Austin Amelio's Dwight makes his explosive debut and meets "Fear's" resident cartoon cowboy superhero in the craziest scene in franchise history.
"Fear the Walking Dead" finally got the chance to turn John Dorie into a cartoon superhero cowboy and we are here for it ... and also laughing a little uncomfortably.
The "Dead" franchise has been built on the inherent plausibility of its grim and gritty world, but John's actions in this episode certainly stretched credulity nearly to its breaking point. Now, we've seen him be an amazing shot many times before this and it's possible that the trick he pulled off tonight can be done, but as we said, they're really stretching it.
That said, we really love us some John Dorie and Garret Dillahunt has made him the sweetest and most sympathetic character on the whole damned show, so he's earned enough goodwill by this point that we'll let it slide. But maybe just this once.
It was fun stepping into this Old West theme park attraction set with John being the old-school gunslinger that he is. We had tumbleweeds blowing by at every possible moment -- because this hour was not about subtlety -- and even a pointless dust storm that existed solely to create momentary blindness for the episode's first big reveal.
Wrong Place, Dwight Time
Even though it had been teased all through the hiatus, it was still a bit of a surprise to discover that it was Dwight (Austin Amelio) who was shooting at John and June in our favorite new set of the season. Seriously, everything about the rustic Old West and zombies just works on every level. Watching the walkers strolling down the street as the gang tries to sneak past them on the saloon roof is just visually delightful.
Plus, in a zombie apocalypse with the crumbling of society, it's not unlike the lawless mystique of the wild west. John Dorie was right at home in this theme park set, in more ways than one, and Dwight's burned visage fit the grizzled nature of the time as well.
We weren't sure how Dwight would mesh with the "FTWD" cast, as he was such a conflicted character who never really fit in on the parent series, even though he became an integral part of that world in the source material. But his story parallels John's so well here that the two shared an almost instant kinship ... at least after John shot his new friend.
When last we saw Dwight over on "The Walking Dead," Daryl had shown him mercy and given him a car so he could go in search of his wife, Sherry. Now, more than a year later, Dwight's search continues and he coincidentally finds himelf falling in line with a group that just happens to include a familiar face.
As much as we want to laugh at the unlikelihood of that, we have to consider how drastically reduced the population is at this point. And now that Morgan has stopped moving, settling in Texas, it's actually somewhat plausible that Dwight might run into his group when he made his way there. Especially when you consider how proactive Morgan and his team have been in the area.
It was a reunion fraught with shock and tension as Dwight knows the horrible things he was a part of with Negan and Morgan knows the horrible things he was part of with Negan, but also Dwight left things in the middle of an attempted redemption arc. But this is a Morgan of forgiveness, as he's certainly been down a dark and deadly path himself.
Plus, we already know their going to be allies, so what's the point in wasting time with distrust and possible fracturing of the group by exposing Dwight's fully story.
Broken Cars, Shattered Trust
Honestly, though, we might have preferred that to the series of pointlessly broken cars we had to endure to pad time in this episode. The first broken car only happened because Dwight blew out the tires. And it only happened for the purpose of creating false tension with John and June trapped in this town with a mysterious shooter and a massive dust storm blowing through.
Well, the dust storm turned out to be a dud and the shooter Dwight, so there was no real danger. And Dwight had a car of his own in town, do disabling the car accomplished absolutely nothing in the overall scheme of things, unless you want to consider the fun of the later scene when Dwight was stuck in John and June's car looking for a note from Sherry.
He'd been following her trail of notes across the country and was certain this was the next car she had been driving after the previous note. He was wrong about that, but it was a pretty convenient way to give him a reason to pull a gun on John and become the next target of their help drive.
The second breakdown proved even more pointless as it appeared to serve no purpose other than to fill time and give Alicia and Luciana something to do. They got to crash the car, discover a board with nails in it and then keep walking until Morgan picked them up.
Can we point out the stupidity of leaving the board in the road, nails up, when they know Morgan is following them on the same road. But thanks to some sloppy writing, they were able to leave it that way for a cool(?) visual and Morgan still managed to come up behind them with no tire damage at all. Maybe we're to believe they gave him a heads up.
If they did, we hope he responded by asking them whey the hell they didn't just move it off the road when they were holding it in their hands?!? Was it so the bad guys wouldn't know they'd been there? Because their wrecked car right there make it pretty obvious!
The episode closed with a third broken-down car, but we'll get to that in a bit.
Cartoon Cowboy Superhero
We mentioned it at the top, but we need to take a moment to acknowledge that John Dorie officially puts Rick Grime to shame in the modern-day cowboy sense. He told June he was part of the trick shooting element of this fictional Old West theme park and then he proved why that's the case.
Not only is he a crack shot with no aim or effort, killing every walker with one shot from any angle, he prove he can do even better than that.
When Dwight made a run from the broken-down car to his running one, he wound up taking out a walker with an axe that landed on him because we needed to set this up. As two more walkers approached him, John shouted at him to hold up the axe. No direction as to how to hold it up, but Dwight did it with the blade end toward John.
Maybe he knew this trick shot. And while it was absolutely ridiculous, and we absolutely knew it was coming, it was still kind of cool that he essentially split the bullet to kill both walker with one shot. It was totally gratuitous, totally pointless, and endlessly entertaining. Some stupid we can handle.
Monsters, Monsters Everywhere
By the way, we've effectively covered everything that happened in the episode. If you're thinking that all that happened is Dwight meeting John and June and Alicia and Luciana wrecking a car, well that about sums it up. There was a lot about John and June convincing Dwight to not give up his search just as John never gave up his, but there was virtually nothing that happened in the episode.
Even the final big reveal after that third wrecked vehicle was no big surprise at all, though it did raise even more questions. Throughout the episode, Alicia had been talking to the three kids we met in the premiere after catching them on a different walkie frequency.
Finally, they talked to her, with Max telling us they were going "to where you took us before." Now, there was not a note of sincerity in his voice, candence or even choice of words, but Alicia bought it all, even telling Morgan on the way, "Starting to feel like we’re on the right track."
Morgan, as naive and hopeful as she is, agreed with her. And this is a fundamental problem with this new direction for "Fear the Walking Dead." It's trying to be this new and hopeful series for the franchise, but since deciding to help people, almost everyone they've met has turned out to be bad news. Only poor Grace from last week was a sincere individual.
Nevertheless, the gang showed up at the kids' wrecked van to find Max covered in blood and no sign of Annie or Dylan. But apparently the writers knew that we weren't going to buy any subterfuge because they hadn't managed to pull it off yet, so they didn't bother. Right away they cut to the kids so we could see that they were the ones setting up the intestine-tied lines of walker.
There was no indication of how they were pulling this off so easily and effectively -- nor how they were finding so many walkers -- as these things were everywhere. But that creates again this notion that this tiny area of the world has been filled with all of these different factions and yet they're never running into one another?
Dwight has been here for awhile, he seemed to indicate. Grace has been trying to clean up her radioactive mess for awhile, and the kids seem to be set up here. And yet, none of them seem to have ever run into one another. And then there's the group that abducted Al at the close of the premiere. Including our group, that's five different entities in this small area; all of them doing their own thing and seemingly never encountering one another.
It was easier to consider that the group that took Al were the ones setting up the walker lines, and that Grace was affiliated with them in some way as they were also wearing masks and protective gear. But apparently that's not the case. And the kids appear to be doing their own thing as they flat-out indicated they don't know who took Al, either.
So the real question is how many threats are we really dealing with here? And if that perimeter is not encircling wherever Al went -- since the kids are the ones establishing it -- then where did she go? And what are the kids hiding at the center of that circle? How many plots do we need to deal with at one time?
And we didn't even check in on Victor and the other half of our survivors group this week.
We're trying to keep up with "Fear the Walking Dead," Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC, but they're not making it easy.
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