Spoiler Warning for the Mid-Season Premiere (Season 4, Episode 9) of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
Season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” has drastically changed the series forever. With the crossover of Morgan, the introductions of tons of new characters and the deaths of Nick and Madison. The series has essentially undergone a soft reboot and while that does allow for some incredible moments and refreshing arcs, there is an empty feeling in the story that may be present until the show wraps up for good. That being said, this is an excellent Mid-Season Premiere, which really allows for each character to have their moment to shine and be developed further. Plus…the storm that is brewing could go on to be one of the most thrilling things “Fear” has done yet. Seek shelter immediately; the hurricane is making landfall.
The cold open of the episode teases the aforementioned storm with a brief camera pan showing a small collection of Infected feasting on a horse corpse (damn this franchise and it’s love of killing horses) all the while being blown around by 100 mph winds. The narrative rewinds to before the storm and picks up with Morgan as he goes around killing walkers before packing up his bag; he takes a moment to look at his copy of “The Art of Peace,” which has had a massive affect on Morgan and the characters of both shows since Eastman gave it to him in “Here’s Not Here.” Co-showrunner Ian Goldberg has confirmed that roughly a month has passed since the events of the Mid-Season Finale, and the characters have separated in the weeks since. Morgan radios to Althea and updates her on John’s recovery before letting her know that he will be heading back to Virginia the next day; he asks her to drive him, teasing that she will be able to learn more about him that way. There’s a great link between the two shows as Althea mentions “the king and the tiger” that Morgan told her about; it’s clear that she really wants to learn more about this strange world Morgan comes from…and now she may be closer to actually seeing it.
Much of this episode revolves around Morgan trying to convince the various characters to join him on his journey back home. He pays a visit to June, John and Charlie, who have rigged a camp on a bridge. There’s a sentimental scene between Morgan and John as the two men reflect on their time together as Morgan asks if the three would like to come with him back to Virginia. John states that his gunshot wound still hasn’t recovered enough for him to make such a long journey, and flat out states that he has everything he needs right here in Texas; he explains that he plans on bringing June and Charlie back to his cabin once he has healed fully. Later, Morgan visits a nearby mansion that Strand, Alicia and Luciana have taken up residence in. Strand is flat out drunk and Luciana spends her days listening to old records and staring off into the distance. Morgan tries to enlist the two of them to come with him to Alexandria, but they aren’t budging. Strand has been on too many roadtrips, and Luciana simply doesn’t want to go back out into the world after all that she has been through. Based on the dialogue, it’s clear that the characters of “Fear” feel as though that even if they make it to Virginia, there is simply no point anymore. Still, it is utterly fascinating and incredibly rewarding to hear Morgan discuss the locations and characters of “TWD” with those in “Fear.”
A heavy focus of the episode is on Alicia and Morgan as they grow a bond that more or less began to take shape in the Mid-Season Finale. Luciana and Strand tell Morgan that Alicia has been living in the mansion’s greenhouse and that they haven’t talked to her in weeks. Morgan goes out to investigate and finds a small bed and a collection of notes with the words “help me” on them scattered around the greenhouse. He ultimately finds her at a fence, where she is killing Infected that stumble onto the property. Morgan questions where the notes are coming from and Alicia explains that they are tacked onto the walkers, presumably as a call for help from someone. Morgan tells Alicia that she shouldn’t be out by herself and even flat out tells her that her best course of action is to return to Virginia with him, stating that she would be of great help to the communities there. Still, she’s not budging, but she does ask for Morgan’s help later when she notices that the help notes are pinned to the Infected with tacks from a nearby logging plant. The two decide to head out to see if they can help the person sending the messages and a genuinely remarkable friendship forms as the two realize they have a lot in common. On this trek to the logging plant, Morgan tells Alicia that he purposefully ran away from his problems and left behind his family (without even saying goodbye); he explains that Rick told him that he would end up with people again one day…and now he realizes that Rick was right. Hearing Morgan talk about Rick to Alicia (even if he doesn’t say his name) helps to shorten the distance between the two shows and once again emphasizes the fact that they share a universe.
Upon arriving at the lumberyard, Morgan cautions Alicia from going straight in without doing some reconnaissance beforehand. Based on what we’ve seen from her the past four seasons, viewers should know that Alicia doesn’t particularly like to listen when given instructions or when told to stay put. That is part of her independence, but also, in this scenario, she simply has nothing to lose and is willing to risk everything to save someone. The two make their way through the yard and find more notes before entering a main building in which they find several Infected in the corner, clearly trapping someone in an office. Once again, Alicia wants to charge forward and kill the walkers, but Morgan comes up with a plan of leading them outside. The two make an excellent team as they herd the Infected to an area under a crane that has raised a bundle of lumber. Alicia uses an ax to cause the lumber to drop down on the walkers, therefore becoming one of the most creative and epic walker-kills seen this season. Alicia rushes back into the office, only to find that the man who was sending the help notes has died and turned. After working so hard to try and help this man, Alicia is saddened and confused, and breaks down in tears. She tells Morgan that her mother would have been able to save him, showing that she really is trying to follow in the footsteps of Madison. Morgan tells Alicia that she can still help people that need her, referring to Strand and Luciana, and bringing back up the point he made about himself leaving Virginia. Alicia turns this back onto him and questions why he is leaving Texas when he can also be of help to this new group he’s part of. She makes a solid point…and Morgan immediately seems to question his own decision.
This episode also follows the adventures of John, June, Charlie and Althea as they find themselves intertwined once again. On the bridge, June cleans John’s wound and questions if he really wants to move back to the cabin, wondering if it will actually still be there. He states that they don’t have to go back if she doesn’t want to, and it is clear that there is a difference of opinion forming between the two. The splash of a walker from down by the river alerts them to the fact that Charlie is sitting by the water reading and is now face-to-face with the walker. She doesn’t scream for help or try to run away, but Althea arrives and kills the walker before the killer child becomes lunch. June tries to get Charlie to open up, but she isn’t budging. Meanwhile, John explains to Althea that something upstream is causing the walkers to end up in the river, citing that they previously dealt with a situation similar to this; this is a nod to John and June’s incredible standalone episode, “Laura.” Althea and June decide to investigate and end up becoming an interesting pairing that may just be explored more as the season progresses. The two find a box of supplies for travelers to take what they need, something that hasn’t really been seen in the show before, but could hint at a larger arc later. June opens up to Althea off the record and explains that she doesn’t want to return to the cabin out of fear that John will see that “Laura” and “June” are two different people. At the bridge, John also tries to get Charlie to open up, creating a homemade Scrabble board for them to play; he even tells her the story of him shooting and accidentally killing the gas station robber prior to the apocalypse. The purpose of this story is to show Charlie that people can be forgiven for things that they have done. This seems to strike a nerve with Charlie as she rushes off, leaving John behind.
Alicia isn’t the only one struggling to come to terms with life after Nick and Madison. Both Strand and Luciana are shells of their former selves and also really don’t seem to care if they live or die. That being said, when an Infected sneaks into the mansion and nearly take a bite out of Luciana, who is ridiculously distracted by the music and doesn’t hear a single thing, Strand steps up to the plate and manages to end the threat. Afterwards, the two decide they need to patch the opening in the fence that is allowing the walkers onto the property. They ultimately find it, and Luciana uses it as the time to tell Strand that she doesn’t know what she is even living for anymore. Strand responds by stating that he doesn’t either, but that he is going to enjoy himself while he figures it out, referring to the massive wine cellar he found. A knock at the front door from John surprises Strand when he is asked to help search for Charlie; Strand wonders why John would come to him considering Charlie shot and killed Nick, but John explains that Strand owes him for Alicia shooting him. Strand decides to tag along with John and they begin searching nearby towns based on where Charlie’s books are from. Charlie isn’t at any of the locations they are searching, but rather she makes a surprising arrival at the mansion; although she is chased away by Luciana into the arriving storm. After she is gone, Luciana finds that Charlie left her the copy of “The Last Prince” that was exchanged between the two at the Diamond. This seems to be some sort of peace offering from Charlie to begin mending the wounds that she caused by killing Nick. This appears to have an effect on Luciana as she races out into the storm to track down Charlie. Will she manage to catch up to her? Will Luciana be able to forgive Charlie?
Based on the trailers and promos that had been previously released for this half-season, it was clear that a major aspect of the story would involve the characters dealing with a hurricane. Mother nature as a threat has only been explored slightly in the television series, with the tornado that struck in “The Walking Dead’s” 5th season being the most prominent example. It looks as though “Fear” will really hammer in just how dangerous weather can be as the storm begins to strike at the end of this episode, trapping many of the characters together and keeping them separate from the others. Alicia leaves Morgan behind in the storm on the way back from the lumberyard, but the next episode looks to focus on Alicia and Charlie surviving together, which will undoubtedly be a tense and emotional pairing. There’s also John and Strand who are trapped together in a regular car, although hopefully they are able to make it back to the mansion. Finally, June and Althea find themselves using the SWAT truck as their shelter with Al explaining that the machine gun modifications she made have hindered its driving abilities at such extreme speeds. The episode wraps up showing the two aforementioned characters in the truck as they begin to realize that their lives will be threatened by FLYING WALKERS. This is something that is totally new and is downright terrifying. The storm was teased throughout the episode and praise should be given to director Magnus Martens and writer Anna Fishko for throwing in subtle hints that the characters are about to be under attack from a threat they cannot control.
“People Like Us” is a crossroads of sorts for the series. It is entering into a whole new era, which is essentially the second “reset” of the story just this season. The deaths of Nick and Madison have sent the story spiraling into a bizarre direction and the long term effects remain to be seen. Alicia, Strand, Luciana and Charlie are hurting the most, but everyone is dealing with this new normal. While there are a few minor drawbacks to this episode, it does do an stellar job at setting up the remainder of the season while simultaneously setting some major changes to the Universe into motion. This is quite possibly the best episode of Morgan’s crossover simply for the fact that it is the first time that he really interacts with each of the characters and uses his past experience to help them all. The beginning of the storm storyline really allows for some thrilling new material to be covered, although the special effects could be better; there were multiple points during the scenes with high winds where the trees in the background remained perfectly still. Regardless, the performances from Alycia Debnam-Carey, Danay García, Garret Dillahunt and Alexa Nisenson deserve complete praise. The doom and gloom, but also shades of hope could be totally felt and the new tone that has been established is totally intriguing. Will Morgan actually return to Virginia? And will he bring his new friends? Will Charlie be forgiven for killing Nick? Will the storm claim the lives of any of our characters?
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.