The midseason finale wraps up all the mountain-based storylines in incredibly dull fashion, but at least there's hope for a better/darker future amid all the hugging and speeches.
Longtime "Walking Dead" fans remember the season of the show spent on Hershel's farm. For man, it was an early low point in the series as things just drug on and on and it took forever to do anything and nearly killed the momentum of the show. Welcome to the conclusion of "The Farm 2.0." on "Fear the Walking Dead."
This diversion across the mountains turned into a colossal waste of time, or an eight-episode diversion to bring in some new characters and establish the next crisis to face our survivors in their crusade to help to others: a gas shortage.
The problem is that it all just took way too damned long, and there was never any real believable danger throughout the season. There were suggestions of danger which just petered out into nothing, but nothing that stuck.
The CRM organization that took Althea turned into one woman and a love story. The irradiated walkers didn't really amount to much (so far). The menacing walls of intestine-tied walkers was just the kids. Daniel Salazar setting his sights on Strand turned into a happy family reunion. Even Logan taking over their homebase turned into a dud, and we were expecting a showdown at least for that in this finale.
What we got instead was Sarah showing up to have it out with Logan and him saying, "Yeah, see ya, sweetheart. You can have it back."
Every single setup for danger or "Fear" turned into nothing of the kind, leaving us with eight episodes that landed so softly and harmlessly it's like we're watching a kids show with zombies. Everything was resolved with kumbaya and pretty speeches ... and yes, we got more of those this week. Imagine Mr. Rogers in the apocalypse and you get a sense of what happened this season.
Love Conquers All
We were promised a lighter tone for "Fear" and ultimately they did deliver, despite what looked like a dark start to the season. But they may have over-corrected into the light. It was sweet seeing John propose to June with a candy-wrapper ring (while Dwight looked on happy-for-them-but-sad-for-himself) and it was sweet that they convinced Grace and the kids to join them on the airplane journey, but did everything have to work out perfectly?
We cannot believe that Sarah's speech about atonement seems to have actually worked on Logan, who showed up at the end of the hour to set up that gas crisis, and the next mission for the cast (should they choose to accept it). Did her feel-good speech really make all the difference to Logan? Granted, we saw that even his own henchmen didn't really have any loyalty to him, so there could be a self-serving side to this, but we're not so sure.
All of the edge has been worn off of this show in the past 16 episodes. Even the dirty woman from the back half of last season proved to be just one poor, crazy, deluded woman they took care of without facing any casualties. It's hard to imagine how violent and unpredictable Alicia and Strand and Luciana were at the beginning of last season.
Now, they're all practically cuddly teddy bears. The same goes for Daniel Salazar, who was once the most dangerous man on this whole show.
What Is There to "Fear"?
It's ironic that the show called "Fear" gives us absolutely nothing to fear, either in the main cast or even the outside threats. The fears on the mountain were superficial and none of them became fully realized threats at all. All were slight menaces at best. The most dangerous things they faced were all the walkers up there, and even those proved little trouble.
How long has it been since someone got bit on this show? We get that these people are good at what they do, but all those kids? Grace? No one took a bite? This is a dangerous world and when it loses that danger it starts to lose plausibility. A show that is afraid to kill off kids (or any characters for that matter) is a show that has forgotten how to scare its audience. Or perhaps it's lost interest in doing so.
At least the inclusion of Logan into the cast, for now, adds some moral ambiguity. There are a baker's dozen main characters, not including all those new kids, and every single one of them is equally on the side of the angels and they're all best pals. Even "The Walking Dead" knew to keep some of its characters dancing in the dark. Hell, Daryl and Rick were at each other's throats on an almost regular basis.
It's unrealistic that a group this large would all get along all the time. Other than Salazar and Strand, and they had history, everyone is becoming homogenous. Offer someone just these eight episodes to watch and ask them to break out the big differences between these character personalities and they will not be able to do it.
Everyone acted largely the same, except for a few surface details, throughout. This wasn't always the case and it is indicative of a laziness in script-writing and character development. Instead of the characters living within the plot, they only served the plot. They became plot devices in their own story.
Althea is the only one who got a little bit of development, and that happened only because she got an episode all to herself where she met what is presumably the most beautiful thing she's seen since the end of everything, Isabelle.
Hope for the Future
And that does give us hope, because the story of Isabelle appears to be unfinished. The story of CRM is clearly unfinished, and at some point ties in with Rick Grimes. Could this be the same organizatin working on resolving Logan's fuel crisis? The old gas is breaking down, but there is apparently a place where new gas is being refined.
Could this be the future CRM is working toward? Would explain why they so confidently fly around in helicopters. If that is the case, then the back half of this season could get more immersed in CRM and the Rick Grimes saga, bringing Isabelle back into the fold and creating a genuine foil for our cast of do-gooders.
CRM is much bigger, much more organized and, according to Isabelle, they are working for the future ... which probably means they don't much care about helping people in the here and now. In fact, they may have disdain for anyone outside of their group, which is why they have such strict recruitment techniques (as seen with Jadis and their "A" and "B" methodology in the parent series).
"Fear the Walking Dead" just got picked up for a sixth season, so we're hoping that indicates the upcoming back half of Season 5 is a marked improvement over the past two months. There was so much potential squandered here our only hope is it was all foundation work for awesomeness to come.
There was a time just a season or two ago when "Fear the Walking Dead" had surpassed "The Walking Dead" as the superior show in quality. All of that changed in the past year or so when Angela Kang took over "TWD" and injected it with a level of excitement and danger not seen in years. And then at the same time, somehow, this show became completely neutered.
When you're already the "ugly stepchild" of a monster hit struggling to emerge from its shadow, you don't take on its worst traits. And yet, "Fear" is now exactly what "TWD" was during its dullest years. Here's hoping they figure a way out of it. We love the mix of humor and drama with this fun cast of characters.
Now they just need to remember that horror and comedy have always gone hand in hand, but it doesn't work if you forget the horror. Then you have parody. So unless this was supposed to be "Return of the Living Dead" and the walkers are going to start talking, it's time to up the menace and make America afraid again.
"Fear the Walking Dead" returns in three short weeks for the back half of its season on AMC Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.
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