a horde of zombies, Alicia got herself infected by the blood of a radioactive zombie. What does that mean? We’re not entirely sure. The only thing we know for sure is that there are going to be a lot of very upset fans, either because Alicia is dying or because Alicia is not dying. That is a dangerous corner for the series to write itself into and could end up being one of those moments where some viewers — who already have a fragile relationship with the series — decide to bail.
— Where’s Daniel?
— I forgot about the final speech, another whopper that Morgan gave to Alicia about “finding a way to start living,” while Alicia is ostensibly dying. On the nose enough for you?
— It’s crazy how everything else has gone to hell in the zombie apocalypse, but the nuclear meltdown sirens still work. What? Are they battery charged? Did they use a few C-batteries to keep that going?
— I cannot stress how important Alycia Debnam-Carey is to this show, and how detrimental to the series it would be to lose her, not just in terms of story, but because Alycia Debnam-Carey is, demographically speaking, the biggest draw for young audiences. No one on the series has a bigger social media following than her (it’s not even close — she has 10x the following as almost everyone else), and aside from the actual kids, she’s the youngest cast member on the series. Her loss would be absolutely devastating to the series. I worry the 18-25 demo would quit the series overnight if she were to leave. She is the glue for that.
— I also have a sneaking suspicion, given the storyline that Strand had with Daniel about how Strand only does things for himself, that if anyone dies in next week’s episode, it’ll be Strand and everything else — Alicia, Morgan/Grace, and John/Dwight — is a fake-out so that we never see Strand’s death coming. He’ll somehow sacrifice himself to ensure everyone else gets on that plane.
— I can’t find any information about when episode 9 of the series airs, but the teaser for next week’s episode does not suggest a midseason break, so maybe the series will air all 16 episodes consecutively this summer? In any respect, the one good thing about next week’s episode is that it looks like it’s finally getting back to Logan, this season’s villain.