This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 11
As a general rule, any Morgan-centric episode is a good episode. This was true on The Walking Dead, and so far it’s been true on Fear The Walking Dead. Such is Lennie James’s appeal—and one of the main reasons it made so much sense that he wound up becoming the bridge between the two shows. So it’s a little disappointing that “The Code” isn’t a stronger episode, especially given that it’s co-written by producer Andrew Chambliss. The more philosophical aspects of “The Code” work very well, ruminating on the importance of simple pleasures in a world that’s gone to hell. But it’s when the episode delving further into Morgan’s delicate, complicated psyche that the story stumbles a bit. What’s most frustrating about “The Code,” though, is the notion that kindness and generosity are liabilities that all too often get good people killed. It’s a Walking Dead trope that really needs to be retired from both shows. Retaining one’s humanity shouldn’t be an automatic death sentence. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I do enjoy when Fear takes a more philosophical approach to the apocalypse, as “The Code” does. And Morgan is a great lens for reexamining what really matters in life. Like so many other survivors, Morgan has lost a lot—his wife, his child, his home—even his sanity. While his family is never coming back, he’s found a new family of sorts, first with Rick in The Walking Dead, and then with John Dorie and Alicia in Fear. This is an essential building block of any functioning society, this presence of community. It’s through this sense of belonging that Morgan has managed to regain—and retain—his sanity.
So it’s interesting to see Morgan weigh one kind of stability against another. Whose people are his true people? Where does he belong? More importantly, who’s most in need of saving?
This is part of Morgan’s DNA, helping others. After all, were it not for him, Rick Grimes wouldn’t have survived very long. But a lot has changed since those relatively halcyon days of the zombie apocalypse. As supplies dwindle and patience runs dry, humanity’s surviving remnants have become embittered and desperate. For many, “every man for himself” rules the day. We saw this with the pirates in season two, with Broke Jaw ranch last season, and most recently with the Vultures. That’s why selfless characters like Morgan (and especially John Dorie) are so refreshing in such a cynical world.
But for every Morgan or John, there’s a Wendell or a Sarah. Credit’s due to both Daryl Mitchell and Mo Collins for bringing likability to ultimately unlikable characters. Once we learned the truth about their altruism (or lack thereof), though, I immediately stopped caring about either of these malcontents.
The same goes for Jim (Aaron Stanford), a microbrewer and our first hipster of the post-apocalypse. He’s instantly insufferable, chiding Morgan for being so slow to rescue him. Fear doubles down on this bad first impression by revealing Jim to be another would-be profiteer, a nascent capitalist who wants a chance to fill his coffers by crafting IPAs. This is a crass consideration, given the state of the world. He and Strand would get along just fine—a couple of grifters, looking for their next mark.
“History is built on beer,” Jim insists, and perhaps there’s some truth to this. If Morgan can value a fresh cup of coffee, who’s to say that consuming a good microbrew couldn’t give someone a real thirst to live, to quench one’s daily needs for the basic bygone niceties? Is a glass of beer as trivial as it initially seems, when this world is so devoid of simple pleasures?
I’m glad Fear is willing to ask such questions. And I’m certainly glad Lennie James rises to the challenge, as he always, always does. I just wish these new characters were worthy of such heady considerations. By episode’s end, we learn the fate of Purvis, the benevolent trucker who was leaving those roadside boxes of supplies. He’s not just undead, he’s also being kept as some kind of pet. Worse still, he’s being mocked for his past good deeds. For all of the myriad, inventive ways zombies are killed week after week, I thought the desecration of Purvis’s corpse—and his legacy—was incredibly disturbing.
I know it’s the end of the world, but sometimes the nice guys deserve to finish first. Otherwise, what are Morgan, Alicia, and the rest fighting for? Why even bother trying to save a world that’s capable of such disrespect for the living and the dead?