This Fear The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 12
Fear The Walking Dead viewers know Colman Domingo for his stellar work as Viktor Strand in front of the camera. For this week’s episode, however, Domingo takes the helm, marking the first time any actor in the Walking Dead universe has stepped behind the camera to direct an episode of either show. Domingo works well with the actors, as one might expect, drawing out great performances from the ensemble cast, with Jenna Elfman and Maggie Grace in particular delivering strong dramatic moments. One of Fear’s overall strengths has always been its strong cinematography, and “Weak” is no exception. Domingo knows how to frame a shot and how to build a mood.
That being said, this episode’s writing is perhaps its weakest link—and does one of Fear’s coolest characters no favors. Maggie Grace’s Althea is usually pretty good in a pinch, backing up her tough talk with tough actions. And as far as being one of this season’s new characters, she’s been a welcome addition to the show. Once she’s in your corner, she’s got your back. Commanding a tricked-out SWAT van certainly adds to her cachet. As for the whole journalism angle, this only adds to Althea’s mystique. But strip all of these things away, and who is she, really?
The same is true of Jenna Elfman’s June—strip away her identity du jour, and who is she other than a post-apocalyptic chameleon? We saw June grapple with this a bit in “People Like Us,” the notion that she’s an imposter in her own life, unable to commit to her fellow survivors. Her knack for running is a known quantity about June. Which is why she’s so determined to hunker down and make things work this time. If she has to be stuck with anyone, Althea’s a good person to have in her corner. Or so I thought.
“Weak” finds them in the aftermath of the big storm. The SWAT van is out of fuel and the pair is running low on supplies. The pair is also out of touch with the rest of their group, whose fate remains unknown. Since becoming stranded, June has grown obsessed with John Dorie’s taped interview. So much so, that she’s killed the video camera’s battery. Althea is surprisingly laid back about this latest setback, which I found rather odd. We’ve been led to believe all season that Althea self-medicates with these recorded interviews, collecting subjects the way a philatelist collects stamps. I expected her to grow angry, even despondent at the idea that one of her key lifelines is no longer at her fingertips.
June has also drained the long-range radio’s battery in her many attempts to reestablish contact with John. (To be fair, I’d probably go to similar lengths to find John Dorie, too.) Again, Althea is oddly cool about this as well. This magnanimity and patience all but vanish as Althea is struck low by a sudden, mysterious illness.
Which leads to an even bigger dilemma.
No, it’s not that someone else found some diesel and hijacked the SWAT van.
And no, it isn’t that the deathly ill character is the one behind the wheel as the pair pursues the stolen van.
No, my issue is the lie Althea tells June about the meds that are allegedly aboard the van. You’d think getting their ultimate apocalypse vehicle back would be motivation enough by itself. Indeed, that SWAT van is more than just their mobile home, it’s a veritable bunker on wheels. Who wouldn’t want it back?
Still, June’s run-in with the carjacker causes her to do some soul-searching. Everyone deserves a second chance now that humanity has inadvertently hit the ultimate reset button. I like that June spare’s Quinn’s life. It affords him the chance for a personal mulligan—to hit his own reset button and become a better person.
Which brings us back to Morgan, who never met a fellow survivor who isn’t worthy of saving. Sometimes this works in his favor, sometimes it doesn’t. The jury is still out on Morgan’s current crew, who seem a bit too jokey to be truly dangerous. Take Jim’s superpower, for instance: “I know the look of a man who needs a drink.”
But Wendell and Sarah aren’t meant to be the main threat faced by our survivors. That honor belongs to the mysterious Tonya Pinkins, who’s being positioned more as a kind of serial killer than one of Fear’s new big bads. What little we know about her suggests she views the undead as far stronger to their living counterparts. Which is fine. This seems like a radical notion at first blush, until you consider Celia Flores, who thought of the undead as the next stage in humanity’s evolution. Or even little Lizzie Samuels on The Walking Dead, who considered the walkers her friends.
That this new villain treats Purvis like some sort of attack dog is too reminiscent of TWD’s Michonne and her undead pets. For a show that spent its first three seasons successfully distinguishing itself from TWD, these similarities are disappointing.
Here’s to hoping that Fear’s moderately successful fourth-season course correction isn’t itself in need of course correcting. We don’t need more new characters (be they good, bad, or indifferent)—we just need to commit to the ones we began the season with. If someone like June can dig deep and finally stay the course, is it wrong to expect the same of Fear itself?
The real upshot to “Weak” is Colman Domingo. Hopefully, he’ll be wearing the director’s hat again in the near future.