Jeffrey Kopp

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Community Editor of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead."

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘People Like Us’

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark and Lennie James as Morgan Jones. (Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

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.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark. (Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

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.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones. (Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

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.

Alexa Nisenson as Charlie, Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie. (Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

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.

Danay Garcia as Luciana, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

“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.

Logic, NF and KYLE Bring the Heat to PNC

Logic performs at PNC Pavilion. (Photo by Pooja Pasupula)

“Peace, love and positivity”

The seventh stop on the Bobby Tarantino vs. Everybody Tour found musicians Logic, NF and KYLE at PNC Pavilion for a diverse and exciting night of music. The aforementioned quote was the central theme of the night as it was clear from the jump that the three musicians wanted the focus to be on bringing people together via the power of music. Logic himself made it a point to discuss how magical it is to have thousands of people, spanning countless races, religions and backgrounds, all in one location, as a family, to celebrate and have a good time together. As the night rolled on, this message is something that could clearly been seen and heard as the audience reveled in the sweltering heat and booming beats.

The concert kicked off right at 7 p.m. with a lively performance from KYLE. This was the best possible way to get things rolling as KYLE is full of life, energy and enthusiasm. He managed to bring the crowd to their feet, bouncing around the stage as he performed several of his songs. KYLE is perhaps best know for his breakout hit song “iSpy” that features rapper Lil Yachty. The entire setlist of this opening act, matched by KYLE’s vibrancy, made for a wholly enjoyable start to the concert. This particular act is absolutely perfect for the summertime, urging people to have fun, let loose and enjoy the company of friends.

NF performs at PNC Pavilion. (Photo by Pooja Pasupula)

There was quite a dramatic shift as the crew members took to the stage to set up for the next act. An electronic screen lit up and a cage was unveiled, revealing rapper NF who performed a medley of his work. Where KYLE brought a light-hearted mix of summertime bops, NF’s songs were far more heavy. Perhaps the highlight of his setlist was the performance of his hit song “Let You Down,” which immediately brought the entire crowd to their feet, prompting every audience member to sing along at the top of their lungs; this was just one of many magical moments of the night. What NF really excels at is his ability to carry the stage in a way where the focus is not on himself, but rather on his music. Donning darkened clothing and a hood at some points, the rapper really put all of his energy into sending his lyrics across the pavilion. The use of the cage as a prop also made for an exciting show as NF climbed atop it multiple times, adding an element of thrill and danger.

With sun set, the air cooling down a bit and the crowd hyped up from KYLE and NF, it was finally time for Logic to take the stage. The audience went wild when he stepped out, with chants of “Logic” and “Bobby” welcoming him to Charlotte. For the next few hours, Logic performed several of his hits, as well as a selection of his work from his earlier days. There was a point half-way through the set where the crowd died down a bit and Logic threatened to leave, but his DJ amped the audience back up and got them far more energetic for the rest of the show. Logic’s overall message was to celebrate and keep the focus on “peace, love and positivity,” something that is especially important in our day and age. Logic’s diverse collection of music was on full display as he rapped through smash hits such as the anthemic “1-800-273-8255,” which had the entire crowd singing along. Other hits brought an electric feeling to the venue, such as “Take it Back” and “Killing Spree.” Logic made the show personal, speaking one-on-one to several audience members in the pit, while also reiterating that everyone at the concert was one massive family.

All in all, the concert was a thrilling night that celebrated the connecting power of music, while also welcoming in summer. Each artist had their own style and brought something different to the show, essentially giving the audience three different concerts for the price of one. The heat may have been a bit of a deterrent to the audience early on, but things definitely livened up as the night went on. If there is one thing to take away from this concert, it is that KYLE, NF and Logic all have huge and passionate fanbases that came out in droves to see their favorites perform. In hearing some of the excited comments after the show wrapped, the crowd was certainly not disappointed.


Photos by Pooja Pasupula.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘No One’s Gone’

MAJOR Spoiler Warning for the Mid-Season Finale (Season 4, Episode 8) of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Being a fan of “Fear the Walking Dead” and “The Walking Dead” is incredibly painful. Every couple of weeks, an episode rolls around that punches viewers in the gut, makes them cry and then urges them to keep watching to see what happens next. In the stunning Mid-Season Finale, “Fear” sees its largest and most devastating death in the entire series run. What happens in this hour will sit with fans and the surviving characters forever. There’s no going back from here.

This episode jumps between three timelines, but for the purposes of recapping, events will be discussed in chronological order.

The narrative of this episode and the season as a whole has been somewhat misleading for the purposes of surprising the audience and allowing the reveals to be especially shocking. “No One’s Gone” begins with Madison in the forest alone, slowly sneaking up to a figure standing beside a campfire. Madison pulls her gun and demands that the stranger hand over the keys to her vehicle, but she falls over a trip wire and ends up firing a shot at a bowl of ramen noodles the stranger is holding. In a dramatic twist, the stranger is revealed to be Althea. Madison holds Althea hostage in the SWAT truck, angry that she isn’t cooperating and also curious when she discovers the collections of interview tapes. Althea notes that she has been zip-tied many times before and manages to free herself, but is knocked unconscious by Madison, who escapes with the tapes. Later, Madison parks her car near a bridge as a storm seems to be brewing in the distance (symbolism and foreshadowing to both the events of later in the episode and also to what seems to be coming later in the season). Madison watches several of the tapes, hearing a few of the stories from survivors that Althea has collected, but she breaks down when she doesn’t find any from Nick and Alicia. Althea eventually catches up to Madison and holds her at gunpoint, shifting the power dynamic and setting the episode’s events into motion. Althea’s interviews are a fascinating storytelling tactic that allows for cohesion and connections between the multiple timelines.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Maggie Grace as Althea. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

There is an excellent scene between Madison and Althea that really allows for both characters to open up and share some backstory that connects to the main story. While being recorded by Althea, Madison explains that she wanted to build a place where her children could survive and still be themselves. She notes that they had been at plenty of strong communities in Los Angeles, Mexico and other places along the way, but that she wanted something permanent. It’s here that she really lets down her hardass persona to express her desire for Nick and Alicia to be able to live in a world where they don’t have to do things like she just did herself in attempting to rob Althea. Madison tells a story about Nick and Alicia finding an injured bird (which they named Amina) and nursing it back to health when they were kids, highlighting the fact that both were such sensitive and caring children. Madison desperately wants her children to maintain that part of themselves and to continue helping others, something that is becoming increasingly more rare and difficult in the apocalypse. Althea also opens up and shares that she works so hard to document the end of the world due to the power of truth; she tells the story of a warlord and those under him that she reported on and explains that the truth has the power to change things in a positive way. Later, Althea gifts Madison a collection of ramen and allows her to leave, hoping that they eventually meet up later so that she can hear more of her story. Madison drives around Texas looking for her family, eventually finding them at a motel. After reuniting with Nick, Alicia, Strand and Luciana, Madison brings them to the Stadium and explains that it will be their new home and that they will build it up into a huge community. The hope and optimism of this scene is a stark contrast to what goes down in the final few moments.

Much of this episode is set immediately following the end of the previous episode when Althea drove the SWAT truck into the center of the abandoned Diamond, only to be surrounded by thousands of scorched Infected. It’s a chaotic situation as Naomi realizes that they won’t be able to get John to the infirmary. Althea does her best to drive the truck forward and closer to the infirmary, but there are too many dead. Charlie steps into Althea’s role as she is put in charge of documenting the events, something that seems pointless in such a dangerous situation; still, Althea makes it clear that people are going to want to know what happened at the Stadium. Morgan and Naomi both volunteer to go to the infirmary to collect medical supplies for John, who pleads for them to stay safe. Althea uses her badass machine gun rig to clear a path for Morgan and Naomi to escape, but the sudden explosion of a grenade complicates matters as Alicia, Strand and Luciana have arrived to finish what they started. From atop the stands, Alicia and the others shoot down at the SWAT truck as Althea returns fire at them. Inside, John’s injury causes him to pass out, worrying Charlie and Althea and prompting Naomi to spew medical tips over the walkie talkie. At the same time, Morgan and Naomi make a fantastic Infected-killing team as they journey through the darkened tunnels to the infirmary. John asks Charlie to turn the camera on him so that he can say a final goodbye to Naomi; this scene is heartbreaking and really showcases once again just how much John loves his runaway girlfriend. There is a TON happening at once, but things only get crazier from here…because that’s just how Mid-Season Finales are.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Jenna Elfman as Naomi – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

There’s a lot to be said about the chaos taking place at the Diamond, but nothing is more badass than what Alicia does. Following a move reminiscent to that of Rosita Espinosa, Luciana launches a grenade at the SWAT truck, causing the driver’s side door to fall off, much to Althea’s surpise. Alicia steps out onto the field, in close proximity to the herd, pulling a gun on Althea and entering the SWAT truck. After gaining the upperhand, Alicia holds her signature weapon at Charlie’s throat while pointing her gun at Althea and ordering her to call Morgan and Naomi back to the truck. Strand and Luciana stand from their sniper positions, ready to take Naomi out right when she steps out onto the field, but John sneakily turns on the radio in the truck, allowing Morgan and Naomi to hear what Alicia is saying. Alicia isn’t stupid and realizes that she has just been played, prompting Althea to even state that she is on the side of Naomi and John. Charlie manages to get away from Alicia, leading to a physical fight with Althea. There is a shot that may be an homage to “The Walking Dead’s” fourth season episode “Dead Weight” in which The Governor held (and killed) his right-hand man Martinez over a pit of walkers. Althea and Alicia wrestle in the truck, knocking over a crate of ramen noodles, connecting this timeline with the one prior to the arrival at the Diamond. Althea tells Alicia that she found the noodles in Oklahoma, but eventually traded them to someone for an interview later down the line; Alicia finds a tape labeled “Amina,” which she watches and becomes overwhelmed by seeing her mother once again.

There are many scenes in “Fear the Walking Dead” that demonstrate incredible acting, but this episode has one of the absolute best. As Morgan and Naomi work to get back to the SWAT truck, Alicia manages to find and confront them. Morgan stands in front of Naomi, protecting her from Alicia’s gun and gaze. Looking dead on the inside, Alicia orders Morgan to get out of the way and states that Naomi’s action led to Madison dying. There is a brilliant back and forth as Morgan tells Alicia that there is a way back for her and that she can move past the dark place she is in right now, referring to the darkness that has overtaken him many times. Morgan mentions that he had a conversation with a close friend (Rick Grimes as seen in “What’s Your Story?“) who predicted that he would end up being with people again one day; this prompted Morgan to run halfway across the country to get away and prove Rick wrong. It is clear that Morgan feels immense guilt for not helping Nick more, and he states that he isn’t going to let Alicia go down the same route. Alicia ultimately stands down and allows Naomi to leave and treat John, embracing in Morgan’s comfort as they return to the truck together. Aside from his interactions with Nick, this is the first time that there feels like a genuine bond between Morgan and the original characters of “Fear.” It has been seen time and time again that Alycia Debnam-Carey is insanely talented, but this scene really shows off her depth and range as a performer. Having two of the strongest actors in the “TWD” franchise in Debnam-Carey and Lennie James face-to-face is a dream come true in every sense.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Alexa Nisenson as Charlie and Maggie Grace as Althea. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The final act of the Mid-Season Finale is some of the heaviest material ever covered in the series. The two groups merge and flee the Stadium together as one in the SWAT truck, still clearly shaken up over what went down. There’s a touching moment between Naomi and John as they rekindle after nearly losing each other once again. Another shocking reveal comes as Naomi shares that her actual name is June and that she gave the group an alias when she first met them; how many names does this woman have?! Althea is still curious about what actually happened to Madison and asks to hear the rest of her story. The squad pulls over and sets up a campfire…and shit gets real. Slow-motion flashbacks to the night of the Diamond’s fall light up the screen as Alicia, Strand and Luciana narrate. Alicia, Nick and Mel were rescued from the surrounded car by Madison, Luciana and Strand, however they were unable to return to the Stadium. Mel escaped with Charlie, while Cole and the other residents tried to flee, only to be eaten/burned alive by the Infected. With things looking dire, Madison lit a flare and led the thousands of Infected into the Diamond as Alicia ferociously tried to stop her, being blocked by Strand, who was burned in the process. Madison managed to trap all of the Infected on the field, but she became trapped herself and decided that her only option was to burn the Diamond down, sacrificing her own life in the process. In a fitting set of final words, Madison tells her children “no one’s gone until they’re gone.” The Stadium ignites in flames as the camera focuses on Madison’s face for the final time. Nick and Alicia scream out in horror and fear as their heroic mother goes out in a blaze of glory. Madison Clark died as she lived: protecting her children.

It has to be noted that the final scene of the episode is especially poignant. Madison’s dying wish was that Nick and Alicia would be able to retain their humanity and stay true to themselves even in the death and destruction-laden world. After all the fighting and bickering of this first half of Season 4, the episode wraps up with Alicia, Strand, Luciana, Morgan, Althea, June, Charlie and John together as one. They still have a lot to work through, but they seem to be on a path toward peace with one another. Strand passes around ramen noodles to everyone, including Charlie, a young child who literally murdered his friend in cold blood just days before. Unfortunately, Nick nor Madison are here to see the newfound peace, but their legacy will live on in those they leave behind, specifically Alicia. The opening scene of Season 4 showed John Dorie alone by a campfire in the middle of the night and now that shot is mirrored, only there are now eight survivors standing together to face whatever the apocalypse throws at them next. The song “Love Love Love” by The Mountain Goats plays, paralleling a scene from “The Walking Dead’s” fourth season episode “Still” in which the song “Up the Wolves” by the same band was played in an iconic scene featuring Daryl and Beth burning down a cabin to symbolize rebirth. This is the rebirth of the characters of “Fear” and we will surely see the series head in a new direction once it returns. “Some things you do for money…and some you do for love,” lyrics that represent the ultimate sacrifice Madison made so that her child could wind up right where she is now.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Danay García as Luciana Galvez, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Alexa Nisenson as Charlie and Maggie Grace as Althea. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The time has come to pay tribute to Madison Clark, the fallen hero of “Fear the Walking Dead.” In all of television, there isn’t any other character quite like Madison. What always stood out about her was the fact that the apocalypse didn’t shape her into a badass warrior. She was already a hardened and strong woman long before the world ended. She came to us as a high school guidance counselor and it was immediately clear that her primary focus would be to keep her family safe as things began to fall apart. Madison had a troubled life, growing up in an abusive household, losing her husband to suicide and later having to worry about Nick as addiction overtook his life. She never seemed to be able to catch a break, but the apocalypse may have come at just the right time as she became linked with her family in a way that made their bond stronger than ever. She was able to see just how strong Alicia and Nick are as individuals and even though they had their troubles throughout the series, they remained a family until the bitter end. Madison isn’t the traditional action hero that one would expect from a series such as this. She is unique in the sense that she is a middle-aged woman who is both a mother and a strong and independent individual. She’s flawed and doesn’t have all of the answers. She makes mistakes and has to deal with the consequences that come from them. She’s the type of character that a show and television as a whole needs. It’s a shame that the showrunners made the decision to do away with her, because she is truly an example of a multi-faceted character with so much potential. While the execution may be have been spot on, this may be a death that the series regrets moving forward. How do we proceed without our lead?

After eight episode of twists, turns and timeline confusion, “Fear the Walking Dead” Season 4A has officially wrapped up. This has been the most starkly different set of episodes, mostly due to the new locations, characters and storytelling structure. The deaths of Madison and Nick absolutely open up a plethora of interesting story arcs to dive into, but they also may be nails in the coffin of the show. As of this episode, Alicia is only surviving character that appeared in the Pilot episode, and her and Strand (plus Daniel, wherever he is) are the only Season 1 characters left standing. That is quite unfortunate, but hopefully these two characters are given the primary focus for the remainder of the series; otherwise, the losses up to this point will feel rather pointless. The directing and cinematography of this episode, particularly in the final act, deserve absolute praise; this chapter serves as proof that Michael Satrazemis is one of the most talented directors in the “TWD” franchise. The performances across the board are absolutely spectacular with Frank Dillane, Colman Domingo, Danay García, Jenna Elfman, Lennie James and Alexa Nisenson delivering some of their best work in the series to date. However, this episode belongs to Kim Dickens and Alycia Debnam-Carey, both of whom should receive Emmy nominations for their work here (they won’t, but I can dream). There is so much genuine raw emotion that comes to life and both Dickens and Debnam-Carey’s performances here are simply too brilliant to fully put into words. Where does the series go from here without Madison at the helm? Will it be able to stay afloat without two of its most important figures? Will this newfound peace last?

“Fear the Walking Dead” will return for the Mid-Season Premiere, kicking off Season 4B on Sunday, August 12 at 9 p.m. on AMC. 

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, 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. 

Kevin Zegers as Mel and Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The timelines are converging as “Fear the Walking Dead” builds up to what should be an explosive Mid-Season Finale. This season has played with time quite a lot, and while it does help to make the plot twists and reveals especially shocking, it is starting to take away from the story a bit. That being said, the developments made in this episode are huge and serve to push the characters to some truly dark places. So what really went down in those hours before the collapse of the Diamond?

This episode jumps between the timelines, but for the purposes of recapping, events will be discussed in chronological order.

In the “BEFORE” timeline, Madison and the residents of the Stadium work hard to plant crops and organize the garden. There’s a genuine sense of hope in the air as everyone works together without the immediate threat of the Vultures hanging in the air. There’s a great moment that highlights how important this community is to the characters as Nick asks Madison why she worked so hard to build what they have now; she states that her desire to be away from the horrors of the world motivates her to keep the Diamond going. This is crucial for her arc this episode, providing an explanation for her actions. Things become rather complicated when Charlie shows up at the gate asking for help. She brings Madison, Naomi, Nick and Alicia to a point in the road nearby where an accident involving an Infected has occurred. Mel and Charlie split from the rest of the Vultures after an argument arose with Ennis; Mel was severely injured in the accident and Naomi explains that he needs to be treated or else he won’t make it. Madison declares that he will be brought back to the Stadium, even as Nick and the others question whether this is the right move. Nick points out that Charlie and the Vultures have lied before and they may be playing them again, but Madison is determined to help Mel. Seeing Charlie with Nick is unsettling after seeing what happens later down the line, but it serves to humanize her a bit more, complicating the situation in the “NOW” timeline.

Frank Dillane as Nick Clark, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Jenna Elfman as Naomi and Rhoda Griffis as Vivian. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Back at the Stadium, Naomi treats Mel who regains consciousness and panics after realizing where he is. Speaking with Madison and Naomi, Mel reveals that his brother Ennis is on a warpath and plans to attack the Diamond with a herd of Infected that the Vultures have been collecting. This is essentially confirmed to Madison when she meets up with Strand and Cole who have been out visiting the locations with the numbered flags; each of these location are now devoid of the Infected and according to the flags that Strand brought back, there are thousands, possibly more, of the Dead that are in the possession of the Vultures. Madison makes it clear that they are not fleeing the community, but rather they will fortify and defend their home. Back at the infirmary, Mel makes an escape attempt by breaking free from his restraints and pulling a knife on Naomi. This doesn’t do much as Naomi takes advantage of Mel’s injury by placing pressure on his cracked ribs to regain control of the situation, quite the badass move. The desperation on Mel’s face, as well as his desire to get Charlie away from the Stadium conveys the gravity of what Ennis is planning. If anyone knows Ennis, it is Mel and Naomi takes note of this, clearly knowing to watch for the signs of collapse after witnessing the downfall of her old community.

A major plot point of this episode is Madison’s decision to remain at the Stadium even as a massive attack is imminent. There is a powerful bit of symbolism as Madison tears down the dugout room she built for Charlie (now occupied by Naomi) to use the wood to reinforce the walls; the life Madison built for her people is slowly crumbling before her eyes. Naomi confronts Madison about the decision to stay and urges her to evacuate to save everyone’s lives. Madison refuses, stating that her kids are finally safe and that she worked way too hard to build the community just for it all to be thrown away. Without directly mentioning it, Naomi refers to the destruction of the FEMA shelter as proof that a strong community can fall and those that stay behind will die. This conversation sparks something in Madison and she collects Mel and forces him out of the Stadium, much to the dismay of Strand, Alicia and Nick; Strand specifically mentions the fact that Madison gave him another chance and uses this as reason to let Mel stay. Part of this decision on Madison’s part seems to come from her desire to protect Charlie, but also to do away with the negative energy Mel has brought to the Diamond, especially in regards to him sparking a panic with the plans of Ennis. Later, Nick checks in with Madison and expresses his disappointment in her decision, citing the group’s need to be better. In an emotional beat, Nick also states that he feels safe with Madison and points out that they also find each other when separated; unfortunately, there are no more reunions to be had between these two.

Danay García as Luciana Galvez, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Sebastian Sozzi as Cole. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Charlie has been brought back into the community, not to be lambasted and yelled at, but in an attempt to get her as far away as possible from the Vultures. Nick and the others let her know that Mel has been forced to leave, causing her to worry that he won’t make it on his own. They contact him via radio and Charlie is able to speak to him, but he sounds weak and hoarse. Charlie pleads for them to help him and Nick and Alicia both realize that he needs to be retrieved before he dies. They ask Strand to open the gate and he complies, noting that they are making the right call. While driving away from the Stadium, Alicia wonders if they should be doing this, but Nick explains that everything will work out in the end. They eventually locate Mel’s vehicle pulled over on the side of the road (how exactly they managed to find him isn’t explained) and find him unconscious at the wheel. The sound of trucks nearby prompts Nick to turn off the car’s headlights as a caravan, led by Ennis, drives by. Alicia warns Strand that the Vultures are headed straight for the Diamond, deciding to drive a different way back to return quicker. From a lookout point, Strand and Cole bring Madison up to speed as the army arrives. Things are extremely eerie as a single truck drives parallel to the main gate, spilling oil onto the pavement in the process. Nick and Alicia arrive in the parking lot and watch as the scene unfolds, frozen in place as the rest of the caravan arrives and lines up. This is it. The mysterious event that caused the downfall of the Diamond is about to play out…and it is chilling to watch it all come together.

The entire sequence of events is eerily reminiscent to what happens in “The Walking Dead’s” Season 5 Finale when Daryl and Aaron stumble into a trap set by the Wolves and find themselves surrounded by walkers, only to be saved by Morgan. A similar situation occurs here as the car contained Nick, Alicia and Mel is surrounded by the Infected that are released from the Vulture trucks. Hundreds upon hundreds of Infected overtake the parking lot as the oil line is set ablaze, drawing the herd to the main gate of the Diamond. Madison arms herself and locates a vehicle, desperate to go out and save her children; both Strand and Luciana volunteer to assist her as Alicia radios into Madison to solemnly explain why she and Nick needed to go out and collect Mel. It is unsettling to hear Alicia speak to Madison in this scene as she knows that it wasn’t the best move strategically, yet it was something they needed to do to preserve their own humanity. Shots of the Stadium are shown as the fire ignites outside…this is the end of the community that Madison and the others worked so hard to built and protect. This is the night that it all falls apart and people are about to die.

Danay García as Luciana Galvez and Alexa Nisenson as Charlie. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

There’s a lot going on in both timelines, but in the “NOW” arc, there is absolute carnage. Last episode ended with Alicia taking a shot at Naomi, but instead hitting John, prompting a massive gunfight between the two camps. A brief montage of the events of “Laura” are mixed in with a scene showing John lying on the ground as a stunned Naomi tries to save his life. Morgan rushes over and assists as Naomi runs off to find medical supplies. Meanwhile, Mel drives off in an ambulance that is blown up with a grenade by Alicia (this badass moment is similar to Daryl’s big RPG explosion in “No Way Out“). Alicia has Naomi in her sights, screaming at her for betraying the very people that saved her life and took her in; a struggle erupts and Naomi is able to get away from Alicia, making her way back to John’s side. Elsewhere, Strand and Luciana get a few kills in before the tone takes a drastic shift as Luciana finds Charlie and holds her at gunpoint. This franchise loves to tackle moral quandaries and what darker situation is there than the prospect of gunning down a child? Luciana is forced to shift her attention when another Vulture closes in on her, allowing Charlie to slip away. “Fear the Walking Dead” hasn’t had all that many massive battle pieces, but this one really stands out as each character is utilized and gets to play a crucial role.

In all of the chaos taking place on the battlefield, Althea takes a neutral approach, filming from a hidden vantage point. Morgan confronts her and urges her to assist in getting John away from the scene to be treated. Althea is hesitant, but ultimately complies after Morgan states that a good man will die without their help. While it may seem odd that Althea isn’t fighting, it makes perfect sense considering she is a journalist who is hellbent on documenting the end of the world; it hasn’t been stated, but it seems as though she may have been a war journalist, giving her experience in this type of scenario. Alicia once again has Naomi at gunpoint, but Althea arrives in the SWAT truck and pulls the machine gun lever, forcing Alicia to stand down. As John is loaded into the truck, Morgan stops for a moment after noticing Charlie nearby and pleads for her to come with him, stating that Alicia and the others will kill her if she stays behind. Althea drives away from the racetrack as Alicia, Strand and Luciana shoot at the SWAT truck in a last ditch effort to take down every last person that wronged them. Althea questions Naomi about that fact that she is alive and wonders what she did to make Alicia and the others so angry, but Charlie posits that it was her own fault that everything is so shitty. Naomi tells Althea to set the course for the Diamond, which Strand quickly figures out is the destination they are headed to. In a final fatal blow, a badly burned Mel crawls away from the ambulance and pleads for help, but Alicia refuses and plunges her weapon into his head. Just like that the Vultures are gone…and Alicia’s humanity might just have been taken with them.

Maggie Grace as Althea and Lennie James as Morgan Jones. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The episode wraps up as Althea and the others arrive at the Stadium, which looks like a shell of its former self. Aside from the “NOW” coloring that points to destruction, it is clear that there is no life left in the once vibrant community. Naomi explains that the infirmary should still be intact considering Ennis and the rest of the Vultures were to afraid to enter the community once it fell. Morgan tells Althea that he has finally figured out who she is, but she contests this and states that she is a “layered chick.” Rather than taking things slow and scouting to see if the Stadium is safe, Althea speeds through a gate right onto the field of the Stadium. Smoke begins to clear, revealing hundreds of scorched Infected stumbling around and surrounding the truck. A terrible situation has just become even worse as the likelihood of getting John to the infirmary has just decreased. It still hasn’t been fully revealed, but it seems as though the Infected breached the main gate and set parts of the Diamond ablaze. What exactly happened to the many residents is still unknown, but it is likely that all will be revealed in the Mid-Season Finale. Did Cole and Madison get torn apart in all of the chaos or are they hiding out somewhere? Is anyone left alive? Will Althea be able to get the group out of this situation?

This episode really places a heavy focus on the events leading up to the collapse of the Diamond. There is a lot of build up to what should be a wild Mid-Season Finale, assuming the full events of the fateful night are shown. The split timelines can get rather irritating at times, especially when certain characters’ fates are teased; Madison’s ultimate fate is still a complete mystery and very few clues have been dropped about her in the present timeline all season. This episode does an excellent job at establishing the stakes and showing the many sides of the Vultures, specifically in that Mel isn’t a wholly terrible person and that he was just looking out for himself and Charlie. The developments made for Madison, Nick and Alicia really serve as markers of their growth since the start of the season. Alycia Debnam-Carey delivers yet another strong performance as the fractured Alicia in the “NOW” timeline, clearly showing the mental strain that the apocalypse has placed on her. There is a lot happening in both timelines, and hopefully the Mid-Season Finale serves to wrap up certain storylines and merge the arcs to push the story into some interesting places for the second half of the season.

Be sure to tune into the Mid-Season Finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. 

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Just in Case’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 6 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Just when you think you have “Fear the Walking Dead” figured out, it throws another plot twist at you…well several, actually. The latest episode is a bit jumbled when it comes to the narrative, spending an unbalanced among of time with each story arc in both timelines. Still, there is a significant amount of backstory and character development that really props this episode up. The battle against the Vultures is just ramping up and it looks as though deadly consequences are on the horizon.

This episode makes a point to play with the timeline in the same way that “Another Day in the Diamond” did, utilizing the “BEFORE” and “NOW” cards. As the season progresses, the two stories are getting closer and closer to each other and the downfall of the Diamond nears.

BEFORE

At the Diamond, Naomi treats a wound Alicia sustained from a supply run, showcasing that the two have established a working infirmary in the community. Madison arrives and lets them know that they will need to scout for more food, noting that their current rations are being stretched thin. The wound that Alicia has shows just how far the survivors are going to assure that they have a least a small amount of food for the community. A huge aspect of this episode deals with Strand and the guilt he feels as he works on becoming a better person. Luciana questions where he found the truck filled with supplies, and Strand tells an elaborate tale to cover his ass. He checks in with Cole later and it seems as though their relationship is at a bit of a standstill as Cole states that he didn’t rat Strand out because of the possible repercussions he would face; is Cole afraid that Strand would enact physical harm on him? This episode touches base on one of the best dynamics in the series as Madison and Strand have a much-need talk over a bottle of liquor. Strand asks Madison why she saved his life even after he betrayed her and the rest of the Dam community in Season 3. Madison explains that she knows exactly who Victor is and that even though he may make bad choices, he is still a good person. This friendship has been through a lot since the two first met and it rewarding to see them discuss their shared history and love for one another.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Frank Dillane as Nick Clark. (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

A central focus of this episode is on Naomi as even more of her backstory is revealed following the excellent standalone “Laura” that opened her character up exponentially. It’s already been established that Naomi doesn’t like to stay in one place for too long, but this episode shows that she is not only running away from something, but that she is also running to something. She tries to flee the Diamond, but is stopped by one of the residents with a gun as Madison and the others arrive to see what the fuss is all about. Naomi covers herself by stating that she was heading to a location with supplies and seeds to grow crops at the Stadium. Alicia volunteers to come along, but Madison states that she and Strand will go with Naomi while everyone else stays behind to defend against the Vultures. The trio head out together, but stop at a motel for the night so as to not travel in the dark. There are a few roaming Infected in the motel and Madison finds a few cans of food, leading her to realize that a conflict erupted over these basic supplies that ended with people dead; this highlights just how dire the state of the world is while simultaneously showing just how far people will go to keep themselves alive for an additional day or two.

Strand finds a collection of food, mostly consisting of vending machine snacks, that the trio decide to feast upon while talking about their pasts; shouldn’t they have saved the food considering the famine happening back at the Diamond? Anyway, Naomi questions where Strand and Madison came from, prompting them to share that they originated in Los Angeles and later ended up in Mexico before traversing to Texas; there’s a brief mention of their journey across the country when Madison and Strand reminisce about a bar they visited in Roswell, New Mexico. Naomi is hesitant to talk about her past, but reveals that she is taking them to a FEMA shelter that has since been overrun. Going to the shelter with Strand and Madison wasn’t Naomi’s original plan and she explains that she actually was going to leave the Stadium behind when she was caught. Strand really doesn’t want to trust Naomi, noticing her flakiness and cowardice. Madison pulls Strand back and states that Naomi is free to leave if she wishes and that no one would blame her for it. When morning comes, Madison finds that Naomi has left the motel and taken off on her own. This is her what…fourth time fleeing? This woman is a runner.

Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

It’s been apparent since she was first introduced that something is haunting Naomi and that unravels further as she arrives at the FEMA shelter alone. The shelter is filled with Infected, something that really seems to weigh heavily on Naomi. Meanwhile, Madison and Strand try to chart a course to the shelter, realizing they need the supplies regardless of if Naomi is going to help them or not. This is where Strand really opens up and lets Madison know the truth about his bug-out car that he brought to the Diamond. Madison seems a bit taken aback by this, but doesn’t lash out in anger like she did after his betrayal at the Dam. At the shelter, Naomi enters and locates a notebook that appears to contain instructions along with a set of keys. She sneaks around the Infected, but comes across an area of the shelter with children’s drawings on the wall, prompting her to freeze in her place and drop to the ground in a fit of tears. The Infected are drawn by noises she makes and Naomi finds herself on the run from a small horde that chases her through a maze of corridors and cots. It’s important to note that Naomi is unable to kill any of the Infected; she tries, but just can’t bring herself to do so as she tears up at the mere thought of putting any of them down. Before she is completely surrounded, she climbs up to the top of a platform and collapses in sadness, staring down at what is later revealed to be her former co-survivors. Rule number one in the zombie apocalypse: don’t get yourself trapped.

Everything seems quite hopeless for Naomi…and it even looks as though this might be where she actually dies. That simply isn’t the case as Madison and Strand arrive and rescue Naomi from the platform; Naomi initially rejects their help, tossing the keys to them and stating that she is supposed to be here. Strand really jumps into action as he uses rope to create an escape route for Naomi to pull herself across the Infected; this is incredibly similar to the tactic Spencer Monroe used in “The Walking Dead’s” Season 6 episode “Heads Up,” which is an adaptation of a similar moment in the comic series. Madison kills several Infected while Strand helps Naomi off the rope, proving once again that teamwork makes the dream work, especially in the apocalypse. After getting away from the Infected, Naomi finally opens up about what happened to her prior to joining the group and why she has such a somber connection to this location. Naomi reveals that she had a daughter named Rose and that they lived at the FEMA shelter with several other survivors, including a woman that taught classes on survival skills to prepare for the worst (similar to Carol at the Prison in “TWD”). At some point, Rose got extremely sick and Naomi left to find medicine to treat her, hiding her daughter in a closet to prevent the others from finding out and exiling her. Rose apparently died, turned and attacked the survivors, leading to the entire shelter’s downfall. Naomi places all of the blame of what happened squarely on herself and you can feel the pain as Jenna Elfman delivers a wholly emotional performance.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Outside of the shelter is a parked car that Naomi explains was packed by the woman who taught survival classes. She called it the “just in case” truck, which could be used to keep the survivors alive should their shelter fall. There’s a lovely moment as Strand points to a plant growing out of a bag of soil, noting to Naomi that things can always get better and that no one is beyond redemption. The trio arrive back at the Diamond as Nick, Alicia and Luciana step outside to speak with Mel. They basically rub it in the Vultures’ face that they are beating the odds and finding supplies outside of the fifty-mile radius that has been searched. The tables turn a bit as Mel sees that they are basically wasting their time with the Stadium and should just move onto another location that could have more attainable supplies. Mel does impart a chilling warning on Madison before leaving in that bad things always happen and that the community still likely won’t be safe. The mood is more upbeat that in recent weeks as Nick explains that the supplies brought back from the FEMA shelter will allow the community to start over and yield enough food for everyone. Later, Madison speaks with Alicia and hands over keys to a vehicle with the instructions to stash it with supplies “just in case” something goes wrong. Madison is using Strand’s method of putting herself and her family first…and can you blame her? She may be the leader of a community, but the apocalypse basically forces you to look out for yourself in the end.

NOW

Following their split from Althea and the others, Morgan and John have been traveling in search of clues that will lead them back to the others. They come across a Vulture named Edgar (Jason Liebrecht), who has been looting a gas station of basically everything, including light bulbs and others random objects. John demands answers from Edgar, yelling at him while holding a pistol to him. The effect of hearing about Naomi is clearly turning him dark, so much so that he even shoots one of Edgar’s fingers off when the Vulture tries to go for his gun. John finds one of the maps that the Vultures carry and questions where they will be meeting next. He also angrily orders Edgar to explain what happened to Naomi at the Stadium, but the Vulture plays coy and states that he wasn’t with the scavenging group at that point. Morgan urges John to ease up a bit before stepping in and telling Edgar to leave and warn his group against going to their meet point. John seems to be uneasy about how the altercation went, showing his discomfort toward his own darker side. On the road, Alicia questions Althea about the rigged machine guns in the SWAT truck. Althea isn’t keen on answering questions, stating that she is the one who asks the questions. She also makes it clear that she will act as a neutral party in whatever happens in the conflict with the Vultures. This is an extremely interesting role for her to play, specifically considering the role that journalists typically play in the real world. There’s also an underlying sense of secrecy still hidden behind Althea’s character. What is she keeping to herself?

Jason Liebrecht as Edgar and Kevin Zegers as Mel. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The final act of the episode takes place at the Vultures’ meet point as Strand, Alicia and Luciana stage an ambush. Morgan and John arrive instead, leaving the trio confused and angry as Morgan lets them know that he warned the Vultures from coming, noting that they can find another way to move forward without fighting; he even references Nick and states that he should have done more to convince him not to use violence. To the relief of Strand and the others, a caravan of Vultures rolls up the to scene…but they have come armed and ready for a fight, thanks to Morgan’s warning. Mel explains that he is sorry for the killing of Nick, but Alicia retorts by stating that she feels no sorrow over the death of Ennis. The Vultures seem to be far more violent than they were in the “BEFORE” timeline, hinting that a lot has happened between the two time periods. In a drastic turn of events, a Land Rover arrives and a woman steps out, fully outfitted in Vulture-esque garb. To the surprise of everyone, the woman is revealed to be Naomi, alive and aligned with the Vultures. John is most stunned and he walks over to her, but Alicia angrily turns her gun on Naomi and fires a shot. John steps in the way and takes a bullet to the abdomen and collapses to the ground as Naomi and Morgan rush to his aid. “Fear the Walking Dead” is noteworthy for its deadly reunions…and this might just be added to the list. Will John really be the next victim of Season 4? What did Naomi do to make Alicia so angry? WHERE IS MADISON?

“Just in Case” isn’t a perfect episode and does suffer from some issues in regards to the editing and overall scattering of storylines. That being said, there is a ton of strong material here that adds to the mystery element of the season while providing plenty of answers as the climax seems to be near. Naomi’s backstory is devastating and the parallels to other characters in the “TWD” Universe that also lost children help to make viewers sympathize with her; there’s also excellent parallels between her and Strand as both have their own redemption paths. Jenna Elfman delivers yet another incredible performance showing the full ranger of emotions that one would expect a grieving and guilt-filled mother would feel. The setting of the FEMA shelter also deserves praise, adding a layer of realism to the story by showing an example of the government’s attempts to keep things going as the apocalypse struck; FEMA shelters have been seen before in “The Walking Dead” at the high school near Hershel’s Farm and in Downtown Atlanta, both of which were overrun. The mysteries keep piling up and the list of questions continues to grow, but it definitely seems as though the Mid-Season Finale will be very revealing. Is the conflict with the Vultures nearing its end? Who will come out on top?

“Fear the Walking Dead” will take a short hiatus for Memorial Day and will return with the penultimate episode of Season 4A on Sunday, June 3 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Laura’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 5 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Jenna Elfman as Naomi and Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Love is in the air. Loss is in the air.

The latest episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” takes things to a new level as the focus shifts to two of the most interesting characters. In a standalone backstory, the series tells the tale of John Dorie and Naomi/Laura as they fall in love and separate. This backstory is damn near perfect, feeling almost like a singular romantic comedy film rather than an episode of “Fear.” Without any doubt, this is the strongest episode of Season 4, and is one of the most engrossing episodes in the entire “TWD” franchise.

Over the course of the season so far, small tidbits of information about John’s past have been dropped, but this episode really dives deep into his character. Think of this episode as “Fear the Walking Dead’s” version of “Here’s Not Here.” At some point in the past (an exact timeline is not given), John resides alone in a cabin next to a river. He wakes up each day to music from a wriggling fish radio and begins his day of chores and relaxation. There’s a sense of calm, but also loneliness as John kills beached Infected, collects water, scavenges for food and plays Scrabble; while going about his chores, John murmurs words that he later plays in Scrabble, something that was first hinted in the Season Premiere. It’s important to note that John’s cabin is extremely isolated and rigged to withstand the apocalypse; there is a moat out front to prevent the undead from getting close to the cabin, a smart tactic that assists in his survival. In the middle of the night, he hears what he believes to be another Infected washing up, but he is stunned to find an unconscious woman, revealed to the audience to be Naomi. Not only is this episode the story of where John was before he met up with Morgan and Althea, but it is also serves to peel back the layers of Naomi and show her character prior to arriving at the Diamond.

When John finds Naomi, she is badly banged up and has a nasty cut on her side. He treats her wound and lets her sleep through the night before trying to talk to her. Only when he checks on her in the morning, Naomi is trying to flee in his truck. It’s clear that John isn’t going to make her stay if she doesn’t want to, but the battery is dead and she isn’t able to go anywhere. This is yet another case of Naomi being skittish, mirroring the times she tried to flee from both Madison and Alicia in previous episodes. They both return inside the cabin and Naomi asks that John stitch up her wound. Later, he makes fish soup for her and they properly introduce themselves to each other; however, Naomi never states her actual name and instead goes by “Laura,” which John names her after noticing that she isn’t quite ready to open up to him. Throughout the episode, Naomi repeatedly tells John that she will be leaving after she heals up, not wanting to stay at the cabin for too long; this parallels Morgan’s insistence that he will only be traveling with John and Althea temporarily, even though he keeps getting pulled into drama and staying with them.

Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie and Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

A major element of this episode revolves around the pair of matching pistols that were split between John and Naomi. In the middle of the night, Naomi watches as John cleans the pistols, playing into his explanation that he rarely sleeps anymore. When morning comes, John dispatches a few Infected that wash up, something that Naomi questions; John explains that something is happening upstream that seems to be drawing them into the river. She offers to tag along as he heads upstream to check it out and also head to a local store that he frequents. The two load into a canoe and begin paddling up the river, allowing for some bonding as John reveals to Naomi that he was once a police officer. They approach an overpass where a car seems to have driven off and crashed into the water; John questions if this is how she ended up in the water, which turns into a quip about Naomi’s driving skills. An Infected falls from the opened gap on the bridge, giving an explanation to why they keep washing up outside of the cabin downstream. Later, the two pay a visit to a general store to collect supplies. Naomi reorganizes the medical supplies in the store so that any survivor will have an easier time finding what they need, especially if they’re in a hurry. John rents a movie, even signing it out as if he were living in the pre-apocalypse. There’s a sense of normalcy and peace that these scenes showcase while simultaneously bringing the characters of John and Naomi closer together, letting one another (and the viewers) see the good in the other.

John and Naomi demonstrate their strength as a team by partially repairing the gap on the bridge with some metal they find at the general store. Later, after returning to the cabin, they get even closer as they sit together on the couch and watch a movie; John had previously mentioned his love for movies, and this episode reiterates that fact. There’s an absolutely heartbreaking moment as John wakes up on the couch to find Naomi staring at him before quietly saying the words “I lost my child.” This single line reveals so much about Naomi and provides insight into why she is rather closed off in the two timelines she’s been shown in. John’s reaction to this is rather simple, but shows that he feels her pain, but doesn’t rub his pity in her face. Numerous characters in both shows have lost children and it always serves as a element that develops them and in many cases, makes them stronger, but also more broken than ever before. This episode shows that there is a path forward for those that lose a child with Naomi gaining necessary survival skills, including fishing. John teaches her the art of fishing, allowing them to feast on their fresh catches. A montage shows their growing bond over an indeterminate amount of time with them going about daily activities, such as fishing and playing Scrabble, together rather than alone. These scenes are further parallels to “Here’s Not Here,” wherein Eastman taught Morgan aikido and several other noteworthy skills.

Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

There’s more exploration of Naomi’s backstory as she is clearly having a difficult time letting herself feel a connection to John. After she is fully healed up, she lets John know that she will be leaving soon and his mood drastically changes, clearly saddened to realize their time together is ending. Outside, more of the Infected have washed up, leading the two to realize their repair job didn’t solve the problem fully. They return to the bridge and John discovers that Naomi has brought one of his pistols along with them to assist in taking down the Infected. This angers John, who states that he never wanted the pistols to leave his cabin, citing his disdain for guns and his belief that they only cause more problems. The duo use a handful of melee weapons to clear the bridge of Infected before driving a vehicle to close the gap of the bridge. An Infected with a machete through its body approaches the vehicle and cuts through the window as Naomi yells for John to shoot it, but he refuses and is nearly bitten before finally bloodily bashing its head in. This opens up a whole can of worms when it comes to John’s history and he is later encouraged by Naomi to share why exactly he doesn’t like to use guns. Before the apocalypse, John stopped a robbery at a gas station by firing his gun at the robber, who later bled out and died. This turned him into a hero in the eyes of the town even though he felt immense guilt and relocated to the cabin to get away from it all. There’s clearly a ton of pain and sorrow that John feels for his role in killing someone, leaving him less than willing to get his hands bloody in the apocalypse.

Things take a turn for the worse as the sound of the undead in the partially submerged crashed car draw a small herd to the gap on the bridge, allowing them to move the parked vehicle and tumble into the river. Naomi and John are stunned to find a large collection of the Infected washed up on their shore. They fight off as many as they can, but there is simply too many and Naomi falls into the moat. Just as it looks like she is going to be devoured, John steps in and takes all of the Infected out by double shooting his pistols with killer accuracy. This attack sequence is stylistically similar to old-school horror/zombie movies and is likely an homage to George Romero’s films. Later, John offers one of his pistols to Naomi and tells her that she needs to take it with her for both of their sake. After settling in for the night, Naomi tries to sit beside John to watch a movie, but he steps away, still bothered by her impending departure. He understands her need to be alone and offers to leave and allow her to live at the cabin by herself. It is here that John professes his love to Naomi, something that he notes that he didn’t want to do, but was compelled by her decision to leave and his need for her to survive. She responds to his proclamation with a kiss that seems to lead to sex. However, John wakes up in the morning to find himself alone in the cabin with Naomi nowhere to be found. On the table is a note laid out in Scrabble letters stating “I love you too. I’m sorry.” Once again, Naomi is running away (or possibly to something) and John is left alone in the world…that is until he finds his new friends later down the line.

Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie and Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The final few moments of the episode catch up with John and Morgan as it is revealed that John was telling the tale of him and Naomi. The two men are at a bit of a crossroads now, having split from Alicia, Strand, Luciana and Althea, and Morgan asks John if he believes that their revenge quest against the Vultures is the right move. Morgan clearly believes that it is the wrong move having just spent a full season fighting All Out War on “The Walking Dead,” which really messed with his head. He repeats the line that Rick said to him in the Season 4 Premiere about being part of the world, showing that he has grown immensely since leaving Virginia and meeting up with John and the others. Rick told Morgan that he would end up with people one way or another…and he was totally right. Both series like to remind viewers that regardless of if a character wants to alone, people always find a way into that individual’s life. There are a lot of similarities between John and Morgan, and it will be interesting to see if they further their already strong bond. Both Lennie James and Garret Dillahunt have great chemistry with one another and have developed this dynamic that is fascinating to watch.

“Laura” is a slow burn episode that takes time to dive deep into the characters of John and Naomi. This episode is precisely what “Fear the Walking Dead” and the “TWD” franchise as a whole is all about; human beings living their lives in the apocalypse, loving and losing people in the process. Director Michael Satrazemis deserves a ton of praise, along with the cinematographer and writers. Both Garret Dillahunt and Jenna Elfman deliver spectacular performances and pack all of the emotional punches that make this episode so effective. A ton of questions still remain, but this episode is an excellent addition to the “Fear” canon and is definitely one of the strongest chapters to date. It’s always great when the focus is shifted to one or two characters, allowing for immense development and growth. Where are Morgan and John headed now? Is Naomi actually dead? WHERE IS MADISON?

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Buried’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Jenna Elfman as Naomi and Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The apocalypse is complicated…really complicated. The latest episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” plays with time to tell the story prior to the fall of the Dell Diamond Stadium. Moral questions are raised and the history of the series is referred back to as the characters mark the course for their future. The multiple timelines make the story a bit confusing, but also adds layers and allows for the plot twists to pack some serious punch. How did our survivors end up so down and dirty, and WHERE IS MADISON?

This isn’t an easy episode to recap due to the constant flashing between timelines, so bear with me this week. In the “NOW” timeline, the combined groups travel together in the SWAT truck. Strand, Alicia and Luciana sit on one side while Althea sits on the other with Nick’s corpse laying in the middle; each person looks like they have been hit by a truck, clearly struggling with the loss of Nick. Footage taken by Althea earlier in the day shows Luciana putting a knife in Nick’s head to prevent him from reanimating as Alicia dispatches turned-Ennis. Strand decides that now is the time for him and his family to open up and tell Althea the story of how they ended up here. Luciana states that a single day changed their course and ruined everything for them; this plays into the common theme that decisions in this world carry a lot of weight to them and that every action can drastically change the future. This episode plays out as Strand, Alicia and Luciana explain their decisions on this particular day, all of which contributed to the death of Nick. Just a side note, the updated title card for Season 4 changes each episode and showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss have confirmed that by the end of the season, a full story will be told through these cards; this episode features a shot of the desert glitching out, a nod to Althea’s camera.

In the “BEFORE” timeline, Luciana observes the Vulture camp as it continues to grow; she notes that “a couple of weeks” had passed since their initial arrival at the Diamond. At the dining hall, the effects of the food shortage are already beginning to set in as the survivors have turned to blending cattle feed into their pancakes to make it last longer. Still, there is optimism in the air as Strand cracks jokes and Alicia notes that things can always get better, seemingly trying to make Naomi feel more comfortable. Madison arrives with plans to send out supply runners to search locations that might not have been looted yet. This is incredibly wise as plenty of unusual places can sometimes hold the best supplies; Glenn Rhee’s line in “The Walking Dead” of “there’s nothing left in this world that isn’t hidden” is the perfect explanation of this. As the characters find themselves deeper and deeper in the apocalypse, scavenging becomes trickier as the most obvious places such as grocery stores, pharmacies and ordinary homes have been long picked clean. This episode places a heavy focus on three separate teams as they head out in search of whatever they can find, learning more about their run partner and also themselves.

Sebastian Sozzi as Cole, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

The first team up is Strand and Cole, who head to a greenhouse in search of any plants or seeds that they can bring back to the Diamond. Cole once again tries to connect with Strand, revealing that he once attended Texas A&M University and “smoked” quite a few plants. Strand isn’t one to reveal much in the way of personal information and Cole questions if this is because he is afraid of him. Viewers have been following Strand’s journey for years now and know exactly what type of person he is, whereas Cole is still getting to know him. The apprehension Strand shows could be related back to the death of Thomas Abigail in Season 2, which left Strand heartbroken and hesitant to get close to others. A small cluster of Infected covered in strange prickles attack Cole and Strand, leading to a tense fight sequence that ends in Strand rescuing his potential love interest. It’s important to note that some of these prickles penetrate Cole’s skin; is it possible that he will turn from this, much like the “infected” weapons that Negan and the Saviors introduced in Season 8 of “The Walking Dead?” While traveling back, Cole holds onto his shoulder where the prickles entered his body, possibly foreshadowing his demise. However, this element in the shared universe doesn’t exactly have the best track record as far as continuity is concerned, so this could honestly be nothing at all.

While driving back with a small collection of plants, Strand tells Cole the real reason they haven’t been on runs together. The attraction between the two is palpable, but Strand concedes that he is hesitant to get closer to Cole because of the dark things he did in his past. The betrayal at the Gonzalez Dam is one of Strand’s greatest regrets and Strand reveals a small piece of the Dam’s rubble to Cole, explaining that it serves as a reminder for him to never return to that version of himself. Strand brings Cole to an abandoned car lot and proves that while he may have changed, Victor Strand is still Victor Strand. He had prepared a bug-out vehicle with supplies for himself in the event that the Diamond falls. Cole is shocked and disgusted by this revelation and calls Strand out for even thinking about abandoning the rest of the group. Strand makes it perfectly clear that this is just the type of person that he is and that self-preservation is his primary objective. Even though he may care about Madison and the others, Strand will always put himself first.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Frank Dillane as Nick Clark, Danay Garcia as Luciana. (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Nick and Luciana team up to check out a local library, not to search for food…but rather to search for books. Luciana questions Nick’s priorities and wonders why books are needed to which Nick explains that people need a reason to stay at the Diamond other than their primal human needs. Luciana is able to deduce that Nick brought them to the library because of Charlie, who Nick wants to get back on their side. Luciana notes the parallels between herself and Charlie, citing her time at La Colonia and her unwavering dedication to Alejandro’s warped world view that ultimately led to her people dying. Nick and Luciana come across an Infected that seems to have been chained up when he was still living. This is a haunting sight to Luciana, who fears that she will end up like that. She predicts that the Diamond is on the same path as that of La Colonia and states that they should leave before the community falls. She finds an atlas and comes up with an idea of selecting a random page and leading the residents of the Diamond to whichever location is on the page. This would effectively allow them to have a fresh start away from the Vultures and the incoming famine.

Althea tries to give the trio a break from sharing their stories, but Alicia seems dead set on providing an account of what happened even after losing her brother hours ago. She opens up about her own supply run with Naomi to Whirlin Wavez, an abandoned water park. Both Alicia and Naomi bond over the fact that they previously visited similar water parks and had fond memories of delicious churros. The two venture into the park and discover that it was once a community of survivors that was overrun at some point. Naomi spots the top of a water slide complex that seems to be the spot where the final stand of the community took place. Alicia notes that they will need to climb up the slides to reach the point, but a collection of water-logged Infected stand in their way in the connected pool. In some truly manufactured drama, Alicia and Naomi enter the pool and try to climb up the slippery slide without killing the Infected beforehand. This leads to an “intense” few seconds as they scramble to pull each other out of danger, but we know that Alicia definitely survives considering she appears in the present timeline. This move is quite amateur and is a case where the writers make two hardened and intelligent characters rather dumb for a moment to stir up tension; both Alicia and Naomi would know better than to put themselves in such immediate danger after spending roughly two years surviving in an apocalypse.

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark and Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

After climbing up a slide, Alicia and Naomi eventually reach the top of the platform. They discover a machine gun and some other supplies, but two Infected come out of hiding and attack. Naomi is pushed down a slide with one Infected while Alicia fights off the other, holding onto the flash suppressor of the gun; Alicia accidentally pulls the suppressor off and falls down the slide into a circular “toilet bowl” exit that is teething with Infected, along with Naomi. The two struggle to fight off the Infected, but ultimately manage to regain their footing on the slippery surface and avoid dropping into the pool. Alicia uses her badass new weapon of the flash suppressor for the first time, which is later seen in the present timeline. After climbing back up to the top, Alicia and Naomi discover a stash of medical supplies and pack them up to take back; however, Naomi has different plans and slips away while Alicia is scanning the horizon for other locations to scavenge. Using the vehicle she found, Naomi tries to make a run for it, but it runs out of gas and Alicia catches up to her. There’s a sense of understanding in Alicia as she explains that she also tried to run away, but later realized she didn’t need to be alone, referring to the events following “This Land is Your Land.” Naomi states that she doesn’t want to try to make it work “again,” hinting that she may have been part of a failed community at some point. Naomi warns Alicia that the Stadium won’t last, citing her experience as an ER nurse giving her the ability to predict who will live and die.

The downfall of the Diamond is heavily foreshadowed in Madison’s storyline this episode. She is called over to speak with Mel in the parking lot while he grills hot dogs. Life is going rather well for the Vultures and they have plenty of food and supplies to sustain themselves. Mel tells Madison the story of where he and his brother Ennis were before the Vultures.; they were part of a small settlement with their family and a few others. Some nearby wildfires were cause for worry, but Mel convinced the community that they would be fine if they stayed. The wildfires eventually spread and burned down the settlement, leaving only Mel and Ennis alive as they were forced to listen to the death screams of their friends and family. Madison offers the Vultures a place in the Diamond, stating that “we could all make a go of it in there if we work together,” but that just isn’t how Mel rolls. A theme of this episode is the decisions each character must make in whether to stay at the Diamond or leave. The interviews with Althea reveal that the fatal mistake was that they all decided to remain at the community. Madison is overjoyed when she sees Strand return with a load of supplies, showcasing the fact that he isn’t giving up on his friends just yet. Nick’s optimism shines through as he and Luciana present the location “up north” from the atlas that they could visit once and collect seeds to be planted at the Diamond, allowing them to have a fresh start without leaving. There’s even more optimism as Naomi returns with Alicia and the two tell Madison that they plan on setting up an infirmary.

Flash-forward to the present time when all seems lost.

“We should have talked my mom into leaving.”

“I should have followed my gut. I should have kept that car a secret.”

“We should have flipped to another page. We should have found some place else to go.”

“We wanted to believe.”

“We wanted to stay.”

“I wanted to be a better person.”

“That’s why my brother is dead.”

“That’s why Nick is dead.”

“That’s why my friend is dead.”

“We could have stopped it all.”

This is the most poignant moment within the episode as Strand, Alicia and Luciana come to terms with the loss, pain and suffering they have experienced these past few months, each blaming themselves for their hardships.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie, Maggie Grace as Althea, Danay García as Luciana Galvez, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark and Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

This episode does an excellent job at furthering the characters of Morgan and John as they deal with the events of the day in their own ways. While driving, John opens up to Morgan and reveals that he was a police officer before the apocalypse (parallel to Rick Grimes in “The Walking Dead”?) and that he learned that a single good or bad day cannot make or break someone. John tells Morgan that he wants to find Laura and that he wants the two of them to meet each other. Morgan makes it clear that he will be heading out on his own after they bury Nick, but the narrative says the opposite as he continually becomes closer with these characters as each episode passes. The OG crew directs the truck to a spot in a field where they seem to plan to bury Nick, only this isn’t the case as they instead dig up a cache of weapons. John, Althea and Morgan realize that the trio plan on hunting down the Vultures and getting revenge. Alicia had previously found a map with the supposed meet point for the Vultures, giving them a place to stage an attack. Althea is angry at the fact that she had been lied to, questioning how she can ever trust Alicia’s group again. Before leaving, Alicia, Strand and Luciana bury Nick under a tree. It’s a somber farewell, but it is clear that the trio has one thing on their mind: vengeance. Morgan takes a moment to say goodbye and places a bluebonnet on Nick’s grave. After everything he’s been through, Morgan has to see yet another person torn away from the world.

This episode drops a helluva bombshell on viewers as the true identity of John’s lost lover Laura is revealed. While packing up the weapons cache into the SWAT truck, John spots a familiar looking bag and realizes that it belonged to Laura. The narrative flashes back to the Diamond timeline to show Naomi opening the same bag, which contains the identical revolver that John first mentioned in the Season Premiere. John quickly deduces that Laura is actually Naomi and that she simply gave him a fake name. He questions where she is and what happened to her, but Luciana and Alicia state that she didn’t make it out of the Stadium and is now dead. John doesn’t believe this to be true and breaks down, in shock over this dramatic news. Strand pokes a bit of fun at the situation to which Luciana shushes him, showing that she has some semblance of compassion for John and what he’s going through. Alicia tries to enlist John is joining their revenge force, but he just wants to be alone. Althea states that she will tag along with the trio and return back for John later. Morgan decides to stay behind with John, who is clearly headed down a dark path; this demonstrates the immense change in Morgan in just the four episodes since his crossover as he has gone from wanting to be alone to sticking with someone who has become a friend of his. The next episode looks to provide backstory to the relationship between John and Naomi, showing how the met and eventually split up. The question remains: is Naomi actually dead?

“Buried” is a strong continuation of various arcs of Season 4, specifically in the mystery of the two timelines. There are a lot of unanswered questions and this episode does fill in some blanks, but also opens up a plethora of more questions. The structure and use on non-linear storytelling is a unique way to allow the mystery to slowly unravel while developing the characters. This is the lowest we have ever seen Alicia, Strand and Luciana and Alycia Debnam-Carey, Colman Domingo and Danay Garía perfectly portray the pain and trauma the characters feel while also highlighting the anger and thirst for revenge. It remains to be seen exactly what happened at the Stadium, but it is clear from the dialogue that whatever happened will haunt the survivors moving forward, especially considering they feel responsible for it. The full story is sure to play out as the season progresses and it already seems as though this year’s Mid-Season Finale will be a drastic climax to the split timelines. Will Madison’s ultimate fate be revealed? Will Alicia’s team get the revenge they desire?

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

A Year of Impact

Photo courtesy of HBO/Warner Bros. Television.

Jeffrey Kopp

Every once in a while, I discover a show that really sits with me in a way unlike any other. I watch a lot of television shows, so it takes a lot to really blow me away, but “The Leftovers” managed to do just that. I decided to binge the three-season HBO series back in January, and I was fully engrossed by the gripping and emotional narrative. Helmed by “LOST” co-creator Damon Lindelof, the series dives into the deep mysteries of human existence, religion and the afterlife, all the while continually keeping the viewers guessing. The musical score and cinematography, along with the powerful performances from the cast, most notably Justin Theroux and Carrie Coon, make this one of the most stunningly beautiful shows to air on television in recent memory. “The Leftovers” has this ability to really make you question why you’re here and what life actually means. That is precisely what I want from my entertainment and this series delivers wholly.

Painting by Helen Allingham.

Stephanie Trefzger

“In Memoriam A.H.H.” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is a poem, or epitaph, rather, that encompasses several things that I “discovered” this year: the great poet Tennyson, Victorian literature and poetry. Obviously I was aware of all these things separately before, but I wasn’t a fan of any of them.  I thought Victorian literature would be as dull and stiff as the era’s mannerisms; I counted poetry out as worth exploring sometime in middle school; and Tennyson’s works were far too long and complex for me to even consider.  However, this poem was on the syllabus for one of my classes, and upon reading it, I immediately fell in love. Written after the loss of his best friend, Tennyson mourns his loss and begins to question his faith in relation to science, only to realize that both can exist within one another.  I am the type to get sentimental about human existence, and I think that this poem is one of the most powerful, raw expressions of  that humanity.

Album art courtesy of Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records.

Tyler Trudeau

February’s vastly-acclaimed “Black Panther” was already a standout feature, even before I heard the vibrant and methodical soundtrack that accompanied it. Curated by rapper/songwriter Kendrick Lamar, probably the biggest name in hip-hop today, the mixtape inspired by the Marvel powerhouse easily became the hottest collaboration of the year so far. Infused with the same cultural awareness and electricity of the film, the album featured some of the biggest stars in the genre delivering exciting and emotionally-charged melodies to the ground-breaking story of “Black Panther.” From pop hits like “All the Stars” by SZA and Lamar to more mellowed ballads like Khalid and Swae Lee’s “The Ways,” “Black Panther: The Album” defined the debut feature of T’Challa in a phenomenal and iconic collaboration.

Album art courtesy of Columbia Records.

Aaron Febre

The biggest discovery I made this school year was the Tyler, the Creator album “Flower Boy.” Technically, this came out in the summer of 2017, but I got into this album around spring break. This album hit me by surprise, Tyler really matured here and contains some stellar tracks like “911/Mr. Lonely” and “Boredom.” I had picked my album of 2017 (Lorde’s “Melodrama”), but “Flower Boy” just took my breath away every time I listen to it and now it’s my Album of 2017. I’m often reminded of spring break when listening to “Flower Boy” and it shows that my pick for Album of 2017 will change long after the year passes by.

Photo courtesy of Epic Games.

Noah Howell

If you have never played “Fortnite,” you have probably at least seen its presence somewhere on social media, whether it’s a clip on Twitter or someone posting their ‘Victory Royale’ to their Snapchat story. Dropping into a giant map with an enclosing storm against 99 other people is a blast with friends, especially when the tension rises once you reach the top ten in match. With the amount of new content every week and the solid gameplay, it does not feel like a game that should be free-to-play, especially when compared to what other studios put out for free. What really solidified the game’s popularity was a live stream which casually came about between the biggest “Fortnite” streamer Ninja and Drake himself, with rapper Travis Scott and JuJu Smith, WR for the Steelers, joining in as well. This stream to no surprise shattered Twitch’s records, and helped to further break down the stereotype for who plays video games. While it may not be critically the best game to come out this school year, it is certainly the most popular and rightfully so, with fun gameplay and a price point that’s hard to ignore.

Poster courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Hunter Heilman

Rarely does a film (and I see a lot of films) hit me as hard as Alex Garland’s “Annihilation” did. Following a group of five female scientists as they enter a mysterious glowing barrier on the coast, the film chronicles their mind-bending journey into madness as they discover the origin of the ever-growing barrier. With wonderful performances all around, but especially from Natalie Portman, some absolutely insane visuals and perhaps the most cerebrally stimulating sci-fi plot in years, “Annihilation” is the type of film that keeps you awake at night for weeks on end.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Good Out Here’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 3 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Lennie James as Morgan Jones and Frank Dillane as Nick Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. “Fear the Walking Dead” just delivered its largest blow in the form of the most devastating death in the history of the series. Season 4 has been labeled as a “soft reboot” of the series, and this death proves just that. While blending the two shows, the message of people being more alike than different becomes the focal point of the story. This episode marks the end of an era for the series, something that is both bittersweet and intriguing at the same time. The question remains: where do we go from here?

Most of the story of this episode takes place in the “NOW” timeline, but there are a few flashbacks to what happened “BEFORE.” In the flashbacks, Nick pulls up all of the infested crops and burns them to prevent the weevils from spreading anymore. This is clearly upsetting to Nick, and he is disheartened by the fact that the Diamond is now facing a food shortage. He decides to go along with Madison on a supply run in the hopes of finding more food, although Mel lets them know that they have picked the surrounding areas clean. Mel also returns the copy of “The Little Prince” that Luciana offered to Charlie, stating that she doesn’t like children’s books. After heading out, Madison tells Nick that they will flip Charlie back to their side, but Nick doesn’t seem to believe her. He questions how she is able to keep leaving the safety of the Diamond to which she responds by explaining a game she plays; Madison tries to find something “good” each time she goes out into the apocalypse to remind her that not everything is a hellish wasteland. Madison and Nick go from place to place in search of food before winding up at a church, however, Mel’s brother Ennis (Evan Gamble) and Charlie have already arrived and claimed all of the supplies inside. Madison and Nick try to convince Charlie to rejoin them, but Ennis talks a lot of shit and ends up having Nick’s knife at his throat. Madison pulls Nick away, not wanting the standoff to turn into violence and potentially cause a war at the Diamond. These flashbacks appear during crucial times in Nick’s story this episode, building up to a climactic moment in the final moments.

In the “NOW” timeline, the two combined groups travel in Althea’s SWAT truck to the apparent location that the numbered flag was found. Nick, Alicia, Luciana and Strand are dead set on finding the Vultures, and Althea uses this to her advantage by refusing to give them full directions until they provide her with their stories. Althea then takes Nick hostage and orders Luciana to stop the truck, but a small herd of Infected in the road prompts a fight between the survivors that ends in the SWAT truck swerving off the road and into a ravine. Nick falls in and out of consciousness as John, Althea and Morgan retake control of the situation, all the while killing the Infected. The truck is stuck in mud and Althea refuses to leave until they have freed it; Luciana tells the group of a nearby truck that can pull the SWAT van out, but she uses Althea’s tactic and refuses to reveal the location unless she and her people are freed and allowed to help. They all agree to head out, but Althea ties Nick to the truck as insurance for his family to return; Morgan decides to stay behind, leading to a unique and entertaining “friendship” between two originals from both shows. There’s something so magical about having a character from each series that appeared in the Pilot episode of their respective show finally interacting, especially when they both have so much in common.

Maggie Grace as Althea, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Colman Domingo as Victor Strand and Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The character of Eastman in “The Walking Dead” only appeared in one episode, but his legacy has been carried into “Fear the Walking Dead” via Morgan. While tied to the truck, Nick asks Morgan, who is reading Eastman’s copy of “The Art of Peace,” to let him get some food from his pack; Morgan decides to cut Nick loose, but knocks him to the ground as a show of force that doubles as a show of the subtle humor in the series. Nick snacks on a peanut butter protein bar, which he offers to share with Morgan; this is a rewarding easter egg that ties into a recurring joke in the original series that began when Michonne stole this same snack from Morgan in “Clear.” While Morgan heads up to the road to practice with his staff, Nick rummages through Althea’s belongings and finds her camera. He watches the interview with Morgan and learns a few tidbits about his past. A tinge of panic strikes the duo as the striking blue El Camino from the Vultures’ camp drives down the road. Morgan tries to lock himself and Nick in the SWAT truck, but a struggle erupts when Nick tries to chase after the car. Numerous Infected are drawn to the area when the fight results in the truck horn being set off. Bluebonnets play a central role in this episode, specifically for Nick; he comes across a field of them after losing track of the car. A few Infected overwhelm Nick, but Morgan steps in and saves his life. It’s important to note that Nick is quite reckless at this point, and Morgan sees this furthering the parallel between their characters.

Aside from the Nick and Morgan dynamic, this episode really begins to plant the seeds for a plethora of interesting relationships between characters old and new. Luciana brings the team to the truck and they collectively prepare to transport it back to the crash site. Strand questions Althea as to why she wants to know their stories, opening up a fascinating discussion about the future of the world; Althea notes that regardless of if society is rebuilt, the experiences of humans living through the apocalypse needs to be documented to assure that the truth is being heard. This is quite similar to what Milton Mamet did in keeping detailed records of daily life in Season 3 of “The Walking Dead.” This small team eventually makes it back to the site of the crash, but are concerned when they find several Infected surrounding the truck with Nick and Morgan nowhere to be found. An arrow was left on the ground by Morgan leading them in the direction they went, but Althea refuses to leave her truck, stating that she has important things inside. They decide to split up, with John and Luciana going ahead in search of Nick and Morgan while Alicia and Strand stay behind to help Althea pull the truck out of the ditch. There is some excellent teamwork…and badassery at play as Alicia uses her new weapon to kill Infected while attaching the tow cable to the SWAT truck; she worms her way through the undead, crawling under the truck as Althea snipes the Infected. Thankfully, Althea’s truck wasn’t lost to the world as it is undeniably the best vehicle to traverse the zombie apocalypse in.

Evan Gamble as Ennis and Frank Dillane as Nick Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

Nick seems to abandon his search for the El Camino, realizing that Morgan is injured and needs assistance. They team up and kill two Infected before using a pharmacy as a temporary refuge; this may not be intentional, but this pharmacy really resembles the famous one from Season 2 of “TWD” in which Glenn and Maggie consummated their attraction. There’s some remarkable dialogue as Morgan warns Nick against continuing down the revenge path that he is on, hinting that he has been down that same path several times himself (viewers are fully aware that this definitely the case). Nick is curious about Morgan’s past and tries to get him to open up, citing the video Althea recorded, but he refuses and leaves the pharmacy. Later, Morgan stumbles upon a collection of silos that are being unloaded by Ennis; Morgan urges Ennis to leave, clearly trying to protect both him and Nick from the implications of their conflict coming to a head. Nick arrives and tries to attack Ennis with his hammer, but is stopped by Morgan, who reiterates his belief that revenge is not the answer, but also states that Nick has to do what he thinks is best. Morgan leaves the area as Nick follows Ennis into a silo, leading to a tense fight between the two adversaries; both men get a few licks in, but Nick ultimately ends up throwing Ennis’ body onto deer antlers. Nick pushes Ennis further into the antlers as blood gurgles out of his mouth. It’s a haunting sight that displays Nick’s brutality and blood-thirst, a jarring juxtaposition when compared to his calmer demeanor in the “BEFORE” timeline.

It’s apparent from Lennie James’ subtle facial work that Morgan is conflicted in whether to connect with Nick or not; things fell apart after Morgan took Benjamin under his wing, so it makes sense that he is hesitant here. Morgan ends up returning to the silo just in time as Nick exits, covered in blood and shaking from the trauma of his fight with Ennis. Morgan decides to open up to Nick and tells him that he lost his wife, son and friends in the apocalypse, even handing over “The Art of Peace” and offering to listen to anything he has to get off his chest. Nick worries that he may be too far gone, but Morgan assures him that he isn’t, referring to the fact that he came back from the same dark place himself. On the road, John tries to learn more about Luciana’s relationship with Nick, even offering her a piece of candy as a sign of peace and trust. Luciana opens up to John, telling him about the fact that she once left Nick even though she was in love with him. It still remains to be seen exactly how Luciana came to rejoin the group, but it is clear that her decision to leave during Season 3 created some tension between her and Nick, as well as some stress and trust issues. There’s a brief scene wherein Althea is relieved to find a collection of her recordings still in the truck; it’s certainly possible that these are all of the interviews she has conducted, but these could also be recordings of her family, friends or even members of a group she was with before it fell apart. Regardless, this opens up some interesting possibilities for her backstory moving forward.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Danay García as Luciana Galvez, Frank Dillane as Nick Clark and Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The SWAT team eventually makes its way to the area where Nick and Morgan are. As the truck arrives, Morgan greets the group and Nick sits reading the book he was given. Another flashback to the past shows Madison and Nick coming across a field of bluebonnets, the one “good” thing they manage to find on their supply run; just like Madison promised, they found something that proves that life is still flourishing. In the present, the sound of a single gunshot changes the mood drastically as Nick notices blood is spilling out of his stomach; Charlie stands feet away having just fired a shot at him before running away. He collapses to the ground as Alicia, Luciana and Strand rush to his side and try to save him while also tearfully pleading for him to cling to life. They’re too late though. He bleeds out and slips away. Forty episodes after his debut appearance, Nick lay dead in the Texan grass from the bullet of a child soldier. An incredible transition cuts between Nick’s lifeless corpse on the ground covered in blood to him laying in the field of bluebonnets. He closes his eyes and the screen cuts to black as millions of fans cry out in devastation. Nick’s story began with him opening his eyes in a drug den in Los Angeles and his story ends here, coming full circle. As Morgan says, everything gets a return.

The time has come to pay tribute to the fallen soldier of the episode. Without any doubt, Nick Clark is the heart of “Fear the Walking Dead.” He is the character that we began the story with back in the very first episode, letting viewers see the onset of the apocalypse through a pair of fresh eyes. He is a character that the audience can connect with due to his kind nature, compassion and curiosity. He loves his family and wants to keep them safe, as seen in his decision to execute Jeremiah Otto last season, as well as his killing of Ennis in this episode. Nick’s struggle with addiction is both real and visceral, showing a real life issue against the scope of a global epidemic; Nick was able to become more than just the stereotypical “junkie” character, developing into a hero that the audience can both root for and look up to. Nick has flirted with darkness, but he is ultimately a good person and the lines he crossed can mostly be justified. There’s so much greatness packed into this character and Frank Dillane portrayed him perfectly for his entire run on the series. The loss of Nick and Frank is simply too massive to be put into words. It’s hard to imagine “Fear the Walking Dead” without the charm, humor, badassery and soul that Frank portrayed in Nick. His story will hopefully be carried on in those he leaves behind, in particular Alicia and Luciana. It goes without saying that this is the most shocking and devastating moment in the show’s history…and that may never change.

“Fear the Walking Dead” has taken a lot of risks in its four seasons, some have paid off and others have not. It remains to be seen just what impact Nick’s death will have on the story. At the moment, it is jarring and upsetting, but there is a ton of potential to push the surviving characters down some dark paths. This episode is yet another excellent addition to the “Fear” canon, taking the series into a totally different direction that anyone could have guessed. Each character is utilized and is able to show off their skills as the human and Infected threats are blended nicely. There is some stunning cinematography in this episode, particularly in the scenes with Nick and Madison. The performances also deserve praise, specifically Alycia Debnam-Carey and Frank Dillane. It should also be pointed out that the Texas setting is allowing for some fresh and exciting environments for the characters to explore. With another member of the original cast down, how will the series move forward? What happened to Madison and Naomi? Will anyone try to hunt down Charlie for what she did? Will the death of Nick cause Morgan to snap back into “clear” mode? Season 4 is only just beginning and it looks as though we are in for a wild ride.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Retroactive: The Pop Culture that Shaped Us

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Jeffrey Kopp (A&E Editor)

Movie: “Tarzan” (1999) – This is a film that hits me in the feels every single time that I watch it. The soundtrack by Phil Collins adds so much emotional depth to the movie; “Two Worlds” and “You’ll Be in My Heart” are the definite standouts. This is by far my favorite Disney movie of all time; just thinking about it makes me want to find my copy of the VHS tape and take a trip back to the jungle.

Song: “Hey Ya!” (2003) by OutKast– The lyric, “shake it like a Polaroid picture” has been repeating on a loop in my head since 2003. The catchy beat immediately transports me back to the simpler times of elementary school; the deeper meaning behind the song flew over my head as a child, but I’ve been able to appreciate it more as an adult. This is a song that has stood the test of time and is definitely one of my all time favorites.

TV Show: “SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-Present) –  Every generation has something that culturally defines them. In the case of millennials, that is Nickelodeon’s most iconic cartoon. I have so many fond memories of watching “SpongeBob” with my parents and friends, laughing at the absurd scenarios and jokes that have evolved into memes in recent years. Without any doubt, “Pizza Delivery” and “Band Geeks” are two of the greatest episodes in television history.

“Breakaway” album cover courtesy of Walt Disney/RCA

Stephanie Trefzger (Assistant A&E Editor)

Movie: “Twister” (1996) – Granted, I only saw this movie once as a child, but it probably had the biggest impact on my life.  It scared the absolute hell out of me, and I had nightmares about tornadoes ripping through my house. In an attempt to assuage my fears, my mother encouraged me to learn more about tornadoes, and suddenly I was obsessed with weather.  Despite the science in the movie being outdated, Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton inspire a love and fascination for storm chasing in me to this day, and it has been my dream job for the better part of my life. If only my mother would let me.

Song: “Breakaway” (2004) by Kelly Clarkson – I love drama, and this song, as well as the album by the same name is full of it.  When I was in the car and I heard the opening notes, I would immediately stare out the window like Clarkson describes and acted like I was in a music video.  This album is also part of the reason I have trust issues; upon its release in 2004, it was the only Christmas gift I asked for from my parents. My dad, however, bought 2003’s “Thankful.”  While this is an excellent album, I felt disappointed and betrayed.

TV Show: “Shark Week” (1988-Present) – Ok, so this is more an annual event than an actual TV show, but I got super hyped for it every year (and still do).  Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I have always loved the ocean, and after my disillusionment with dolphins, I became enamored with sharks instead. Due to my obsessive nature, I learned and accumulated enough knowledge about them over the last few years that I am able to take the fun out of any shark movie fairly quickly.

Photo courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment.

Hunter Heilman (Editor-in-Chief)

Movie: “She’s the Man” (2006) – At the time, “She’s the Man” was basically the funniest film I had ever seen in my entire life. This 2006 teen adaption of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” was Amanda Bynes at her most charming, the 2000s at their most iconic, and teen comedies at their most genuine. Everything about this movie is peak nostalgia and perfect memories of a much simpler time.

Song: “The ABBA Generation” (1999) by A*Teens– There is no album I have listened to and loved more in my life than Swedish pop group the A*Teens’ 1999 debut album, The ABBA Generation. Comprised of nothing but ABBA covers, I was exposed to the magic of both teen pop and disco music all in one go. Personal favorites of the album are “Mamma Mia,” “Voulez Vous” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight),” the latter of which still remains my favorite music video of all time. I love this album so much I can get emotional over it.

TV Show: “What I Like About You” (2002-2006)– I had a bit of a thing for Amanda Bynes when I was younger, as I simply found her to be the funniest person working in media targeted to people my age. I didn’t discover “What I Like About You” until shortly after it was canceled in 2006, but like “She’s the Man,” it showcased Bynes’ talents as more than just a child star. The chemistry in the hilarious cast and absolute lunacy of much of the show’s plot only cemented it more as my favorite sitcom ever.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Kathleen Cook (Sports Editor)

Movie: “The Lion King” (1994)– I loved the songs and the characters – Timon was my favorite. I’ve actually never watched the scene where the dad dies though.

Song: “Come in Eileen” (1982) by Dexys Midnight Runners– I thought it was actually “Come on Kathleen,” because my mom would always sing “Kathleen.” I was heartbroken when I first heard the song without my mom singing it and realized it was Eileen and not Kathleen.

TV Show: “Dragon Tales” (1999-2005)– I had the stuffed animals for all of the characters and had a dance routine I would do to their song.

Album art courtesy of Universal Records.

Alex Sands (News Editor)

Movie: “Beethoven” (1992)– I had three St. Bernards growing up and they all were as crazy as Beethoven in this film. They’re big slobbery messes with really big hearts and lots of love. The film is not only a nostalgic early 90s film, but it hits home.

Song: “Leave (Get Out)” (2004) by JoJo– I recently rediscovered this banger song. The only problem is the real version is not on Spotify. So whenever I want to listen to it in the car, I force myself to listen to D-Money’s remix. You may ask “Who is D-Money?” I don’t know, but he should stop rapping.

TV Show: “Lizzie McGuire” (2001-2004)– I would like to give a shout out to Bitmoji for fulfilling my childhood dream of having my own animated version of myself like Lizzie McGuire. I was a die-hard Hilary Duff fan when I was kiddo and watched the episodes over and over. To this day, I still ship her and Gordo.

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Josh Worley (Video Editor)

Movie: “Gone With The Wind” (1940)– Growing up, I first remember watching this movie with my grandma. The movie takes place in a time period that I am most fond of from a historical perspective.

Song: “Africa” (1982) by Toto– Whoever says it’s not, can choke.

TV Show: “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)- The greatest cartoon to ever grace this universe. There were deep moments that, when you were a kid you didn’t really think about, but they hit home now.

Photo courtesy of Jive Records.

Hailey Turpin (Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Peter Pan” (1953)– I wanted to be apart of Peter’s Lost Boys and I would jump off the couch to try to fly like him. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Song: “Oh Aaron” (2001) and “Not Too Young, Not Too Old” (2001) by Aaron Carter– My sister and I religiously listened to Aaron Carter back in the 2000’s. I have no other words besides talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, show stopping, spectacular, never the same, totally unique.

TV Show: “The Fairly Odd Parents” (2001-Present) and “My Life As A Teenage Robot” (2003-2009)– As an elementary school kid I was very particular about the shows I watched, and those two were the most interesting to me! The graphics and storylines were so good, and still are. I will always love Chip Skylark.

Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Pooja Pasupula (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Toy Story” (1995)– While Toy Story is not my number one favorite Pixar movie, it’s the movie that always reminds me of my childhood and brings me the most nostalgia. This movie was always playing on every TV when I was a child and there are so many iconic characters and scenes encased in it. It made childhood seem like the best thing ever to be apart of. The whole series is centered around the inescapable circumstance of growing up, and being hit with that inevitability as a child was always hard for me. The whole series brings back memories of clinging to childhood and not wanting things to change.

Song: “… Baby One More Time” (1998) by Britney Spears– A timeless classic that never fails to make me smile or sing along. I was never exposed to music as a child and when my aunt found out she started to play Spears’ album around the tiny townhome she shared with my family. It’s the first song I have any memory of. At the age of four, I had no concept of what dancing was, so I would skip around our townhome to the beat of this song as my way to jam along to it. Hearing this song throws me back to that memory and the nostalgia of what the 90’s/early 2000’s era felt like.

TV Show: “Teen Titans” (2003-2006)– I’ve always been enamored with superheroes and watching this show as a child was what sparked my adoration for them. While Wonder Woman and Batman have been my core favorites for most of my life, the Teen Titans were my first love. I used to feel very vulnerable and helpless as a child, but watching teen superheroes kick ass gave me hope to one day be as strong and brave as they are. They were who I looked up to and idolized.

Photo courtesy of New Line Cinema/Warner Home Video.

Leysha Caraballo (Photo Editor)

Movie: “Elf” (2003)– Watching “Elf” every Christmas season with my family was one of my favorite traditions growing up. Will Ferrell is so over the top ridiculous, as usual, but in a heartwarming way in this movie.

Song: “Numb” (2003) by Linkin Park– Linkin Park’s “Numb” showed me that music didn’t have to fit the pop music mold. I may have been a bit melodramatic, but I connected to the sound and message of the music. They were my absolute favorite band throughout my adolescence.

TV Show: “That’s So Raven” (2003-2007)– This show never got old for me, to the point where I watched multiple all-day marathons. Raven had sass, attitude and confidence – all of my favorite things!

Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

Mia Shelton (Opinion Editor)

Movie: Seventeen Again” (2000)– Not the one with Zac Efron, but the one with Tia and Tamera Mowry. I loved this movie because it was a unique and fun concept; grandparents using soap that their grandson accidently spilled his science experiment on that makes them seventeen again was fun to watch. I also love Tia and Tamera and seeing them on television and acting started my passion for acting. Also the grandfather is very cute when he turns seventeen.

Song: Circle of Life” (2004) by the Disney Channel Circle of Stars– I loved it because it had all of my favorite actors and actresses sing in the song like Raven Symone, Christy Carlson Romano, Hilary Duff, Tahj Mowrey and many more. Hearing their unique voices combined on one of Disney’s greatest song from its most notorious movie was very moving and fun to sing along to.

TV Show: Kenan and Kel” (1996-2000)– I loved this show, because they always made laugh. Kel’s obsession with orange soda and Kenan’s elaborate plans to make money made my stomach hurt from laughing.

Photo courtesy of Reprise Records.

Emily Hickey (Managing Editor)

Movie: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)– When I was four, I watched it every day for a year and insisted that my mom dress me up in my Dorothy dress and put my hair in the two braids. Every time I watch it now I am reminded of my childhood love for the movie and for the amazing soundtrack (that I still know by heart).

Song: “Landslide” (1975) by Fleetwood Mac– My aunt used to burn her favorite songs onto CD’s and give them to my mom, and as soon as my sisters and I listened to “Landslide,” it was immediately our favorite song and has been throughout our lives. When I was three, I put on a performance of the song in front of all of my extended family.

TV Show: “Ghost Whisperer” (2005-2010)– Starting in elementary school, every Friday my dad and I would watch the new episode aired at 8 p.m. Despite after a few years it scared me too much to continue watching it, it’s still my favorite because of the time spent with my dad.

Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox.

Daniel Head (Technical Director)

Movie: “Star Wars: A New Hope” (1977)– Duh! I watched this movie and fell in love with the “Star Wars” universe. I was obsessed with the idea of intergalactic travel and warfare, and loved the characters. Everything about the movie was great to me, and I’m still obsessed with “Star Wars.”

Song: “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” (2005) by Panic! At the Disco– I loved the sound song, and pretty much all of my friends did too. Just singing along with all my friends makes it memorable.

TV Show: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)– I grew up with it and, again, I was obsessed with science fiction and the characters. I think that just the depth of the characters and the universe was enough to make me look forward to next week’s episode; to see some awesome new world, new alien race, or new piece of technology. A good plot was just the cherry on top for me back then.

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Angie Baquedano (Assistant Lifestyle Editor)

Movie: “Hercules” (1997)– I love Disney and I practically grew up on it, and when they introduced the movie they brought in my love for Greek mythology. The music was exceptional and I had the BIGGEST crush on Hercules (or should I say HUNK-ules).

Song: “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) by Elvis– I’ve had this really weird obsession with him since I was a kid. I can’t explain why or how this happened, but it did and I’m actually his wife, so…surprise.

TV Show: “Rocket Power,” (1999-2004) “Cat Dog” (1998-2005) and “Hey Arnold!” (1996-2004)– It might be impossible for me to choose just one for this. Apart from being a Disney kid, I was definitely a Nickelodeon child.

Album art courtesy of RCA Records/Columbia Records.

Madison Dobrzenski (Assistant Opinion Editor)

Movie: “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)– I loved this movie so much as a kid, and to this day I can’t really explain why. I think it’s just because I also didn’t experience a lot of snow, so I empathized with them? I also loved anything Brenda Song was in when I was a kid, so that might have had something to do with it.

Song: “Girlfriend” (2007) by Avril Lavigne– I used to blare this song with my friends when I was in elementary school, despite being absolutely no one’s love interest, because we were like 12. I can still throw down to it to this day.

TV Show: “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (2005-2008)– I loved this show for a lot of reasons. One, there was a smart character with the same name as me. Secondly, I always felt “different” because the show paints Zack out to be the cute and cool twin, but I had a crush on Cody.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘Another Day in the Diamond’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 2 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark and Jenna Elfman as Naomi. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

All that is old has not been thrown away for the new as the second episode of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” fourth season proves that it still has a strong connection to its roots. By picking up with the original band of characters and establishing a separate timeline, the story connects with Season 3 and sets its course for the future. With a aura of mystery and intrigue, as well as a plethora of even more fascinating new players, the series seems to be charting a path for its best season yet.

BEFORE

All is peaceful in the world of “Fear the Walking Dead” as Alicia, Luciana, Nick and Strand wake up and prepare for their day of work at “The Diamond,” a baseball field that has been built up into a community. There’s a brilliant connection to the first season as Madison speaks with a young girl named Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), who recently arrived at the community and is struggling to fit in; Madison’s guidance counselor persona comes out as she speaks with Charlie in a calm and comforting demeanor, attempting to make the child feel at home and like she can open up. It’s worth noting that Madison actually looks happy and content, even as it is hinted that she is experiencing some form of mental trauma; when Alicia checks in on her mother, Madison mistakenly calls her “Nick.” It’s also revealed that Madison is getting very little sleep and is working overtime to assure that Charlie has a adequate place to be a child. At the dining area, Strand surprises Alicia, Nick and Luciana with syrup, a rare commodity in the apocalypse, as a celebration of them being at the Diamond for one full year. Viewers are also given their first look at a possible new love interest for Strand in the form of Cole (Sebastian Sozzi), who seems to be quite flirtatious; typical Strand is playing hard to get, but his reasoning is given plenty of explanation throughout the episode.

Danay García as Luciana Galves and Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman Jr./AMC)

The main timeline of this episode is obviously set prior to the events of “What’s Your Story?,” as the characters are far less rugged and savage at the Diamond then when they cross paths with Morgan, Althea and John. Madison and the others have built something special with this community and it is clear that they intend on making it their permanent residence. Nick is responsible for growing and maintaining the crops, something that he believes will be the prime factor in their long-term survival. In the conversation Madison has with Charlie, it is revealed that she was separated from her parents and eventually found her way to the Diamond. Madison puts together a team to go out and search for the family, but some of the Diamond residents are worried seeing as how they would be venturing outside of a pre-established perimeter. It is decided that the search team will include Madison, Strand, Luciana and Alicia; there’s more flirtation and love game-playing between Strand and Cole, who offers to tag along. Nick says goodbye to Luciana and asks her to promise to come back, poking fun at her decision to leave the Broke Jaw Ranch in Season 3’s “Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame.” Nick is noticeably hesitant to leave the community, something that Luciana brings up to Madison in the car; his time in the apocalypse has definitely left him with some major PTSD, a factor that is further explored in the episode.

Whilst driving to the location that Charlie pointed out, the family dynamic of the group of survivors comes out as Madison urges Strand to have a drink with Cole; he shuts this down, stating that she is his only drinking buddy. Nick radios into Luciana to let the group know that the Diamond’s garden has been infested with weevils and that the crops must be burned to prevent it from spreading; this may just be a minor plot point, but it is worth noting that the Kingdom’s royal garden in “The Walking Dead” was also infested with weevils. The foursome arrives in a town and decide to split up to cover more ground with Madison and Alicia driving around while Strand and Luciana explore a store. There seems to be a rather unexpected friendship that has formed between Strand and Luciana; they discuss Strand’s bewilderment that Madison would come to trust him again after he betrayed everyone at the Gonzalez Dam, a point that Luciana encourages them to talk about with each other. Something easy to miss is the fact that Strand now carries a piece of the Dam’s rubble as a constant reminder of what he did and the consequences it had. Victor is a character that has come such a long way since the start of the series and it looks as though Season 4 will finally peel back his layers and show his human side in a way that has never been explored.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This episode serves to introduce a new character as Madison and Alicia scout the area looking for signs of Charlie’s family. They discover oil tanks that seemed to have partially exploded, along with a large white flag with a number on it, similar to the one found by Althea last episode. The whole location appears to be completely devoid of people and Infected, but Madison finds a can of food and realizes they aren’t alone. Suddenly, a gun is pulled on Madison by a woman, later named Naomi (Jenna Elfman), who orders her to hand over her keys. Madison cleverly sends a warning signal via her radio, alerting Alicia, Strand and Luciana that she is in danger. The trio arrive and attempt to talk Naomi down, but she tries to flee up to the top of one of the oil tanks; Madison and Alicia follow closely behind, offering her a place at the Diamond and questioning if she is Charlie’s mother. The roof of the tank collapses, dropping Naomi into a oily mess of Infected, but Madison jumps in to to help her fight them off; it is slightly unexpected to see Madison risk her life like this to help a stranger, but she really seems to have changed during the time jump. The two make a great team as they fight off the horrifying Infected while Alicia and Strand work to open the hatch of the tank, sending oil and Infected spilling out. This results in a great action sequence as everyone kills Infected, getting themselves covered in the sticky and slimy mess. Once again, “Fear the Walking Dead” proves, like its big sister, that there are millions of ways to have thrilling zombie action.

Night falls as the scouting group collects themselves and figures out what to do next. Luciana finds the book “The Little Prince,” which she keeps to bring back for Charlie. Naomi officially introduces herself to the group and provides a small tidbit of backstory, hinting that she has been floating around from place to place for the duration of the apocalypse. Alicia questions how exactly the Infected got into the tank, deducing that someone must have put them in there. The sound of Infected nearby prompts Luciana to fearfully rally the crew to head back home. At the Diamond, Nick becomes a bit worried as his family has yet to return. After burning some of the crops, he begins hearing music being played nearby and enlists the help of Charlie to investigate. Nick takes a car and nervously drives out of the Diamond, but he begins to have traumatic flashbacks to the explosion of the Dam, with footage from “Sleigh Ride” playing to remind viewers of what went down. He ends up panicking at the sight of Infected and crashes the car into a post, becoming surrounded; fortunately, Cole snipes some of the Infected and clears a path. Madison also arrives with her team to assist in getting Nick back inside. The circumstances of Nick’s survival after the Dam explosion seem to be a mystery that will be explored, possibly explaining the absence of Daniel; is it possible that Daniel sacrificed himself to save Nick, leaving him with survivor’s guilt?

Frank Dillane as Nick Clark. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

This episode really serves to set up Charlie as a player in the season’s story. Madison returns and checks in on her and questions what exactly happened at her old camp. She really doesn’t open up at all, but the reason becomes apparent later in the episode. More backstory is provided for Naomi as the characters learn that she is a nurse, having worked in an ER before the apocalypse. Madison speaks with Naomi about the community, revealing that after her arrival, there are now 48 survivors living at the Diamond. There’s a great moment that showcases how hard of time Naomi has had when she is stunned by the fact that the community has hot running water for showers. Outside of the stadium, Strand and Cole retrieve the car that Nick crashed; Luciana speaks with Cole via radio from her lookout post and lets him know that Strand definitely has the hots for him. The mood dramatically shifts as Luciana spots a caravan of vehicles pulling into the parking lot in ominous fashion; she calls Strand and Cole back into the community as Alicia secures the gate and orders the residents to empty the armory and prepare to defend the Diamond. The survivors look on at an eccentric man riding a bicycle around and drawing the nearby Infected into a trailer before spray painting the number “12” on a flag. Another man, later named Mel (Kevin Zegers), plants himself in a lawn chair as his people settle themselves in the parking lot. This is an eerie and disconcerting scene to watch play out, especially because the new band of characters seem to be extremely organized and calculated.

Madison proves herself to be an exceptional leader as she exits the safety of the Diamond and walks up to Mel alone, yet fully confident. Madison speaks with Mel about what went down at the oil tanks prior to her finding them, but Mel rejects that he did anything wrong. Things get somewhat predictable as Mel begins talking about the problems inside the community, even mentioning Nick by name; it is revealed that Charlie was a spy that planted herself inside the stadium to relay information back to Mel’s group. Charlie reunites with Mel, much to the dismay of Nick, who has always had a strong paternal instinct when it comes to children. Mel tells Madison that his group found Charlie some time back and has been using her ever since. An ultimatum is presented to Madison by Mel: either she hand over the supplies that the community possesses, allowing them to join the larger group, or slowly die and have what’s left be picked over by his group. The two have a discussion about what it takes to survive in the new world and Mel points out that Madison just doesn’t have it, stating that she hasn’t been tested enough. Viewers know most of what she’s been through (minus the missing year or so) and have seen her be tested time and time again. Still, it is more than apparent that Mel’s group is here to stay and they may just be the first major villain group in “Fear the Walking Dead.”

Alexa Nisenson as Charlie and Kevin Zegers as Mel. (Photo credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

The next bit of the episode serves to transition between the two established timelines and provide hints of how they will eventually merge. The survivors seem to grow weary as day comes and Mel’s group is still camped in the parking lot, seeming to have established their next home at the Diamond. Luciana decides to exit the community and offer the copy of “The Little Prince” to Charlie, showcasing her good nature and kindness; this is somewhat of a juxtaposition to her character in Season 2 when Luciana’s primary mission was protecting La Colonia from threats, leading her to lambaste Nick for retrieving a candy bar for a young resident. At the garden, Nick realizes that the weevil problem is worsening, symbolizing the slowly deteriorating state of affairs at the community following the arrival of Mel’s group. The various residents notice that Madison has continued work on the room for Charlie in the dugout and decide to assist, hinting that the young girl may have a place in the community if they can get her away from Mel. There is an excellent transition between timelines as Madison swings her hammer, cutting to a shot of Nick doing the same in the “present day” story.

NOW

Following their capture, Morgan, John and Althea are zip-tied and held by Nick, Alicia, Luciana and Strand. Althea jumps up after Nick begins rifling through her belongings and discovers her video camera. After rummaging through the SWAT van, Luciana finds one of the numbered flags and questions if Althea has ties to “them,” which viewers are now aware is Mel’s group, aptly named “The Vultures” by Strand. Althea tries to get the group to lower their guns and have a civil conversation, to which Alicia tells her to take them to where they found the flag. Everyone piles into the truck and heads off down the road. Two episodes in and the mystery surrounding the past/present timelines has been given some context, but there is a lot of questions to be answered still; where is Madison and the rest of the community? Did something happen at the Diamond to cause everyone else to die or be taken over by the Vultures? Just how much time has passed between the two points?

“Another Day in the Diamond” is an excellent follow up to the Season Premiere, and certainly makes up for the under-utilization of the original characters. Catching up with Madison, Nick, Alicia, Strand and Luciana in the community that they created is rewarding and allows for some brilliant development and interactions. Season 4 has really emphasized the mystery and intrigue element, something that looks to be a recurring storytelling technique moving forward. It will be interesting to see if the series fills in the missing pieces of what happened between the third and fourth seasons, specifically in how the characters survived, reunited and ended up in Texas. This episode serves to establish a multitude of fascinating arcs that will play out over the course of the season, while also introducing more characters; Jenna Elfman brings a lot to the table with Naomi, as does Kevin Zegers with Mel. Hopefully, these two characters are given time to develop and share their backstory as both seem to be multi-layered and filled with depth. If the rest of the season is anywhere near the level of these first two episodes, fans are in for a thrilling and frightening new era of “Fear the Walking Dead.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

TV REVIEW: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ – ‘What’s Your Story?’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 4 Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Maggie Grace as Althea, Lennie James as Morgan Jones – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Worlds have officially collided as “The Walking Dead” crosses over with “Fear the Walking Dead” in a historical event that will redefine the franchise forever. After two decent seasons and one brilliant season, AMC’s zombie spinoff series has reinvented itself with a new batch of characters and a fresh location. There are a handful of issues, mostly in regards to the underutilization of original characters in this premiere. Still, this episode serves as a transition to the show’s new era, one that looks to be extremely promising.

In order to recap the events of the episode in coherent fashion, events will be discussed in chronological order. This episode is mostly centered around the character of Morgan Jones (Lennie James), a staple in “The Walking Dead” since the Pilot. Following the success of Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom in All Out War, Morgan relocates to the Heaps to spend his time alone as seen in the Season 8 Finale. A significant amount of time has passed since the end of the war, as noted by the growth of crops. Jesus (Tom Payne) pays a visit to Morgan to try to convince him to return to the rest of the communities, noting that the reason Morgan fought in the war was because he cares about people. Sometime later, Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) stops by and asks Morgan to rejoin her at the Kingdom, letting him know that he belongs with people that care about him; there is a lot of shared history between these two characters, so it makes perfect sense that Carol would try to convince him to come back. Lastly, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) arrives at the Heaps and there is a sentimental conversation about their past, tracing back to the very start of the apocalypse; had Morgan not saved Rick, it’s very likely that many of the key characters of “The Walking Dead” would have never found one another. In a bit of dialogue that will send chills down your spine, Rick tells Morgan that he will wind up with people, one way or another. It is entirely possible that this will be the final conversation between these two long-time friends as Morgan heads out on a new journey.

Garret Dillahunt as John – (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

Morgan is no stranger to traversing long distances; between Seasons 3 and 5 of “The Walking Dead,” he traveled from Atlanta to Alexandria to meet back up with Rick. In this premiere, Morgan departs from the Heaps and travels west, stopping from time to time and hitching a ride in the occasional vehicle. The iconic musical score that fans might recognize from Season 6’s “Here’s Not Here” plays during Morgan’s departure. After walking and driving for thousands of miles, Morgan ends up crossing into Texas. The opening scene shows a man named John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), spelled differently than “the fish” as he puts it (this is confirmation that Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” exists in the “TWD” Universe); John sits at a campfire next to his truck, but is startled when he hears rustling in the forest. He speaks to the noise and explains that he hasn’t talked to anyone in nearly a year, but that he is also searching for a woman named Laura who has a pistol that is identical to his. An infected emerges from the woods, prompting John to fire his own pistol, revealing Morgan behind it. John invites Morgan to join him next to the campfire, but there is some hesitation; Morgan has just traveled a huge distance and he ultimately decides to take John’s offer of shelter in his truck for the night. There is a lot of humor that the character of John exudes and he immediately establishes himself as an interesting addition to the series.

In the middle of the night, while John is sleeping, Morgan sneaks away from the truck and discovers a seemingly abandoned campsite nearby. While inspecting it, he is knocked out by a man later revealed to be named Leland (Clint James), who leads a group of bandits. Leland holds Morgan at gunpoint, but John arrives and shoots the gun out of his hand; bandits surround John and force him to give up his weapon as he apologizes for firing a shot. Suddenly, a massive SWAT truck rolls up and a woman named Althea (Maggie Grace) speaks with Leland about his prisoners, offering to trade supplies for them; Leland shoots it down, but she pulls a lever, revealing machine guns on the side of her truck. She ultimately rescues Morgan and John, driving them away from the scene and letting them know that there is something they can do to repay her for getting them out of that sticky situation. Althea pulls her truck over and shows off a video camera, revealing herself to be a journalist working on a story; she tells John and Morgan that she will interview them both. This is quite reminiscent of Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh) when she interviewed Rick’s group after their arrival in Alexandria. In the morning, Althea records John’s story and learns that he is searching for Laura. Morgan is not looking to share any of his personal history and disregards Althea’s claim that he owes her. If you’ve been following Morgan’s journey in the original series, you will understand exactly why he has no interest in talking about what he went through.

Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Garret Dillahunt as John (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

An old-west showdown of sorts erupts as Leland’s group catches up to the trio, but Morgan and John fight back immediately using their signature weapons. Leland demands that Althea hand over the keys to her truck, but she also fights back and flings her keys into a nearby bush. With a sniper on the roof of a trailer, John takes cover behind the door of another trailer, unleashing a collection of gnarly infected. It’s chaos as Morgan makes his way onto the roofs of the trailers to take down the sniper while Leland searches for the keys, getting bit on the hand by a rattlesnake in the process. Morgan is shot in the leg by the sniper, but still manages to put up a fight against him; they end up crashing through the roof of the trailer into a trapped group of infected. The sniper is devoured as Morgan searches for an exit, running into a turned soldier equipped with grenades; he uses the grenade to blow up the trailer while he takes cover in a bathtub. Outside, Althea tries to enter her truck, but is knocked to the ground by Leland, who is shot by John and flung into the hands of infected. In quite possibly the most badass moment of the episode, Althea uses her SWAT machine gun rig to mow down all of the infected as Morgan and John take cover by hiding under the bodies; it’s a bit of a clunky moment within an overall excellent action sequence. The SWAT truck is probably the best vehicle to travel in; who on Earth would want to go up against that type of an arsenal?

This Season Premiere really allows Morgan to open up about his past in a way that viewers can connect with. While driving, the trio discuss what they call infected: John calls them the “passed,” Althea calls them the “dead” and Morgan refers to them as “walkers,” a term he coined at the very beginning of the original series. Morgan decides to allow Althea to interview him and they stop on the side of the road. Althea asks where Morgan comes from, to which he responds by explaining how he started off in Atlanta and ended up in Virginia. She asks if he comes from a settlement in Virginia, allowing him namedrop Alexandria and the Kingdom, even mentioning a king and his pet tiger; Althea is amused by this minor, but rewarding link between the two series. Morgan isn’t exactly keen on answering a question about why he left and decides to leave Althea and John behind; he chillingly states “I lose people and then I lose myself,” a single line of dialogue that encapsulates Morgan Jones as a character. While walking down the road, Morgan is startled by two walkers that manage to knock him to the ground; while he is injured, it is rather odd to see Morgan struggle so much against a couple of walkers. To his surprise, John steps in and saves him, even assisting Morgan in taking down a walker further down the road; it is revealed that this particular walker is a man that Morgan tried to help earlier in the episode. One of the most significant takeaways of this episode is that John is an incredibly loyal friend and is definitely someone that can be trusted.

Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, Maggie Grace as Althea, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Danay Garcia as Luciana, Garret Dillahunt as John Dorie. (Photo Credit: Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC)

The episode wraps up as Morgan rejoins John and Althea in the SWAT truck; Morgan states that he is only going to tag along with them until his injury heals, but it seems like Morgan doesn’t even believe that himself. The trio decide to search the Texas landscape for Laura, something that John knows is crazy, but he can’t give up on her. Althea notices a young girl in the middle of the road and tells John and Morgan to arm up, but they both state that they do not kill; this is a rather quick turnaround for Morgan, but he did having a pretty compelling discussion about peace with Jesus before departing. Althea exits the truck with John and asks Morgan to get their first aid kit after the young woman collapses to the ground. The young woman fearfully tells Althea that bad people are in the area before revealing herself to be Alicia Clark. Suddenly, Victor Strand, Luciana Galvez and Nick Clark emerge from bushes and order the trio to drop their weapons as Alicia holds a metal weapon on Althea’s throat. The original characters that viewers have been following since the beginning of the series now seem to be the enemy; they are raggedy and look like they haven’t eaten or slept in weeks. The “Fear” story has undergone a massive time jump of roughly a year and a half; the Season 3 Finale ended with the fates of these characters being left unknown after the destruction of the Gonzalez Dam. How did they survive? How did they end up in Texas? What has happened to them since we last saw them? How did Luciana rejoin the group? Where is Madison? Where is Daniel? These are just a few of the many questions that will hopefully be answered this season.

“What’s Your Story?” is an excellent jumping point for the character of Morgan into the “Fear the Walking Dead” narrative. His evolution on the original series has made him one of the most fascinating characters so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with this crew. Obviously, this episode needed to bridge the gap between the two shows, but it would have been far more rewarding to see the original characters more than just in the final few seconds. Still, their reveal is definitely a shocker and serves to set up the mystery of how they wound up in such poor shape. The introductions of John and Althea immediately establish them as refreshing and bold characters in the franchise and both Garret Dillahunt and Maggie Grace prove themselves to be perfect fits in the show’s universe. The tone and atmosphere of this premiere makes the series feel totally different than ever before; it’s hard to think that this is the same show as the first three seasons, especially the Pilot when Alicia was just a regular high school student trying to get through the struggles of a teenager. Next week’s episode looks to show the original characters in a different light, possibly before they ended up as highway robbers. “Fear the Walking Dead” is changing, but the roots of the series are still there as the series breaks new ground and makes “TWD” history.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC. Check back to the Niner Times for continuing coverage of “The Walking Dead” franchise, including reviews of new episodes each week. 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Wrath’

Spoiler Warning for the Season 8 Finale (Season 8, Episode 16) of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed. 

Cooper Andrews as Jerry, Khary Payton as Ezekiel, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa. (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

All Out War is officially over. The final battle has been fought. After two and a half seasons of fighting, the conflict with the Saviors has finally come to an end. The Season 8 Finale of “The Walking Dead” is a mixed bag of emotions and resolution that closes the chapter of the longest arc of the series. While not perfect, this is an excellent conclusion to a bumpy season; a season that began with mercy concludes with wrath…but also…mercy. This is the end of an era for the series, but it also sets up “a new beginning” for the story. Peace is finally here…and it’s about damn time.

There’s something truly beautiful about seeing all of the principal characters together; this is what the series was built on and it’s a shame that the most recent seasons seem to have forgotten that. The finale opens up with the characters preparing for their final battle, all together and united likee in the good ‘ole days. Inside Barrington House, Rick checks on baby Gracie and glances at himself in a mirror, symbolizing that he is at a good place both mentally and morally (note that in “Still Gotta Mean Something,” he glances at a broken mirror after killing Saviors, representing his fractured morality and mentality). Siddiq enters the room to feed Gracie and is slightly caught off guard when Rick asks to hear how Carl got bit. Siddiq explains exactly how it happened, even touching upon the fact that Carl was helping to honor Siddiq’s mother, someone he had never met before. Rick seems completely satisfied by what Siddiq tells him and thanks him for sharing; this is a conversation that has been a long time coming and it hopefully sets these two characters onto a path of friendship. Carl made the ultimate sacrifice to help and save Siddiq, so would only make sense for his character to be given a larger role moving forward, one that develops a strong connection with Rick.

Outside, Carol speaks with Henry about the fact that the war is almost over. Henry asks Carol to return to the Kingdom after its all done, promising to not run off ever again. There’s a humorous moment between Jerry and Ezekiel as the king states that not all will be lost if people die on this day; in typical Jerry fashion, he states that no one will die and that everything will be fine in the end. Rick, Maggie, Michonne, Carol, Daryl and Rosita discuss their plans for the battle, using the notes that Dwight sent via Gregory. They are obviously hesitant to trust what the plans say and decide to scout ahead. There’s a tense moment as Morgan rushes to the main gate, showing signs of mental instability as the Savior prisoners reenter the community after drawing away walkers. Morgan tells Carol that they need to be dealt with and swings his staff, knocking Henry to the ground in his confusion. Rick pulls Morgan aside and tells him that he should stay behind at the Hilltop, but Morgan is dead set on finishing the fight. Alden steps forward and expresses that he and the other Saviors wish to join the battle also, but Maggie shuts this down, still weary to trust them. The theme music begins to play as soldiers from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom walk out of the gate on a mission to end the war once and for all.

Danai Gurira as Michonne. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

It isn’t just Team Family preparing for the final battle as the Saviors also gear up to head out at the Sanctuary. Negan taunts Dwight and tells him that he will be coming along, as will Eugene and Father Gabriel. Eugene hands Negan a gun that he uses to shoot at a target labeled “Rick,” laughing in the process. Negan then sends a team of Saviors to a point in the road where they are to set up a blockade with walkers, something that is later revealed to be part of a ploy to trap Rick’s group. Laura drives Eugene, Gabriel and Negan toward their actual meet point as the tyrant “confesses” that he is sacrificing some of his men to put an end to the fighting. Gabriel sees a moment of distraction and jumps out of the moving car before running into the forest, still partially blinded; he comes across a walker, which is killed by Laura before he is held at gunpoint by Eugene. Negan seems to be proud of Eugene and disappointed in Gabriel, the latter of which receives a punch in the gut by Lucille. They load back into the car as Gabriel cries out, pleading for Eugene to let him warn their group of the Saviors’ misdirect. At the roadblock, Rick’s group unloads on the Saviors, killing everyone before finding a decoy note that lists the location of where Negan will be. Morgan hallucinates Jared, who urges him to “try” death, but Jesus ultimately brings him back to reality. There is a ton of tension present as the forces move into their positions for the final battle, feeling reminiscent to “Too Far Gone” and other major battle episodes.

While walking to where they believe Negan to be, Jesus speaks with Morgan about his belief that not all Saviors need to be killed. This has been his central ideology all season and this conversation shows that he has still managed to hold onto it, even after everything they have been through. Jesus explains that Morgan should save the sharpened end of the staff for the dead and use the normal end on people; Carol pokes a little bit of fun at Jesus for this idea, stating that she was just starting to like him. The militia stops abruptly when they spot a massive herd on the horizon, with Rick stating that he has never seen one so large. In an open field, Rick and the others are shocked when they hear the eerie Savior whistle, accompanied by the voice of Negan telling them that they have just wandered into a trap. Via a loudspeaker, Negan announces that everyone in Rick’s group will be killed, along with Dwight and Gabriel; he shares the fact that Eugene is responsible for everything that is happening to the united forces. Dwight is shown to be wearing the same prisoner uniform that Daryl wore during his time as a hostage at the Sanctuary; there have always been parallels to these two characters, but this is the most disturbing, especially considering Dwight has been developed into such a likable character this season. Everything looks hopeless for our survivors, but the series once again proves that hope always prevails and that the characters will always have each other’s backs.

Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler – (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Negan begins a countdown and orders his men to move toward a lined position on the ridge to fire on Rick’s group. In a dramatic turn of events, Negan gives the order to shoot and the bullets from all of the Savior guns immediately explode; the force of the explosions injure all of the Saviors, even brutally killing many in the process. Negan’s hand is blown to bits and the rest of the force is distracted, allowing Rick and the others to fight back, making their way to the ridge and killing Saviors along the way. Negan quickly realizes that Eugene has sabotaged the bullets, betraying the Saviors; however, before he can do anything, Gabriel steps forward and punches Negan to the ground, leading to an altercation that gives Dwight the opportunity to take a few licks at his oppressor. Maggie screams out that Negan is running away, making it clear that it is her singular mission to make sure that he dies on this day. Regina and her crew set their sights on Eugene, also angry at his betrayal, but Rosita manages to subdue them before they bring harm to her “former traveling companion;” it isn’t exactly clear if Regina is killed or if she is simply injured here. Elsewhere on the battlefield, Morgan saves Jesus from a Savior, but stops short from killing him; it’s a bit odd that Jesus is holding onto this belief system right in the middle of an active battle, but it is consistent with his arc this season. Maggie, Michonne, Siddiq and others make their way to where the surviving Saviors have surrendered; Laura demands that her colleagues throw their hands up and asks that the militia spare them. The battle, while exhilarating to watch, is far less action-packed and epic than one would expect from the end of All Out War.

The standoff in the field isn’t the only front of the war’s final battle. At the Hilltop, Kal and Eduardo alert the residents that the Saviors are nearing the community. Tara leads an evacuation through the tunnel that Sasha crafted last season; she leads the Hilltoppers, including Enid, Gracie, Alden, the prisoners and others, into the forest as the Saviors surround the community. Tara tells Enid that she is going to stay behind and hold the Saviors off to allow the rest of the survivors the chance to get away. Alden refuses to leave Tara alone and orders his fellow Saviors to help in defending the Hilltop residents; he is so adamant about it that he tells Tara that he will even help her without a gun. The attacking Saviors start making their way to the treeline, but a series of explosions put an end to them, leaving Tara completely stunned. She steps out from the bushes to see Cyndie, Aaron and the Oceanside forces hurling explosives at the attackers. Sure, it is incredibly cliche that they would arrive just in the knick of time to save the day, but at least they are finally involved in the All Out War arc…plus it’s just damn thrilling to see them fighting. There’s a look of joy and content on Tara’s face as she sees the badass army assisting in the take down of the Saviors; she has been trying to recruit them since she first stumbled upon the hidden community in “Swear,” so it is totally rewarding that they have finally come out of the shadows and now longer have to be afraid.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The climax of the episode comes as Negan and Rick finally face off against each other one-on-one. Their final duel takes place beneath the tree with stained glass panels that was first shown in the Season Premiere. Rick takes a single shot at Negan, but misses (of course) and breaks the glass of a panel; Negan takes a few swings at him with Lucille, but the fight ultimately ends up being purely based on physical strength as their weapons are thrown to the side. Negan stands looking down on Rick and opens up about his “eeny, meeny, miny, moe” routine, which he explains was bullshit; he selected Abraham and Glenn as the victims because he didn’t want to kill a father in front of his son. In hindsight, Negan states that he probably should have just killed Rick back during their first meeting as it possibly would have indirectly saved Carl’s life. Rick gets back onto his feet and tells Negan that they can build a future with them both alive, just as Carl wished; Rick pleads with Negan to think about it for just a few seconds as he lays out the vision that Carl dreamed. This seems to be effecting Negan as tears fill his eyes, making it seem as though he will surrender and agree to a ceasefire; in yet another plot twist, Rick slits Negan’s throat with the broken piece of stained glass. As blood pours out of Negan’s throat, he lets out a hoarse jab at Carl’s naive belief. This showdown is eerily reminiscent to the standoff between Rick and Shane in “Better Angels,” especially considering Rick used similar tactics to regain power, as well as the fact that both took place in a field. This duel also has shades of the fight between Rick and The Governor in “Too Far Gone.” This conflict has a totally different ending than those previously mentioned, however.

The real emotional punch of the finale comes as the camera pulls back to reveal Maggie, Michonne and the rest of the militia force standing behind Rick in the field. Rick turns to his group and tearfully tells Siddiq to “save him.” This sets Maggie off and she begins to run toward Negan, screaming and crying as Michonne holds her back; “he killed Glenn” she screams at the top of her lungs, furious and devastated that Negan will be saved while her beloved husband lay mutilated and beaten under a mound of dirt. “It’s not over until he’s dead,” she continues as Michonne does her best to comfort a distraught Maggie. Rick gives a rousing speech to his people about how they need to be better than Negan in order to build the future that comes after. He orders the captured Saviors to lower their hands before repeating the line in his speech from the Premiere about those that wish to switch sides and help being allowed to do so. He points to the herd on the horizon and emphasizes that the dead are the real threat and that the fighting among each other must stop if they wish to survive. It’s a powerful speech that really encapsulates what Carl died for and the message he left behind. There’s a moment of reunification as Rosita asks Eugene if he is responsible for the bullet sabotage, to which he explains that he was inspired by Gabriel’s ineptitude. Rosita punches him right in the face, signifying that their rocky relationship might be on the path to recovery; a punch in the face can sometimes be the best “let’s move on” you’ll get in the apocalypse. The full scene of red-eyed Rick sitting under the tree is shown as he triumphantly proclaims “my mercy prevails over my wrath,” bringing the entire season to a complete circle.

Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Danai Gurira as Michonne and Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The last stretch of the finale serves to conclude many of the arcs of this season and sets up the “A New Beginning” story for next season. Maggie returns to the Hilltop and speaks with Alden, who expresses his upmost gratitude for her giving him and the other Saviors a second chance; he explains that he will be heading back to the Sanctuary, but offers to assist in bringing some of the plans from Georgie’s “A Key to the Future” book to fruition. Tara, Rosita and Eduardo pay a visit to the Sanctuary with a bus full of survivors to assist in repairing the shattered windows of the Sanctuary. Frankie and Tanya, now dressed in normal clothes, are free from their enslaved lives as Negan’s wives; they thank Tara for helping in refurbishing their home. Surprisingly, Laura gives a nod of approval to Rosita; it seemed as though Laura was totally loyal to Negan, but she appears to have seen the value in peace. Out in the forest, Daryl has driven Dwight to a secluded spot and it seems as though an execution is about to take place. Dwight once again vehemently apologizes and expresses his remorse for all the bad things he has done, specifically killing Denise. Daryl straight up demands that Dwight leave and never return, lest he wishes to be killed; he hands him car keys and tells him to go find Sherry. Later, Dwight is shown returning to the safe house that he and Sherry established and that he last visited in “Hostiles and Calamities.” He finds a note that has a simple infinity symbol, along with pretzels and beer, letting Dwight know that Sherry is still alive and well; maybe this is a hint that she will return in Season 9. This is a fantastic emotional conclusion to Dwight’s story of the past two and a half seasons and serves as excellent set up for his future.

This finale serves as a jumping point for Morgan’s future in the “TWD” franchise, particularly placing him on a course for his crossover to “Fear the Walking Dead.” He arrives at the Heaps, much to the surprise of Jadis, to let the trash queen know that Rick has offered her a place in the community. There is a beautiful sense of peace between these two characters as Morgan points out that Jadis doesn’t want to be alone and that she needs people; “everything is about people. Everything in this life that’s worth a damn,” he tells her, repeating exactly what Eastman told him while encouraging Morgan to find others to survive with in “Here’s Not Here.” There has been such a remarkable shift in the character of Jadis this season, and her layers are peeled back even further as she reveals her real name to be “Anne.” She agrees to join the rest of Rick’s group, but Morgan lets her know that he will be staying at the Heaps, unable to be with people at the moment. When you think about it, Jadis and Morgan actually have a lot in common and the fact that they are given this simple scene together showcases the fact that “The Walking Dead” is a story about human beings and our similarities; the zombies are merely an aspect of the environment, but the real draw of the story is the humanity that comes out in scenes such as this.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, and Danai Gurira as Michonne. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The final bit of the episode is downright chilling. Maggie holds a meeting with Jesus in her office, discussing the fact that keeping the prisoners alive at the beginning and end of the war was the right call. Her tone changes when she tells Jesus that Rick was wrong for sparing Negan and that Michonne was unjustified in holding her back. Maggie states that they will build up the Hilltop, bide their time and wait for a moment to strike; Daryl steps out from darkness in agreement. Obviously they aren’t talking about killing Rick and Michonne, but it is a bit odd and slightly out of character that they would sneak behind his back like this; it is especially strange that Jesus is part of this considering he has been an advocate for peace all season, although a case could be made that he only wants Negan dead. One should also question why Maggie wasn’t consulted on Negan’s fate as she has more stakes in his survival/death than anyone; it would have been far more rewarding to have Maggie be the one to make the decision to keep him alive, reflecting back onto what Glenn, Hershel, Beth and Carl would have done in the situation. The narrative flips to Alexandria where Rick, Michonne and Siddiq have Negan tied to a bed with a bandage on his neck wound. After two and a half seasons of living under Negan’s boot, the tables have turned and Rick and Michonne lay out their plans for the tyrant; he will live in a cell, rotting until he dies, but still watching the people that he oppressed as they flourish without him.

The season comes to a conclusion in the most perfect way as Father Gabriel visits his blown out church, taking a moment to pray as the sunlight illuminates the darkness; he thanks God for giving him the strength and courage to survive. A voice-over from Rick is set against a flashback to many years before the apocalypse as he walks with a young Carl on the farm that was mentioned in the letter; Rick reads his own message to Carl, one of hope and prosperity about the world that Carl led everyone to. “You showed me the new world. You made it real,” Rick tells Carl as past versions of themselves walk into the sunset. While the decision for Carl to die is still hard to swallow, it is absolutely heartwarming that he is at least being honored properly in the finale. Rick mentions in his own letter that the day on the farm that Carl mentions was the first time that Rick figured out who he was as a person and as a father. That summarizes the effect Carl had on the other characters; he helped keep Rick, Michonne, Shane, Lori and everyone else grounded in who they are as people. He brought them back from darkness and showed them the light when they were lost; he represents pure good in a world of evil. It’s the characters that survive that carry his legacy and his message, ushering the series into a new era of peace, tranquility and unity. Of course, this is still “The Walking Dead,” so that won’t last long.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

“Wrath” is an imperfect capstone to the All Out War story arc. While it does deliver a multitude of intense and emotional moments, the final battle is lacking and some of the character moments feel forced and unnatural. That being said, this finale is a satisfying conclusion to many of the individual arcs. The episode hits all of the emotional cues and delivers several gut-punches as Season 9 and the extended future of the series is set up. The best moments of the episode include Rick’s conversation with Siddiq, Eugene’s betrayal, Rick and Negan’s duel, Rosita and Eugene’s reunion and Morgan’s advice to Jadis, among others. Adapting several iconic moments from the comics, including Negan’s throat being slit and his prisoner status, show that the story still pays homage to its origins even if the overall narrative is quite different. The direction of Greg Nicotero deserves praise, as does the musical score of Bear McCreary, who never fails to compliment the story with his powerful music. The performances across the board are spectacular, but Lauren Cohan, Andrew Lincoln, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lennie James, Austin Amelio, Josh McDermitt and Seth Gilliam are the standouts. The countdown to Season 9 begins now and there are a lot of questions in the air: will Dwight find Sherry? Will a civil war arise between the characters? What is up with the helicopter? Will peace between the communities last? WHERE IS HEATH? The Season 8 Finale marks Scott M. Gimple’s final episode as showrunner after first stepping into the role in Season 4; Angela Kang is taking over in Season 9. What vision will she have for the series?

“The Walking Dead” will return for Season 9 in October 2018. Season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” premiered immediately following the “TWD” Finale as part of “Survival Sunday” to celebrate Morgan’s crossover. A full review of the Premiere is forthcoming. Be sure to stay tuned to the Niner Times for continuing coverage of “The Walking Dead” franchise. 

TV REVIEW: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Worth’

Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 15 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan and Steven Ogg as Simon. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The conflict among the Saviors hits a climax as betrayals are shattered and secrets come to the surface in a somewhat lackluster penultimate episode. Coming off of several strong chapters of the All Out War story arc, this episode is oddly balanced and paced, spending a significant amount of time at the Sanctuary while also bouncing around to other storylines. Issues aside, there are several incredible moments of plot progression, excellent emotions and moving performances that help to set the stage for the Season 8 Finale.

The opening scene is quite possibly the best part of the episode, mostly because it is precisely what it needs to be. Ever since “How It’s Gotta Be,” viewers have been filled with emotion waiting for the letters that Carl wrote to be read. Following his talk with Michonne last episode, Rick decides that it is finally time for him to read his letter…and it sure is emotional. Via voice-over from Chandler Riggs as Carl, the memories of his childhood are shared, and mentions of Rick being shot at the very start of the series are made as the final words from a son to his father are read; Carl makes it clear that peace with the Saviors and Negan won’t be easy, but that it is the only way to assure that they survive in the end, both physically and mentally. Carl explains the safety he felt when he was with father, and expresses his desire for Rick to feel that same safety. There’s also a mention made about the innocent people that are part of the Saviors, most of which are just trying to survive themselves and don’t necessarily believe in Negan’s style of leadership.

Much like the vision that was shown in “Honor,” Carl paints a picture of the “larger world” that Jesus introduced them to, one where all of the communities are working together for a better future. Carl truly believed that life can return to some sense of normalcy if they can lay down their weapons and stop fighting. While the letter is being read, shots of life around the Hilltop are shown; Jerry carries baby Gracie around, Michonne plays with Judith, Eduardo relieves Kal at a lookout post and the prisoners work on a shelter. If all types of people from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom can come together, what’s stopping the “good” Saviors from coming around and being part of the future they’re all building? Michonne gives Rick a smile, showing that she is relieved that he finally decided to read the letter; it’s worth noting that contents of Michonne’s letter, nor Enid’s, are currently known, but hopefully they will also be read at some point in the future. Negan’s letter comes back into play this episode as Michonne decides to take it from the drawer that Rick stashed it in. Since Carl’s death, Michonne has been fully committed to following through on his wishes and this is just another way she is paying tribute to his sacrifice.

Xander Berkeley as Gregory. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

One of the most underrated duos of the past two seasons has been Gregory and Simon, both of whom have this engrossing back-and-forth that makes for a unique and hilarious dynamic. Following his escape from the prisoner pen at the Hilltop, Gregory returns to the Sanctuary and once again tries to make himself useful. Simon expresses his anger at Gregory’s failure to knock his people back in line prior to the initial battle of All Out War in “Mercy.” It’s also revealed to Gregory that Negan is missing and presumed dead, leaving Simon in charge of the Saviors; this seems to be good news to Gregory, but Simon has other plans and threatens to kill the former Hilltop leader for his flippant nature. In a rather surprising turn, Gregory actually stands up for himself and refuses to go down without a figh, claiming that he has been through too much just for it all to end without a point. Instead of just killing him, Simon decides to give Gregory another chance to prove himself and help in the transition of leadership at the Sanctuary. The problem is…Negan has returned to throw a wrench in things. Outside of the Sanctuary, Dwight takes a smoke break and is stunned to find Negan alive and well. The two have a talk and it is clear that something is being planned between the two in secrecy. In midst of a war, the inner turmoil of the villain group makes for some seriously tense television, especially considering the viewer is aware of many of the secrets at play.

Simon’s plans are turned upside down when he is called into a meeting with Negan, along with the other Savior lieutenants. There is a clear look of shock and disappointment on Simon’s face as Negan menacingly cleans off Lucille (who is looking remarkably well after everything she went through the past few episodes) and brings the events of “The Key” and after into question; Negan is especially angry over the fact that the Hilltop attack wasn’t a complete success and that Simon fled from the scene before making sure the job was done. There is also a wild revelation made as Negan mentions the days before he took charge of the Saviors, specifically when Simon gunned down all of the men and boys of a “settlement.” While it isn’t explicitly stated, this is essentially direct confirmation that Simon is the one who killed the men of the Oceanside community before they relocated to their current location. This is an excellent way to bind the storylines together and provides an explanation for why the survivors of Oceanside are so weary to become involved. The killing of the Scavengers provides Negan with enough proof that Simon has been “backsliding” and that he needs to be dealt with. Negan orders Simon to get on his knees and it seems as though he will be the next victim of a Lucille beating. This turns out to be a test and Negan “forgives” Simon before letting him in on a plan to surround the Hilltop and end the conflict once and for all. Dwight is also present for the meeting and pays close attention to the plans. This entire scene is insanely intense and really plays up the theme of betrayal that has been especially prevalent this season among the Saviors.

Ross Marquand as Aaron – (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

A problematic aspect of this season has been the under-utilization of Oceanside, especially following the death of Natania. This episode finds Cyndie, Rachel, Beatrice and Kathy heading out to go fishing whilst discussing the fact that Aaron has been creeping around their community. A walker crosses their path and Aaron dispatches it before collapsing to the ground, clearly exhausted, dehydrated and starved. Triggerfinger Rachel once again proposes that they just kill him, but Cyndie stone-coldly states that he made his decision to stick around, so he can die on his own. A rainstorm creates a harsh environment for Aaron to face off against a handful of walkers. He’s struggles to kill the walkers, but manages to successfully defend himself from the undead; he kills the last walker by bashing its head in with a stick, looking similar to Negan and Lucille. After falling asleep, Aaron wakes up to find himself surrounded by the Oceanside women. He gives an impassioned speech to them about the fact that his people aren’t responsible for Natania’s death, but rather it is the Saviors to blame. He places the blame of everything that Oceanside has gone through on the Saviors, stating that there is no moving forward until they are dead. It’s not exactly clear what effect this will have on the women, but Aaron deserves to be praised for be so determined and selfless. The camera does focus in on Cyndie’s face, hinting that she may be on the verge of changing her mind and leading her people into battle.

A major player of this episode is none other than Eugene, who really shifts to his darkest side yet as he continues to manage his bullet factory outpost. He concocts a recipe with Frankie and Tanya before giving orders to the workers that have been transported to his outpost and are now assisting in the sorting and manufacturing of the bullets. Father Gabriel is still on the line, but a coughing fit sends Eugene into a power trip as he lambastes the sickly priest for possibly spreading the infection that he caught earlier this season. He also points out that one of the bullets Gabriel was in charge of turned out to be defective; Eugene accuses Gabriel of intentionally sabotaging the Savior operation, but it’s clear that there is no ill-will on Gabriel’s part. He flat out says that he doesn’t want his people to die, but that he also doesn’t want to die himself. There is a really powerful moment wherein Gabriel mentions that he might not be any better now than when he locked his parishioners out of his church; the fact that he is so torn up about the possibility of him contributing to deaths of his own people now shows that he has grown exponentially since the days of his darker past. Father Gabriel is a prime example of the excellent character development in “The Walking Dead,” showing that even people with muddied history can still find a way forward to redemption.

Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa – (Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC)

Eugene really hasn’t been part of much of the story involving his “former traveling companions” lately, but this episode finds him back with two of them. Eugene heads outside to test some of the bullets when suddenly his two Saviors guards are killed by Rosita and Daryl. They drag him away from the outpost with plans on bringing him to the Hilltop. While walking, Eugene expresses his belief that they are only keeping him alive because of their shared history; this causes Daryl to snap and threaten to cut out his tongue, but Rosita ultimately stops him. He also brings up the fact that he saved Rosita’s life back in “Hearts Still Beating,” when she shot at Negan leading Eugene to confess to making the bullet. She doesn’t want to listen to Eugene’s bullshit either, and she later pulls a gun on him after he boasts about how well the Saviors have been treating him and that Rick is the one responsible for the conflict. While holding him at gunpoint, Rosita unleashes a torrent of insults at Eugene, claiming that he destroyed the only friendships that he ever had; she also tells him that they are only keeping him alive because of his knowledge and that they will lock him away so that he can work for them. There is a lot of pain in Rosita’s eyes and the hurt and betrayal that she feels is totally visceral, especially considering the viewer can relate to this; the audience trusted Eugene and he has repeatedly destroyed all of the empathy he has gained. It’s a vicious cycle and it is weighing heavily on Rosita.

The award for the most overly dramatic character of the episode definitely goes to Eugene. While transporting him back to the Hilltop, Daryl and Rosita stop to take down some walkers. Eugene sees this as a moment to escape and sticks his fingers down his throat, forcing him to projectile vomit all over Rosita. While she is distracted, he flees from the area and ends up hiding under a mound of what appears to be cremated human remains. While searching, Rosita flat out tells Daryl to shoot him if they find him, showing that she views Eugene as being beyond redemption. Eugene may be a coward, but he is also resourceful and knows how to get himself out of a sticky situation; for further proof of this, think back to “Twice As Far” when he bit Dwight’s dick to free himself and his friends. Eugene returns to the outpost and speaks with Regina, who relays the plans that Negan has for finishing the war. The Saviors will need a large amount of bullets, so Eugene pushes his workers to finish their order by the next morning. Gabriel is brought back onto the assembly line, but is given an ultimatum: help or cry and die. Eugene has more confidence than ever in this scene as he gives commands and leads with an iron fist; he has stakes in this war, being a crucial asset that Negan needs to finish the battle. The question remains, has Eugene fully turned his back on his friends? Is he playing an angle and secretly working to sabotage the operation? What would Abraham think of were Eugene is right now?

Steven Ogg as Simon and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan. (Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC)

The tide turns at the Sanctuary as Simon holds a secret meeting to discuss plans to kill Negan (for some reason he holds this “secret” meeting completely out in the open). Savior Gary, Gregory and others are present as Simon explains that Negan deserves to die in a respectful and quiet way, even offering to allow Dwight to be the one to kill him. An eerie whistle breaks up the meeting as Negan steps forward and gives a signal, leading to everyone except Simon, Gregory and Dwight to be gunned down. Negan thanks Dwight for being a whistle-blower, prompting Simon to pounce at his former companion. For whatever reason, Negan offers Simon a final chance to prove himself in the most Savior way possible: a one-on-one fight in the middle of the Sanctuary. With all of the Sanctuary residents surrounding them, Simon and Negan throw punches at one another, showing that they are both incredibly capable fighters. As Negan gets the upper-hand, Dwight pulls Gregory away, realizing that he might not be safe among the Saviors anymore; Dwight hands Gregory the plans that Negan has for the final strike against the Hilltop, urging him to get them to Rick. Negan stands above Simon and delivers a final fatal blow, strangling him to death and putting an end to his right-hand man. The fight choreography isn’t exactly the best, looking like a rather generic television brawl. Still, this scene is incredibly reminiscent to the final showdown between Rick and Shane in Season 2’s “Better Angels,” as well as the duel between The Governor and Merle in Season 3’s “This Sorrowful Life”; each of these are examples of leaders being forced to take down their second-in-command after realizing that they are just too far gone.

The twists and turns at the Sanctuary aren’t quite over. While walking through the halls, Negan talks to Dwight about how shitty the situation with Simon turned out to be. He expresses his gratitude toward Dwight and even offers him a promotion, which Dwight gladly accepts and states that he will help end Rick and the others. Negan motions for Dwight to enter his room, which he complies and is shocked to find Laura waiting for him. Dwight panics as he realizes what is happening: he has been exposed. The cover is blown as Laura angrily explains what happened the night of the attack on Alexandria, including Dwight killing the Saviors and her own escape. Negan picked her up last episode and has been aware of the betrayal ever since, but was playing along to gain an advantage; the plans that Dwight sent to the Hilltop are revealed to be a trap that Rick’s group are going to walk into. Dwight facing the consequences of his betrayal is chilling to watch, especially when Negan pokes the bear even further by figuring out that he also likely lied about killing Sherry.

The final stage of All Out War is put into motion as Gregory arrives at the Hilltop with the plans that Dwight sent. While Gregory is thrown back into the prisoner pen, the plans are handed over to Maggie, who speaks with Rick and Michonne. Negan stands outside of the Sanctuary as Walker Simon is chained to the fence; Michonne radios Negan and reads the letter that Carl left for him, urging him to accept the peace that Rick hopefully offers him. There is so much maturity in what Carl says to Negan, showing that the fighting is ultimately pointless and is basically mutually assured destruction. Negan isn’t standing down though; he’s ready to finish things, killing everyone he has to in the process. While it makes perfect sense that some of his beliefs may have changed, isn’t Negan’s outlook that “people are a resource”? Is he really planning on killing everyone at the Hilltop? If so, is this not exactly what Simon had previously proposed? Regardless, it is worth noting that there seems to be a bit of emotion as Negan hears Carl’s words. He is somewhat affected by Carl’s death, even if he won’t fully admit that to everyone.

“Worth” isn’t the best or the worst episode of Season 8. It mostly serves as a wrapping up of storylines and a bridge to the Season Finale. Some aspects of the episode, including the death of Simon and Oceanside, are slightly underwhelming. Simon’s death does shake things up, but it would have been far more rewarding to have a member of Rick’s group kill him or for it to at least be on screen more prominently. Certain points of this episode do feel as though the wheels are spinning until the season reaches the finale, but that is an issue that has always been present in the series. The positives of this episode do include the interactions between Eugene, Rosita and Daryl, the reading of Carl’s letters and the secrets and lies at the Sanctuary. This episode features some stellar performances from Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Ross Marquand and Austin Amelio. The standout of the episode is Steven Ogg, who gives his final performance in the series as Simon, a menacing and lovable villain since his introduction in the terrifying Season 6 Finale “Last Day on Earth.” With just one episode remaining, how will All Out War conclude? Will Negan be kept alive or will the conflict spill over into Season 9? What will become of Dwight? Will Oceanside and Aaron arrive to help finish the war? Will there be any more casualties before it’s all said and done?

Be sure to tune into the Season 8 Finale of “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m., immediately followed by the Season 4 Premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead” at 10:10 p.m. on AMC.