Spoiler Warning for Season 4, Episode 12 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 been a complete mixed bag. The first half was mostly about transitioning from the old era to the new, but this half is focused on developing each of the characters. Focusing heavily on June and Althea allows for this to be a step up from the previous episode, although there is a multitude of glaring issues that make for a frustrating hour. That being said, the character interactions, action, direction and performances do make for a worthwhile episode.
This half of the season was initially billed as being focused on a major hurricane striking, yet it has been essentially glossed over aside from Alicia and Charlie’s standalone. This is incredibly disappointing, as is the complete separation of the characters, both of which can likely be attributed to budgetary issues. Moving forward, the season looks to explore the aftermath of the hurricane with this chapter opening on June obsessively watching back Althea’s interview with John, which was recorded back during the season premiere. The SWAT truck has become a shelter of sorts for June and Althea from the hellish and devastated landscape; debris is flung all over the place from the heavy winds. A recurring element of this episode is the use of walkie talkies with June using one to attempt to contact John. She speaks to him over the radio and references his interview as her motivation for pushing forward; in the recording, John speaks about his overwhelming hope that he would find “Laura” again one day. The opening scene has an excellent montage with a series of shots from the back of the SWAT truck showing Al and June going about their daily business while being marooned. A broken transition over the walkie perks June and Al’s ears, linking their story with the other prominent arc of the episode: Morgan and Company. Throughout the episode, these walkies become a device to bring the two groups together with them both attempting to connect, but constantly being cut off.
Following his trip to Mississippi in the last episode, Morgan makes his return back to Texas, along with Sarah, Wendell and Jim. There’s one of many creative walker kills right off the bat as Sarah stops driving and exits the semi truck to dispatch a walker that was struck and became attached to the hood. This spurs some much-needed humor in the form of banter between Sarah and Wendell as they discuss whether or not she deserves a point in their ongoing count for this kill. Morgan exits the truck and takes a moment to attempt to raise his friends on the walkie, but he has no luck. Sarah questions whether or not what Morgan is doing will be successful, but he has to try; “somebody did the same for me once…for as long as he could,” Morgan states, a clear reference to the pact Rick made to radio Morgan and Duane every day at dawn back in the very first episode of “The Walking Dead.” All these years later, and on a whole other show, Morgan is carrying on the legacy of Rick, showing that their bond will stand the test of time. Morgan decides to take a walk and see if he can boost the signal, prompting Sarah and the others to get comfortable at the mile marker and “tailgate.” Morgan’s hilarious new nickname “Momo” comes back into play as Sarah tells him that she will continue to call him that even against his wishes. Mo Collins is really being given some great comedic work to play with here as Sarah, allowing her to mix her background in comedy with the usually bleak and dramatic world of “TWD.”
While wandering and looking for a clear signal, Morgan finds the mysterious and filthy woman with dreadlocks from the previous episode. She is sitting in a ditch going through the supplies in a help box as Morgan notes that she should take anything that she needs. The still unnamed woman states that she doesn’t need help, because she isn’t “weak,” a reference to the episode title. Morgan also warns her that she should be careful due to the fact that things are “tough,” a sentiment that she repeats back to him almost verbatim. This woman is creepy. She’s unsettling. However, what she does when Morgan walks away is downright evil. She takes water that is clearly dirty and possibly even contaminated with walker gunk, and pours it into clean water bottles that have been left in the help boxes for survivors. Morgan doesn’t stick around to get to know this woman like he normally would. He leaves and gets far away, clearly aware that she isn’t mentally stable and could potentially be dangerous. He ultimately makes it to a water tower and climbs to the top, using it’s high position to boost his radio signal and send out a final message to his friends about his location. From Morgan’s point of view, things aren’t looking good for his Texas family. They haven’t been seen by him since the hurricane hit, and he has no real way of locating them. There’s also the fact that he is basically asking Sarah, Wendell and Jim to hold off on reaching a place of safety and shelter simply so he can find people they have no connection to. Thankfully, all hope is not lost and the characters begin to come back together.
A huge focus of this episode is placed on the tricky relationship between June and Al as they struggle to survive together. This is really the first time that they have spent a significant amount of time together, especially just the two of them. There’s some clear tension between the two immediately as June flat out tells Al that they need to abandon the SWAT truck and find another vehicle. Al isn’t doing so hot, seemingly suffering from some sort of bug which she explains away as low blood sugar due to not having food. If they choose to stay at the van, they will die, and June knows this. They venture off down the road and eventually come across a pickup truck with a single walker trapped inside, which June quickly dispatches. It’s worth noting that June has become rather skilled at taking down the infected using her just knife in one clean hit, something that has proven to be quite difficult for many of the survivors in the world. Al ends up driving the truck, which is an odd decision considering she is becoming sicker by the minute. While traveling, the two end up having an excellent discussion that taps into Al’s past; she explains that she has spent so much time telling other people’s stories, before and after the apocalypse, that she ended up not having a story of her own. Althea is a journalist and she has always made that her singular priority, even putting herself and others at risk to get a story; this is a trait that she continues this episode, adding layers to her character and showing a different side to her than we’ve ever seen.
The hurricane (that was barely shown) clearly wrecked havoc and the characters are now living in the aftermath of it. As such, it would make sense that at least one character would come down with some sort of illness that spreads easily after a hurricane or major storm. June points out that Al could be sick with malaria, cholera, or any other number of diseases. In a normal world, illnesses can be treated with proper care and medication, but the characters don’t have that and the most tame sickness could result in death. June realizes that her own medical skills won’t save Al if they don’t get her some antibiotics. In a shocking twist, the SWAT truck races past and Al switches into “Fast and the Furious” mode to hunt down whoever stole it and to get it back. A tire on the pickup truck blows out during the high speed chase, causing the truck to spin out as the SWAT van races away. Al is pumped full of adrenaline and ready to continue the chase, but June pulls her back to reality. The only issue is that there are antibiotics stashed in the van, according to Al. While attempting to repair the blown tire, June tries to keep Al talking and awake. This proves to not be much of a problem as Al gets a sudden burst of energy and begins pleading with June to head out and hunt down the SWAT truck after they hear the rapid machine gun fire, letting them know that the thief seems to have run into trouble nearby. Althea understands why June is hesitant to leave Al behind, given the fact that the same scenario occurred back at the FEMA shelter when June left her daughter behind to find medicine, only to return and find her daughter had died, turned and attacked. History always repeats itself in this world, but the characters usually learn and find new ways forward.
There is always a sense of danger when one heads out on their own. June makes her way down the road to the sound of the gunshots and eventually comes across a bus crash site. The SWAT truck is parked behind it and several dead walkers lay in a pile nearby. In a scene almost perfectly mirroring that of June’s introduction in “Another Day in the Diamond,” a stranger steps into frame and holds a gun to the back of June’s head; in the aforementioned episode, June steps into frame and holds Madison at gunpoint…how the tables have been…rearranged. June begs the man, who is named Quinn (Charles Harrelson), to lower the gun and come back with her. She cites the fact that Madison saved her and gave her a second chance as proof that people can return from their low points. Quinn notes that if he did what she said, he would be the first to die when things go bad and that he could never truly be a member of her group. In a truly badass move, June manages to strike and pull Quinn to the ground, prompting a struggle that almost results in her brain being blow out; she ultimately gets the gun out of his hands by elbowing him in the groin. June nearly reaches that low point for herself again when she screams at Quinn to tell her where the antibiotics are even though he clearly doesn’t have any knowledge of where they are. She’s emotional and stressed, but decides to let him go, proving that Madison had a profound effect on her and is now helping to guide her decisions. While the death of Madison will likely always be the show’s biggest mistake, and her absence is totally being felt, it is comforting to know that she is still playing a role in the story.
Being sick during the zombie apocalypse is probably one of the worst things that could happen. The horror that went down during the first half of “The Walking Dead” Season 4 with the flu outbreak at the Prison is proof of this. Althea is now experiencing something similar, but she is all alone and is forced to fight off a walker while trying to fix the blown tire, all the while June is frantically searching the SWAT truck for the antibiotics. The gnarly burned walker dislodges itself from its own kneecap, proving once again that the crew have no issue coming up with epic and creative walker gags. Taking down the walker proves to be extremely difficult given Al’s weaken state, but she totally deserves the award for Walker Kill of the Week for kicking the pickup truck repeatedly and causing it to drop and crush the undead head. She manages to grab the walkie and radio June, only to reveal that there are no antibiotics and that she was just trying to get the truck back. After almost a whole season of Althea emphasizing just how important the truth is…she tells a huge lie. This shows that her character is not static and has learned that in this world, one must be manipulative and untruthful at times to get what is desired. We as viewers believed Al, because we were conditioned to. This just goes to show that literally NO ONE can be trusted, not even the main characters that we are following.
When June returns, the two have a bit of a falling out as Al takes her magical medication, which seems to cure her instantly. June is angry because she almost slipped back to the person that she once was over a lie, but Al has her reasons. The SWAT truck and the tapes inside are everything to her. All of the interviews aren’t just the stories of strangers, but rather of people she knew. They are the story of herself and of the world. If they are lost, part of herself and the world dies. She notes that the tape of Madison gave Alicia such a sense of closure. For nearly the entire season, Althea has been a stoic and hardened figure, but her exterior is being cracked and her emotions are coming out. She cares about people. Morgan’s transmission from atop the water tower comes in and June and Al are relieved to hear his voice, their first sign that a member of the group is alive. He tells them the mile marker that he’s at and June uses a map to figure out that they’re 50 miles away. She’s ready to head out and meet up with him, but Al isn’t and wants to return to the SWAT van. They decide to split up, and June begins to drive off, but Al fires several shots from her rifle to show that she has had a change of heart. The truck is obviously important to Al, but could she not just take the tapes and any other belongings with her? It’s small writing blunders such as this that keep this episode (and others like it) from reaching its full potential.
At the mile marker, Morgan realizes that time has run out. None of his friends appear to be coming. As Sarah starts the engine and prepares to drive away, Jim offers Morgan a beer in a moment that feels like a cheesy commercial that would air during a football game. Suddenly, there’s a positive shift in the air as Al and June roll up and reunite with Morgan. There’s relief on everyone’s faces, but also sadness as June realizes that John and the others aren’t there. Sarah offers June and Al food and water from one of the help boxes; Al chugs her water, which is a bit concerning after dreadlock lady was shown tainting water bottles. Morgan and Al have a touching heart-to-heart about his plans to return to Alexandria, but it seems as though Al no longer wants to tag along; still, it’s downright cool to hear Althea mention Morgan’s home by name. Meanwhile, June radios in to Quinn, who has commandeered the SWAT truck after finding fuel, to tell him that he should join up with them at mile marker 27, to which he agrees. There’s a dark shift that occurs as Quinn arrives at what appears to be the aforementioned meet spot, only to discover that someone has put tape over mile marker “21” to make it look like “27.” Seconds later, Quinn’s is brutally attacked by a stupidly silent Pervis, who is being guided by the filthy woman. June is confused by the radio silence, and tries to reconnect with him as the woman listens in. She enters the SWAT truck and frees Pervis before writing on Quinn’s head just moments before he reanimates. She has a new pet. She has a new weapon. She’s coming for our characters.
“Weak” is a definite step up from the previous episode, but it does contain some glaring issues. First there’s the fact that several of the character decisions are downright idiotic and not reflective of everything they have been through. There’s also the issue that the season as a whole is lacking any real forward direction, specifically due to the fact that the characters are scattered and there’s only a small amount of time being spent with specific characters. Why are we going weeks without seeing Strand, Luciana and Alicia, the core three characters that the show has been following for years? As for the positives, this episode itself should be praised for its performances, specifically from Jenna Elfman and Maggie Grace, both of whom manage to show a wide range of emotions during an especially exhausting and trying period of their lives. Praise should also be given to Colman Domingo, who makes his television directorial debut here, delivering an episode that feels like an old western film down to the atmosphere and camera shots used. Hopefully, the season can find some direction and begin building toward something that unites the characters. Next week looks to focus on Morgan’s combined group while also touching base with Strand, John and Luciana. Will more of the characters reunite? Who will be the filthy woman’s next victim? With just four episodes left this season, those questions should surely be answered.
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.