This Fear the Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead season 6 has not been without its casualties. While it seemed at first that the season would start by confirming Morgan’s death after the shocking season 5 cliffhanger, it turned out he’d survived his ordeal with Virginia and the walker horde. Others haven’t been so lucky in the first four episodes of season 6.
First, we said goodbye to Isaac, who helped Morgan find his way back to the world of the living in the premiere. Not long behind him was Emile, the ax-wielding bounty hunter who tried to collect Morgan’s head for Virginia. He didn’t stand a chance once Morgan flashed his plot armor, though. Shame about headless Emile, as he would have been an interesting villain to follow for a few more episodes.
But it’s “The Key” that delivered the season’s biggest and definitely most gruesome death so far. The episode said goodbye to Janis, a survivor we first met in season 5 after she’d managed to escape Virginia’s group with her brother Tom. She joined Morgan’s group on their mission to help others, but her freedom was short-lived. By the end of season 5, Janis was right back where she started: in Virginia’s clutches, this time doomed to stay with the Pioneers forever.
“The Key” is a John Dorie-centric hour that doubles as a fun whodunnit when one of Virginia’s men, Cameron, turns up dead. When John finds Cameron tangled in the Lawton settlement’s barbed wire fence and being devoured by walkers, the former policeman suspects foul play. While Virginia is skeptical at first — at least John is manipulated into believing as much — John digs deeper and finds an earring at the murder scene that could point to the killer.
The mystery soon unravels. We learn that Janis, who has been providing traveling laundry services for all the settlements under Virginia’s rule, had a romantic relationship with Cameron and that the two had planned to run away together, escaping the Pioneers for good. But when Cameron turned up dead, likely killed by Virginia in order to implicate Janis in the murder, she decided to make a run for it anyway. When Janis is caught by Virginia’s Rangers, the leader of the Pioneers accuses Janis of killing Cameron and trying to flee before John could figure it out. What’s more, in Janis’ backpack, Virginia’s men find the other earring that matches the one John found at the scene of the crime. Damning evidence (likely planted by Virginia).
Although John believes she is innocent, Janis decides to “confess” to killing Cameron in order to stop John from digging any deeper into the murder, which by episode’s end is clearly the product of Virginia’s machinations to get back at Janis for running away the first time around. Janis tells Virginia, John, and Strand that she threw Cameron into the barbed wire fence after he told her he’d changed his mind about running away together. While we never learn exactly what happened, it’s likely that Virginia learned of what Cameron and Janis had planned and punished Cameron for it, with Janis framed for murder as a bonus.
Either way, Virginia accepts Janis’ admission of guilt and sentences her to death — and a gory one at that. In the middle of the night, Janis is chained to a tree outside of Lawton’s walls, doomed to be consumed by the undead, a boombox blasting music from a tree branch in order to attract a group of hungry walkers.
Despite Virginia’s ruling, John is a good man and wants to do the right thing. He plans to free Janis and flee with her, but Strand has the Rabbi Jacob distract John while Virginia is moving forward with the execution. By the time John discovers Janis’ half-eaten body, it’s much too late to do anything.
While John plans to avenge Janis at first, Strand stops him, admitting that he had the Rabbi stall John to make sure he wouldn’t get involved and get himself killed. Ultimately, John decides to say nothing to Virginia or investigate Cameron’s death any further. And for that, he’s rewarded. The episode ends with John finally being reunited with June, but it’s clear that Janis’ death will haunt John for a long time.