Spoiler Warning for Season 4, Episode 11 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
Morgan Jones has broken “TWD” history during his time in the franchise. He became the first character to cross over from one show to the other and continues to break new ground in the latest episode of “Fear the Walking Dead.” Separated from the rest of the main characters, Morgan is forced to ponder what direction his journey will take him. Should he return to his new friends in Texas or head back to Virginia and reunite with Rick and company? As a plethora of characters are introduced and a mystifying villain enters the scene, the apocalypse just got a little more complicated.
This episode picks up where the Mid-Season Premiere ended with Morgan searching for Alicia in the approaching hurricane. As Alicia ended up stuck in the house with Charlie, Morgan finds himself seeking shelter in the back of a semi truck that contains a massive amount of supplies. There is an excellent callback to a small piece of lore of the franchise as Morgan finds a peanut butter protein bar, a favorite of his that has been a recurring joke since Season 3 when Michonne stole some bars from his stash. Morgan ultimately falls asleep and somehow manages to sleep through the storm, and the truck starting and driving hundreds of miles to MISSISSIPPI. Yes…”Fear” just made several huge steps east and added yet another location to its story. The semi has been parked at the seemingly abandoned Flip Flop Truck Stop that he explores, both confused and bewildered as he is now a whole state away from Texas. Inside the truck stop, there is a huge collection of supplies and even electricity. A voice on a radio urges Morgan to “take what you need and leave what you don’t,” which is the second instance of this phrase that has been seen; the first time this was shown was when June and Althea found a box of supplies with the message on it in the Mid-Season Premiere. Morgan asks who this voice on the radio is, but he gets no response or explanation.
Aside from making history by crossing over, and being the first main character to visit Mississippi, Morgan becomes the first character in the franchise to…use the toilet. This is a ultra realistic moment of peace that Morgan has as he uses the bathroom and reads a dog magazine, only to be interrupted by the sound of a gun cocking. He opens the stall door to find a man in a wheelchair with a shotgun pointed at him. Meet Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), who decides to question why Morgan would use the handicap stall when there are people like him who need to use those stalls. There’s a bit of hilarious confusion on Wendell’s part as to why Morgan “stole” a bunch of supplies from the truck stop. Morgan explains that the woman on the radio told him to do so, but Wendell thinks he’s crazy. A woman named Sarah (Mo Collins) enters and tells Morgan that she and Wendell are “twins,” something that causes even more hilarious confusion. The three characters open up to one another and explain who they are and where they’re going. Sarah and Wendell state that they are transporting supplies from stop to stop across the south, and Morgan states that he is headed back to Virginia. Wendell points out that they just so happened to help him with his journey by a few hundred miles. The Twins also tell Morgan that they saved him from the hurricane, which was massive and devastated the Texas landscape by breaking levees and causing insane flooding. And just like that, Morgan finds himself caught in the middle of a difficult choice.
Even though Morgan hasn’t been with the characters of “Fear” for as long as he has been with his Virginia family, they still mean a lot to him. That being said, he desperately wants to get home and see the OG crew again. Sarah and Wendell allow him to head back to Texas with a car and some supplies, but they warn that he’s probably not going to find what he’s looking for. Morgan travels until he comes across a bridge that serves as a symbolic crossroads for him; he can either keep moving forward or go back now. Voices of Strand and Alicia haunt him and cause him to break down and cry, clearly conflicted on what to do next. He ultimately decides to radio Sarah and Wendell, telling them that the bridge is out and that he is heading back to them and wishes for them to drive him to Virginia. He makes it back to the truck stop, but the Twins are no where to be found, so he decides to head out by himself. Just like Rick predicted, Morgan ends up not being alone once again and he meets another survivor. This new character is named Jim (Aaron Stanford)…and he is in deep trouble. His hands are bound and he has a bag over his head as he frantically runs from walkers. Morgan being Morgan decides to help and manage to save Jim from being a walker snack, but Jim isn’t pleased by how slowly he managed to dispatch the dead. There’s an interesting element of Jim’s character that is teased right away as Morgan comments that he smells of beer. Once again, “Fear” throws another interesting character into mix by having an beer brewer enter the fold, bringing trouble along with him.
If you thought Wendell and Sarah were a lovable pair of truckers who were just trying to help people, you would be wrong. When Morgan and Jim arrive at the parked semi truck to link up with the aforementioned two, Jim panic when he realizes that he has been brought back to the people who kidnapped him. There’s a dramatic shift as Wendell and Sarah capture Morgan and Jim, and hold them hostage in the back of the semi as it is revealed that the Twins aren’t the kind-hearted souls that were leaving the help boxes around the south; instead, they stole the truck and kidnapped Jim to guarantee themselves a steady supply of beer. The dilemma that arises is that Wendell and Sarah are demanding that Morgan give them the location of his community in Alexandria seeing as how he had been talking to everyone about it all episode, including Jim who seems to really want to move there and open a brewery. Morgan knows that he may have just put his people back in Virginia in grave danger by revealing their existence, so he decides to keep quiet and not say any more. There’s a fascinating bit of commentary from Wendell about the fact that his disability is being interpreted as a sign that he doesn’t need to help people. This is the first wheel-chair bound character in the entire “TWD” Universe, and his inclusion allows for an excellent look at how someone with Wendell’s condition is able to survive in the world.
It becomes apparent rather quickly that Jim isn’t all that skilled in surviving on his own, even mentioning at one point that he had been holed up in his brewery since the start of the apocalypse. Because of this, his mindset is rather skewed and it seems as though he hasn’t lived through the trauma that the other characters have. His focus seems to be solely on preserving the beer business that he created before the outbreak, a business that was just about to blow up and make him rich before the dead rose. He goes on a winding rant to Morgan about how important beer is to society throughout history. This causes him to decide to take up Wendell and Sarah’s offer and make beer for them in exchange for his freedom. When the truck is forced to stop due to it being overloaded, Sarah starts to unload the back of the lightest possible items; this is where the episode hits a rather clunky few minutes. Jim trips and accidentally causes Morgan to tumble down a ravine into a riverbed, where he encounters several walkers all the while still bound. He climbs onto the top of an abandoned car as he is swarmed by the undead, pleading with his new “friends” to help him escape. Sarah takes a moment to point out that they are aware that he lied about the bridge Morgan planned on taking back to Texas being impassable. He is a liar just like they are and everyone is simply doing what they think is best for themselves. This conversation causes Morgan to have a night of self-reflection after the Twins and Jim leave him behind and begin their own journey to Virginia. It’s getting harder and harder to trust people in this world.
Seeing as how much effort was taken to get Morgan from “The Walking Dead” to “Fear the Walking Dead,” it wouldn’t make much sense for him to be randomly killed off eleven episodes into the season. This thought-process prevents the scenes of him surrounded from being as intense as they probably should be. There’s also the fact that these walkers move painfully slow when reaching and making their move to attack due to Morgan’s THICK plot armor. Still, his time atop the car allows for Morgan to be super introspective, something we have seen from him in the past, specifically in the iconic “TWD” episode “Clear.” Taking what Sarah said to heart, Morgan flat out calls himself a coward and quickly comes to regret his lie and decision to turn his back on his friends in Texas. He has to go back and reconnect with them. He just has to. He makes a leap off of the car and is able to free himself from the bounds by using a knife and other resources from one of the supply boxes that fell into the ravine. Sarah previously said that these boxes were just rotting on the sides of the road and were a waste of time and resources, but it is here that Morgan proves her wrong as those supplies saved his life. He also uses a mile marker sign to take down a few walkers in a badass move that is reminiscent to when both Maggie and Carol also used traffic signs to take down the dead on the sister series. You have to be resourceful in this world. You use what you can use.
There is some real teamwork that comes in as the episode wraps up. Morgan manages to catch up with the truck squad after they stop upon realizing that the directions to Alexandria that they were given are incorrect. Morgan takes control of the situation and stops playing by their rules. He agrees to take them to Virginia, but they will go back to Texas first to find his friends and recruit them to come with. He also states that they will be making several stops along the way from Mississippi to Texas in order to drop off supply boxes at mile markers. Things start to end on a rather positive note as Morgan radios to the mysterious voice that he spoke with at the truck stop to let her know that they are returning to Texas and are assisting in the distribution of the supply boxes. However, there is a chilling shift as the woman on the other end of the line is revealed to be an unnamed new character (Tonya Pinkins), who is filthy and seems to be mentally unstable. She’s at the truck stop, but she’s not alone. She has Pervis with her. Who is Pervis, you ask? He is a walker that she has impaled onto a metal rod and is writing the “take what you need, leave what you don’t” message on his face. She tells Pervis that they are headed to Texas. Is she on a collision course with Morgan and the rest of the characters. Who exactly is Pervis? Could he be the one who started this resource exchange program? It was previously announced that famed Broadway star and Tony winner Tonya Pinkins would be playing a villain this season. Just what is she up to?
“The Code” is a decent episode. It introduces a plethora of interesting new characters that will hopefully be expanded upon and developed as the season progresses. There are a handful of issues, most notably some moments of weaker-than-average writing and deflated action sequences. Certain aspects of the plot of this episode as confusing, although it does seem that there is a major mystery element at play, so this is quite possibly the intent. There’s also the fact that this episode is so detached from the rest of the plot with Morgan being the only main character to appear. The other characters are deeply missed, especially those such as Strand and Luciana, who haven’t been seen since the Mid-Season Premiere. Still, Lennie James knocks it out of the park here and really shows Morgan’s internal struggle between helping his friends that are spread across the country, a major highlight of the crossover. There’s also the additions of Daryl Mitchell, Mo Collins, Aaron Standford and Tonya Pinkins, each of which bring their own flavor to the series and help to expand the world. This episode does an excellent job at world-building and showing that the apocalypse is literally taking place everywhere. Nowhere, not even the state of Mississippi, has been spared. The directing and cinematography also deserve praise, showing a stark contrast between the miserable stormy weather in Texas to the more calm and quaint tone one state over. What will Morgan’s squad find when they get to Texas? Will they ever make the trek to Virginia? A lot can happen in the next five episodes.
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.