‘Fear the Walking Dead’ fills us in on the rest of (or at least more of) Naomi/Laura’s backstory this week, but it’s not quite as compelling as the prior episode, which looks like it may wind up being the season’s highlight.
Going forward, I’m just going to call the character Naomi. As far as we know, that’s her real name, until she reveals that she made it up and we’ve never heard her actual name.
The episode opens with a prolonged sequence of a Vulture stripping a store of anything worthwhile, down to the light fixtures, while a bunch of zombies mill around outside the front door. When he’s done, he strolls out the back door, which is strangely deserted. As he starts to load things into his car, John Dorie sneaks up behind him and cocks a pistol. Although John warns the idiot not to, the Vulture tries to reach for a weapon and John very precisely shoots his finger off.
John demands to know what the Vultures’ numbered flags are about (if he gets an answer, we aren’t allowed to hear it) and what happened to Naomi. He starts to lose his shit when the Vulture claims he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and Morgan has to step in to pull him off. Morgan lets the Vulture go, telling him to warn his friends to stay away from a planned rendezvous point because an ambush will be waiting for them.
When John cools off a little bit, he turns over both of his guns to Morgan. He doesn’t trust himself anymore.
Meanwhile, as Althea drives Strand, Luciana and Alicia toward their confrontation with the Vultures, she doesn’t like all the questions Alicia asks about the weapons in the S.W.A.T. truck and makes it clear that she’s just giving them a ride so that she can document the event. She’s not a gun for hire and will not be participating in the fight.
At the stadium, Naomi gets caught trying to sneak off again. She claims that she was just going to a place she knows about where she can find some seeds and rations to bring back to the community, and that she wanted to go alone because it’s very dangerous. She says she didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. Maddie and Strand call her bluff and insist on going with her.
They drive for a while and stop for the night at an old motel. Clearing all the rooms, they find two zombies in the office with two guns and a can of beans between them. The victims had killed each other fighting over the beans. When Maddie asks where they’re heading, the most Naomi will say is that it’s an abandoned FEMA shelter and she doesn’t like questions. However, she also confesses that she really was planning to abandon the stadium when she got caught. She says that she was going to leave the map to the shelter behind with a note so that they could go themselves if they wanted to risk it. Despite coming clean on this, Strand still distrusts her.
By morning, Naomi is gone again. She snuck out when the other two were asleep and hotwired a car, which she drives alone to the FEMA building. The place is swarming with zombies locked inside.
Once they realize Naomi is gone, Maddie and Strand use the map to follow after her. Strand makes his own confession about how the truck full of supplies he brought to the stadium had been his “contingency plan.” Maddie says that she no longer trusts him.
Naomi enters the building through a back entrance and seems distressed as she passes rooms with empty baby cribs and discarded kid stuff strewn about. She finds a storage locker and knows the combination to its padlock. She used to live here.
A bunch of zombies are attracted to all the noise Naomi makes. Finding herself surrounded, she climbs a scaffolding to get out of their reach but has no way to escape. She cries as she pushes zombies away, and it’s clear that she used to know them before they died.
When Maddie and Strand arrive and call to her, Naomi tosses them some keys to a truck parked around back that she says is filled with supplies. Of course, they won’t leave her. Strand climbs up another scaffolding, and Naomi has to pull herself to the other side of the room across a rope. They eventually get away from the zombies and lock the door behind them.
Naomi tells them about the shelter and about her daughter, Rose. When the girl got sick with pneumonia, Naomi left her alone while she went out to search for antibiotics. It took her a few days to find some and return back, and in that time the entire shelter and all her friends had been wiped out. She never told anyone that her daughter was sick, because she was afraid they’d kick the two of them out. The girl died on the first night and started the chain reaction that killed everyone inside. Naomi blames herself for all their deaths, and this is why she refuses to get attached to anyone ever again. She thinks that if she stays away from other people, she won’t be responsible for getting them killed.
Naomi brings Strand and Maddie to the truck she told them about. Inside the cab is a zombie she identifies as Elena, a woman who’d been her mentor and taught her to always be prepared for anything, “just in case” (her personal motto). They kill the zombie and drive back towards the baseball stadium.
As they return, Alicia and Nick stroll out to the parking lot to gloat to Mel, leader of the Vultures, about how they’re going to survive and rebuild. Seeming to concede his defeat, Mel orders his people to pack up and move out. It’s going to take too long for the stadium to fail and he doesn’t have that much patience.
While everyone else celebrates their victory, Maddie pulls Alicia aside and asks her to fill the Land Rover with supplies for the two of them that she can hide away as a contingency plan (much like she guilted Strand for doing)… “Just in case.” It turns out that Maddie doesn’t have as much faith in their prospects as she lets on.
Morgan and John catch up with Alicia, Strand, Luciana and Althea at an old horse track where they’ve been waiting to ambush the Vultures. Morgan tells them to stand down because, “They’re not coming,” but is quickly proven wrong when a convoy of trucks drives up. Mel and the other Vultures step out wielding weapons and the two groups have a standoff.
Morgan tries to de-escalate tensions but doesn’t have much luck until a Land Rover drives up. Naomi steps out, and Mel calls out a welcome to her. John is stunned that his “Laura” is still alive and runs over to her. Alicia then raises her rifle and shoots John in the chest. He collapses to the ground in front of Naomi.
The end of this episode is very confusing. I’m not clear on why Alicia shot John. I assume that she was aiming for Naomi, whom she must blame for her mother’s (presumed) death. If that’s the case, Alicia is a really lousy shot. Or was she aiming at John on purpose, in order to take someone Naomi loves away like her own mother was taken from her? In either case, does this mean that Naomi was working with the Vultures? Was she a mole like young Charlie had been? I guess we still have more of Naomi’s story left to learn.
Regardless, in addition to this confusion, the final scene is very clumsily staged. The ambush Alicia and crew had planned is particularly half-assed. Were they just going to stand in the middle of the road with their guns up and let the Vultures drive up to them? The Vultures don’t do much better, driving right into a known trap.
The episode is plagued with problems like this. The set-piece with the conveniently-placed scaffolding and rope strains plausibility, and feels like an obstacle in a video game that the characters must get across to clear their level.
On the other hand, the episode has some strong character development for Naomi and the revelation of what happened to her daughter is very emotional.
I hope John isn’t dead. Killing off one of the season’s most interesting characters seems like a very bad idea.