This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 10
Intentionally or not, “210 Words Per Minute” raises a very interesting question about mortality. In the zombie apocalypse, does a terminal illness carry the same weight it once did if death is always just around the corner? Unfortunately, Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t do much with this intriguing premise, not that it’s honor-bound to do so. I just wish these sorts of thought experiments held more intrigue for the show’s writers. Sure, devising more novel ways to kill walkers is entertaining enough—this is a zombie show, after all. But our main cast is so expert at dispatching the undead that the danger never generates enough suspense to truly keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Which means these sorts of thought experiments take on greater importance, the deeper into the zombie apocalypse we get.
Take the Bridgeview Mall, for example, where much of the episode’s action occurs. The mall here isn’t meant as any kind of social commentary, it’s just another location for the group to explore and plunder for supplies for their growing caravan of survivors. You see, the little documentary they created in last week’s “Channel 4” has been making waves in the area. Not only are people watching the tape, they’re reaching out to the group for assistance. In “210,” Morgan, Dwight, and Grace are responding to a call that’s come in to mercy-kill a survivor named Chuck (Charlie Bodin) who’s been bitten and is currently holed up in said mall. His dying wish is to be buried outside, under the stars.
This request presents another intriguing thought experiment. In this case, the kind of burial Chuck wants—don’t all of the undead deserve a similar sort of end? After all, isn’t their only sin being reanimated? It’s not like any of these shambling corpses chose this hellish fate for themselves. They were all people—just regular people, once upon a time.
In its first season, The Walking Dead once paused to consider such things. In its second episode, “Guts,” Rick Grimes is forced to butcher a walker to use its guts as camouflage (much the same way Fear’s own Nick used to don blood suits as zombie camouflage). Before he does so, Rick takes a moment to reflect on who this unfortunate person was before he was reanimated. Travis has a similar moment of reflection in Fear’s first season, in “Cobalt,” when he’s unable to shoot a zombie when he notices the name on her uniform.
One could argue that such philosophical quandaries wouldn’t matter to our jaded survivors. But were that the case, why even bother struggling so hard in a reality that only engenders such a hardscrabble existence? I guess these won’t seem like squandered opportunities if you’re just tuning in for more inventive zombies (and even more inventive ways to kill them). But for me, five seasons in, I do want to be engaged in different ways.
Take the Good Samaritan boxes as another example of overlooked potential. A box has been cobbled together ahead of the trio’s arrival at the mall. Clearly, Chuck has been inspired by the group’s earnest video. But Morgan, who is the group’s resident optimist-in-chief, doesn’t acknowledge the spread of their positive influence. There’s no flicker of recognition that their altruism is paying things forward, or that the group’s acts of kindness are bearing fruit. I mean, isn’t what this entire season has been about thus far—making a difference?
But there’s more to “210” than granting a dying man his wish. At the heart of the episode is a fragile courtship between two people who are too afraid to admit their feelings. Yes, Grace is a chronic second-guesser, prone to playing things too safe. And yes, Morgan lost the love of his life and his son, and no one can ever take their place in his troubled heart. But “210” questions the merits of being careful versus being right. Morgan and Grace are two very careful people—and as we know, time is not on their side.
Meanwhile, does it matter that Dwight is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good? Will his ask of charity with one of Logan’s men reap rewards further down the line? The answer is most likely yes to both questions, but only because Fear has a habit of telegraphing such things.
In the end, “210” feels a lot like the abandoned Bridgeview Mall itself: It’s surprisingly well-stocked and yet still feels so very empty.