This Fear the Walking Dead article contains major spoilers.
Few Fear the Walking Dead fans will have forgotten Nick Clark’s shocking death in season 4 but even that twist may pale in comparison to the season 6 midseason premiere’s most tragic moment. In fact, “The Door” may be the show’s darkest episode to date.
John Dorie is at the end of his rope at the start of the episode. Unable to stop the execution of Janis, who was framed for Cameron’s murder by Virginia earlier in the season and then fed to a group of hungry walkers, and then forced to leave Lawton without his beloved June, John feels he has nothing left to live for. In “The Door,” we learn that John has gone back to his cabin and plans to commit suicide. But as The Walking Dead fans know by now, nothing is ever that easy.
Before he can take his own life, John is interrupted first by walkers, and then later runs into Morgan and Dakota, who try to convince him to go back with them to the new, secret settlement Morgan is building for his group. This all falls on deaf ears though, as John is convinced that he’s no longer of use to anyone and that he’s not strong enough to stop the bad from overtaking the good.
That is, until John Dorie discovers that Dakota was the person who killed Cameron. This changes something in John. He suddenly comes alive with new purpose: like he did for other characters in earlier seasons, John now feels he can help Dakota return to the light after straying down a dark path. It really mirrors the way Nick wanted to save Charlie after she betrayed his family in season 4. Unfortunately, like Nick, John is too late.
But Dakota doesn’t need a savior, she needs to keep the truth about Cameron’s murder a secret, so she shoots John and pushes him off a bridge, presumably to a watery grave below. As if this betrayal weren’t cruel enough, for a moment, “The Door” gives us hope that John will somehow escape this fate as we watch him somehow regain the strength to fight his way back to the surface. But like the framing and execution of Janis, John’s last stand is just a misdirection.
John washes up on shore but he’s already gone. By the time June finds him, he’s died and come back as a walker crawling towards her for one last bite. June is forced to put him down for good.
This final fate for John is tragic from all angles. Not only does his death mirror Nick’s but John’s last scene as a walker calls back to the first time he met June, whom he found unconscious outside his cabin in season 4. Now it’s June’s turn to pull him out of the water but she’s much too late. A dark bookend to their marriage and John’s story.
Garret Dillahunt, who played John Dorie for two and a half seasons, gives arguably his best performance on Fear the Walking Dead, showing us the deepest layers of his character’s pain, and then the brief spark of hope that Dakota extinguishes almost immediately. As one of the most beloved characters of recent seasons, John’s death will have come way too soon for many fans.
But as the actor revealed to EW, it was his choice to be written off the show. Dillahunt originally approached showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg about John’s exit in season 5, and the writers had been planning the character’s departure ever since.
“I loved my time on this show and will always cherish it,” Dillahunt told EW, saying he just felt it was time for him to move on to something else. “I get a little antsy after a while, and I’m not a kid anymore, and I have some things I wanted to do. And I’m just fortunate it worked out.”
Dillahunt also broke down John’s last words on the show, and it’ll likely twist the knife in your gut if you’re mourning the character today. According to the actor, John’s final line is meant to show that he’s decided he really wants to live. But his time is up.
“We rearranged those last lines just a little bit right before I’m shot so that the last thing I say is, ‘That’s not what I want.’ I wanted that to be the last thing he says before he then is shot. It’s kind of cruel, but it’s also, dramatically, I think, real interesting,” Dillahunt said. “The tragedy of that, of like, ‘I want to die, I want to die. You know what? I don’t want to die.’ And then you get killed from another method. It’s almost like Romeo and Juliet when one takes the poison, and then the other one wakes up, and you’re like, ‘Oh wait, wait, wait, wait.'”
Fear the Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC.