This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 6
“Just in Case” isn’t just this episode’s title, it’s analogous to Fear the Walking Dead’s tentative, half-in approach to its fourth season. Just like Nick, Strand, Naomi, and now Madison, Fear itself is noncommittal, unable to trust its instincts. This season would suggest that survival is contingent on preparing for the worst, in never living in the moment, of always yearning for something better.
What that leaves is characters who exploit a good situation for personal gains, bleeding a thriving group of its goodwill and resources until nothing is left but death and destruction. Thankfully, this duplicity is leavened by the likes of Morgan and John Dorie, two levelheaded people who both understand and ignore the fact that they exist in a post-apocalyptic reality.
And while John still manages to be both humane and rational, he’s also a true gunslinger who’s quick on the draw. His presence brings an Old West vibe to this lawless land. He only loses his cool where Naomi is concerned. He holds no illusions that she’s still alive. He goes so far as to willingly disarm himself. He realizes his emotions might get the best of him, that he might do more than wound the next person who crosses him.
Unless someone shoots him first. But more on this episode’s twist in a bit—and how “Just in Case” squanders so much of the goodwill created by last week’s brilliant “Laura.”
In the meantime, we get some more tidbits about what happened to everyone after the dam’s collapse. And, apparently, Madison, Nick, Alicia, Strand, and Luciana survived in a cave. I know existence in the post-apocalypse isn’t very glamorous, but everyone was living in a cave? Really? As much as I’ve wanted to learn what happened after last season’s finale, this explanation is perfunctory at best, and embarrassing at worst.
After “Laura” we know this season is capable of truly transcendent storytelling. And this glimpse into the group’s past is not one of Fear’s best moments. Instead of erring on the side of “show” rather than “tell,” this awkward bit of exposition is an unfortunate reminder how season three has largely been shunted aside, an important part of this group’s history relegated to a few lines of clunky dialogue.
As to why Madison would rescue Strand after the way he sold out the dam to the Proctors? I’m with him on this one—I don’t understand why that betrayal is water under the bridge. We may never get a satisfactory answer either.
And, as for Naomi (née Laura), we get a bit of her tragic backstory. And, again, the more we learn, the less I like her. Which is a shame, not just because she lost her daughter, but also because “Laura” truly made me care about Naomi in a way that I didn’t think was possible. In “Just in Case,” though, not only do we see her propensity for flight, but also her propensity for selfishness. In essence, Rose was patient zero, responsible for wiping out the FEMA shelter’s entire population.
All because Naomi kept her daughter’s illness a secret.
So it makes sense that returning to the shelter, and the dusty artifacts of an abbreviated childhood would fill Naomi with so much sadness and remorse. After all, the shambling corpses she finds aren’t anonymous zombies. These were once her friends, her fellow survivors. And Naomi, she weeps for all of them. “They were good people,” she says. “People I thought we could be safe with.”
The feeling was likely mutual. Like the Clarks, Naomi has a penchant for sowing misery and suffering.
And speaking of which, Alicia is likewise sowing misery and suffering. Just ask John Dorie, who may or may not have taken a bullet for Naomi. Whatever the case may be, “Just in Case” serves to reinforce the Walking Dead trope that the good and just are almost always punished for their morality. On Fear alone, just look to Travis, or Jake Otto, or Lola, or Efrain. And now possibly John Dorie. The mortality rate doubles when you take into account the fallen optimists over on The Walking Dead.
Which in turn begs the question: Why be good in this world? Why be decent? Why put others first, if it ultimately leads to your downfall?
As for this episode’s twist, was Naomi considered dead, “from a certain point of view”? Or was this intended as willful misdirection? Whether or not this twist was telegraphed before the actual reveal is beside the point. My heart goes out to poor John. After “Laura” it’s easy to believe he’d take a bullet for Naomi. What rubs me the wrong way about this fateful rendezvous, though, is that it’s Alicia who shoots John. I don’t care if it seems like he’s been a Vulture all along. We at home know the opposite to be true. Plus it was the Clarks who ambushed Althea’s truck and dragged John and his friends into their fight in the first place.
If Fear is trying to make the remaining members of the original cast as unlikable as possible, they certainly succeeded with this episode.
For many viewers, Nick’s death in “Good Out Here” was a real deal breaker. The same was true for me in previous seasons, that if Nick died, the show died with him. But that character for me now is John Dorie. If he dies, I may head for the exit myself. My bug-out bag is packed, just in case.