Fear The Walking Dead season 4 episode 9 review: People Like Us

Fear The Walking Dead explores notions of identity and home in a solid mid-season premiere. Spoilers ahead...

This review contains spoilers.

4.9 People Like Us

I’ve often believed that genre shows are at their best when they take more introspective turns, and Fear The Walking Dead is no exception. In light of the first half of a season that killed off two main characters—and saw the fall of yet another safe haven—People Like Us is a fitting direction for the latter half of the season to take. What do traditional notions of identity, home, and family mean anymore in the absence of a structured society? When survival is first and foremost on everyone’s to-do list, what sorts of compromises must be made to achieve lasting peace of mind? These are heady questions for a zombie show to ask, and People Like Us does its best to answer them.

The episode picks up several weeks after the game-changing events of No One’s Gone, in which Fear matriarch Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) sacrificed herself so that other might live. As noble and heroic as this final act was, Madison’s death nonetheless didn’t sit well with loyal viewers. Her departure from the show was especially egregious coming so soon on the heels of Nick’s (Frank Dillane) untimely demise. Now, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is the last Clark standing. Among the remaining survivors, Alicia’s outlook on life is perhaps the most extreme and the least forgiving. She will forever be in her mother’s shadow and the runner-up to her late brother. But more on Alicia in a bit.

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In the meantime, Morgan (Lennie James) has decided it’s time for him to return home to Alexandria. In his heart, he knows this is where he belongs. This decision is the episode’s inciting incident, and sets off a series of events that leads his fellow survivors to take stock of the people they’ve become and the people they wish to be. Morgan’s good at stirring up such introspection in others, though he doesn’t tend to indulge in too much of his own navel-gazing. He’s part armchair philosopher, part staff-wielding therapist. He seeks to help others, even if he doesn’t possess the means to heal himself.

Morgan was one of my favourite characters on The Walking Dead, and he continues to remain a favourite on Fear. Considering his crossover was a much-ballyhooed event, it seems unlikely that he’ll actually return to Virginia. Which is fine, especially given how much his arrival on Fear shook things up. So as he makes the rounds, visiting various homesteads to say goodbye and extend an open invitation to come east, one has to take these gestures for what they are, a means for characters to ponder their next moves.

The last we saw of John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), he was convalescing after being shot by Alicia. He’s on the mend now, largely in part because of June’s (Jenna Elfman) careful ministrations. They, along with Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), now call an abandoned bus home, but John wants to return to his remote lakeside cabin. And who could blame him, really? As far as post-apocalyptic homes go, his is one of the homiest we’ve seen. He extends the offer to June to join him, but instead of jumping at the chance, she becomes remote and even skittish.

This leads to one of the episode’s better exchanges when June asks, “Do you think the cabin’s even still there?” The reply is vintage John Dorie: “Well I locked the door before I left.”

This offer poses an interesting dilemma for June (née Naomi, née Laura), a person who’s never been comfortable being herself. She’s afraid the woman John fell in love with all those months ago in the cabin doesn’t exist. It’s an interesting idea that who we are is fluid, shifting and changing as circumstances warrant. But the ever-pragmatic Althea (Maggie Grace) is quick to shoot down June’s insecurities. John Dorie knows exactly who the real June is. And that’s the June he wants to live out his days with.

As for the titular “people like us,” Alicia, Strand, and Luciana have gone their separate way from the rest of the group, settling into versions of home under the same roof as they nurse their various wounds. For Strand (Colman Domingo), his idea of home means returning to the opulent lifestyle he once enjoyed. One could argue that Strand, wine bottle in hand, has finally found a way to not just survive, but also thrive.

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This inebriated decadence suits the former millionaire, but Luciana (Danay Garcia) isn’t keen to drink her troubles away. Instead, she’s been eking out a morose existence, living from day to day and song to song, burning through vinyl the way Strand burns through bottles. He’s content with being content, but Luciana questions her place in the world. She’s deeply affected by her many losses, and by the unending violence that seems to define this zombie-infested world.

Which brings us to Alicia, who has arguably lost the most this season. In the wake of her mother’s death, Alicia now defines herself by her ability (or inability) to help others. This has led her to a solitary existence in one of the mansion’s outbuildings. There, her grief has manifested itself as a manic urge to discover who’s been leaving cryptic notes on the zombies wandering onto the estate. This ultimately leads to a boondoggle mission that leaves Alicia feeling more lost than ever.

By episode’s end, we’ve seen characters at their best, like John using a homemade Scrabble board to connect with Charlie, to characters at a possible nadir, like Morgan running once again from his problems. Even if they don’t truly understand who they are or how they fit into the bigger picture, Alicia, Strand, Charlie and the rest comprise this world’s version of what family is.

So as a hurricane bears down on our survivors, the bigger cliffhanger isn’t if they’ll weather the storm, but how they’ll face down their collective survivors’ guilt.

Read David’s review of the previous episode, No One’s Gone, here.