This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 16
So, you’ve spent the last several years surviving a violent hellscape of unliving death—lucky you! Only now, you suddenly find yourself staring down certain death in the form of a nuclear warhead. Knowing your destruction is imminent, how would you choose to live out your last moments?
That’s the basic premise of Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 6 finale, “The Beginning.” And I must admit, I went into this episode with high hopes—only to have those hopes dashed within minutes. This is through no fault of a talented cast that acts its talented heart out (as they usually do week after week). From Lennie James to Brigitte Kali Canales and everyone in between, they make the most out of what they’re given to work with.
It’s just that showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, who also penned the episode, want to have their cake and eat it, too. In other words, they want to enjoy the cachet of promising nuclear annihilation without the fallout (so to speak) of such a cataclysmic event. Yes, people do die, but mostly Teddy’s people, including Teddy himself. And Dakota. But in the end, do I really care? No. And I feel like I should. But I just don’t.
As I said, I was optimistic for “The Beginning,” especially since Fear rallied in a big way after its midseason finale. Indeed, the second half of season 6 gave us genuinely great episodes like “The Door,” “The Holding,” and “Mother.” That’s a good run! And while last week’s “USS Pennsylvania” fumbled a bit, this episode benefitted from a premise new to the Walking Dead universe: nuclear Armageddon. Unfortunately, Fear bites off more than it can chew, and in the end, the end winds up feeling a bit small and a little too local.
Surely if “The Beginning” were a big-screen blockbuster (with the visual FX budget to match), we would have been treated to true ground-zero devastation. And by that, I mean entire cities leveled and their inhabitants incinerated. To be clear, I don’t need to see these things occur to understand they’ve happened. Still, observing the warheads’ impact at a safe remove effectively negates the true scope of Teddy’s plan. Instead, the hot zone seems relegated to a corner of Texas and to a handful of scattered survivors. I imagine numerous walkers were taken out by the blasts, but we don’t see that, either.
Of course, the real focus is on the unfolding drama as Morgan and company scramble to do something meaningful before the bombs fall. Everyone, that is, except for Alicia and Al, who are benched this episode. (At least we get to hear Al’s voice briefly over the CRM chopper’s radio.) These last moments play out as a series of vignettes, each with its own title card. It’s an interesting format and it works well for the most part. But these separate stories are also a bit jarring, given this season’s emphasis on community—specifically Morgan’s fledgling settlement. So much time was devoted to rounding up the troops, only to scatter them to the four winds by season’s end? Live together, die apart, I suppose. At least everyone survives to fight another day.
Everyone, that is, except for Rachel.
Poor Rachel. Her biggest crime isn’t that she doesn’t know how to change a flat tire. No, what puts a target on her back is the fact that Grace lost her baby and needed a surrogate child to take Athena’s place. Because of this, Rachel’s sacrifice, while noble, winds up feeling more like an empty gesture. Had she hunkered down inside her truck, or beneath it as Morgan and Grace do, she might have survived the blast. Her loss is their gain, I guess? Yikes.
In the end, at the end, it’s Dwight and Sherry, and June and John Dorie, Sr. who endeavor to make their last moments on Earth truly mean something. What’s interesting about this is they all seem to be rewarded for their selflessness by finding shelter from the blasts. I assume the takeaway from this is that no good deed goes unpunished? Sure, I can roll with that, especially considering the only people who don’t survive the finale are the unsavory types Teddy was so keen to eliminate in the first place. (And most of them, like the traitorous Rollie, die before the bombs even fall!)
Which brings us to Teddy and Dakota. As much as I enjoyed John Glover and Zoe Colletti this season, I don’t mourn their demise. Yes, they brought charisma and unpredictability to the season, but their final moments together take on a very cringey vibe. It’s one thing for these two sociopaths to compare notes on the murdering of innocents. But while Fear might have us believe Teddy needs Dakota to help launch more nukes, I think he has other ideas. Yes, his plan requires two people—to go forth and multiply, to repopulate the world. Maybe I’m alone in thinking that Teddy has romantic ambitions, but maybe not. I mean, why else is he suddenly so affectionate with her? Why else would he say he wishes they’d met sooner? Seriously, Fear, no thank you.
A final note about Dakota. Are we to believe that nothing short of a nuclear warhead could end this child’s reign of terror? And did her molten death remind anyone else of Sarah Connor’s nightmare vision from Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Watch the clip and judge for yourself.
Which finally brings us to Strand, a man without a single humble bone in his body. Empowered by his unexpected survival, he welcomes the fresh start afforded to him by Teddy. It takes one con man to know another, after all. For all intents and purposes, Strand is Teddy 2.0—he saw the world end once before, only to survive in the chaos that followed. It looks like Strand is poised to build himself up yet again, even if it means tearing others down in the process. Which, okay, fine. I get it. Strand is the ultimate survivor. Still, how many times can one person escape certain death? I don’t really care what the answer is (because Strand, obviously). Letting Strand be Strand is becoming quite the Fear cliche. And it’s not fun anymore, at least not for me.
So there you have it, another season in the books for Fear the Walking Dead. While it doesn’t quite deliver on its lofty ambitions, I do give the show credit for detonating the warheads. I only wish there wasn’t so much plot armor to go around. And credit is certainly due to Fear’s cast and crew, who endeavored to complete this season despite a global pandemic. For the chance to watch our favorite show, for this—all fans should indeed be grateful.