This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 15
Well, here we are, just a week away from the end of another season of Fear the Walking Dead. The funny thing about “USS Pennsylvania” is that it plays more like a season finale, rather than the penultimate episode. You have to wonder what can possibly happen next, now that Teddy’s deadly endgame has (mostly) been set in motion. Not that Fear hasn’t flirted with nuclear annihilation before—but this time certainly seems like it’s for keeps. Is “USS Pennsylvania” the season’s best episode? No, but there’s still a lot about it that works.
Like John Glover’s Teddy Maddox. We’ve seen plenty of antagonists come and go over the years, but Teddy is not your average villain of the week. He’s not interested in amassing power so much as he is in offering humanity his version of a fresh start. And if it means that he and his followers will die in the process? So be it. Teddy is more than just a charismatic leader, he’s a martyr in the making. It certainly helps that Glover completely disappears into the role, portraying Teddy as avuncular yet menacing. It’s easy to understand how he’s converted so many people to his cause, even if it means his followers’ collective demise.
Well, not all his followers. “Sioux” (née Dakota) and Teddy are two peas in a pod. That is, except when it comes to martyrdom. Dakota can take a life, but Virginia’s daughter isn’t ready to die. And that’s just it: to be part of Teddy’s cause—to be a crusader ushering in a new world order—one must truly be selfless. That’s a big ask for anyone, especially a fresh convert like Dakota. She may have rescued Morgan back at Humbug’s Gulch, but selflessness isn’t really her thing. Zoe Colletti is great in this episode—not just in her scenes with Glover, but with Colman Domingo, too. Like Glover, Colletti brings a lot to the table this week. As confident as Dakota is, she’s vulnerable and conflicted, too. It’s vital to the episode that Colletti makes Dakota’s inner turmoil so believable.
Still, as much as I appreciate Colletti’s ability to bring real depth to Dakota, I can’t help but feel we’ve been here before with Charlie. If you recall, the former Vulture was likewise conflicted, turning on the very people who sought to rescue her from herself. Charlie has largely been relegated to the sidelines though, especially as of late. It’s too bad we couldn’t see her become more of a positive influence for Dakota.
But I digress. We’re still discussing what worked about this episode!
I loved the scenes between Morgan and Strand. Lennie James and Domingo are both solid actors, and they always bring 110% to their roles. There’s plenty of friction between these two, especially when cast as this season’s latest odd couple. Where Morgan is selfless, Strand is selfish. When one is brave, the other is reliably cowardly. Like Teddy, Morgan is willing to sacrifice himself for what he believes to be the greater good. Strand, not so much.
It’s here that “USS Pennsylvania” begins to stumble over itself, bending over backwards to justify shaky character motivations. Yes, Strand is willing to save the world…but only if it will make him look good in Alicia’s eyes? And he’s willing to sacrifice Morgan to do it? Seriously now. What’s worse is Fear wants us to believe they’d kill Morgan off-camera. They didn’t bring him back from the dead this season only to have him meet such an ignominious end.
I do appreciate that Dakota is unexpectedly positioned to be Strand’s judge, jury, and executioner. In that moment, when she has Strand in her sights, I believed he finally reached the end of the road. After all, if Dakota could kill John, she’s capable of killing anyone. After what he pulled with Morgan just moments earlier, I was pretty much ready to see Strand meet his maker. Even Strand himself seems resolved to his fate. Live by the sword, die by the sword, right?
Of course, this flies in the face of what I wrote just last week in my review of “Mother,” when I said that Strand might very well wind up saving the world. Nope. I was wrong. He won’t. And Fear squanders a perfectly good redemption arc in the process. If anyone needs redemption, isn’t it a self-serving, two-faced weasel like Victor Strand?
Fear also squanders a potentially good premise this week—namely the storming of the beached submarine. The episode even goes to great lengths to inform viewers that Morgan’s team will have to battle its way through nearly 150 undead crew members to prevent Teddy from launching the sub’s nukes. But rather than a tense, action-packed level right out of a zombie video game, what we get instead is a rote exercise in killing shambling corpses.
In the end, Morgan fails to thwart Teddy’s doomsday plan. A single missile armed with 10 nuclear warheads is launched, and only Riley knows where they will strike. As I said in the beginning of my review, I wonder where the season can go from here. Will next week’s finale really rain down destruction and usher in a new kind of apocalypse? Or does Fear have one last trick up its sleeve—one that won’t shortchange viewers with a cheap kind of deus ex machina?
I for one certainly hope so. Season 6 has had its share of highs and lows. It deserves to go out with a bang—and maybe a few mushroom clouds, too.