Spoiler Warning for the Season 4 Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
Worlds have officially collided as “The Walking Dead” crosses over with “Fear the Walking Dead” in a historical event that will redefine the franchise forever. After two decent seasons and one brilliant season, AMC’s zombie spinoff series has reinvented itself with a new batch of characters and a fresh location. There are a handful of issues, mostly in regards to the underutilization of original characters in this premiere. Still, this episode serves as a transition to the show’s new era, one that looks to be extremely promising.
In order to recap the events of the episode in coherent fashion, events will be discussed in chronological order. This episode is mostly centered around the character of Morgan Jones (Lennie James), a staple in “The Walking Dead” since the Pilot. Following the success of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom in All Out War, Morgan relocates to the Heaps to spend his time alone as seen in the Season 8 Finale. A significant amount of time has passed since the end of the war, as noted by the growth of crops. Jesus (Tom Payne) pays a visit to Morgan to try to convince him to return to the rest of the communities, noting that the reason Morgan fought in the war was because he cares about people. Sometime later, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) stops by and asks Morgan to rejoin her at the Kingdom, letting him know that he belongs with people that care about him; there is a lot of shared history between these two characters, so it makes perfect sense that Carol would try to convince him to come back. Lastly, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) arrives at the Heaps and there is a sentimental conversation about their past, tracing back to the very start of the apocalypse; had Morgan not saved Rick, it’s very likely that many of the key characters of “The Walking Dead” would have never found one another. In a bit of dialogue that will send chills down your spine, Rick tells Morgan that he will wind up with people, one way or another. It is entirely possible that this will be the final conversation between these two long-time friends as Morgan heads out on a new journey.
Morgan is no stranger to traversing long distances; between Seasons 3 and 5 of “The Walking Dead,” he traveled from Atlanta to Alexandria to meet back up with Rick. In this premiere, Morgan departs from the Heaps and travels west, stopping from time to time and hitching a ride in the occasional vehicle. The iconic musical score that fans might recognize from Season 6’s “Here’s Not Here” plays during Morgan’s departure. After walking and driving for thousands of miles, Morgan ends up crossing into Texas. The opening scene shows a man named John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), spelled differently than “the fish” as he puts it (this is confirmation that Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” exists in the “TWD” Universe); John sits at a campfire next to his truck, but is startled when he hears rustling in the forest. He speaks to the noise and explains that he hasn’t talked to anyone in nearly a year, but that he is also searching for a woman named Laura who has a pistol that is identical to his. An infected emerges from the woods, prompting John to fire his own pistol, revealing Morgan behind it. John invites Morgan to join him next to the campfire, but there is some hesitation; Morgan has just traveled a huge distance and he ultimately decides to take John’s offer of shelter in his truck for the night. There is a lot of humor that the character of John exudes and he immediately establishes himself as an interesting addition to the series.
In the middle of the night, while John is sleeping, Morgan sneaks away from the truck and discovers a seemingly abandoned campsite nearby. While inspecting it, he is knocked out by a man later revealed to be named Leland (Clint James), who leads a group of bandits. Leland holds Morgan at gunpoint, but John arrives and shoots the gun out of his hand; bandits surround John and force him to give up his weapon as he apologizes for firing a shot. Suddenly, a massive SWAT truck rolls up and a woman named Althea (Maggie Grace) speaks with Leland about his prisoners, offering to trade supplies for them; Leland shoots it down, but she pulls a lever, revealing machine guns on the side of her truck. She ultimately rescues Morgan and John, driving them away from the scene and letting them know that there is something they can do to repay her for getting them out of that sticky situation. Althea pulls her truck over and shows off a video camera, revealing herself to be a journalist working on a story; she tells John and Morgan that she will interview them both. This is quite reminiscent of Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) when she interviewed Rick’s group after their arrival in Alexandria. In the morning, Althea records John’s story and learns that he is searching for Laura. Morgan is not looking to share any of his personal history and disregards Althea’s claim that he owes her. If you’ve been following Morgan’s journey in the original series, you will understand exactly why he has no interest in talking about what he went through.
An old-west showdown of sorts erupts as Leland’s group catches up to the trio, but Morgan and John fight back immediately using their signature weapons. Leland demands that Althea hand over the keys to her truck, but she also fights back and flings her keys into a nearby bush. With a sniper on the roof of a trailer, John takes cover behind the door of another trailer, unleashing a collection of gnarly infected. It’s chaos as Morgan makes his way onto the roofs of the trailers to take down the sniper while Leland searches for the keys, getting bit on the hand by a rattlesnake in the process. Morgan is shot in the leg by the sniper, but still manages to put up a fight against him; they end up crashing through the roof of the trailer into a trapped group of infected. The sniper is devoured as Morgan searches for an exit, running into a turned soldier equipped with grenades; he uses the grenade to blow up the trailer while he takes cover in a bathtub. Outside, Althea tries to enter her truck, but is knocked to the ground by Leland, who is shot by John and flung into the hands of infected. In quite possibly the most badass moment of the episode, Althea uses her SWAT machine gun rig to mow down all of the infected as Morgan and John take cover by hiding under the bodies; it’s a bit of a clunky moment within an overall excellent action sequence. The SWAT truck is probably the best vehicle to travel in; who on Earth would want to go up against that type of an arsenal?
This Season Premiere really allows Morgan to open up about his past in a way that viewers can connect with. While driving, the trio discuss what they call infected: John calls them the “passed,” Althea calls them the “dead” and Morgan refers to them as “walkers,” a term he coined at the very beginning of the original series. Morgan decides to allow Althea to interview him and they stop on the side of the road. Althea asks where Morgan comes from, to which he responds by explaining how he started off in Atlanta and ended up in Virginia. She asks if he comes from a settlement in Virginia, allowing him namedrop Alexandria and the Kingdom, even mentioning a king and his pet tiger; Althea is amused by this minor, but rewarding link between the two series. Morgan isn’t exactly keen on answering a question about why he left and decides to leave Althea and John behind; he chillingly states “I lose people and then I lose myself,” a single line of dialogue that encapsulates Morgan Jones as a character. While walking down the road, Morgan is startled by two walkers that manage to knock him to the ground; while he is injured, it is rather odd to see Morgan struggle so much against a couple of walkers. To his surprise, John steps in and saves him, even assisting Morgan in taking down a walker further down the road; it is revealed that this particular walker is a man that Morgan tried to help earlier in the episode. One of the most significant takeaways of this episode is that John is an incredibly loyal friend and is definitely someone that can be trusted.
The episode wraps up as Morgan rejoins John and Althea in the SWAT truck; Morgan states that he is only going to tag along with them until his injury heals, but it seems like Morgan doesn’t even believe that himself. The trio decide to search the Texas landscape for Laura, something that John knows is crazy, but he can’t give up on her. Althea notices a young girl in the middle of the road and tells John and Morgan to arm up, but they both state that they do not kill; this is a rather quick turnaround for Morgan, but he did having a pretty compelling discussion about peace with Jesus before departing. Althea exits the truck with John and asks Morgan to get their first aid kit after the young woman collapses to the ground. The young woman fearfully tells Althea that bad people are in the area before revealing herself to be Alicia Clark. Suddenly, Victor Strand, Luciana Galvez and Nick Clark emerge from bushes and order the trio to drop their weapons as Alicia holds a metal weapon on Althea’s throat. The original characters that viewers have been following since the beginning of the series now seem to be the enemy; they are raggedy and look like they haven’t eaten or slept in weeks. The “Fear” story has undergone a massive time jump of roughly a year and a half; the Season 3 Finale ended with the fates of these characters being left unknown after the destruction of the Gonzalez Dam. How did they survive? How did they end up in Texas? What has happened to them since we last saw them? How did Luciana rejoin the group? Where is Madison? Where is Daniel? These are just a few of the many questions that will hopefully be answered this season.
“What’s Your Story?” is an excellent jumping point for the character of Morgan into the “Fear the Walking Dead” narrative. His evolution on the original series has made him one of the most fascinating characters so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with this crew. Obviously, this episode needed to bridge the gap between the two shows, but it would have been far more rewarding to see the original characters more than just in the final few seconds. Still, their reveal is definitely a shocker and serves to set up the mystery of how they wound up in such poor shape. The introductions of John and Althea immediately establish them as refreshing and bold characters in the franchise and both Garret Dillahunt and Maggie Grace prove themselves to be perfect fits in the show’s universe. The tone and atmosphere of this premiere makes the series feel totally different than ever before; it’s hard to think that this is the same show as the first three seasons, especially the Pilot when Alicia was just a regular high school student trying to get through the struggles of a teenager. Next week’s episode looks to show the original characters in a different light, possibly before they ended up as highway robbers. “Fear the Walking Dead” is changing, but the roots of the series are still there as the series breaks new ground and makes “TWD” history.
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Check back to the Niner Times for continuing coverage of “The Walking Dead” franchise, including reviews of new episodes each week.