Death strikes in the penultimate installment as our group of intrepid heroes go from low in spirits, to desperate to all out of hope before next week's season finale.
We knew it was a fake-out, and yet we are desperately curious to see how our gang gets out of this disastrous mess when "Fear the Walking Dead" wraps its fifth season next week.
Things went from bad to worse to how-can-it-get-any-worse? to oh-that's-how-so-wtf-do-we-do-now? for Morgan and our group of brave heroes. As they did earlier in the season, the majority of the episode was filmed guerrilla-style, like first-person documentary, and it added a sense of urgency and danger to the proceedings.
With Al part of the cast and determined to tell their story of survival, we wouldn't be opposed to most or all of the episodes being put together like this, complete with talking heads and motivations. Of courses, it really only works when the bulk of the cast is together and appearing in the same episode, such as the case was here, because there are only so many cameras.
"Fear" is always stronger when the ensemble is together, and even in an episode where things just kept getting more and more bleak, we got some hints at nice character development. Even newcomer Tom, who brings an unbridled enthusiasm now that he's found a group that doesn't think he's a royal cuck-up and want to kill him, got moments to shine and begin to develop his character and personality.
We've complained in previous weeks that "Fear' has allowed all of the characters to be become bland and homogeneous, so it was nice to see some of their unique personality traits emerge, or re-emerge as the case may be. Daniel proved the instigator again, pushing Morgan to to the right thing by Grace before time is up
June is carrying the weight of the caravan on her shoulders and riddled with guilt that she is failing them. Al is so determined to document the truth opposite Virginia's propaganda tactics that she's driving herself into obsession again.
We even got moments with Wes, who is committed to taking this second chance and making something of it, and the hope the group has inspired in Rabbi Jacob, who is finding reason to hope again. These are important things to see because it shows that the ideals of this group are rooted in something of value and that even when they struggle, it is what they give to people internally that matters.
As for Tom, out of nowhere, he got reunited with his sister Janis, which means the group came through on their promise to find her. They may be almost out of fuel and without a place to refuel or call home, but they're still fighting the good fight.
And Virginia continues to express her ruthless pragmatism, though she added a new depth of wickedness this week. Rather than loom and wait for Morgan and his group to call her for help, she went ahead and hurried things along by having her men fire into the air and lure a herd to the group at a terrible crossroads.
They were already at a bridge that couldn't take the weight of their tanker, struggling to figure out how to get across. It's a testament to Ginny's confidence that she knew both Tom and Al were filming and proudly proclaimed that she would have killed Tom because he wasn't up to her level of quality and then fire in the air. These actions and comments fly in the face of her "helpful" narrative she created in her own videos she's apparently begun leaving around the area.
She clearly doesn't think Al and Tom's videos will ever see the light of day, and thus her truth will win out. And she certainly created a situation of dire straits for the caravan of hope.
In fact, thanks directly to her actions, she got her wish anyway as Tom did not survive the bridge crossing. His own enthusiasm did him in, as he stayed on the bridge too long to film how even the loss of their tanker wasn't enough to dampen their spirits or weaken their will.
This was an odd sequence, as it was inevitable what they'd find at the end of their long walk in the heat. They expected to find the solution to all their problems and maybe even a place to call home. And they literally lay all their hopes on it, as they walked with no supplies, food or anything. It either worked or they died. Or perhaps an eve worse option.
They already knew Ginny's people were watching them and following them, so was it wise to just trek straight to the Gulch, another Old West amusement park town like we saw earlier in the season? This was the last great hope they'd rested the caravan on, but you can't help and wonder if they weren't willing to do this because they kind of knew Virginia was a backup plan if it all went to hell.
And it did.
The Gulch was absolutely full of wall-to-wall walkers. The caravan was weak, hungry and overheated. How could they possibly clear such a herd? We couldn't help but wonder if Virginia didn't send her people to lure a herd there and lock them in, as she surely knew where the caravan was headed.
It all felt so fatalistic in that final moment, even down to Morgan apologizing to Tom's sister Janis. Tom died to prove to Virginia that her way was ... right? Well, no, but Virginia had done her part to eliminate any other options.
So it's not that they want to join her, but it may either be that or die. And if they join her, some of them will surely die anyway. Helluva choice.
One person, though, knew exactly what it was like going in with someone who has a vision and a ruthless streak. He went down that road with Negan and he'd rather continue walking into hopelessness than be there when the call in to Virginia for help.
Plus, Ginny gave him a glimmer of hope that Sherry is still out there and cares about him. Dwight got a lot of good moments this episode, and this was one of the best -- thought it may not have resonated as well with anyone who hasn't seen "The Walking Dead."
Is there anyone who watches "Fear the Walking Dead" who doesn't watch "The Walking Dead'? That would be kind of weird, right? Unless the Negan head-bashing drove them away from "TWD" and they never went back. If that's the case, you really should go back. It's got a new showrunner, great new villains and last season was the best it's been in a long time.
The teaser for the final didn't really offer us much to go on, though we know the action isn't all going to take place at this gulch (unless there's a helluva lot of water nearby). What we want to know is where the group goes from here?
Are they going to actually join Virginia's group? Maybe try to change it from the inside? Or just survive it long enough to see who she answers to and what they're really all about ... and how it connects to the CRM Organization (the three triangles we saw with Isabelle, who's due a return) who stole Rick Grimes away from the parent series.
Also, what becomes of Dwight as we don't imagine he'd abandon his friends altogether? Will he get more than a few feet before turning around, or will he legit disappear so he can show up in some dramatic reveal later?
Will the season end with our group having a homebase of operations or will they continue to be a large group of vagabond wanderers? They always say it's good to take your characters to their lowest point, and this has to be about the lowest for all of them. They've literally lost everything they owned save the clothes on their back and whatever they could carry.
Climbing up from the bottom is the only option left to them. And that's proving to be a very interesting place to drop them. Can they all survive it? Can they survive Virginia and whatever happens in next week's finale? And what happens next?
We'd be very surprised if Virginia is just a half-season villain. They seem to be setting her and her group up as something much bigger to deal with, and that's a good thing. These half-season arcs have not served "Fear" well since the revamp. A longer and more dangerous storyline is just what the characters and the show needs.
Oh, and we need death and real risk. Yes, Logan an all of his people died at Virginia's hands, and Tom fell to his death this week. But this group has gotten very big and as low as the writers have taken them, they've not had them deal with major loss. And as ruthless as Virginia is, how could they possibly get through or past or overcome her without taking some major hits along the way?
We'll find out how it all plays out next Sunday on the "Fear the Walking Dead" season finale at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.