This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 13
I don’t know about any of you, but I avoid all spoilers so I can go into every episode of Fear the Walking Dead (or any show, for that matter) with a fresh and open mind. This allows more room for genuine, unfiltered reactions to plot twists and character deaths. Like when Fear killed off John Dorie earlier this season in the “The Door.” This heartbreaking episode was all the more tragic because John died feeling like he didn’t make enough of a difference. We know just the opposite to be true, of course. Not only did John’s life positively impact his friends, his death has also made a profound impact on those he’s left behind. And while no one can ably fill the Garret Dillahunt-shaped void left by John’s passing, “J.D.” steps up in a big way to make amends for our loss.
I’m talking of course about Keith Carradine, who this week steps into the role of a person who’s loomed large, not only in John’s life, but in Fear’s sixth season, too. Just as John Glover seemed born to play doomsday cult leader Teddy Maddox, Carradine is likewise an ingenious casting choice for breathing life into the elder John Dorie. It’s also a perfect opportunity for Fear to examine the theme of redemption. This is not new ground for the show, of course. But viewed through the lens of a character that has hovered over so much of this season like a specter, the show itself has the chance to redeem itself for killing John to advance the plot. And if that means introducing his old curmudgeon of a father, so be it.
But John Dorie, Sr. isn’t the only one with something to prove in “J.D.” Indeed, we quickly learn that June (Jenna Elfman) has been punishing herself with a series of what ifs that can never bring her husband back from the grave. The biggest what if is the one that most of us have probably been asking ourselves since “Bury Her Next to Jasper’s Leg.” If you’ll recall, this is the episode in which June decides to work at Lawton’s new hospital rather than leave with John as she originally promised. Already tortured by his own mistakes, John must grapple with this new heartbreak as he departs alone for his cabin.
So, yes, Morgan (Lennie James) has more than a few reasons for being upset with June. To his mind, had she been at his settlement instead of Lawton, Grace’s baby might have survived. Honestly, I’m glad Fear has finally addressed June’s choice to stay at Lawton. That Morgan would give voice to such bitter disappointment is more than a tacit acknowledgement that this narrative choice fell quite flat at the time. In retrospect, it’s easier to understand that so much of the younger John’s life was shaped by abandonment.
The idea of abandonment factors heavily into Dwight and Sherry’s storyline, too. They’ve been on different paths for some time now. Dwight (Austin Amelio) has tried to make peace with a life that no longer includes Sherry (Christine Evangelista). Like John, he wants whatever is best for someone he cares about. And much like June, Sherry isn’t just restless, she feels trapped by past mistakes. Like June and John’s father, Sherry seeks a kind of transformative redemption that can only happen with a clean slate. And if that means traveling all the way back to Virginia to kill Negan herself, so be it.
Thankfully, Sherry has a change of heart, which is just as well. Like Morgan and Dwight, she’s already crossed over from The Walking Dead to Fear—do we really need to see her cross back over to TWD? Would anyone really have patience for something like that? I wouldn’t. Such a journey would be a distraction from the main storyline, namely Teddy’s doomsday cult.
Which brings us back to John’s father. Through the magic of plot contrivances, June, Dwight, and Sherry just happen to cross paths with the elder sharpshooter. This episode abounds with many such convenient coincidences, but so much of “J.D.” works that it’s easy to overlook an over-reliance on happenstance. And Carradine is one aspect that works very well. It would have been easy to make him just as lovable and kindhearted as his son, but Fear happily flips the script on this. While John and his father are alike in many ways—they’re both former cops, they’re both sharpshooters—John’s father is a cranky, crusty sonuvabitch.
I also like the way this episode neatly reconciles things John has said about his father. Like how he framed a murderer—in this case Terry—to ensure he wound up in prison where he belonged. I also appreciate that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Both men compromised their principles to accomplish what they thought would serve a greater good. Whereas his son overcame his demons, his father wasn’t quite so fortunate.
What doesn’t quite work for me, though, is that while everyone has no trouble finding each other (or finding June’s lost coat, for that matter), how is it that John and his father never crossed paths? This seems even more egregious when you consider that Teddy’s cult is operating in a very specific area that includes Lawton and Morgan’s settlement. If John’s father has been tracking Teddy for months, wouldn’t it reason that they could run into each other?
That being said, it’s interesting to see John’s father take in the details of his adult son’s life—like his movie rentals. Seeing the cabin—his cabin—40 years after leaving his family behind is both poignant and bittersweet. That “J.D.” finally gives us a proper funeral service for John is likewise poignant and bittersweet. As odd as I found it that June would finally opt to read John’s letter aloud, rather than privately, this is an emotional high point of the episode. Elfman is solid in this scene. She needs to be, if Fear truly wants to sell us on the idea that redemption is a transformative process. Of course John Dorie, Jr. would forgive his father and June for choices they made. Even in death, our dearly departed gunslinger is still making a positive impact on the people he cared about the most.