This review contains spoilers.
5.13 Leave What You Don’t
If I had to choose the single best scene of Fear The Walking Dead’s season five, it’s the tense moment leading up to whether or not a single bullet will be fired. In the face of impossible odds, when all hope is lost, how we choose to die is the only thing that matters. Like everyone else listening helplessly as this scenario unfolds, I dreaded the sound of that gunshot. That I could be so quickly invested in a random person’s survival speaks a lot to what works about Ashley Cardiff and Nick Bernadone’s script. While Leave What You Don’t is a bit uneven at times, director Daisy von Scherler Mayer still delivers a powerful rumination on the unexpected interconnectedness of a fractured world.
In this episode, we finally get our first good look at the all-important oil fields, dubbed Tank Town by our merry band of do-gooders. Where, as it turns out, they’re operating a jerry-rigged, zombie-powered refinery originally set up by Clayton. I mean, sure, why not, right? If you’re willing to believe an inexperienced group of people can repair a plane, anything is possible. This is a zombie show, you might argue, so why question such improbabilities, right? But where does one draw the line between gritty zombie drama and campy fantasy? Some basis in real-world logic can only bolster the group’s more outrageous achievements. June’s practical experience as an emergency room doctor certainly gives her a credible leg up as the group’s de facto medic. But making a crashed plane airworthy, or knowing how to refine crude oil? That’s a stretch. And throwing in a line that this zombie-powered refinery is 3,000 barrels ahead of schedule? We’re barely only seven minutes into the episode and you’ve already lost me.
That is, until Logan arrives at Tank Town. Thanks to Matt Frewer, and a good turn by Mo Collins’s Sarah, Leave What You Don’t suddenly delivers an infusion of hard-nosed drama that Fear so desperately needs. By showing us who Logan used to be—altruistic and determined to help—we can better understand how broken he is by this world. But he’s not the only one burdened by guilt and regret, no. Wendell and especially Sarah must contend with how they abandoned Clayton to die after they stole his rig. This one cruel act set off a chain of events that ultimately leads to the Tank Town standoff. Sarah has no moral ground to stand on; Clayton’s loss is everyone’s loss.
Which is why Logan demands that Luciana and the rest just walk away—their small-time approach to helping others isn’t enough to truly move the needle. To him, the way their group doles out hope in small portions is not only disingenuous, it’s dangerous. Either you help everyone, or you help no one. Sowing false hope will only get more people killed, in his opinion.
As it turns out, Logan’s most villainous act isn’t storming Tank Town, it’s literally burning the past when he nonchalantly tosses Clayton’s journals into a fire. To Logan, keeping his former partner’s ideals alive flies in the face of natural selection. Either you know how to survive without a cheat sheet, or you don’t.
But Logan’s past comes back to haunt him. His failure to save someone at the very same truck stop seems like history repeating itself. And it’s here that Leave What You Don’t takes a very dark turn. Logan’s belief that a trapped survivor (Holly Curran) takes her own life might seem like an act of mercy, but in actuality it’s cruelty masquerading as pessimism, or worse, it’s fatalism in practicality’s clothing. Either you pull the trigger, or you don’t.
Of course, choosing death over hope flies in the face of everything that Fear has tried to accomplish this season. This only underscores the bleak reality faced by so many survivors—and only proves Logan’s point that false hope puts people in jeopardy. In the end, though, this girl’s unexpected rescue actually reinforces the show’s message of hope… only to yank it all back moments later as Logan and his entire crew are gunned down where they stand.
Which brings us to yet another band of survivors, this one led by Virginia (The Boys’ Colby Minifie). As startling as this turn of events is, and as big as Texas might be, this world is beginning to feel a bit overstuffed. One wonders how a group of Virginia’s size could fly below the radar for so long. One also wonders how the caravan can ever stand toe to toe with such a well-organized group—especially one whose survival isn’t beholden to fossil fuels.
In the end, not only are our do-gooders forced to surrender the oil fields, they lose Luciana in the process. As intriguing as these new developments are, I’m genuinely sad to see Matt Frewer go.
As for Alicia, she’s been off painting phoenixes on trees, instead of fighting the good fight. We know Alicia has struggled with the endless killing, but sidelining her like this is a disservice to a character that was once one of Fear’s strongest.
All in all, I’m glad that Fear is willing to explore the murkier side of morality, even if it means challenging its own status quo. But this only works if we’re willing to meet the show’s creators halfway by looking past some of season five’s more questionable moments. As Virginia herself says at the beginning of the episode, “Together, we can get from yesterday to tomorrow.”
Read David’s review of the previous episode, Ner Tamid, here. And read about all the new sci-fi, horror and fantasy TV coming to the US in future here.