This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 6
Fear the Walking Dead used to be must-watch television for me, once upon a time. This was due in no small part to following the exploits of characters I actually cared about. Characters like Nick, Alicia, and Travis—members of a blended family who weathered the earliest days of a nascent zombie apocalypse. Fear billed itself as a drama in those first seasons, and its stories were suitably gritty and gripping. But now, seven seasons in, Fear bears little resemblance to the concept that original showrunner Dave Erickson once envisioned.
As for this week’s episode, “Reclamation” is a minor step up from the last two weeks, but that’s a low bar to clear. “Reclamation” still has its share of problems, most of which stem from dodgy character motivations and odd storytelling choices. Which is a shame, because at its heart, this story about Al facing down her fears to be with Isabelle is a love story with so much potential. One could argue that romance has no place in the zombie apocalypse—and certainly Fear has gone out of its way to prove this argument, first with Dwight and Sherry, and later Morgan and Grace—two couples with major commitment issues and barely a spark between them. Hell, many of you might agree with George Romero’s blunt assessment of The Walking Dead, when he famously said, “Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally.”
But then there was John Dorie, Jr. and June, whose courtship unfolded over games of Scrabble and movie nights in his lakeside cabin. The season 4 episode, “Laura,” remains my all-time favorite in the show’s entire run. I point this out not only because it’s such a great episode, but because “Laura” happened after showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg took over the creative reins. In retrospect, it’s amazing how Fear has gone downhill so precipitously since season 4. It’s almost as if Fear’s producers and writers have forgotten what makes our heroes tick.
Case in point: Would Al really leave her camera behind? It’s been well-established that her camera is her life—that she lives to document strangers’ stories. So much so, in fact, that she would rather conduct interviews than be with Isabelle. And yet she leaves her camera behind in her truck for any random person to steal.
The fact that Morgan so easily finds Al is likewise hard to swallow. Why does he possess such preternatural tracking abilities, except for narrative convenience? Indeed, despite the ever-present threats of zombies and deadly radiation, Morgan nevertheless is a walking deus ex machina, randomly turning up at opportune moments.
When Morgan finds the empty SWAT van, does he immediately try to raise Al on the radio? No, because that would be the logical thing to do. Instead, he grabs her camera, and records a message for her. I guess this is his way of speaking Al’s language? Honestly, I have no idea. Plus the two are quickly (and conveniently) reunited anyway, just as Civic Republic Military soldiers show up to complicate matters.
I realize conflict makes for good storytelling, but Fear can only dangle the CRM carrot for so long as a way of keeping viewers hooked. At this point, CRM has its hands in three Walking Dead properties, so why continue withholding details about this paramilitary organization? Distract us with cult leaders all you like, but sooner or later our survivors need to discover the true threat CRM represents to them.
“Reclamation” suffers from other issues, of course. Its treatment of walkers as incidental problems completely removes their menace. By doing this, the episode essentially robs Fear of its very raison d’être. Even the radioactive fallout from Teddy’s bombs is dangerous only when it’s convenient to the plot. Otherwise, why are characters so inconsistent about wearing masks? (And yes, I realize this question is bigger than Fear itself.)
More quibbles: How does Grace know exactly where to find them under the overpass? And why do the CRM soldiers hold their fire just long enough for Morgan and Al to climb into the car? Perhaps more importantly, why aren’t Morgan and Al immediately followed? Wouldn’t it be much easier to track a car from above? Does it even matter, though? If the writers don’t care about these sorts of things, why should we?
Logic is likewise tossed aside when the three hatch a sketchy plan to steal the aforementioned copter. (No one questions if it’s still by Al’s van.) And why couldn’t they have stolen the copter much earlier—right after the soldiers went off on foot? Wouldn’t that have been easier? And why are Morgan and Grace so eager to put themselves in harm’s way, despite claiming to be the closest thing baby Mo has to parents? I’m with Al—she’s better off doing this on her own.
As for those snippets of video peppered throughout the episode? The one recorded by Isabelle as she and Al take a leisurely stroll through the woods? If Al really wanted to protect Isabelle, she would destroy that tape before it falls into the wrong hands.
In the end, Fear remembers this episode is supposed to be about Al. So she finally tracks Isabelle down in her secluded cabin, smashes her camera in what is meant to be the ultimate act of love, and the two fall into each other’s arms. I enjoyed their initial courtship, back in season 5’s excellent “The End of Everything,” but now? Now, this romance simply falls flat for me. With yet another lackluster episode (and a season that’s been flatlining for weeks now), Fear not only lets its star-crossed lovers down, it lets us down, too.