Spoiler Warning for Season 4, Episode 15 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
He loses people…and then he loses himself. Morgan’s first season on “Fear the Walking Dead” is about to wrap up, and he has just lost another person in his life, adding further evidence to his apparent curse. The element of horror is amped up as the characters try to escape an overrun hospital in downtown Austin. Teamwork really makes the dream work…but not everyone makes it out alive.
While it may have been extremely unlikely and unrealistic for Alicia and Charlie to find the exact spot in all of Texas where Strand and John are marooned, it does allow for an excellent reunion. The musings of John seem to have had an effect on Strand, who is now far more hopeful upon seeing one of his OG friends coming to his rescue. Due to another stroke of unbelievable luck, June manages to radio Alicia, setting up another series of reunions. Alicia is able to bring June the relief that John is in fact alive. Morgan is also relieved to hear Alicia’s voice and takes a moment to explain the precarious situation that his group is currently in without revealing their location due to the fact that Martha may be listening. Alicia declares that she is going to rescue Strand and John, and then come to save Morgan’s crew. Realizing that they still need a way to get through across the floodwaters, Alicia and Charlie head out in search of a boat. Meanwhile, John expresses to Strand his pessimism toward the situation, worried that they won’t be able to find a way to get off the damn island. The two characters have essentially swapped places with John even touching base on his story prior to the events of “Laura” when he stranded himself on a metaphorical island. Strand points out that anything is possible, especially considering Alicia and Charlie are now working together even after their tumultuous past. “If that doesn’t make you think that anything is possible, I don’t know what else will,” hopeful Strand is a welcome surprise; he’s living just how Madison would have wanted him to.
Alicia is one of the smartest and most resourceful characters on the show, and her hunt for an object or boat that can float over the floodwaters shows this. Charlie points out a bathtub that they could potentially use, but Alicia knows that if they are going to cross the alligator-infested waters, they need something sturdy. They ultimately come across a canoe tied to the roof of a car, but before they can retrieve it, a gunshot sends them into battle mode. Martha enters the scene and fires off several shots at Charlie and Alicia, angry at them for trying to help John and Strand. Charlie crawls under a car in a shot that is reminiscent to “The Walking Dead’s” Season 2 Premiere “What Lies Ahead,” (which is also unintentionally name-dropped by Strand) when the characters hide under the cars from the walker herd. Alicia offers to help the crazed woman, but this only angers Martha further as she doesn’t want people to help one another. Fortunately, Martha’s exhaustion and the symptoms of her gunshot wound cause her to faint, allowing Alicia and Charlie to assist her. Back on the island, John inspects his wound and Strand pours alcohol on it. They are stunned to hear the sound of a vehicle approaching; the SWAT truck bursts onto the scene with Alicia in the driver’s seat steering through the floodwaters and onto the island. It’s a cheerful reunion as Charlie returns John’s hat to him; he’s thrilled to hear that she is speaking once again after being a mute the last time he saw her, in the Mid-Season Premiere. There’s an excellent bond between Alicia and Strand with them both acknowledging that they are okay. Alicia and Strand have been through so much together and it is unfortunate that their moments together now are far and few between, but this reunion is truly rewarding and touching.
The other prominent storyline of this episode follows the characters trapped on the rooftop of the hospital in Austin. June tries desperately to radio Althea, who went missing after switching on the generators. Jim is annoyingly pessimistic about the whole situation and believes Al to be dead, something that angers everyone. Sarah and Wendell are having none of Jim’s blame game against Morgan and even joke about his bite. June tries her absolute hardest to keep Morgan positive, urging him to help find a way off the roof and out of the building. With his time running out, Jim decides to give the source of his downfall a big “fuck you” by standing on the ledge and pissing on the walkers. Morgan finds Jim and worries that he is about to jump, but Jim claims that he doesn’t want to spend his undead life as one of the walkers that can barely move due to broken bones. It’s rare that you hear characters describe their fears of being a walker in such specific detail as this. Sarah tries her hand at getting Jim to tell her the recipe for his beer, but he isn’t ready to give it up. It’s already been established that Sarah has no patience for Jim’s bullshit and this continues here with her most perfect and accurate description of him: “a class-A asshole, an unpleasant jagoff who fills every room he steps into with a philosophical fart.” The above sentence, as well as all of her previous quotes, is proof that Sarah just may be the second-coming of Abraham Ford. We need characters like Sarah and Abraham to take some of the seriousness out of the apocalypse and to just make us laugh.
With the generators still running, the elevators prove to be the best bet for the characters to flee the roof. Morgan, Luciana, Wendell, Sarah and June head down to a lower level, armed and ready to fight their way through the undead. They find the hallways eerily devoid of the walkers that were previously chasing them, but their guard remains up as they slowly make their way around the corners looking for Al. There is some especially creepy camerawork here as the emptiness of the hallways is emphasized by the camera steadily rolling away from the characters. A collapsed roof answers the question of what happened to some of the jerkymen (a new term for the walkers coined by Sarah), but the group does stumble upon some dispatched dead that Althea presumably took down. They arrive at the generator room and discover a note left behind by Al, which Sarah reads and hilariously censors a bit due to Al going “for the full quesadilla” when referring to Martha as the “c-word.” In the message, Al explains that she evacuated via the freight elevator; if she is found to be dead, she asks that the group protect, copy and spread her tapes to keep them living on in the world. Upon finding the freight elevator, Morgan tells his companions that the building is still surrounded by walkers and that someone will need to distract them. Everyone knows exactly what this means, and they are having none of it. Morgan has become a trusted member of the group and they refuse to allow him to die so that they can escape. Morgan has to do this though…because that’s just what Mo-Mo does. From Lennie James’ performance, it is so clear that Morgan cares about these people and he feels responsible for them. He’s ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for them all.
While making their way in the SWAT truck, John and Strand stare at Martha as she comes to. She angrily declares that she didn’t want to be saved by them, but they really aren’t listening to her. John radios the crew trapped in Austin, and the moment we have all been waiting for finally happens. June is on the other end of the line and the two have a heartfelt moment of relief as the two lovers realize that they are both alive. Since Martha is no longer a threat, June reveals their location and sets a reunion in motion. From atop the roof, Morgan concocts a plot to distract the walkers on the street to allow his friends to escape. He flings a walker corpse down onto a car, setting of its alarm and drawing the walkers away from the ground level exit. Luciana, Sarah, Wendell and June manage to commandeer an ambulance while the walkers are distracted. June stands looking up at Morgan and pleading for him to join them…but Morgan has some things to make up for. It’s here that Morgan and Jim have a bit of a heart-to-heart in which it becomes clear that there is some forgiveness for the fact that Morgan was able to save the other survivors. A slight nitpick that needs to be addressed is the inconsistent walker actions, specifically in their reactions to noise. Obviously, the sound of the car alarm would draw the walkers directly to the source, but the battery dying shouldn’t have caused them to turn around in tandem and continue their hunt for the survivors. Walker inconsistencies are nothing new to this franchise , but they are especially noticeable here. Still, it is great that this episode reminds viewers that walkers are easily manipulated and can be controlled with certain tactics; however, they’re still a threat…and that will never change.
Teamwork is a powerful and beautiful thing. When the characters come together, it is truly magical. Morgan is stunned and a bit taken aback when June radios him to alert him to the fact that they are mounting a rescue mission to get him off the roof. It isn’t just June on the radio; John, Strand, Alicia, Luciana, Sarah and Wendell have all come back for him. The characters have found and positioned a firetruck with a ladder that they plan on using to bring Morgan down. Sarah operates the ladder while Alicia, Luciana and June stand guard and take down any walkers that threaten their operation. Before making his descent, Morgan sincerely apologizes to Jim for putting him in this situation, and while Jim may not forgive him completely, he does urge him to escape. Unfortunately, the ladder doesn’t reach the roof and Morgan is forced to rappel down to a lower level where he is attacked by a walker in an incredibly tense standoff. Thankfully, John’s expert gunslinger skills come in handy and Morgan is saved by the bullet. He then must jump to the ladder in a frightening moment that almost sees the end of the peaceful warrior. This particular scene really uses silence to its advantage to build up tension and have a moment of genuine uncertainty as Morgan makes his leap. In a world filled with evil people, these good people that we are following are punished..for being good. They find themselves surrounded on and inside the firetruck by dozens of walkers. Morgan was willing to die on that rooftop for these people, but they weren’t ready to lose him. Thankfully, the predictable actions of a downtrodden member of the group change the course of events in their favor.
Death is inevitable for Jim. The infection is overtaking his body and he will die. Morgan tells him earlier in the episode that he does have a say in how he will die, even if it may not seem like it. Morgan offers to make a run and create an opening to allow the characters to access the SWAT truck, but Jim has different plans. He speaks directly to Sarah and tells her his beer recipe, step by step, even whispering a secret ingredient that the audience isn’t even privy to. The poetry of Jim will live on via Sarah and the group. In an utterly haunting beat, Jim closes his eyes and steps off of the ledge, plummeting to his death below. His body slams onto a car, setting off another alarm and drawing the walkers right toward him. Somber music plays as the characters realize that Jim just made the ultimate sacrifice for their survival. They make their way back to the SWAT, but find that Martha has escaped…shocker, right? There’s nothing they can do about it though. They flee the city together and have an excellent moment together where they spitball name ideas for Jim’s beer, finally settling on “Jimbo’s Beerbos.” These lighthearted conversations that sound like actual humans speaking to one another are few and far between, so this is a welcome scene within the episode. The mood takes a hopeful shift as everyone begins discussing their next course of action. They realize that this part of Texas is not habitable, and Morgan proposes that they finally begin the journey to Virginia. For the first time, everyone is actually down to make the trip, especially June who gives Morgan a hearty smile. “So let’s find Al, and then I say we make our way there.” It’s not going to be that easy, is it? Nope. The episode wraps up with a still injured Martha finding the corpse of Jim, writing his beer recipe on his face just seconds before he reanimates and becomes her newest weapon. What is her end game here? Is she about to derail the group’s new path forward?
Season 4, particularly this second half, has been the clunkiest and most unbalanced of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” entire run. That being said, these last few episodes have gotten the story back on track in many ways. It isn’t perfect and there are plenty of issues with the general direction, writing and inconsistencies. Still, this is another worthwhile episode that does an excellent job at displaying the walker horror and using the characters’ strengths to its advantage. Having the story take place in downtown Austin adds an enhanced feeling of danger and fear that really serves to ramp up the intensity. It genuinely feels as though any character, even Morgan, can meet their end here. Having the characters reunite and work together is precisely what this season needed; its just a shame that this is coming in the final episodes, but better late than never. The stuntwork, walker work, cinematography and directing all deserve praise here. The performances across the board are noteworthy, but Aaron Stanford, Lennie James, Jenna Elfman, Garret Dillahunt, Mo Collins and Colman Domingo are really the standouts here. With just one episode remaining, there is a lot to be resolved. Will Martha claim any more victims? Will Althea escape Austin and reunite with her friends? Will Morgan lead the characters to Virginia in time for the Season 9 Premiere of “The Walking Dead” or are we looking at a roadtrip Season 5 for “Fear”? Knowing this universe, not all is what it seems and the Finale may just shake things up forever.
Be sure to tune into the Season 4 Finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.