This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 11
After months of careful buildup that began back in season 5, Fear the Walking Dead finally brings the mysterious THE END IS THE BEGINNING doomsday cult into focus. Penned by Channing Powell (who has multiple The Walking Dead writing credits to her name), “The Holding” answers a lot of questions about this mysterious group. By the end, Alicia will even meet the cult’s enigmatic leader, Teddy. But before that fateful encounter, Teddy’s underground paradise will go up in flames, as demanded by a myriad of Walking Dead universe tropes and bylaws.
I have to say, as far as post-apocalyptic doomsday cults go, the Holding actually seems like a pretty nice place to ride out the end of the world. Situated in a converted underground parking garage, the group has everything it needs, from electricity to water to an abundance of fresh game and produce. Seriously, this is the sort of self-sustaining utopia that Morgan aspires to with his own fledgling settlement. Outsiders aren’t allowed to bring weapons inside the Holding, either—something new visitors Alicia, Wes, Al, and Luciana learn from cult liaison Riley (Nick Stahl). Except our band of interlopers aren’t visitors. No, in the cult’s eyes, they’re fresh recruits. Indeed, their jaded skepticism is actually welcomed! Because once cynics buy into Teddy’s message, it means they’re true converts to his “circle of life” teachings.
What’s interesting about the introduction of yet another zealous faction is not its predictably rotten underbelly. Rather, what’s fascinating is that to the indoctrinated, their group is always in the right. Think about it: whether they’re following Teddy, or following Virginia, or Jeremiah Otto, or Celia Flores—in the end, it’s all the same. After all, everyone is a hero in their own story, as the saying goes. Luciana has been here before, of course. Except Alejandro leveraged a would-be miracle to build his walled-in La Colonia.
Despite their collective cynicism, Riley is still able to reach past their defenses to open up old wounds. Alicia, Luciana, Al, and Wes have each lost someone important to them. (Until this episode, it never occurred to me that they each lost a sibling.) In Wes’s case, it’s this loss that shapes Alicia’s first encounter with him in season 5’s excellent “You’re Still Here.” As I said at the time, Colby Hollman’s Wes was a welcome breath of fresh air and an antidote to that season’s relentless altruism. He didn’t need healing, and he didn’t want to be saved. Rather than be inspired by Team Morgan’s feel-good recruitment videos, he retreated further into his own skepticism. And why wouldn’t he after losing his brother Derek early on in the apocalypse?
In a season full of interesting twists and turns, revealing that Derek has actually been alive the whole time is quite a sucker punch. As embodied by Chinaza Uche (whom you may know from Apple TV+’s Dickinson), Derek is all warmth and brotherly love. But while his survival makes for an unexpected (and tearful) reunion with his brother, it also raises a lot of questions for Wes. And the more he and Al and the rest continue to dig for answers, the more questions are raised in the process. Wes wants to believe the best of his brother, even as his doubts continue to mount—and especially even as it becomes clear Derek is responsible for sabotaging Tank Town.
If you recall, in this season’s “Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg,” Wes was at the oil fields that day, and was nearly killed by shrapnel. While not my favorite episode of the season, “Jasper” proves to be an important piece of the bigger puzzle that comprises Teddy’s doomsday cult. While the group may be underground, they have eyes and ears everywhere. So for Wes it stands to reason that Derek must have known his brother was at Tank Town that day. Derek’s reply, “People are people,” is a chilling non-answer—unless you remember that Wes himself said this to Alicia in “You’re Still Here” as a way of explaining away the darker, predictable side of human nature.
That Derek would offer his brother such noncommittal platitude troubles Wes greatly. This is someone he idolized in life and lionized in death. As I said, his brother’s very absence informed so much of Wes’s worldview, and not in a good way. Wes has come such a long way since meeting Alicia and becoming part of Morgan’s crew. He understands that people are capable of change—himself included. This lesson isn’t mawkish, isn’t forced, it’s part of Wes’ moral reawakening. If he can change, so can Derek.
That is, if Wes can get his brother to stop chugging the Kool-Aid. Derek, though, is so firmly entrenched in Teddy’s teachings, so fully invested in the destruction of the outside world, that he would kill his own brother. Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed in the real world, conspiracy theories can poison minds and tear families apart.
I’ll admit, as Derek and Wes grappled over the gun, I really thought we’d be saying goodbye to Colby Hollman this week. Which would have been a shame, as I really like Wes a lot—at least when he’s given something to do.
This is also the point in the story where the Holding’s ugliness is finally brought to light. Not only are skeptics not welcome, they’re secretly embalmed and chained up in a hidden room. And wouldn’t you know it, embalming fluid happens to be flammable. Alicia chooses to stay behind while her friends escape so she can personally (and single-handedly) torch the place.
It’s not until we meet Teddy in the flesh that “The Holding” goes from a good episode to a great one. Hearing Teddy’s recorded pronouncements piped endlessly through speakers is one thing, but John Glover commands the screen the moment he appears, looking every bit like the charismatic leader of a doomsday cult. Glover does wonders with the few minutes he’s onscreen, wielding words like weapons, cutting Alicia deeply with canny insights about her friends—and Madison, too. She may not want to admit it, but Alicia has met her match. Truly, Teddy is the villain that Fear deserves. And it must be said, season 6 is steadily shaping up to be one of the show’s best.