This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 7
Fear the Walking Dead follows up last week’s disastrous “The Little Prince” with an episode that is fractionally better. Which is troubling when you consider that next week is the mid-season finale. For all the walker-killing action in “Still Standing,” there’s only a moment near the end that held any sort of genuine suspense. Of course I’m talking about Alicia, who hasn’t looked so haggard since drinking antifreeze-tainted water in the Season 4 finale. She obviously pulled through, but I do wonder if Fear has the guts to completely kill off the Clarke bloodline. Personally, I think this would be a huge mistake, especially since Alycia Debnam-Carey is one of the show’s more compelling actors. And yet, as I previously stated in my review of Season 3’s far superior “Brother’s Keeper,” I would respect the hell out of Fear for casting Alicia’s plot armor aside. But more about her precarious predicament in a bit.
In the meantime, let’s talk about Strand, who not only can’t walk the walk, he can’t balk the balk. Seriously, this entire season hinges not only on the lack of faith he has in his friends, but also on his continued cowardice. As you may recall, Strand has a history of balking—from doubting John Dorie’s raft-building skills in last season’s “Blackjack” to failing to honor his suicide pact with Thomas Abigail back in Season 2’s “Sicut Cervus.” (And let’s not forget he had a secret car packed with bug-out gear in the event Madison’s stadium-based community went bust.)
I suppose a Strand apologist could argue that he has a strong sense of self-preservation—not exactly the worst trait to have in the zombie apocalypse. But this season has been defined by a logic-defying altruism that flies in the face of Strand’s own brand of selfishness. Which is to say that Daniel was absolutely right a few episodes back: Strand will never change. And were it not for his hesitation on the runway, Strand’s more optimistic compatriots wouldn’t find themselves in their current bind. It’s one thing for John Dorie to hide Sherry’s letter from Dwight—as in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do. But the way Strand reveals his betrayal to Charlie is just so…nonchalant.
Charlie’s response to this bombshell news is likewise low-key—to the point that I wondered if she truly grasped what Strand was telling her. Maybe she was distracted by the yards of yellow nylon that stood between them and certain death. Or maybe she wondered how Morgan could possibly know where to track them down in the middle of nowhere.
I suppose none of this really matters, in light of Fear’s rapid decline this season. The writers would have us believe that Strand’s moment of doubt was actually serendipitous in that it led the group to Annie and the other children. But this is nonsense, of course—one more plot contrivance in a season overflowing with them. Aside from Annie, these kids haven’t brought much to this season. Indeed, Annie only continues to speak a kind of truth that no one wants to hear. “This isn’t about us, this is about you,” she tells Alicia, pretty much hitting the nail on the head. Later, she tells her brother that Alicia is “a mess.” She’s not wrong!
Which finally brings us back to Alicia, who’s done her best to save these kids—when all along, yes, she’s been trying to save herself. We’ve already seen this play out to much better effect in last season’s “Close Your Eyes,” in which Alicia and Charlie struggle to trust each other in the wake of Nick’s death. (And by Nick’s death, I really mean Nick’s murder.) Here, Alicia seems more intent on martyring herself, simply to prove to these waifs that she’s one of the good grown-ups. Which would be fine, if the walkers at the gate truly posed a serious threat. Remember, these walkers only turn up at the kids’ tree fort because Alicia more or less led them there. And only a few of these walkers manage to get past the fence anyway, making Alicia’s sacrifice ring a bit hollow.
But it’s by battling one of these undead power plant workers that Alicia is exposed to irradiated blood. It’s only later, when she pauses to wash away the contaminated blood, that she seems to be on death’s door. And as I said earlier, at this point I truly wondered if she’d survive the episode, much less the season. We’ll have to wait one more week to find out in the mid-season finale. It’s probably a safe bet Alicia will be on that plane. It’s also a safe bet Strand will get the plane off the ground just before the reactor melts down.
As to whether the mid-season finale will win disgruntled viewers back? That remains to be seen.