This Fear The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 16
I’ll admit, I struggled a bit with this review of Fear The Walking Dead’s season four finale, “…I Lose Myself.” Several false starts and a couple thousand words later, I realized I wasn’t writing a review for a lackluster episode. Rather, I was writing a eulogy for a show I once loved.
And that was a bitter pill to swallow.
The problems with this episode started long before everyone but Morgan drank water tainted with antifreeze. Indeed, Fear ran into trouble when it killed off Nick Clark, arguably one of the show’s strongest characters. This was unavoidable, given that Frank Dillane wanted to move on to other projects. But killing off Madison Clark was avoidable, especially given that Kim Dickens wanted to stay. Whatever vision Scott M. Gimple and new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg had for Fear, somehow the show’s lead wasn’t part of those plans. After focusing on the Clark family for three-plus seasons, one would expect Alicia to be the heir apparent, with Fear focusing its storytelling on the family’s only surviving member. But instead of being the heir apparent, Alicia (and thereby Alycia Debnam-Carey) was shunted aside in favor of new blood.
Enter The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones, who joined Fear at the start of this season. In time, after Kim Dickens’s inauspicious departure, Lennie James would go on to receive top billing in season 4B. In doing so, AMC relegated original cast members to the sidelines. Even new characters like John Dorie and June took a backseat as even newer characters like Wendell, Sarah, Jim, and Martha were added to a quickly burgeoning cast. All of this restructuring and reshuffling and retooling took their cumulative toll on Fear, which already saw ratings drop after Madison’s death is finally revealed in the midseason finale.
So in other words, after “No One’s Gone,” Fear’s course correction was itself in need of a course correction. But by introducing a new villain in Martha, the show instead went all in on Morgan’s quixotic efforts to save her. Lennie James is certainly up to the task, making Morgan’s inner turmoil believable. Tonya Pinkins, too, brings a lot more to Martha than what I imagine was on the page.
In the end, though, the finale’s script, penned by Chambliss and Goldberg, isn’t quite up to the task of sewing up this season in a way that feels true to Fear. Without Nick and Madison, “…I Lose Myself” is a grim reminder not of Morgan’s personal struggles, but of the show’s struggle with itself in the absence of two main characters.
And if it seems as though I’m dancing around discussing the finale itself, it’s because I am. Aside from strong performances from James, Pinkins, and Maggie Grace, there isn’t much I liked about this season ender. Just like last week’s “I Lose People…,” numerous plot contrivances plague this episode. In an unintentionally meta moment early on in “…I Lose Myself,” Althea reacts to a moment of dumb luck by exclaiming, “You’ve gotta be shitting me!”
The episode only goes downhill after that—and not even John Dorie pitching some serious woo with June can save it.
The crux of “…I Lose Myself,” and indeed the crux of season 4B, is the notion of helping fellow survivors. It’s a noble thought, this idea that by saving others, we ultimately save ourselves. This becomes a bit harder to believe, though, when the very person Morgan has endeavored to save has poisoned his friends with antifreeze.
In dealing with this unexpected conundrum, Morgan is faced with a watered down version of an ethical dilemma known as the “trolley problem” in which saving one life is pitted against the saving of many lives. However, what should be a moral quandary is just a head-scratching exercise in futility. Why save someone who doesn’t want to be helped if it means risking the lives of survivors who actually want and need help?
As for everyone back at the truck stop, it’s here that the finale completely loses its way. Poisoning nearly every character is one thing—but there’s nothing dramatic or engaging about multiple shots of the group slumped over in chairs or on the floor. Alicia certainly deserves better than this, especially after Debnam-Carey’s career-defining performance in the far superior “Close Your Eyes.”
As luck would have it, June knows that ethanol cures antifreeze poisoning. Luckier still, there’s a whole tanker of the stuff at this very rest stop. With this news, the group, which just moments before was on death’s door, suddenly finds the wherewithal to kick some serious zombie ass.
But this turn of events begs several questions: Why does the group choose to go out the front door, through the thickest part of the horde? Doesn’t this place have a back door? And just because the tanker gets shot up doesn’t mean the ethanol is now somehow useless—right? Can’t the group use what’s gushing out of the bullet holes? Isn’t this essentially ethanol on tap?
The final nail in the episode’s coffin is Morgan showing up to save the day. As if Luciana granting a dying man’s wish with one beer weren’t corny enough, Morgan drives up in an Auggie’s Ales truck. Please, enough of Jim. Enough with the beer. Enough with this mawkish sentimentality. None of this changes the fact that Jim was an unapologetic jerk who cared more about himself than anyone else.
In the end, Fear banks heavily on the group going forth into the world to help others. On paper, this is very much the sort of optimism so many of us need right now. But in its execution, this desire to write off Alexandria in favor of helping local survivors feels more like an ending than it does a new beginning. In other words, “…I Lose Myself” feels less like a season finale than it does a series finale. Were the latter true, I’d be more at peace in writing this show off. Because in its current state, this isn’t the Fear I once eagerly championed. For all intents and purposes, that show is dead.