Logan has been a bit of a whiff as far as villains go, but the people he works for take ruthless to a level we've not seen on "Fear" in quite some time.
"Fear the Walking Dead" has been the kinder, gentler cousin of "The Walking Dead" the past couple of years, but things took a decidedly darker turn with the introduction of yet another "big bad," and the hefty body count that came along with her.
Of course, that body count had to come at the price of the survivors once again learning that it's not always easy to help people, and sometimes just when you think you're finally getting through to them, it can all still go so very wrong.
The action picked up right as Logan and Doris found the fabled oil fields this whole season has been going on and on about. Also there were Luciana, Wendell and the kids, along with a small work contingent refining the oil into usable gasoline. This is the fabled promised land, and it also explains how the convoy has been able to keep running all this time.
The hour was framed with a flashback of Logan before he broke bad, acting every bit the do-gooder that Polar Bear and our intrepid heroes are. And it then echoed his exact situation almost exactly, down to it being a solitary woman in need of rescue at the truck stop at the exact same mile marker.
While this was a little ham-fisted and corny of a coincidence, we do give the writers props for adding some depth to Sarah and Wendell's guilt by pointing out that this was the day they stole Polar Bear's truck. He wasn't available to save this woman, so Logan got to hear her die a grisly death over his walkie. And it was in his grief over losing this that he first met Virginia and her posse.
We'll get to her later.
Oil Fields Overnight
The sloppy writing continued into this week's episode, with nonsensical standoffs that didn't need to happen, and Logan continue to be about as ineffective a villain as we've seen yet. He's just never menacing, even when he's being menacing, and yet no one will just shoot him. Even when John got the upper hand on a ridge overlooking the oil fields, he wouldn't take the shot.
But the biggest problem, aside from the incredibly hokey Mile Marker 65 callback, was moments like Logan offering to let the kids go free. There was so much subtext from both sides of this that ultimately went nowhere. So why did we spend so much time on that scene with tension and nods and winks for it to just be what it was. The kids were free to go?
And then there's the fact that both the walker battle at the oil fields and the midnight run of Alicia and Victor literally took all night. Then, in the morning, Doris and all of Logan's men retake the camp only to put their guns down because Logan had a change of heart? We get that most of these characters have paper-thin character depth, but this just proved they were nothing but props to the plot.
Where was Doris' self-righteous anger seen when she abandoned Logan the night before, risking him getting bit? We've learned nothing of their relationship, or who Doris was or what makes her tick, and ultimately none of it matters.
Logan himself got faux depth through his parallel story to Sarah, but even his flip back to the good side was a little too quick. We get that he's shown some reluctance to being on the dark side, and he hadn't really killed anyone or even really fought with them, but rather than have this make him look like he was an uncertain leader, it made him look weak. Why would Doris and his men put up with it?
Were they all weak? Again, it doesn't matter because none of them mattered even the slightest to the writers. They were plot devices and apparently they only existed to set up the real big bad of the season.
Riders at Dawn
With the dawn came the real villain of this back half of the season, and while she's much more overtly villainous than Logan, she's annoying and cloying for a wholly different reason.
It was a little too clean that she simply eliminated Logan and all of his people just as they were possibly going to become allies. Just like that, the threat of the season was gone and replaced with a new threat with no overlap. Wouldn't it have been more interesting for Logan to have survived and become a conflicted ally?
Instead, we have our cookie-cutter heroes now facing off against cookie-cutter villains. And thanks to the cartoonish performance by Colby Minifie as Ginny, it's very hard to take her seriously as a threat. John is a classic John Wayne cowboy type, but Garret Dillahunt is a skilled enough actor to just suggest the homage and still exist as his own character.
Matt Frewer was able to give us a suggestion of humanity under Logan's flat character, but Minifie doesn't seem to have that capacity. Or at the very least, we've not seen it yet. Hopefully, she offers a lot more in the way of character in her next appearance, as she currently stands at risk of being the most two-dimensional villain of the entire franchise.
We can admit to being curious as to what it is that her people are doing. But the fact that she is so openly ruthless and willing to kill anyone she sees as non-essential makes it even more jarring that Logan would just throw away his own compassion so abruptly to jump on board. Or did he get tricked into working for her and then felt trapped? Oh wait, that would be depth of character, and we're not doing that this season.
Honestly, we're not even worried that much that Luciana agreed to stay and work the oil fields in exchange for everyone else's freedom. For one, Luciana hasn't had an independent personality since shortly after Nick died, becoming just another interchangeable cartoon hero. For another, we still don't quite buy Ginny as a real threat to our heroes, even though she just proved she's willing to kill.
Honetly, the show could use with some killing of its characters, if only to put some depth and personality back into everyone who survives. This surface-level characterization is really becoming problematic. Everyone is essentially the same person now, save very minor character quirks.
On the plus side, we are kind of digging some of the new characters. Peter Jacobson was a great addition to the cast as Rabbi Jacob last week, and we weren't even mad at the return of Wes (even though his character arc was handled terribly two weeks ago). Seeing him now wanting to help the group is encouraging.
It's the kind of encouragement the group needs, and the injection of new blood gives us hope (we're sick, we know) that something will go wrong and someone significant will die. Right now, no one fears the walking dead or anything else really on this show because no one dies. They've all become bizarre superheroes who are mostly really bad at helping people, but they're getting better.
This show needs to become dangerous again. We don't need a bloodbath every week, but we need to believe in the possibility of death around every corner. We also need these characters to have individual motivations and perhaps even conflicts with one another.
And no, Sarah wanting to brew beer does not count as individual character motivation. Her struggling with the guilt over her involvement with Polar Bear's death, and now Logan's turn, is actual characterization. Now, do more of that with more characters and you might have an interesting ensemble again.
"Fear the Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.
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