Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 8 Review: Is Anybody Out There?

Does Alicia’s fate in the mid-season finale mark a turning point for Fear the Walking Dead?

Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 8 Is Anybody Out There?

This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers. 

Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 8

You’ve got to hand it to Fear the Walking Dead. Many viewers may not have liked this more optimistic, glass-half-full take on the zombie apocalypse (myself included), but showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Evan Goldberg were determined to put a more positive spin on a genre that generally seems to revel in its bleakness. Starting with last season’s “…I Lose Myself,” Fear injected the Walking Dead universe with a kind of unapologetic hopefulness that often crossed dangerously close into maudlin territory. The first half of this season also dabbled a bit in camp (San Antonio Split, anyone?), with very mixed results.

And now, here we are at Season 5’s midway point, and the group (and thereby Fear itself) has achieved what would have been impossible in the Dave Erickson days: They won the day through blind faith in themselves and in their mission to help those in need. Does this mean “Is Anybody Out There?” is a great episode? No, but the mid-season finale is certainly better than the two previous episodes, both of which marked a new low point for a series that saw better (and yes, bleaker) days under Erickson. 

Bearing in mind this more optimistic direction for the series, it should be no surprise that Alicia—and indeed everyone else—survived every possible roadblock that Fear has thrown at them so far this season. From downed aircraft to irradiated zombies to a reactor meltdown, Alicia, Morgan, and the rest of our intrepid survivors have met every setback with patient resolve (and more than a little hubris). True love flourished, new love bloomed, and almost everyone in “Anybody” had their chance to shine. (I’m looking at you in particular, Wendell.)

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Again, this is not the season’s strongest episode, but I found it strangely satisfying that Strand not only got the plane off the ground, he stuck the landing, too, if only just.

All of that being said, my issues with “Anybody” and with this first half of the season outweigh the goodwill created by the group’s triumph. 

Should Alicia have survived? Well, we knew she would, of course (I stated as much in last week’s review of “Still Standing”). But just because she’s the last Clarke standing and a day-one character, does that mean her story can never end? By keeping her clad in plot armor, the show ultimately does her character a disservice. Everyone’s life is up for grabs in the zombie apocalypse, regardless of their surname.

As for Alicia’s journey this season, saving Annie and the rest of the kids factored heavily into Alicia’s motivations. To that end, the literal and figurative roadblocks she encountered were incredibly contrived. Very often she met walkers head on when retreat would have sufficed—all to prove how committed she was to a cause—her cause.

So it was very odd to me that “Anybody” glosses over the last-minute doubts Annie and the other kids may have harbored on the runway before boarding the plane. Accepting Alicia’s help marks a huge turning point for these resilient camp kids, who had no desire to be rescued. So instead of seeing Annie’s change of heart play out on the tarmac, we only get a line of dialogue that the kids are all buckled in. What? Seriously, was I the only one disappointed by this oversight?

I suppose there are bigger things to be up in arms about. Like Logan’s reappearance after being absent for almost the entire season. Seeing Matt Frewer again for only a few moments is an unfortunate reminder of how much he could have brought to the last several episodes, had this season been structured a little differently. Plus, Logan and his crew abandoned the denim factory anyway, though not before tearing the place apart in search of Clayton’s journals.  

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I could have done without Althea describing the runway lights as “the prettiest thing I’ve seen since the end of everything.” I know Isabelle is probably very much on her mind, but that line meant a lot more in the context of a surprise romantic confession than a makeshift runway. To me, this unnecessary callback cheapens “The End of Everything” a bit.

As for Daniel and the aforementioned Christmas lights, I found his sudden reappearance just as confounding as Logan’s. Like Frewer, depriving viewers of Rubén Blades (especially after his extended absence) does this troubled, uneven season no favors. His joyful, emotional reunion with Alicia is a high point of “Anybody,” and hints at what might have been this season, had they found each other sooner. I also like Daniel’s acknowledgment that he still thinks like a barber—something we haven’t seen since he cut Efraín’s hair in Season 3’s “100.” 

Now that everyone is safely out of harm’s way, Fear has set its sights on the back half of Season 5. Instead of escaping a reactor meltdown, the group is teaming up with Logan to beat his former crew to a stash of…fuel? I can’t say this unlikely alliance left me on the edge of my seat. But I’ll borrow a page from this season’s playbook by being optimistic regarding what the future holds for Fear.

Fear the Walking Dead returns August 11.

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David S.E. Zapanta is the author of four books. Read more of his Den of Geek writing here. He’s also an avid street photographer. Plus, you can follow him on Twitter: @melancholymania

Rating:

3 out of 5