Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 4

Cody reviews Fear the Walking Dead season 4 episode by episode.

The following reviews originally appeared on

Season 4, Episode 1: What's Your Story?

PLOT: Morgan Jones leaves the setting of The Walking Dead behind to wander into Fear the Walking Dead territory.

REVIEW: The fourth season of The Walking Dead's companion series Fear the Walking Dead brings an event that I didn't expect to see happen any time soon: a crossover between the two Dead shows. Even if a crossover were to happen, I would never have expected it to play out like this, with Morgan Jones (Lennie James) being the character to leave one show behind to enter the other. One of the major selling points of Fear the Walking Dead had been that it takes place earlier in the zombie apocalypse than The Walking Dead. While The Walking Dead is closing in on the two year mark according to online timelines, Fear was still only a couple months into the outbreak by the time of the season three finale. Morgan's whereabouts during the outbreak have been well accounted for, so it would have been tough to explain that he was hanging out with the Fear characters sometime back around the time of The Walking Dead season two.

Fear the Walking Dead's new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (who are replacing original showrunner Dave Erickson) and newly appointed executive producer Scott M. Gimple (who also now serves as Chief Content Editor for the Walking Dead franchise) got around any prequel confusion by making the stunning decision to have the show jump forward a couple years: Fear the Walking Dead is now taking place after the events of The Walking Dead season eight. What the hell have the Clark family been up to since being separated by a dam explosion in Fear's season three finale? Don't expect to find out in the season four premiere, because What's Your Story? is not about them. It's about Morgan, and thus feels less like an episode of Fear than it does an epilogue to The Walking Dead season eight - or worse, like Morgan is getting his own spin-off. I really hope that's not what Fear will be turning into with its fourth season. The returning characters deserve to get more attention than this crossover character.

Firmly tying Fear to the world of The Walking Dead and the events of that show's season eight finale, What's Your Story? tosses in gratuitous cameos by the characters Jesus (Tom Payne), Carol (Melissa McBride), and even Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) before Morgan hits the road and starts working his way into Fear territory.

While strolling across the United States, Morgan bumps into a couple of new characters. First, there's Garret Dillahunt as a gunslinger named John Dorie, who's looking for his lost love and is introduced delivering a 4 minute monologue that's mostly about the fact that he's speaking for the first time in a year, and is largely tolerable because it's being delivered by Dillahunt. There's also Maggie Grace as Althea, who drives around in a SWAT truck that's somewhat reminiscent of the Dead Reckoning from George A. Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD. Both of these characters are interesting additions to the Walking Dead world, John in particular, and I'm looking forward to getting to spend more time with them. Despite Althea's determination to interview people on camera, which seems completely pointless a couple years into the apocalypse.

Morgan and his new pals also run into the required Bad People, which allows for an action sequence that manages to be better than most of the action we just saw in The Walking Dead season eight. Morgan is wounded during this sequence, which leads to a scene in which some of the walking dead are actually a threat to him - and this zombie chase scene is made all the better by the fact that it was shot in a beautiful location in the Texas countryside during the fall.

It isn't until the very last minutes of the episode that familiar Fear faces turn up - so while What's Your Story? doesn't amount to much as a Fear episode (at least as we've known the show up to this point), it does end with a Fear cliffhanger that I can't wait to see resolved next week.

I'm not sure about mixing Morgan into Fear, I'm not sure about changing the show this much when it just had its best season yet... But I'm on board to see where this is all going.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Morgan and an adversary fall through the roof of a trailer home that's full of zombies - and Morgan then uses a grenade to escape the situation.

GORY GLORY: If you like watching zombies get shot in the head, What's Your Story? had a good amount of that going on.

FAVORITE SCENE: Morgan is chased down a country road, surrounded by fall scenery.

Season 4, Episode 2: Another Day in the Diamond

PLOT: The Clark family, Strand, and Luciana have been living peacefully in a baseball diamond... but it looks like their days of peace are about to end.

REVIEW: New showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, along with newly appointed executive producer Scott M. Gimple, appear to be rebooting AMC's Fear the Walking Dead as a more eventful, more quickly paced series, and I have some concern that it may be moving too quickly for its own good. The show has undergone a major time jump to accomodate a crossover with its companion series The Walking Dead, its timeline having been moved ahead something like two years so it's now occurring after the events of The Walking Dead's season 8 finale, and as we catch up with the show's returning characters in the second episode of this new season (the first episode was focused on crossover character Morgan Jones) it's clear that we have missed out on a couple seasons worth of story.

The third season of Fear ended with the main characters scattered after being caught in a dam explosion. At the end of the season 4 premiere, Nick Clark (Frank Dillane), his sister Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), their associate Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), and Nick's girlfriend Luciana Galvez (Danay Garcia) - who vanished for the majority of the third season, and hadn't been found yet when the season ended - were seen together again, ambushing Morgan (Lennie James) and his new travel buddies. Rather than just continue on from that moment, the episode flashes back to give us a glimpse at what happened between seasons... but it doesn't go back to the dam explosion, it goes back to an unknown time in between the explosion and the ambush of Morgan, a time which allows them to keep all of the important questions dangling over our heads. 

How was Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) reunited with her children? Where did they find Luciana? Where is Daniel Salazar? None of those questions are answered. Instead, we're just given an idea that Madison found Nick in some terrible situation, and Luciana seems to find it amusing that Nick is still holding her disappearing act over her head. Her stance is, "Let bygones be bygones, Nick." Viewers are asking, "Where the hell were you, Luciana?"

Someone must have been inspired by the stadium turned marketplace in the show's third season, because in this not quite far back enough flashback we find that the Clarks, Strand, and Luciana are now among the forty-seven people living inside a baseball stadium. People have been living in the stadium for a year at this point, but we're not told how long the characters we know have been there. Crops are being grown inside the stadium in hopes that someday they won't have to leave the place for anything anymore. No more scavenger runs, they'll be self-sufficient. That's a day Nick is looking forward to - the character who once enjoyed slathering himself in zombie guts and walking among the dead is now afraid of venturing out into the countryside, traumatized by whatever he experienced that we haven't been shown yet.

Madison, Alicia, Strand, and Luciana are perfectly willing to take road trips, and they take one here to see if they can pick up the trail of a mysterious young girl who has arrived at the stadium alone, hoping they might find her family. Sometimes I'm wary of the addition of a child character, but this girl Charlie I accepted immediately, because she's played by Alexa Nisenson - a child actor who earned cool points with her performance in a talent show scene in last year's comedy FIST FIGHT.

Instead of Charlie's family, the group meets a different new addition to the cast, Jenna Elfman as deeply frightened nurse Naomi, who shows up just in time to participate in an action scene involving zombies that have been coated in crude. Oil, that is. Black gold. Texas tea. Elfman is best known for her work in comedy, particularly the 119 episodes she spent on the sitcom Dharma & Greg. I never watched Dharma & Greg and haven't seen Elfman in all that much else, so her dramatic performance on this show doesn't stir up any comedic memories for me. Naomi doesn't make much of an impression at all in Another Day in the Diamond, but I'm interested to see what she'll end up bringing to the show.

And there's a more, another new cast member: Kevin Zegers of the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake shows up at the threatening leader of a group that calls themselves The Vultures. After two and half seasons of watching The Saviors on The Walking Dead, the last thing I want to see on Fear the Walking Dead is a war with a group called The Vultures. Zegers' Mel is coming along with his "give us your stuff" demands way too soon after The Walking Dead's issues with Negan. But I'll wait and see where this is going before getting too worried about it.

There was quite a bit packed into Another Day in the Diamond, and the show still has a lot of questions left to answer. While I don't really like the idea of this season taking a "fill in the blanks with flashbacks" approach while also continuing the story of Morgan Jones, I have to admit, this scattered story they're telling has me hooked. If the quality manages to stay at the level of these first two episodes, Fear will have me eagerly tuning in every week while I wait to be given explanations.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: The attack of the oil tank zombies, who were somewhat reminiscent of the Tarman from THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

GORY GLORY: This episode didn't deliver much in the way of gore, but we did see some zombies getting dispatched.

FAVORITE SCENE: My favorite parts of the episode were the book-ending montages set to Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried". Solely because of the song; nothing to do with what was going on while the song played.

Season 4, Episode 3: Good Out Here

PLOT: The Clark siblings, Luciana, and Strand work with Morgan and his traveling companions to survive after their vehicle runs off the road.

REVIEW: A show that used to feel to me like it was moving along at an achingly slow pace, Fear the Walking Dead is continuing to speed along this season - and I suppose the feeling that it's moving quickly comes along with the fact that it's basically telling the story of two seasons at once: the present day story, plus the flashbacks that fill in the gap caused by the two year (or around there) time jump that occurred between the season three finale and the season four premiere. It's an interesting structure that certainly makes the show feel more lively than it ever has before.

If the fact that a character from The Walking Dead was moving over to its companion series in the show's new season was a major selling point for you, Good Out Here is the episode you've been waiting for. Although The Walking Dead's Morgan Jones (Lennie James) shared the screen with characters from Fear in the previous two episodes, he spends a great deal more time sharing the screen with them in this episode, and it's the character of Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) that he hangs out with the most.

Nick isn't exactly enthusiastic about the time he spends with Morgan, as it's essentially a hostage situation: Nick, his sister Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), his girlfriend Luciana (Danay Garcia), and their pal Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) ambushed Morgan and his newfound friends Althea (Maggie Grace) and John (Garret Dillahunt), capturing them and taking control of Althea's SWAT truck. After the truck crashes, the tables are turned and Nick ends up under Morgan's care. Luckily for him, Morgan is a pretty relaxed captor, even freeing him of his bindings because he's so confident in his bo staff skills. It is cool to see these characters from different shows interacting, and the scene in which Morgan demonstrates what he can do with his staff by easily knocking Nick around is exactly the sort of fun moment I would hope to have come out of a crossover like this.

Nick figures out how Morgan's mind works, and we also start to figure out what Nick and his fellow returning Fear characters are doing out here on the road, carjacking people. They're on a mission of vengeance against the group called The Vultures, who obviously did something terrible to them at the baseball diamond they had been using as a home. Here the flashbacks to the time between seasons were entirely focused on Nick and his mom Madison (Kim Dickens), who talks to him about her way of still looking for good in the world, even when living in a post-zombie-apocalypse world where other people are trying to take their stuff away. These flashbacks, the absence of Madison in the present day scenes, and the level of rage Nick reaches when he sees one of the Vultures out in the wild makes me very concerned that we're going to see a flashback to Madison's death at some point in a future episode. I've had my issues with Madison in the past, but I really don't want to see her get killed off at this point. I can't imagine Fear the Walking Dead without Madison Clark.

But hell, I really can't imagine the show without the character who appears to die in the final moments (and interviews with showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg confirm that the character is dead, so there's not going to be some miraculous save in the next episode). Apparently done at the actor's request, this death was completely unexpected to me - downright shocking, in fact, because I thought this character was as important to this show as Rick Grimes is to The Walking Dead. If they didn't own Fear the Walking Dead, they at least shared ownership with Kim Dickens. Now one has been killed off and the fate of the other remains unknown. What is this series going to be by the time this season is over? Or even by the halfway point of the season? (Please don't just become The Morgan Jones Show.)

The death was made all the more shocking by its placement in the season. Kudos to the showrunners for dropping it into the third episode and not sticking to the predictable "major things only happen in premieres and finales" pattern of The Walking Dead.

I have no idea what these new showrunners are doing with Fear, I have no idea what to expect from the show going forward... and I'm enjoying that. This was a hell of an exit episode for a major character, and it worked in some nice emotional content for that character before offing them. Obviously this isn't the last we're going to see of this person, though, because they still have story to be filled in with the flashbacks. I'm thankful we still have more time to spend with them.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: It's looking like Nick is about to get munched on by a zombie, until Morgan comes along with his staff and takes care of the zombie problem. A character from one show saves a character from another show!

GORY GLORY: A good number of zombies get taken out of the equation, especially in a cool action scene in which Alicia and Althea work together to thin out a herd of zombies that have surrounded the crashed SWAT truck. There's nothing that special about the zombie kills, though. So I'll give the "glory" nod to the painful impalement of Nick's enemy in the El Camino.

FAVORITE SCENE: The comedic scene where Morgan shows Nick how good he is with his bo staff.

Season 4, Episode 4: Buried

PLOT: Alicia, Strand, and Luciana reflect on the day when their lives took a turn for the worse.

REVIEW: Fear the Walking Dead has become quite an exciting show to watch since its fourth season began airing on AMC, and that's not only because the time jump flashback structure means it has to pack a bit more story than usual into the episodes while scenes play out in two different time periods. It has also been exciting because it has made sure to present the walking dead of the title as a real physical threat in every episode so far - and this show and its companion series The Walking Dead can sometimes become so focused on the character drama that the zombies appear as an afterthought. Episodes in the past have gone by without any notable zombie action at all, but the four episodes of this season have each featured some kind of memorable zombie set piece.

Buried has a couple, the first being a moment in a greenhouse where we see there is something even worse than being attacked by decaying, flesh-hungry corpses. That is to be attacked by decaying, flesh-hungry corpses that are covered in cactus needles, so if they lay their hands on you those needles end up being passed to you. Just as I was processing that idea, the episode then topped the greenhouse scene with a sequence set on a slide in a water park where zombies are waiting to munch on anyone who comes down the slide.

I had seen the promotional image of Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and the mysterious Naomi (Jenna Elfman) walking up the water slide before watching the episode, and while it made for an interesting visual I couldn't imagine why anyone would be walking up a water slide a couple years into a zombie apocalypse. As it turns out, it's because they're on a supply run and find that someone had a pretty nice set-up at the top of a slide with barricaded stairs. A cool idea, especially since they had a belt-fed machine gun to protect themselves with up there. But apparently it wasn't enough protection, since the water park resident doesn't appear to be around anymore. Whatever happened with them, their zombie-infested former home provided Buried with a great, suspenseful centerpiece.

Alicia and Naomi's eventful supply run occurred on the day that Alicia, Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), and Luciana (Danay Garcia) all agree was the day their lives at the baseball stadium began to fall apart. That day is the focus of the flashbacks of this episode, as each of those returning characters tells their perspective of the day to new character Althea (Maggie Grace). Althea is filming all of this for her documentary - a project I've been unsure of ever since she first whipped out her camera. The structure of Buried calls for frequent cutbacks to Althea interviewing Alicia, Strand, and Luciana, and these moments came off as being extremely cheesy to me.

The interviews weren't the only goofy thing going on in Buried. While Alicia tells the story of her trip to the water park and Strand reveals that he was continuing his selfish ways even while they were living in the stadium, packing up a secret getaway vehicle at a different location, Luciana admits that she had one of the worst zombie apocalypse ideas ever: with the group known as The Vultures sitting outside the stadium, waiting for things to go wrong for the stadium's residents so they can swoop in and take their stuff, Luciana handed Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) a map and suggested picking a destination at random. Wandering off to wherever your finger lands on a map doesn't seem like a wise survival tactic to me. Thankfully, Luciana and Nick don't end up doing that, although present day Luciana wishes they had.

As the title implies, Buried does deal somewhat with the funeral of Nick, who met a shocking end in the previous episode, but his burial isn't really a big thing here. I was surprised that the episode didn't go further into the aftermath of his death, and that we didn't get stronger displays of emotion at his graveside. Even the impaling of Nick's brain so he wouldn't rise as a zombie was a minor moment, shown in "found footage" style as Althea filmed it for her damn documentary. The show is already moving beyond that major character - while still keeping him around (for now) in the flashbacks, which weakens the monumental death a bit.

Lest we forget, Althea's fellow new character John (Garret Dillahunt) and The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) are still around, and while Morgan's main purpose in this episode was to pay his last respects to Nick, there was something interesting done with John. In a twist I didn't see coming, the true identity of John's lost love that he has been searching for is revealed, and it's someone we know. Someone who is said to be dead at this point, although it will be much better for the show if she's not. I'm now invested in John's search, and look forward to seeing where that storyline is going.

Buried had its issues (the interview moments, Nick's lackluster funeral), but overall it continued this season's streaks of intriguing, solid episodes. It deepened the mystery of what happened at the stadium, made the stories of a couple new characters more compelling, and delivered some fun zombie action. 

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: As awesome as the cactus needle zombies were, they can't compete with the moment when Alicia and Naomi go slipping down the water slide and find themselves on the edge of a circular area packed with flesh-eaters.

GORY GLORY: There wasn't any great gore to be seen in this episode, we just got the usual zombie head stabbings.

FAVORITE SCENE: My favorite scene in Buried was the scene I'll always remember this episode for: Alicia and Naomi facing the zombies trapped in the water slide.

Season 4, Episode 5: Laura

PLOT: A glimpse into the past reveals what happened between Naomi and John Dorie at his riverside cabin.

REVIEW: The fourth season of The Walking Dead's companion series Fear the Walking Dead is one that's being built on flashbacks, primarily because there was a substantial time jump between seasons and the show needs to fill us in on what happened with the characters we've been following for the previous three seasons. The episode Laura stands out from the pack because it has no information to give us about returning characters. None of the returning characters are even featured in this episode at all, which I found to be quite jarring. Even this season's premiere episode, which followed The Walking Dead character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) as he made his way from one show over to the other, gave returning characters a cameo in its final moments.

Laura is almost entirely a flashback story, and this time the person flashing back is John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), the modern day cowboy introduced in the first scene of this season's first episode. I'm still tuning in to this show every week to see what's going on with the Clark family and their companions, but if we were going to have to spend an entire episode with a new character, John was certainly the most appealing choice, with his pleasant country demeanor. At the end of the previous episode, John discovered the woman he knew as Laura is the same woman the Clarks and their pals knew as Naomi (whether she's called Laura or Naomi, she's played by Jenna Elfman). He has said before that Laura/Naomi showed up at his door one day, he let her stay with him, they developed feelings for each other, then she disappeared from his life and he has been looking for her since. Her current whereabouts aren't really known (she was living at the baseball stadium the returning characters spent time in between seasons, but "didn't make it out" when they were forced to flee - that doesn't necessarily mean she was killed), and this episode had no clues to offer about that, instead focusing on what happened between John and Naomi when she showed up at his door.

Before Naomi, John's experience during the zombie apocalypse was simple and lonely. Mostly living off the land, the former police officer and Wild West show performer spent his days keeping zombies away from his riverside cabin, cleaning his revolvers, and playing Scrabble by himself. Come nightfall, he would pop some popcorn and watch a movie. He would always pick up a VHS rental during his Tuesday supply runs, keeping a record of each movie he took from McNeil's Bait & Beer and even writing down a short review of each one. "Questionable", "Too Violent", "Good Time!", "Too Long", etc. "Too Long" (which I think was his review of THE GREEN MILE) was especially amusing to me. What does a movie's length matter when you're living in the zombie apocalypse?

Then Naomi showed up, and she didn't exactly come knocking. She was wounded when she washed up on the river bank and John took her in while she convalesced.

Naomi was quite standoffish toward John during most of her time at her cabin (obviously, she didn't even tell him her name), which really made me start to question his character as this episode played out. It has seemed to this point that Naomi or "Laura" was the love of his life, but it didn't seem like it was going to go that way when we see the truth of the situation. She was too distant, she just wanted to get better and move on. She kept talking about leaving. Is John some sort of creepy stalker type who imagined a deeper connection than was really there? He's so likeable, I didn't want that to be the case, and thankfully it wasn't. Naomi was eventually charmed by him, and it made sense. Who wouldn't be charmed by John, aside from GREEN MILE superfans? Still, their relationship never reached the level I expected it to.

While I look forward to finding out more about the returning characters' time at the baseball stadium, this episode was a nice diversion that came along much earlier in the season than I would have thought it would, if we were going to get an episode like this at all. Naomi keeps her guard up, but we learn a great deal more about the person John is and what sort of life he has led. Most importantly, we learn that he's not a delusional stalker. It was a good character study of a person we haven't seen a whole lot of yet. I'm hesitant to embrace a character so new, but John is a great presence on the show.

And Naomi... we still have a lot to find out about her. 

Hopefully Fear the Walking Dead will be back to normal next week (or as close to normal as it can get this season), but I enjoyed spending time with John and Naomi this week.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Fighting off a herd of zombies, Naomi is knocked into a ditch. Zombies tumble down on top of her, and just when all looks hopeless John grabs the revolvers he has been refusing to use and delivers multiple perfect headshots in seconds.

GORY GLORY: In addition to the ones John guns down, there are several zombies who are dispatched with bladed weapons to the head. John's refusal to use his revolvers nearly gets him killed when he's trapped in a vehicle with a zombie that has a machete stuck through one of its shoulders, but he gets out of the situation by going knife happy on the zombie's brain.

FAVORITE SCENE: I really liked the scene of John and Naomi sharing snacks during a movie night... Mainly because I'd still be watching a whole lot of movies during the zombie apocalypse, but characters in zombie movies and shows don't tend to be movie watchers.

Season 4, Episode 6: Just in Case

PLOT: While John searches for information about Naomi/Laura in the present, we learn more about her during a supply run in the past.

REVIEW: Like the previous episode Laura, this week's episode of Fear the Walking Dead is primarily focused on the season's new character Laura, a.k.a. Naomi (Jenna Elfman), but thankfully this one also features a couple good scenes with returning characters - namely Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and Victor Strand (Colman Domingo). If you like the scenes where Madison and Strand drink together and chat, Just in Case has you covered... and in the process, it also fills in some blanks in the characters' stories.

Just in Case goes back to the structure established in earlier episodes this season of jumping back and forth between stories taking place in the present day and at a point in the past, sometime during the substantial time jump that took place between the season three finale and the season four premiere. During a chat between Madison and Strand in the past, some dialogue tells us a bit about what happened immediately after the season three finale, giving a little insight on how the characters carried on after the dam explosion that separated them in the episode's last moments. That dialogue is a very simple way of telling the story I thought this season would be telling, before the time jump and The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) came into play. It's not the way I expected that information to be delivered, but it's nice to have that information.

Rather than delve too deeply into what occurred to the returning characters after the end of season three, Fear the Walking Dead is currently banking on viewers being deeply intrigued by this new character Laura/Naomi, who has gotten a surprising amount of screen time so far. She and fellow new addition John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) even got an entire episode to themselves last week. While Madison and Strand are hanging out with her in the past segments of this episode, the real point of the past story is to tell us more about Elfman's character.

Laura/Naomi leads Madison and Strand on a supply run to an abandoned FEMA shelter, and once they're there they not only have to deal with a lot of zombies (one thing Fear season four has been very good about is making sure there's a decent amount of zombie action), they also learn about Laura/Naomi's past. She went through some major tragedy before she showed up at John's riverside cabin, and now we know exactly what that tragedy was. I'm not big on Laura/Naomi and her secretive, wishy washy ways, but the writers have given Elfman a complicated, tormented character to play and she is doing a great job bringing that character to life. I just wish that character would settle down for a while.

I also wish the other characters would agree on what to call her so I wouldn't have to refer to her as Laura/Naomi all the time.

Laura/Naomi is also the driving force in the present day segments of the episode, even though the other characters believe she's dead by that time. She "didn't make it out" when things went bad at the baseball stadium she was living in with the returning characters. Morgan and John were trying to figure out what happened to her, and while they don't find out exactly what went down at the stadium just yet, they do find out that I had made the correct assumption about her current whereabouts. I won't say where she is, but I will say it's not in a grave.

The revelation of where Laura/Naomi is was presented as a shocking twist, but just in case you were as not-shocked as I was, the show throws another unexpected turn of events at you just seconds later, and this one was surprising to me. I'll be especially shocked if this isn't just a fake-out; I don't think the character left shot and bleeding out at the end of this episode is going to suffer the same fate Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) did when he was shot a few episodes back.

I'm feeling conflicted about Fear the Walking Dead now. I'm disappointed that new characters have been so strongly overshadowing returning characters lately, but at the same time I'm interested in what's going on with these new characters. I'm hoping that the returning characters will be put more strongly in the forefront in the upcoming episodes. In the meantime, I'm begrudgingly enjoying spending time with the newbies.

Just in Case wasn't the strongest episode this season, but it wasn't too much of a dip down. It had zombie action and solid dramatic scenes, it made an attempt to answer some questions about the returning characters, and it let Madison and Strand chat for a couple minutes. That's the makings of a good episode.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Naomi finds herself trapped by a herd of zombies she was somewhat responsible for creating.

GORY GLORY: As tends to be the case lately, there were plenty of dead bodies and zombie executions in this episode but there was nothing that stood out as being an impressive display of gore. It wasn't a particularly bloody moment, but I did like it when John demonstrated his quick-draw abilities and shot a finger off the hand of a member of the Vultures community.

FAVORITE SCENE: Madison and Strand discuss previous adventures over drinks.

Season 4, Episode 7: The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now

PLOT: A confrontation with The Vultures precedes a flashback to the beginning of the fall of the stadium.

REVIEW: The fourth season of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead has been quite interesting and entertaining so far, but what I would like to see happen at some point in the future is a linear recut of the season. With just a couple exceptions, each episode in this first half of the season has cut back and forth between events unfolding in two timelines - one at some point in the past, when Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), her children Nick and Alicia (Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey), Nick's girlfriend Luciana (Danay Garcia), and their troubled pal Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) were living in a baseball stadium and being threatened by outside forces, and the other in the present, when Madison is nowhere to be found, Nick is now dead, and Alicia, Luciana, and Strand are on a mission to get revenge on the people who destroyed their peace at the stadium, a group referred to as The Vultures. I don't think it's likely that there will be a linear option on the home video release of the season, so I'm wanting to see a fan with editing skills reassemble the scenes of these episodes into chronological order. I want this to happen, because while the back-and-forth approach has made the season an intriguing and mysterious experience as we've wondered what the hell happened at the stadium, I'd like to find out what it would be like to watch a proper "set-up and pay-off" version of the season.

This idea came to mind while watching this latest episode because now we're starting to see what the hell happened at the stadium, and we're finding out that the Vulture named Ennis (Evan Gamble) was directly responsible for the bad things that went down. Now we have a greater reason to hate Ennis than we ever did before, we understand while Nick and co. were upset with him... but there's not a cathartic comeuppance coming down the line. We've already seen how Ennis's story ends, because we saw him get killed by Nick way back in the third episode of the season. So now we're learning reasons to hate a guy who's already dead.

Next week is the midseason finale, so The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now is largely a "calm before the storm" episode, showing the build-up to that dreaded moment when the stadium is going to become uninhabitable for our main characters. It's a creepy calm, though, especially since the plan Ennis has concocted to ruin life at the stadium involves unleashing hundreds of zombies on the stadium property. The sequence where we watch The Vultures bring a bunch of box trucks and horse trailers packed with the living dead into the stadium parking lot, pulling in and lining up on a dark night while an excellent horror score plays on the soundtrack, was effectively unnerving.

While next week is when we'll (I assume, unless there's more time jump trickery ahead) get to see things get really bad at the stadium, thanks to the back-and-forth two timeline structure we didn't have to wait until the midseason finale to see all of the action. This episode kicked off with a scene set in the present, when Alicia, Luciana, and Strand get their revenge on The Vultures with a lengthy shootout. Yeah, we see the revenge before we see the event the characters are getting revenge for. Again, this is why I want to watch a linear cut someday.

Watching this shootout, I could only think... Poor Morgan (Lennie James). The crossover character from Fear's companion series The Walking Dead just endured that show's eighth season, which was packed with gun battles fought between communities, a war that drove him off one show and onto the other, and now he has to witness yet another gun battle between members of different communities. He had to be feeling some major déjà vu while watching this happen, and was probably wishing he had just kept living in a junkyard by himself.

Just because a bunch of people are firing guns at each other doesn't mean an action sequence is exciting, though. I found most of the shootouts in The Walking Dead season 8 to be a totally uninvolving waste of time, and while I'm enjoying Fear the Walking Dead season 4 much more than I enjoyed the other show's eighth season, I have to say that I didn't get much more out of this gunfight than I got out of any of the ones on The Walking Dead. Characters were pointing weapons at each other and pulling the trigger, we heard the sound effects of the guns firing, but there was little sense that there were dangerous projectiles flying through the air. People were taking cover behind vehicles, but any bullet hits weren't all that damaging, and the windows of the cars weren't getting shattered... It was pretty underwhelming.

What wasn't underwhelming was what happened to Vulture leader / Ennis's brother Mel (Kevin Zegers) at the end of that shootout. I was very glad to see that.

While leading us into the assault on the stadium, this episode also set up other situations I'm looking forward to seeing explored further: the desperate attempt to save the life of John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), which needs to happen so he can truly be reunited with Laura/Naomi (Jenna Elfman - who also had a great moment with Mel in this episode, where he was unsuccessful at threatening her); Morgan taking in the Vulture child Charlie (Alexa Nisenson); and especially Dorie, Naomi, Morgan, Charlie, and Althea (Maggie Grace) entering the abandoned stadium and finding what the Vultures left behind.

The first half of this season has been a fun ride so far, and even though I wasn't impressed by that gunfight I still found The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now to be a really good episode overall.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Zombies had bigger moments than this in the episode, but I really liked the scene where we see that a zombie has gotten crushed between a bus and a semi truck in a smash-up and is now trapped there, able to do nothing but paw at the windshield of the bus.

GORY GLORY: There were some awesome zombie designs glimpsed here, especially in the moment when characters enter the abandoned baseball stadium and find it full of zombies in advanced stages of decomposition.

FAVORITE SCENE: The vehicle a prominent Vulture tries to escape from the opening shootout in is destroyed, but we don't immediately see the person's body. If the showrunners wanted to, they could have brought this Vulture back in a later episode. Instead, we get closure in this one. This was my favorite scene in the episode because it means we're not going to be suffering through an overly drawn out situation with this character like we've had with Negan on The Walking Dead.

Season 4, Episode 8: No One's Gone

PLOT: Madison Clark's fate is revealed while the new characters face zombies to save John Dorie.

REVIEW: AMC's Fear the Walking Dead pulled a switcheroo on me. With the previous episode having ended with the group of people known as The Vultures unleashing an army of zombies on the baseball stadium where the main characters had been living, I thought this midseason finale would be cutting back and forth between the fall of the stadium in the past and the modern day storyline, in which Althea (Maggie Grace), Naomi/Laura (Jenna Elfman), and The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) have infiltrated the zombie-infested stadium on a search for medical supplies to save the life of the gut-shot John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt). Maybe I was overestimating the budget of this show, expecting zombie-filled action to be intercut with zombie-filled action, because that's certainly not what No One's Gone delivered. What it did deliver was a surprising opening that set up a predictable resolution to a conflict, which then led into a heartbreaking ending.

Throughout its previous seasons, viewers and myself would say that Fear the Walking Dead actually followed the villains of the story, because the Clark family and their pals caused a lot of trouble on their way through Mexico and back into the states. But never have the original characters of this show been so openly portrayed as the villains as they are for the majority of this episode, as Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), and Luciana Galvez (Danay Garcia) were targeting Naomi/Laura and the Vulture child Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) on their continuing, nearly completed mission of vengeance against the Vultures, and as part of their cold-blooded pursuit they displayed a perfect willingness to fire bullets and RPGs at the other characters we've come to care about. If John Dorie were to die because of them, I would never forgive them!

While returning characters fight new characters with John Dorie's life hanging in the balance, the episode also flashes back not to scenes showing the fall of the stadium, but - here's the surprise - to Clark family matriarch Madison (Kim Dickens) encountering Althea on the road sometime before the season began. I wasn't expecting those characters to have crossed paths, and it was especially intriguing to watch the start of their interaction because it wasn't clear at what point in the past their scenes together were set. Madison says she has been separated from her children after running into some trouble, but was she talking about the trouble at the stadium? The trouble at the dam at the end of season 3? Was the show finally going to start filling in that gap?

Well, it wasn't either of those times. The show is in no hurry to show us what happened after the dam explosion in the season 3 finale, if it ever will, and at this point in the past Madison and her friends and family were reeling from bad times we'll almost certainly never see. As I watched Althea and Madison continue to talk, Althea conducting an interview for her documentary project, I became certain that I knew how the modern day confrontation was going to end. Somehow it was going to be revealed to Alicia that Althea had met Madison, and that would make her calm down and decide not to kill people. That is what happened, although it wasn't the interview tape Alicia saw right away - her first hint that Althea and Madison knew each other was the sight of some ramen noodles, as if only two people in America ever had access to that particular brand. As far as fight-ending questions go, "Where did you get these noodles?" ranks up there with "Why did you say Martha?"

But while that interview made me predict the end of the fight between characters old and new, it also stirred up a feeling of dread. Kim Dickens was getting to deliver a dramatic monologue about some random but plot-pertinent memory of Madison's. That didn't bode well. That was the sort of thing an actor/character would be given to do on their final episode. Then when things calmed down in the present, Alicia finally said it - her mother is dead. Not just missing like I've been hoping all along. And when she said Madison was dead, I hoped she was wrong.

In the final moments of the episode, we did get to see the fall of the stadium; not in an epic action sequence, but in an artful and economical presentation of the Cliff's Notes version of what went down. As this went on, I hoped we'd see that Alicia was jumping to conclusions, that she hadn't seen for sure what happened to Madison. Well, she may not have seen it directly, but the episode did its best to make sure we'd buy the idea that Madison is dead and gone. I still want to doubt it, I don't want it to be true. But Kim Dickens has confirmed that her days as Madison are over, and said that she was heartbroken and devastated when she heard the character was being killed off. So this was the way Madison made her exit, and her final moment was a rather touching and beautiful one.

Although, Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) did the exact same thing back in the season 2 midseason finale, and he ended up coming back in the next season. So if the showrunners ever decide they want to bring Madison back, I'd be glad to see her again. And where the hell is Daniel anyway? Why does this show keep sidelining such an awesome character?

If there were two characters I thought would never leave Fear the Walking Dead, they were Madison and Nick Clark (Frank Dillane). Nick died earlier in the season, and now Madison is gone as well, despite the title of this episode. I'm not sure what this show is without them. I never would have predicted that someday the main group of characters would be whittled down to Alicia, Strand, and Luciana, with new additions threatening to overshadow them. Yet I'm still on board to see where this is all going, and I'm still feeling positive about the show. That's the trick of season 4 - it's entertaining and interesting enough that I'm still hooked even while being baffled by creative decisions.

No One's Gone wasn't a highlight of this half of the season for me. It had strong moments, it had predictable and/or laughable moments. The information it gave about past events wasn't entirely satisfying, but it gave us most of what we needed to know about the end of times at the baseball stadium. Not a great midseason finale, but decent.

Without Nick and Madison, Fear the Walking Dead will be descending into the unknown in the second half of this season. When it returns to AMC in August, I'll be tuning in to see what the showrunners have in store for us next.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Having knocked off the door of Althea's SWAT truck to infiltrate the vehicle, Alicia then tries to shove Althea out the doorway during the ensuing fight, allowing the many decomposing, burnt zombies outside to reach for her, pawing at her face.

GORY GLORY: The gore has been pretty lackluster this season. Usually the best things you can point out are mostly goreless moments of zombies being dispatched. That's the case again here, but Morgan and Naomi/Laura(/June?!) fighting their way through a baseball stadium packed with zombies made for a very cool sequence, and the zombies looked pretty gross.

FAVORITE SCENE: Althea saying she was going to punch Alicia in the cooch. Because she said "cooch".

Season 4, Episode 9: People Like Us

PLOT: Characters struggle with their guilty consciences while Morgan Jones tries to plan a road trip back to the Alexandria Safe Zone. 

REVIEW: Some time has passed between Fear the Walking Dead season 4's mid-season finale and this mid-season premiere, but not enough time for the characters to have been able to move on beyond the events of the first half of the season. Sure, they have set up new living situations since then, but their minds are dwelling in the past, and it makes sense: those first eight episodes really shook things up for all of these people, while changing the show from what it was before to something that's almost completely new. Fear has lost its two most prominent characters, characters most viewers would have bet would have been around for the long run. The surviving characters from previous seasons still have to find their bearings without them, and the new additions to the cast have to continue finding their place.

Most of People Like Us is spent digging into the existential crises of the characters while also teasing a huge crossover with Fear's companion series The Walking Dead that isn't likely to happen any time soon, if it ever happens at all. Back in the first episode of this season, crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) chose to leave the characters of The Walking Dead behind in Virginia, having been rattled by things that occurred during that show's eighth season. He headed down to Fear's current setting of Texas, now after spending several episodes hanging out with Fear characters new and old he's ready to move back to Virginia and see his buddy Rick Grimes again. (And if Morgan wants to talk to Rick he needs to move quick, because Rick is leaving The Walking Dead during its upcoming ninth season.) The thing is, Morgan wants to take his Fear friends back to Virginia with him.

It's pretty obvious that Morgan's road trip plan isn't going to pan out. How could The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead both continue to exist if the characters of the two shows are living in the same place at the same time? So of course Morgan has trouble getting anyone to agree to go with him - in fact, the only person who does agree to the road trip is recent addition Althea (Maggie Grace), who would drive Morgan back to Virginia in her SWAT truck. Maybe we could believe we'll be seeing Morgan and Althea roll into the Alexandria Safe Zone sometime during The Walking Dead season 9, but not anybody else. Definitely not pre-Fear-season-4 characters like Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), or Luciana (Danay Garcia).

Alicia, Strand, and Luciana have found a gated mansion to hole up in, where they have to figure out how they're going to make their way through post-apocalyptic life without the major characters they've lost - and in the meantime Strand is making his way through the place's stock of wine while Luciana listens to music and Alicia plots a rescue mission. It's Alicia who has an idea on how they can move forward without her mother and brother, and it's an idea that will put the expected kibosh on the road trip plan. 

Meanwhile, John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) has put together a pretty nice set-up with the woman he risked his life for, June (Jenna Elfman), and the orphaned Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), but nothing's perfect. June is having an identity crisis, which you'd expect from a character who has used three different names over the course of nine episodes, while Charlie is weighed down with guilt for the part she played in the deaths of Alicia's mother and brother. 

There was a lot of grief and regret packed into this episode, which aren't the most exciting things to watch people deal with, but I was glad to see them here. Fear can't just lose characters like Madison and Nick in the first half of the season and then come back for the second half without addressing those losses. I was concerned that there would be a flippancy to the remaining episodes of this season, that the show would just carry on with the surviving characters like this was the new normal. But it's not normal to not have Madison and Nick around, the characters have to deal with that, and I appreciate the fact that the showrunners didn't just brush their mental and emotional anguish aside.

Showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg just joined Fear the Walking Dead this season, and one thing they have made very clear is that they know the value of a good zombie scene. They've included a good amount of zombie action in the season so far, and that continues in this episode - even though People Like Us is mainly about people being sad, these people still have several encounters with zombies while being sad.

Overall, People Like Us wasn't the greatest episode, but it earns points for how heavily it dealt with the ramifications of the first half of the season. Even with Morgan on the show and all the new characters, I still feel that Alicia, Strand, and Luciana should remain this show's top priority while everything changes around them, and I want to see the show do right by them in the absence of Madison and Nick. So far it still is.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Luciana doesn't notice that a zombie has gotten inside her home because she's busy listening to "Baby I've Got It" by King George & The Fabulous Souls at a high volume, so Strand has to take care of things. I like how the song overwhelmed any other sound that was being made in the house.

GORY GLORY: Fear the Walking Dead is very lacking in the gore department. The best kill in the episode comes when Alicia drops a load of wood onto a group of zombies, but there's no gore to be seen. Other than that, we just get the usual zombie head impalements.

FAVORITE SCENE: John Dorie talks to Charlie about the pain of guilt and the hope of being able to forgive yourself.

Season 4, Episode 10: Close Your Eyes

PLOT: Alicia Clark takes shelter from a storm only to find she's sharing a house with Charlie, the little girl who killed her brother.

REVIEW: The severe weather event that was advertised as being a major selling point for the second half of Fear the Walking Dead's fourth season is now in full swing, and while it's causing trouble for the show's characters, the way it's handled in this episode actually brought me relief. I had been worried that the storm would be used as a way to pack the second half of the season with action so the writers wouldn't have to spend as much time dealing with the fact that they had just killed off the two characters who had been the most important people on the show up to this point, Madison Clark and her son Nick. But this episode was the opposite of what I had been fearing it would be, as the storm was used as a way to force two characters to deal with the issues they had with each other because of the deaths of Madison and Nick.

Those characters are Madison's daughter / Nick's sister Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), the little girl who shot and killed Nick and also helped set the events in motion that would lead to Madison's death. Alicia feels driven to kill the kid for destroying her family, but at the same time doesn't want to do it. Racked with guilt, Charlie has a death wish. While facing the possibility that the storm might just kill both of them, they have to come to terms with each other and with what they've done in the past, and figure out a way to move forward. They do this through some very well-written, emotional dramatic scenes.

I expected the storm to be handled much differently than this. For one thing, I thought a storm episode would be cutting back and forth between all of the remaining characters on the show, showing us how each of them deals with the weather. When Alicia came striding into a house and killed the zombie family occupying it so she could use the place as her weather shelter, I figured we'd be cutting away to someone else any second... Yet after Alicia made a display of just how much of a badass she has become, easily wiping out the zombies, even dealing with two of them at once, the episode didn't cut away. It stayed with Alicia as she got her shelter set up. And the longer it went, the longer I wanted it to go - I wanted to stay with Alicia for the duration. And the episode did, giving her company after 9 minutes when she realizes she's sharing the house with the last living person she would want to share a house with, little Charlie.

This dedication to the drama in the midst of an episode that also features a swiftly flooding basement and the amusing / awesome sight of zombies being swept away by the wind was commendable and appreciated, and Debnam-Carey and Nisenson did excellent work delivering their lines and getting across the emotions their characters were being tormented by. 

I was especially impressed by Nisenson's work in this episode. I've had three and a half seasons of Fear the Walking Dead to get to know what Debnam-Carey is capable of, at this point I know she can carry an episode, but Nisenson is new on the scene and is just getting started proving herself. Before Fear I only knew her for a comedic musical scene in the film FIST FIGHT, which showed me she could be funny while singing vulgar lyrics. Now I'm seeing that she can handle heavier subject matter as well.

I'm guessing episodes ahead will be showing what the other characters were doing during the storm. While I want to know how Strand, Luciana, Morgan, John Dorie, June, and Althea got through the wind and the rain, I'm not sure any of it will be as interesting as what Alicia and Charlie went through.

Close Your Eyes was a surprisingly good episode that showed me the storm could be used to do more for the show than just bring in some spectacle.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Somehow a zombie managed to fall through the railing of a balcony at the house Alicia and Charlie are staying in and got itself impaled on a tree branch that continues to hold it up in the air. It's a cool visual to see a zombie stuck off the ground like that, and the situation got even cooler when Charlie was able to walk to the edge of the balcony and offer the zombie the chance to bite her.

GORY GLORY: Episode after episode I have to choose "Gory Glory" moments that aren't all that gory, because Fear the Walking Dead just isn't a very gory show this season. This time I have to go with the moment where Alicia spears the brain of one zombie with an object in her right hand while simultaneously spearing the brain of another zombie with an object in her left hand.

FAVORITE SCENE: As Alicia and Charlie run out of breathing space in a flooding basement (a scenario that reminded me of the 2000 film THE PERFECT STORM), they both have emotional breakdowns.

Season 4, Episode 11: The Code

PLOT: Morgan makes three new friends, but they're not all as friendly as they first appear to be.

REVIEW: Morgan Jones (Lennie James) isn't sure whether he wants to stay in Texas or return to his former home in Virginia, and in our reality that means the character isn't sure whether he wants to stay on Fear the Walking Dead and continue interacting with its characters, or if he wants to head back to Fear's companion series The Walking Dead, where he was first introduced. Personally, I wouldn't mind if Morgan went back to the other show and left the characters who were on Fear before his arrival to try to move on without him, because I want this show to contine focusing on its established characters and stop drifting over to the new additions so much.

Morgan is firmly entrenched in Fear for now, though. All this talk of him going back to Virginia is just a tease for a major crossover that is now certainly possible, as every character on this show is aware of the Alexandria community that The Walking Dead centers on, but still not likely. Despite that, Morgan does make some progress in the direction of Virginia in this episode, when he falls asleep in a semi trailer while seeking shelter from a storm and wakes up when the truck comes to a stop in Mississippi. 

While I'm practically begging Fear to continue focusing on its returning characters, new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg remain determined to introduce more and more new characters who are probably going to keep taking the spotlight away from them. The cast shake-up Fear has gone through this season has driven some viewers away from the show, but while the changes are concerning to me I don't feel compelled to give up on the show yet because its transformation has been interesting to watch, and I do like some of these spotlight-hogging new characters quite a bit.

The Code throws three more characters into the mix, all of them entertaining. First up are the trucking duo of Wendell (Daryl Mitchell) and Sarah (Mo Collins), who seem at first to be the pair who have been leaving those helpful "Take what you need" boxes that have been sitting around in recent episodes. The fact that they're not actually very helpful people is revealed with the arrival of the third character, Jim (Aaron Stanford), who Wendell and Sarah were attempting to abduct so he could show them how he brews his homemade beer. They may not be the most honorable pair, but Wendell and Sarah are amusing to watch - as you might expect if you know Collins from her appearances on 150+ episodes of MADtv. They spout funny dialogue, have a comedic interplay with each other, and even though they're armed kidnappers and thieves they never feel like they're much of a threat.

Jim brings a fun energy to the episode as well, going on about the important role beer will play in the re-building of society. I can see Jim carrying on through future episodes, but I can't really imagine Wendell and Sarah being useful for very long. They seem like characters who are better in small doses, just sticking around for an episode or two instead of becoming regulars.

The Code was very much like the first episode of this season, in that it followed Morgan on a road trip and brought in new characters while never dealing with the original cast members (returning characters only showed up at the very end of that first episode). The difference between the premiere episode and this one is that The Code ended up feeling like a filler episode. Since Morgan travelled away from Texas only to decide to turn around and go back, all it did was set up a meeting between Wendell, Sarah, Jim, and the other characters... and that could have been done in an episode that actually involved the other characters.

Well, it actually set up a meeting between the other characters and four new additions, as the episode did end on an intriguing note. A scene with a strange, seemingly sinister woman (Tonya Pinkins) who has a pet zombie. I'm looking forward to finding out what's going on with her.

Overall, The Code was a watchable episode, but a middle-of-the-road one. Let's get back to Texas. Back to Alicia, Strand, and Luciana (and sure, John Dorie, June, Althea, and Charlie, too.)

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Hands bound behind his back, Morgan gets stuck on the roof of an SUV that's surrounded by around 20 flesh-hungry zombies.

GORY GLORY: Just when I thought this episode was only going to offer the sight of Morgan sticking his bo staff through the heads of multiple zombies, The Code went and gave him a different weapon: a mile marker sign, which was left dripping blood after he used it to chop into a walker's skull.

FAVORITE SCENE: Jim gives Morgan a lesson on the history of beer and its importance in a post-apocalyptic world.

Season 4, Episode 12: Weak

PLOT: Separated by a large storm, characters struggle to overcome sickness and dangerous strangers while trying to find each other.

REVIEW: Weak is an episode of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead that I had a lot of trouble getting into, and about halfway through it I realized that my struggle to care about what was going on wasn't only because it was so low-key and talky. The main reason I wasn't very interested in Weak was due to the fact that it's another example of something I'm feeling uncomfortable with: how different Fear the Walking Dead has gotten from what it was before. I had plenty of issues with the show during earlier seasons, but thought it had really found its footing in season 3. For me, the third season of Fear was better than the eighth season of its companion series The Walking Dead, so I wanted to see the show continue down that path while keeping its core characters intact.

Instead, Fear went down a very different path, killed off its two most important characters, and is now focusing on a bunch of newbies. This is the second episode in a row not to feature any of the cast members from the previous seasons, and that really didn't sit well with me. Colman Domingo, who has played Victor Strand on the show since the first season, did direct the episode, but that doesn't make up for his character not being on screen in it.

The story of the episode deals with the characters still trying to find each other after being separated by a severe storm a few episodes back. While The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and a trio of characters who were introduced in the previous episode - Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), Sarah (Mo Collins), and Jim (Aaron Stanford) - travel across the countryside, dropping off helpful boxes of supplies at regular intervals, June (Jenna Elfman) and Althea (Maggie Grace) are also travelling together, with June desperately hoping to hear from the missing John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt).

I like John Dorie, but I'm fairly certain he'll be turning up alive, so I couldn't really share June's worries about him, and I'm getting tired of watching her feel bad about the way she has approached surviving in the zombie apocalypse. I also found it tough to feel concerned for Althea's well-being when she fell ill. I like Maggie Grace, but I've yet to start caring about Althea. She could have been written off in this episode and I would have been fine with it.

The Morgan side of the episode did have a couple good things going for it. For one thing, Morgan referenced the early days of The Walking Dead and Rick Grimes' attempts to stay in contact with him over on that show while talking to Sarah, and it is kind of neat to hear references to the other Dead show on this one. The other standout moment came when Morgan encountered the mysterious woman (Tonya Pinkins) who made her first appearance at the end of The Code. Morgan is friendly to the woman during their brief interaction, but I don't think they're still going to be on friendly terms if they meet again.

The scenes with the mystery woman were the most interesting of the episode. She's stalking the show's other characters, making zombies and keeping them like pets, and appears to be out to teach the characters some lessons. The most important lesson apparently being, "You shouldn't help other people." I'm highly intrigued to see where her story is going.

Weak is a fitting title for this episode, which I found quite weak itself. With too much focus on uninteresting moments between characters I don't really care about, this one was a slog for me to get through. Its bright spots were few and far between - but at least it continued to set up that mystery woman as a unique new villain. I will be caring if/when she crosses paths with the show's returning characters.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: A zombie is so hyped up to go after Althea that it snaps one of its legs off to reach her, and for its trouble it gets a car dropped on its head.

GORY GLORY: A zombie... or half of one... is seen stuck to the cowcatcher on the front of the semi truck Sarah and Wendell ride around in.

FAVORITE SCENE: The mystery woman tricks a man named Quinn (Charles Harrelson) into stopping his vehicle at the wrong mile marker so she can set her pet zombie loose on him.

Season 4, Episode 13: Blackjack

PLOT: Zombies, severe storms, alligators, and homicidal maniacs aren't enough to keep these characters apart for long. After episodes apart, they're gradually being reunited.

REVIEW: This second half of Fear the Walking Dead's fourth season just isn't working for me. The first half was intriguing, telling stories in past and present timelines while shaking this show to its core by killing off its two most important characters. The events that occurred between the third and fourth seasons no longer an issue, the series is now free to just keep moving forward without those two characters... and it has yet to figure out what it really is without them. 

The second half of the season has separated the characters with a storm and left them to wander the countryside. The last two episodes haven't even featured returning characters, opting instead to focus on Morgan Jones (Lennie James), the crossover character who has come over to Fear from its companion show The Walking Dead, and a bunch of new additions. After two Morgan-heavy episodes in a row, the last thing I wanted to see in Blackjack was more Morgan, but there he was in the opening scene, hanging out with newbies and dragging down my expectations for the episode.

Thankfully, Fear did remember the show's returning characters in this episode, which gave us a look at what Luciana (Danay Garcia) and Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) - along with recent addition John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) - have been dealing with since the storm cut them off from the others several episodes ago. It was also kind enough to give us an update on Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), the two who carried the best episode of this second half a few weeks ago. The presence of returning characters alone was enough to make Blackjack an improvement over the previous two episodes, but it still wasn't enough to make it a great one.

Luciana was given a decent dramatic storyline about her attempt to grant a wish for Clayton (Stephen Henderson), a dying man she finds trapped in a vehicle. Meanwhile, Strand and John Dorie were given a more adventurous story involving their quest to get across a body of water inhabited by a hungry alligator. It was kind of fun to see an alligator causing trouble for people in the zombie apocalypse; I don't think I've ever seen people have to deal with an alligator and zombies simultaneously before.

There has been a feeling hanging over the recent episodes of this show that everything happening is utterly pointless. The season started off with big new ideas and a mission to give a series an overhaul, but now that the major changes have been made, it's like the show doesn't know where to go anymore. It's spinning its wheels.

The only promising thing the second half of this season has going for it is the inclusion of a mysterious "Filthy Woman" (Tonya Pinkins), who has been stalking and sabotaging the characters, killing people and keeping their zombified corpses as pets. She's lurking around in this episode as well, presenting herself as a Morgan groupie and gearing up for an assault that I hope will whittle down the number of new characters a little. Beer-loving Jim (Aaron Stanford) is fun, but I'm willing to lose any one of Althea (Maggie Grace), Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), and Sarah (Mo Collins). I'm not a big fan of June (Jenna Elfman), either, but I don't want her to die because it would upset John Dorie. Charlie can stick around, too.

The most interesting thing about Blackjack is seeing just how uninteresting Fear the Walking Dead can be after the new showrunners have shifted the focus of the series away from Madison and Nick Clark. They were so determined to change the show so drastically in the first half, I would have thought they had bigger plans in mind than what's been going on in the second half.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Strand risks his life to retrieve a bottle of booze from a dangerously positioned vehicle that has a zombie sitting behind the wheel. Even better than the action this moment provided is when Strand drinks that alcohol while thinking of (and trying to forget) his lost drinking buddy Madison.

GORY GLORY: Wendell demonstrates his wheelchair's security measures when a zombie comes stumbling up behind him: blades pop up from the back of the chair to impale the flesh-eater. Sarah then comes along to finish it off.

FAVORITE SCENE: In the episode's last scene, Filthy Woman uses Althea's SWAT truck to attack the truck containing Morgan, Jim, June, Wendell, Sarah, Althea, and Luciana. Hopefully this attack will lead into a better episode.

Season 4, Episode 14: MM 54

PLOT: After an encounter with a homicidal stranger, survivors are trapped at a zombie-filled hospital.

REVIEW: After a few episodes of build-up, Fear the Walking Dead has finally given us some information on the homicidal "Filthy Woman" (Tonya Pinkins) who has been stalking the show's characters, killing people to make them zombies and keeping those zombies as pets. As it turns out, her name is Martha, and she's out to murder anyone who dares to attempt to help others survive the zombie apocalypse because she didn't get help when she needed it. Back when the dead were just first starting to rise, she and her husband were in a car accident (which occurred at mile marker 54, thus the title of the episode). Martha begged passing motorists to help her wounded husband, but everyone passed her by. Her husband died, became a zombie, and she had to kill him.

For some people, that tragedy might have made them determined to make sure others wouldn't be let down like they were. For Martha, it's a "if I couldn't get help, no one should get help" situation. Killing helpful people makes sense in her cracked mind, and having a wild card villain like her lurking around does liven up the show a bit.

Aside from Martha's back story and the explanation for her behavior, the most fascinating thing about MM 54 to me was the director's credit, which revealed that actor Lou Diamond Phillips, who hasn't had any association with the Walking Dead franchise before this point, was at the helm of this episode. Just the idea of Phillips directing zombie action is awesome to me, and Fear's showrunners made sure to hand him an episode that had plenty of zombies in it - whether those zombies were being used by Martha for her nefarious purposes, or if they were part of a herd pursuing the stranded Morgan (Lennie James), Luciana (Danay Garcia), Althea (Maggie Grace), Jim (Aaron Stanford), June (Jenna Elfman), Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), and Sarah (Mo Collins).

One of the highlights of this episode was a slow chase in which the characters make their way down the road, hindered by the fact that Wendell's wheelchair has been busted, with a zombie herd walking toward them in the distance.

With Martha running away early on so she can live to fight another day, MM 54 shifts its focus to zombie attacks in an abandoned hospital, where a recently introduced character receives a death sentence... And even though I'm all for this season's new characters being whittled down to ensure that Fear will continue to center on its returning characters Luciana, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and the absent-from-this-episode Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), the one they have chosen to kill off is not one I wanted to see die soon. That was disappointing.

That was one of the few disappointments with MM 54, which I found to be a nice step up from the last few episodes overall. The second half of this season hasn't been very interesting to me, but this episode brought some appreciated action and answers. It was also good that it would cut away from the harrowing ordeal Morgan, Luciana, and their pals were enduring to a side story with Alicia and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), a pair who made amends in one of the best episodes of this half-season, Close Your Eyes. Alicia is truly the character who should take over the show since her brother and mother were killed off earlier in the season, so she needs to be present.

Plus this was a zombie story directed by Lou Diamond Phillips. The guy who played Ritchie Valens! Chavez y Chavez! Henry Standing Bear! Over 130 other characters! That's just cool.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: The characters walking down the highway with the herd of zombies following them was a great, creepy idea and visual.

GORY GLORY: Jim has a fight with a zombie that has a bandage wrapped around its head. During their tussle, Jim pulls the bandage off, revealing that the zombie had brain surgery before its death, as a chunk of scalp is now flapping around and the skull is visible underneath.

FAVORITE SCENE: With a pet zombie on a pole and the Eddie Kendricks song "Keep on Truckin'" playing on the soundtrack, Martha goes on a killing spree.

Season 4, Episode 15: I Lose People...

PLOT: While Morgan tries to lead one group of characters out of a hospital surrounded by zombies, others are dealing with the homicidal Martha out in the countryside.

REVIEW: I Lose People... was a somewhat extended episode of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, although I couldn't tell you why, because it felt like it only had enough worthwhile moments for half a regular-length episode. I spent most of its running time feeling frustrated by how dull the episode was; this is the penultimate episode of the season, it's leading into the big finale, shouldn't it be more exciting than this?

Sure, this was a death episode, where we said goodbye to Jim (Aaron Stanford)... but while I liked Jim and think it's a shame that Stanford isn't going to be around on the show for longer, did we really need so much time dedicated to watching this guy slowly succumb to his zombie bite? We just met him a few episodes ago and his most prominent characteristic is the fact that he enjoys beer. He hasn't exactly been an important element of this show, so his slow death wasn't an emotional viewing experience for me. In the end, it only allowed the Fear makers to lift an idea from Robert Rodriguez's GRINDHOUSE zombie movie PLANET TERROR. There a dying character revealed his barbecue recipe, here Jim reveals the secret of his brew.

For a while, I was thinking the most rousing moment in the episode would be a shot of a truck driving through shallow water - when Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) use the SWAT truck to save the stranded by flood, trapped by alligators Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) and John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt). If there's one thing I was thankful for when watching I Lose People..., it was the fact that this episode finally brought almost all of the characters back together after the showrunners made the ill-advised decision to keep them separated for the second half of the season. They just need to find Althea (Maggie Grace) now, and we'll have collected the whole set.

I'm glad to say the truck driving through water was not the pinnacle of excitement, as there were some nice zombie moments near the end of the episode, along with a sequence involving a fire truck ladder being used to rescue a character stranded on a roof that felt like something you would have seen on an action show in the '80s. 

The jump Morgan Jones (Lennie James) makes onto that ladder wasn't so thrilling to me, but there was a moment during that sequence where I was actually startled. It came right after Luciana (Danay Garcia) dispatches a zombie with an axe. As she's moving on from that kill, another zombie slams into her from behind, and for a second I thought she had been bitten. If that happened, I would have been pissed. There are only three returning characters left on this show, and we need them all to stick around.

I Lose People... also had some moments with the homicidal, zombie pet keeping Martha (Tonya Pinkins), but she wasn't in top form in this episode. Hopefully she'll be making up for that in the next / finale episode, as this one does leave her in an interesting situation... And after taking way too long to have Jim die, it also leaves him in an interesting situation.

After getting off to an intriguing start that shook things up in a major way (a shake-up I'm increasingly seeing as unfortunate), Fear the Walking Dead's fourth season has been dragging toward a conclusion in its second half. When Morgan presents the idea of leading the other characters to Alexandria, Virginia, where the characters of Fear's companion series The Walking Dead are set up, I kind of want to see it happen. Take them to Alexandria, merge the characters into The Walking Dead, and let's just call it a wrap on Fear at this point. I don't see much reason for this spin-off to keep going anymore.

I know a mixing of the two shows that marks the end of Fear isn't likely to happen, though. So I can only look forward to next week's season finale with hope that it will be a lively one, and that it will leave me with an understanding of why Fear should even continue to exist now that it's a substantially different show than it was before.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: The moment that briefly made me fear that Luciana wasn't going to make it out of this episode alive.

GORY GLORY: Some zombies met their ends with blows to the head, and there are a couple impressive kills in that scene where Luciana almost bites it because a zombie almost bites her. She takes one walker out with an axe to the head, then the one that nearly got her gets impaled through its head.

FAVORITE SCENE: Sarah (Mo Collins) finds a strongly worded letter Althea left behind, one that even includes the "C-word". But Althea didn't just write "C-word".

Season 4, Episode 16: ... I Lose Myself

PLOT: Characters are stricken with a mystery illness while Morgan tries to save Martha from her own madness.

REVIEW: AMC has high hopes for the future of their The Walking Dead franchise, expecting to tell another decade of stories set in this post-zombie-apocalypse world, stories that will be told through more television spin-offs and companion shows like Fear the Walking Dead, and ones that will be told through other types of media. It seems like someone behind the scenes thought that one interesting idea for a new chapter in the Walking Dead franchise would be a spin-off centered on Morgan Jones (Lennie James), a character who was first introduced way back in the premiere episode of The Walking Dead. I'm not sure why, because I think Morgan is kind of a drag with his off-kilter, back and forth, "I don't die", "I don't kill", "Maybe I do kill", "I lose people, I lose myself" stuff. But sure, give him his own limited series or web series, that's fine. That's not what they did. For some reason, they chose to re-shape the existing series Fear the Walking Dead into the Morgan Jones spin-off show, killing off Fear's main characters and letting Morgan take charge while the remaining returning characters sink into the background. It's a frustrating decision, and while things were working okay in the first half of Fear the Walking Dead season 4 / Fear the Morgan Jones season 1, the second half of this season has been a bust.

The season ended with an episode titled ... I Lose Myself, which of course is a Morgan-inspired title, an elongated finale all about Morgan trying to be a hero while the other characters are sidelined with a mystery illness. ... I Lose Myself really didn't need to run 18 minutes later than the average episode, but I guess they wanted to fill it out will bonus scenes of Morgan walking around the countryside and shots of the other characters slowly succumbing to antifreeze poisoning.

New showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg tried to liven up the lackluster second half of this season with the addition of a human villain, a woman named Martha (Tonya Pinkins) who's on a mission to tear the characters apart because she doesn't like that they try to help people. She was an interesting wild card at first, running around making deadly mischief, but at this point she's just a time waster, spewing nonsensical attempts at "deep thoughts" and bawling. I got zero entertainment out of watching the show spend so much of this episode seeing her off. At least it did see her off for good. We don't have to worry about Martha in the inevitable season 5.

While Morgan and Martha were off making the opposite of riveting television, the others were trying to score some ethanol, the antidote to their antifreeze poisoning. Luckily, they were at a truck stop where there happened to be a tanker truck sitting right out front. They managed to puncture the tank while fighting off zombies, though, and apparently that was an unlucky turn of events... And I didn't get that at all. Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) and Luciana Galvez (Danay Garcia) had a container they were going to fill with ethanol (returning characters from previous seasons actually getting something meaningful to do!), but they couldn't get the valve open. That's a problem. So when Althea (Maggie Grace) opens fire on the zombies advancing toward them with her SWAT truck guns and causes the tanker to spring a leak... how is that not the solution to the problem? Ethanol is now pouring out of the tanker, put your container under the leak and fill it up that way. Instead, the characters don't move to do that at all, they just stare at the leak like it's the worst thing that could happen. It was baffling to me.

In the end, though, everyone except Martha made it out of the episode just fine, and Morgan decided he's going to lead the survivors on a humanitarian mission, which I guess is supposed to get us excited to watch another season of the Morgan Jones show next year. At least Strand, Luciana, and Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) will still be around, so there will still be some trace of what this show used to be. Even then, season 4 has changed Fear the Walking Dead more drastically than any other show I've been a regular viewer of has changed before, aside from anthologies that tell different stories with different characters all the time. As far as I'm concerned, the change hasn't been for the better.

Fear the Walking Dead season 4 could have been so much more interesting than this if it had just picked up from the ending of season 3 and continued on from there, instead of jumping ahead a couple years and making Morgan the new star. I wanted to see the story of Strand, Luciana, and the Clarks dealing with season 3 villain Proctor John in Texas, a story that would have allowed for the return of characters like Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) - who was one of the best things this show ever had going for it - and Qaletaqa Walker (Michael Greyeyes). Fear should have remained earlier in the apocalyptic timeline than The Walking Dead instead of catching up with it, and if anyone from The Walking Dead was going to show up on this series it should have been the Texas-based Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), encountering these characters before he moved on to the other show. That story doesn't exist, though.

While I like some of the new characters who were introduced on Fear the Walking Dead this season, I'm not happy with what has become of the show overall. It's something different now, and even when Fear was maddeningly slow and frustrating in the past, at least it was telling a better story than this.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: When zombies are approaching a weakened Althea, the only one who can save her is Alicia, who blasts the walkers down real quick. It was a nice hero moment for a returning Fear character, the character who should be the lead of the show now.

GORY GLORY: The sight of Martha's severed arm late in the episode was pretty gross, but my favorite bit of gore came when Althea shoots a zombie in the face with a shotgun. This CG gore isn't nearly as cool as the practical FX Tom Savini gave us back in the day, but the zombie's exploding head did remind me of the original DAWN OF THE DEAD.

FAVORITE SCENE: My favorite new character, John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), and his girlfriend June (Jenna Elfman) get past the identity crisis she's been having all season. "I know who you are. Doesn't matter what your name is. I know you. Doesn't take a whole day to recognize sunshine."

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