This Fear The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 4 Episode 7
“The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now” essentially starts the way it begins, with an injured John Dorie’s fate hanging in the balance. Will he live? Will he die? Hopefully we’ll find out in next week’s midseason finale. I say hopefully, because former The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple (who is now an executive producer on Fear The Walking Dead) has a penchant for teasing out cliffhangers. In season six of TWD, for example, the fate of key characters was so drawn out that it tried the patience of even the stalwart fans, myself included. We get it: this is the apocalypse. It’s brutal. It’s bloody. People die—even fan favorites.
So if John Dorie’s death propels the story forward, so be it—he dies. Just don’t beat around the bush about it. To be honest, my favorite moments of “Wrong Side” both involved him—which is saying something since he barely had any screen time. I enjoyed the quick snippets of “Laura” in which we see John and Naomi indulging in simple pleasures. I also appreciated that Naomi discovered the tin filled with Scrabble tiles—a hurried declaration of love, scrambled now.
Other than these quiet moments, “Wrong Side” is a bit all over the place. One moment the stadium crew is fortifying the perimeter as a bulwark against an incoming zombie horde. The next moment, people are tearing down these same barriers to allow Nick and Alicia to go on a fool’s errand. A young child begging for help should tug at the heartstrings, but here, Charlie’s pleas to help Mel rang false for me.
The episode goes to great lengths to tell us why Nick and Alicia are willing to jeopardize their safety to rescue Mel. The impulse to save a human life—any human life—is understandable, yes. And Nick is right when he tells Madison point-blank, “We can’t just keep doing this.” But this is cut-and-paste heroism, in which ostensibly good people go through the motions of acting in the interest of the greater good. On paper, saving Mel is a noble pursuit.
Given the reality of the Clarks’ situation, though, being betrayed, bullied and threatened by the Vultures, why risk the safety of the entire stadium to save one man who only a few days ago was banking on their demise? Mel and Charlie are not good people. They’re scavengers, as their group’s name suggests.
Then again, Strand isn’t a paragon of virtue, either, and yet he’s passed Madison’s murky morality test more than once. Why that is, either no one’s saying, or no one really knows, including Madison herself. This didn’t ring true for me, either, Madison side-stepping why some people merit saving, while others, like Mel, don’t. This isn’t just Madison trying to have it both ways; Fear wants to indulge in absolutes even as it wallows in the muck of gray morality.
I also took issue with Mel being grievously injured twice in one episode. Not only does he survive an exploding vehicle in the present, he survives a car wreck in the BEFORE timeline, too. But between these two accidents, he’s put down by Alicia. She’s at her most ruthless here, showing Mel no mercy. Which means another dead character is brought back to life by the power of nonlinear storytelling. While this sort of narrative device was highly effective in a movie like Pulp Fiction, it’s not so effective in “Wrong Side” or this season of Fear.
This nonlinear storytelling also robs a key moment of any urgency. A zombie horde closing in on Nick and Alicia’s car should have had me on my seat. But because we’ve already seen both of them in the current storyline, how could they possibly die in the BEFORE timeline?
Which brings me to a closing thought. What is this show’s endgame? As far as prequels go, Fear’s storyline is beholden to parameters established by TWD. Now that the two shows exist in the same time (thanks to Morgan’s crossover), one could argue that when the lights eventually go dark on TWD, they’ll likewise go dark for Fear, too. This season’s dual timelines have dueled for our attention, presenting two groups of survivors with very different agendas. The same is true of Fear and TWD. Same universe, different mission statements.
Fear has the potential not only to be a good zombie show, but a great drama in general. And this season has had moments of true greatness, specifically the premiere and “Laura.” The strength of these episodes drew not only on new characters, but also refrained from repeated time jumps. Doing so kept me rapt, in the here and now, as it were. Hopefully the latter half of season four will come down squarely in a single timeline—one that includes John Dorie.
As for the rest of the characters, I can honestly say I’m not really invested in anyone else except Morgan. He’s trying to save people from becoming the worst version of themselves. Alicia is on a path of self-destruction, Madison is likely dead, and Naomi is a Clash song brought to life: “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”
I’ve been asking myself the same question all season.