This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 7
The last time I struggled to write a review for Fear the Walking Dead was the season 4 finale, “…I Lose Myself.” I wrote at the time, “Several false starts and a couple thousand words later, I realized I wasn’t writing a review for a lackluster episode. Rather, I was writing a eulogy for a show I once loved.”
Unfortunately, history seems to be repeating itself. And this is a difficult thing to admit, since season 6 showed so much promise. If this season could be described as a single color, it would be greige, the nearly nonexistent color that exists between beige and grey. Greige is the color of long-in-the-tooth zombies. It is the color of leftover oatmeal. Greige is, in a word, the very color of boredom itself. Season 6 hasn’t been all bad, of course. After all, I gave very high marks to “Alaska.” But if that episode represents a high point for the season, “Damage From the Inside” is most certainly its nadir. Plans go awry, again. Tables are turned, again. Characters do baffling things, again. And Morgan turns up to stir the plot yet again.
I realize it seems a bit unfair to judge “Damage” as a mid-season finale. Certainly showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg never intended it as such, but because of happenstance (re: the pandemic), this is the last episode of Fear AMC has in the pipeline. So I’m willing to cut “Damage” a bit of slack in that regard. Still, the episode simply doesn’t work on its own merits.
Honestly, I don’t know what to say about Fear at this point as it’s difficult to witness so much squandered potential yet again. Remember season 4’s strong start? New characters were brought into the mix, like John Dorie and Al. Morgan, too, was brought over from The Walking Dead to kick off what was meant to be a fresh start for Fear. And for a while, this gamble to overhaul the show initially paid off, only to eventually go off the rails with weak antagonists like the Vultures, and later, Martha. By the end of season 4, “Fear 2.0” was slowly sabotaged from the inside. So maybe it’s fitting that the death knell for this current iteration of Fear is titled “Damage From the Inside.”
At this point I think it’s safe to assume that Ginny’s sister Dakota (Zoe Colletti) is responsible for much of Lawton’s current woes. As we learn in “Damage,” Ginny (Colby Minifie) killed their parents, which seems like pretty sufficient motivation for Dakota to undermine her sister’s accomplishments. She even hints as much to Strand (Colman Domingo) during his mission to escort her to a safe house. She also conveniently summarizes Ginny’s recent setbacks: Tank Town, gone. Ginny’s hand, gone. Two scouts, dead. And Ranger John Dorie? Still missing. In other words, it’s the perfect time to put Strand’s escape plan into effect. That is, until the convoy is ambushed and Dakota is kidnapped.
Enter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who is summoned by Strand to track down Dakota. As much as I enjoy Debnam-Carey being back in the mix, “Damage” doesn’t really know what to do with her. The only agency this once-powerful character possesses is the ability to hold a grudge—and that’s about it. Once a formidable zombie killer, Alicia can barely hold her ground against a reclusive taxidermist.
In tracking down Dakota, Alicia and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) discover a remote hunting lodge tucked away in the woods. There they encounter Ed (Raphael Sbarge), a creepy, off-kilter taxidermist. Which, fine. Creepy can be good, right? Especially since Alicia’s initial exploration of the lodge reminded me a lot of earlier entries in Capcom’s Resident Evil videogame series. The lighting is sufficiently eerie and the distant strains of classical music contribute to the mounting mystery and dread. “Damage” doubles down on the Resident Evil vibes by revealing that Ed is turning the dead into disturbing works of art to scare off would-be intruders. Which, again, fine.
But what rankles me about “Damage” is that it cedes the stage to Ed. Rather than bring something new to the table, Ed airs the sorts of grievances and revelations that no longer hold any shock value in this world—for its characters, or for viewers. Ed’s mistakes killed his family? Fear has already been there, done that. Plus the whole case of mistaken intent/identity didn’t do “Honey” any favors, either, so why would it work here when Ed drugs Alicia and straps her to a table?
Ed’s familiar backstory is a big part of why this episode simply doesn’t work. He exists purely to help Alicia understand some basic things about herself. His life, his missteps, they mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Which is why his grand sacrifice is more of an empty gesture robbed of any profundity. That Alicia would be so rattled by his death just doesn’t play. (Plus what was left of him to bury after being ripped apart by zombies? A femur?)
Which finally brings us to Morgan, who shows up just in time to save the day. But any kind of happy reunion is quickly undone when we learn it was Morgan who ambushed Strand’s convoy and killed the rangers. Why? So he could capture Dakota and use her as leverage to rescue Grace. This was basically Alicia’s plan, too—to hand over Dakota to buy her and Charlie their freedom.
Which, again, fine. Everyone has their own agenda. But how many conflicting plans does a single season really need? I’m all for conflict, but who thought it would be fun or effective to see Morgan repeatedly butt heads as he tries to push through his own plan—his own version of the “Queen’s Gambit”, if you will? This popular gambit requires sacrificing a pawn, but Alicia has suddenly decided Dakota is more than a mere pawn, thank you very much.
But the queen has an important pawn of her own—namely Grace (Karen David), who she’s kept in a secret room in Lawton. Why Ginny would trust Strand with this vital bit of information is truly baffling, especially since her kingdom is crumbling around her.
Viewers will have plenty of time to contemplate these questionable choices, especially now that Fear enters an extended hiatus. Perhaps the intended mid-season finale will eventually reveal Dakota as the saboteur. Maybe Lawton will fall. And maybe, just maybe, Grace will go into labor, providing a bookend birth to the one that kicked off the season.
In the meantime, while we wait for Fear‘s return, stay safe, and stay tuned.