Spoiler Warning for Season 5, Episode 7 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
“Everything gets a return.”
Season 5 of “Fear the Walking Dead” started to drag a bit as the characters seemed to be stuck in a plot that was retreading old ground. Thankfully, this episode injects massive stakes and threat, pushing the story in some unexpected directions that will shake things up permanently.
Things are pretty bleak right now. Last episode began rather hopeful, but that’s pretty much upended as Alicia and the others venture into dangerous territory. We see Alicia stand ready to clear out the dead that Annie and her kids group put up as she tries once again to convince them to leave this area behind. She slices and dices walkers, but quickly gets lost in a maze of the dead. She becomes lost when she spots a walker she noticed before, but thankfully Dylan arrives and shows her the way to his camp. Annie is not happy to see Alicia when she shows up at the gate of their camp. She told Alicia to stay away and Alicia did not listen. Speaking of the kids’ camp…it is insanely impressive. It’s not clear if they built it themselves, but the kids live in this unique treehouse overlooking water. The impending nuclear meltdown puts the kids at even greater risk, and Alicia points that out, but Annie still just wants her group to be left alone. Alicia doesn’t want the kids to die, but Annie points out that this is more than just her wanting to help. It’s clear that Alicia is trying to make up for the things she did in the past. She’s hurt people. She’s killed people. Annie is relentlessly stubborn and she refuses to go with Alicia or even let her leave until the walker traps have been put back up.
Meanwhile, Strand and Charlie deal with the aftermath of crashing the giant beer balloon in a field. They radio Morgan to let him know they survived the crash, but a number of walkers quickly enter the area and threaten their safety; some of these walkers are wearing dosimeters and Morgan warns them to stay away. Knowing they’re in grave danger, Morgan rushes to their location to help out. They need to get the propellers out of the area and to the truck stop, so Morgan states that he will find a vehicle first. June and Al prepare to come help, but Morgan states that they have to finish the plane otherwise nothing they do will matter. Grace is updated on the situation as she frantically works to get the generator working at the plant. She directs Morgan to a nearby neighborhood that the plant workers used to live, and tells him to get a vehicle from there. The quick thinking of Strand and Charlie help to buy a little time for Morgan to reach them, using the deflated balloon to rig a closed off area where they hide with the propellers. The walkers scratching and pushing against the balloon wall looks straight out of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Back at the truck stop, there’s a concerning bit of information revealed to Al, Luciana and June as they realize the plane’s fuel tank has been leaking and is now empty. Thankfully, Al knows where to go for aviation fuel because of her excursion in “The End of Everything.” There are so many moving pieces this episode and each storyline ties together because of the shared threats.
Morgan arrives at the neighborhood and the official name of the power plant is revealed to be “Lone Star Power & Light.” He finds a HAZMAT suit which absolutely comes in handy due to the fact that he’s currently in the contaminated area. He manages to stumble into a house that is revealed to be the home of Grace as seen in photos of her from before the apocalypse. It’s interesting to see pieces of her life from before everything fell apart, something that Morgan takes note of. He radios Alicia and receives an update from her about the kids, but she’s clearly feeling down about the situation. She states that Morgan should be there instead of her, but he strongly disagrees because “they’re both exactly where they’re supposed to be.” He hasn’t lost his faith in the mission and still believes that they’re going to be totally successful. At the hot air balloon crash site, Charlie worries that the walkers will get through, but Strand is just a full of optimism. He opens up to her about the fact that he hesitated when clearing the runway for the plane to take off, noting that he likely could have rejoined Al in the cockpit. He didn’t know if he believed in the mission fully, but now he’s fully committed. It’s a great moment of character development for someone who used to be entirely selfish. Suddenly, a truck pulls up and kills the walkers, sending blood across the yellow balloon tarp. Strand and Charlie step out of their makeshift shelter to discover Morgan in his HAZMAT suit, grateful to see their friend once again. There’s no time for happy reunions, because they are in the contaminated zone and are potentially being exposed to radiation just by being there.
June and Althea arrive at the bottom of the mountain that was previously climbed by Al and Isabelle. As seen in their standalone episode, there is a refueling station at the top of the mountain. As Al prepares to climb, John comes over the radio and June warns him that he and Dwight have to get back to the truck stop immediately because of the impending meltdown. John relays this information to Dwight and urges him to come back, but he can’t give up his search for Sherry. After Al successfully retrieves the fuel tanks, we see her take June’s offer to speak confidentially about what happened when she was missing. June swears herself to secrecy and Al tells her that she met someone and felt some very strong feelings toward her. She can never see or talk to Isabelle again, and that is weighing heavily on her. It is here that June explains that leaving John at his cabin made her feel lost, but she held onto the fact that she was able to love someone again in this world after everything she had been through. “Whoever she is, you will see her again,” June positively tells Al, something she truly needed to hear in this moment. Meanwhile, John decides to tell the truth to Dwight and hand over the letter Sherry left for him. As Dwight fondles his and Sherry’s rings, John approaches him and apologizes for withholding the letter. Sherry is alive. Dwight knows that. He points out that impossible things happened to John when he decided to help others, so Dwight decides that it is time to help John’s people. It’s a rather surprising turn of events as Dwight assures himself that he will continue the search for Sherry, even if she doesn’t necessarily want to be found.
Back at the treehouse camp, Annie speaks with Max while setting up the walker traps once again, wondering why Alicia keeps coming back for them. Max seems to want to go with her, but Annie is clearly the leader here. Suddenly, a ton of the walkers break free from their intestinal bounds and chase Annie and Max straight back to the encampment. In the meantime, Alicia snoops through Dylan’s belongings and finds photos of him with his family, along with a book of his drawings that get progressively more disturbing. He catches her and explains that he drew them when the world started to end. He drew the walker traps and Annie made them real so he wouldn’t be as afraid of them. There’s a great moment as Alicia points to her weapon that he’s holding and explains that she sharpened it after her mother died. It kept her safe from walkers, but it also kept people away from her, because she became increasingly dangerous. Their conversation is interrupted by Annie and Max returning and the walkers pounding on the camp’s gate. As the walkers prepare to break through, Alicia learns from the kids that they have no ammo. She tells the kids to find an alternate exit from their camp before leaving to slaughter the intruding walkers. In a badass montage, Alicia kills each and every walker that comes for her. Alicia is thrown to the ground by a gnarly walker that lunges for her. She manages to stab it in the head, but her weapon gets stuck and when she pulls it out, blood splatters all over her face and in her mouth. The sounds of walkers are muffled as Alicia discovers a dosimeter around the dead’s neck. With the kids successfully out of the treehouse, Alicia tells them to go without her.
At the plant, Grace becomes frustrated when discovering that the generator is not strong enough to keep the plant running. She tells Morgan this and states that she will join him at the truck stop once she’s done working. Morgan sees right through what she says and decides to send Strand and Charlie back to the truck stop alone to clean themselves up and help finish the plane. Grace is surprised when Morgan shows up at the plant in his HAZMAT gear, telling her that he won’t let her act like she’s dead yet. After leaving the plant, Grace and Morgan discuss the fact that he was exposed to an unknown amount of radiation. We get an excellent moment in which Morgan actually says Eastman’s name and relays the “all life is precious” lesson that was taught to him. Using what Eastman taught him about redirection, Morgan made Grace concerned for his life by essentially forcing her hand to leave the plant. Strand and Charlie arrive at the truck stop and reunite with Luciana, going to take decontaminating showers before inspecting the work done on the plane. Things take a pretty positive turn as the van full of kids arrive. Annie shares that Alicia was quite convincing in her mission to get them on the plane. In the woods, Alicia manages to get away from a herd of walkers and is able to find water to wash the blood off of her face. She’s overcome with emotion about being potentially exposed, but she doesn’t let Morgan hear it when he radios to check in on her. Morgan explains his realization that helping other people shouldn’t be their only mission here. They have to start living for themselves also. Alicia is in agreement…but she isn’t even sure if she will live to make it back to the plane. She’s forced to keep running as more walkers find her. As Morgan and Grace drive back to the truck stop, they are alerted to the sound of disaster. A siren at the power plant rings out, announcing the beginning of the nuclear meltdown. There’s no going back now. Things are about to become extremely deadly.
The good in “Still Standing”
- Morgan finally speaks about Eastman and actually uses his name. It was disappointing to hear Morgan and Dwight previously refer to their time on “The Walking Dead” by dancing around saying names, so this seems to be changing.
- Alicia being an absolute walker slaying queen is just perfection. She has been racking up her kill count this season and this episode has to solidify her as being one of the deadliest characters to walkers in the franchise.
- Alicia’s emotion after being seemingly exposed is brutally realistic and packs a heavy punch.
- The conversation between Al and June about opening oneself up to love being the key to maintaining humanity in this world is so on point and is great progression for both characters.
- Strand’s admission to Charlie about his hesitation is also excellent development for his character.
- The material between John and Dwight continues to be great, and this revelation about Sherry is a surprisingly hopeful turn.
- Grace deciding to come around and join the group after seeing Morgan risk it all is a rewarding development for her character, as well as Morgan’s.
- The same is true for the kids. Thank god they are finally past the stage of pushing people away.
- The threat of the radiation and the impending meltdown is downright frightening. There’s no way to see it and there’s no way to fight it.
- The musical score this episode really stands out, much like the previous episode.
The iffy in “Still Standing”
- While it does pay off, the relentlessness of Morgan and Alicia to make sure Grace and the kids are on the plane really feels overly forced. That being said, it is great that they are successful in their mission.
The bad in “Still Standing”
- Daniel being missing for this long is disappointing. He was missing for a whole season and finally returned…only to disappear again. Where did he go?
Top performances in “Still Standing”
- Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
- Lennie James as Morgan Jones
- Colman Domingo as Victor Strand
- Jenna Elfman as June
- Cooper Dodson as Dylan
Lingering thoughts and predictions
- Morgan speaking to Grace about Eastman is so surreal. Hopefully, he decides to speak to other characters about his friends in Virginia.
- The same goes for Dwight.
- Alicia potentially being exposed to radiation isn’t necessarily a death sentence as the walker may not have actually been infected. If she was exposed, it’s possible that she will live a long life still, but could ultimately die from the effects of the radiation.
- The same is true for Grace. We don’t know how much she was exposed and how it is affecting her.
- Morgan was also exposed by being at the plant, but there’s just so many unknowns when it comes to radiation.
- This episode and season itself has major “Chernobyl” vibes.
- Strand continues to make up for his past crimes and this episode sees him admit that he isn’t perfect.
- Dwight isn’t giving up on Sherry, but he seems to be shifting focus for the time being. Is it still possible that we will see her later down the line?
- Dylan acknowledging that “The Little Prince” belonged to Charlie is a callback to Season 4 and Luciana trying to pull her away from the Vultures.
- Dylan’s drawings of the walkers are quite reminiscent to those of Sam Anderson. Funnily enough, Cooper Dodson is the young brother of Sam’s actor, Major Dodson.
“Still Standing” gets the show back on track after the previous disappointing episode. It finally feels as though the story is picking up after retreading some old ground. There’s danger and suspense that doesn’t feel forced. With the Mid-Season Finale next episode, are we in danger of losing someone?
Be sure to tune into the Mid-Season Finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” this Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.