This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 5
At first blush, an episode like “The End of Everything” might only exist as connective tissue between Fear the Walking Dead and the upcoming Rick Grimes movies. But in actuality, “Everything” is an emotionally rich and complex story that examines two strangers and the shifting balance of power between them. By hour’s end, Michael E. Satrazemis, directing a script penned by showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, delivers one of this season’s stronger episodes, one that isn’t afraid to linger by a campfire or ponder life’s bigger questions as characters try to survive in a world filled with walking death.
It’s good to see Maggie Grace back in action after a three-episode hiatus. I was starting to wonder if we’d see Althea again in the first half of this season—or if she’d been sidelined so she could turn up in one of the aforementioned Rick Grimes movies. After a strong introduction last season, Althea seemed to plateau early on, offering little more to the story beyond owning a badass SWAT van and a video camera. Yes, as a journalist, Althea is driven to constantly examine society as she connects the dots between people and events and motivations. In her mind, she’s documenting the fall and (hopeful) rise of civilization. But what’s always struck me as interesting about her endeavor is that her own motivations are routinely questioned by those around her. It even happens here in “Everything.”
Which brings us to yet another new character in a season already brimming with them. In this case, we finally meet Isabelle, the mysterious person beneath the black helmet. Played by Velvet Buzzsaw’s Sydney Lemmon, Isabelle is just at times tough, defensive, and vulnerable as Althea. She’s just as dogmatic, too. Whereas Althea is consumed by preserving the past one interview at a time, Isabelle is sworn to uphold her organization’s mission, which is to protect the future at all costs. Even if it means surrendering oneself in the process. Which presents a bit of a conundrum, as both Althea and Isabelle believe they are in the right. In the grand scheme of things (and without knowing much more about Isabelle’s quasi-military group), documenting the past and rebuilding the world are both laudable endeavors. Why shouldn’t Althea and Isabelle’s group both succeed? Thankfully, this is something both characters finally understand, that absolutes are not the way forward for either of them. But more on this in a bit.
Along the way, however, “Everything” serves up more than just the usual garden-variety walkers. Here, we get walker rockslides (“walkslides,” if you will) and even an extended sequence involving an undead rock climber. I appreciate that Fear is trying to keep things fresh when it comes to the titular walking dead, especially since walkers are often portrayed now as nothing more than easily dispatched nuisances.
It’s in this rock-climbing sequence that the episode drives home the point that teamwork is tantamount to survival. This is also one more example of the shifting power dynamic between Althea and Isabelle. It also highlights what a powerful commodity trust is in a world where the living are so often more dangerous than the undead. “Everything” would have you believe that what’s keeping each of them alive is a desire to obtain something the other person possesses. In Althea’s case, she wants information—about Isabelle, and about her group. And in Isabelle’s case, she wants the videotape that compromises her group’s safety.
In one of the episode’s more interesting, introspective moments, Isabelle discards the keys to her dead friend’s cabin. The keys to paradise, as it were, or what once passed for paradise, when borders and deeds and happy places were legitimate things that people once fought and struggled for, before the world went to hell. Now, operational security is more important than friendship, or loyalty, or quaint cabins. In the end, Althea knows she’s expendable, a means to an end for maintaining “operational security” for Isabelle’s organization. This brings both characters to an impasse of sorts as each tries to reason with the other, expounding on the virtues of why theirs is the more noble cause.
It’s at the mountain’s summit, as she splits a fireside beer with Isabelle, that Althea gets one of the episode’s best lines. Maggie Grace gives it the grit and gravitas and world-weariness it deserves when she says, “Everything’s so ugly nowadays.”
But as it turns out, the episode’s best line belongs to Isabelle, who proclaims to Althea, “My name is Isabelle. I’m from Indiana, and I got to see the prettiest thing I’ve seen since the end of everything.” The unexpected sincerity and emotion of this reminds me of John Dorie’s vulnerability as he confessed his love to June in last season’s excellent “Laura.” Fear doesn’t play the romance card very often, but it’s used here to great effect. It’s easy to see how these two characters could fall for each other.
After all, if one falls, they both fall. Their necessary parting of ways is the perfect end to a nearly perfect episode. Whether theirs is destined to be a great romance remains to be seen. And I do assume they will be reunited before season’s end. In the meantime, I’ll be rooting for them. If Isabelle’s group succeeds, these two might actually have a future together.