Alicia finds herself in over her head trying to protect the kids, Morgan learns more about Grace and John finally tells Dwight the truth about his missing wife.
Uh-oh, "Fear the Walking Dead" seems to have remembered briefly that it is a horror show and that it's supposed to be dangerous with people dying and what-not. This is an apocalypse, after all.
Of late, the only "Fear" we've had is how many more speeches we'd have to endure from Alicia or Morgan or June or John or Victor. We get it, you're all trying to be better people and do good deeds to make up for the bad ones. Maybe create a pamphlet so we don't have to hear about it over and over and over again.
This week, Alicia gave the pep-talk speech to the kids, June had one fired up for Althea, Morgan busted one out for Grace and Dwight proved he's ready to join this ensemble with one of his own for John, though thankfully it was much shorter.
Even better, these speeches didn't dominate the entire episode, which featured real danger, inept leadership, boneheaded bravery and what may prove to be a death sentence for a fan-favorite. It's been so long since someone died on this show, we were almost starting to thinks this was the Saturday morning cartoon version of "The Walking Dead."
Annie Are You Okay?
Alicia was the hero of the day in a huge way when she made her way back to check on Annie and the kids that she keeps in her charge. Annie is intentionally reminiscent of the more problematic era of Alicia's own development, when she was bullheaded and stupid and wouldn't listen to anyone. There is one difference, though, Alicia was capable.
Now Annie is still a kid, but she is so in over her head as the self-proclaimed leader of this pack of children. She's got them living in a treehouse with exactly one point of entrance, which is never a good idea in a world where walkers travel in packs or even herds.
And then, when her walker walls get away from her and start chasing her, she does what any leader would do. No, scratch that. She does what any scared child would do. She runs home. In this case, that meant bringing a whole horde of walkers on her heels to the one entrance and exit to her treehouse. That's not strong leadership. That's the idiocy that only a child can pull off.
And yet still she resisted giving Alicia her weapon back, trying to convince herself their flimsy gate would hold. Of course it wouldn't. Not a chance.
But Alicia was able to buy them enough time to make a rope and lower themselves out of the treehouse the back way. Annie even managed to take out two of the walkers after they fell down the embankment where the children were. And this was yet another moment where the show proved that "The Walking Dead" just isn't dangerous anymore.
In the early years, "TWD" was like the best of "Game of Thrones." Both shows were wildly unpredictable and dangerous. Kids died on "TWD" -- one even by her young sister's hand -- and yet never did we fear a single of these nameless kids would die. And don't get us wrong, someone should have died. That walker should have taken out a kid before Annie could get in the kill shot.
Why? Because this is a hard world and lessons have to be learned hard. Annie screwed up royally as a leader with her terrible treehouse fort, by leaving the safety of the truck stop and by leading a horde of zombies to their front door. That's a lesson that should be paid in blood, but this is a kinder, gentler "Dead" and so she gets to escape with all of the children.
In fact, by the end of this episode, absolutely everyone looks like they're going to get out of this situation just fine. After the brutal deaths of Glenn and Abraham turned off many viewers, AMC has over-corrected into this Fisher-Price version of their world and it's only turning off more viewers.
There's death and there's gratuitous violence bordering on torture porn. In its efforts to outdo itself -- and probably compete with "Thrones" -- "TWD" teetered on that edge. And yes, we know the comics went there, too, but that is a different medium. Pus, those deaths could have still happened and not been so gratuitous. On top of that, the dumpster fakeout and an overall lame trend in the writing ... it was a lot more than that moment that cost the franchise viewers.
"Fear" was intended to be the more optimistic show, but it needn't be less dangerous to be more optimistic. It's optimism comes from its characters. But now all we're getting us uplifting speeches and not-at-all dangerous walkers.
Is there a single person out there who thinks anyone might actually die from the radiation poisoning we've heard warnings about since Grace first appeared? And that includes Alicia, who this week got blood-splattered by one of Grace's marked walkers, indicating she should have now gotten a healthy does of rads. According to Grace, a veritable death sentence
But can we actually imagine "FTWD" killing off Alicia? Since this new ensemble has come together, no one has died and there's no indication that any of them will. In fact, their numbers keep growing and they grew again this week. We're not gonna lie, but it would be nice if someone did die if just to remind us that this world is dangerous and ruthless.
We should have lost at least one kid this week, if not more. At the close of this hour, the alarms started blaring, meaning the power plant is about to melt down. Probably someone should die trying to get everyone off of this mountain, but will it happen? Probably not.
Or if someone does die, it will either be Grace or Al's not-so-secret-anymore friend Isabelle. You know, someone we've invested nearly no time in and so their loss won't be felt. Make a liar out of us. Show us these threats are real!
The other problem is that Alicia is one of the leads of the show, alongside Lennie James' Morgan. He's already taken over the focus of the show from the remaining OG cast (Alicia, Victor and Luciana). Would they really start picking off the OGs, starting with who had become the most compelling character and strongest actress?
We're not buying it, just as Grace being worried that Morgan might have been exposed doesn't have us worried, either. "FTWD" is not going to kill off its main characters the way the parent series does. At this point, "TWD" is at the mercy of long-time cast-member who either want to leave or want too much money to stay. "Fear" doesn't have these problems yet.
Welcome to the Family
In fact, "Fear" has very much the opposite problem as its cast just keeps growing and growing (though that could be setting up a culling to come). This week, Morgan convinced Grace to join the group at the truck stop and not give up on living, Alicia convinced all the kids to go to the truck stop and live and Sherry's letter convinced Dwight to live.
The letter, which John finally gave to him out of guilt, told Dwight to find something worth living for and he decided that what was worth living for was the mission statement of this group of survivors. And the first person he decided to help was John, so he vowed to help him get back to June.
This adds Grace, Dwight, Max, Annie, Dylan and a herd of unnamed children to our ranks without a single life lost. Good thing they've got a cargo plane because this is a lot of cargo.
Oh and shout out to Luciana for acknowledging that all those other kids are just extras by introducing Victor and Charlie only to Max, Annie and Dylan. She probably never even bothered to learn the other kid's names, or the writers couldn't be bothered to even name them. You'd think that would mean they're zombie chow... well, there's always next week.
Hoping for a Bloodbath
Call us sick and morbid, but we're not alone. "Fear" has gotten dull this season, and even Alicia getting splattered with radioactive blood wasn't enough to keep this from being a sleepy episodes. With no real threats on the mountainside save the power plant itself, it seems like eight episodes was a bit too long to spend there.
"Fear" is running the risk of falling into the other trap that sidelined "TWD" for years until Angela Kang took over and made it right again. It's saving all the real moments for it premieres and finales, leaving the other episode as a lot of filler and pointless back-and-forth. It's a frustrating tactic to have to deal with as a viewer and it destroys the momentum of a story.
As such, though, we expect things to get exciting again in next week's midseason finale. And for the first time ever, "FTWD" is only taking a three-week hiatus before it comes back for the back half of Season 5. Making room for the first of those Rick Grimes movies, maybe?
The midseason finale of "Fear the Walking Dead" airs next Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC._
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