Fear the Walking Dead is back from its mid-season hiatus, but this may be the first time in the entire Walking Dead franchise’s run when all eyes were really watching what Chris Hardwick would have to say for himself upon his return to The Talking Dead afterwards.
Let’s be frank, the Fear the Walking Dead episode itself is kind of boring and not particularly memorable. Two months since the last episode, I barely recall where we left off, except that Maddie presumably died. It’s not terribly important to refresh on the details since the show’s narrative has jumped forward some unclear amount of time as well. Fortunately, the episode finally breaks free of the flashback/flash-forward/flashback/flash-forward time-jumping that had gotten so tiresome in the first half of the season.
Our band of characters have split into small groups. Morgan roams the area killing Walkers and collecting supplies from their corpses. He tells Althea that he’s decided to go home to Virginia and she agrees to drive him there. Morgan then makes the rounds to invite everyone else along with them. First he visits John (Garret Dillahunt), who’s slowly recovering from his gunshot wound. He and
Naomi/Laura/June (Jenna Elfman) have essentially adopted young Charlie, who seems to have PTSD and doesn’t speak much anymore. John tells Morgan that he’s not fit to travel long distances and won’t survive a trip to Virginia. Instead, he plans to return to his cabin and make a home for his new family.
Morgan next finds a very drunk Strand and a very sad Luciana occupying a mansion. Strand says that he’s happy where he is and has no intention of leaving. Luciana is too busy pitying herself and listening to loud music on a record player (the house has electricity via solar panels) to even acknowledge Morgan’s presence.
Stop #3 is Alicia, living by herself and obsessed with killing Walkers. She’s been collecting “HELP ME” notes literally bolted to zombie bodies and insists that she needs to find and save the person who sent them. Morgan tries to tell her that this is a fool’s errand and the person is probably long-since gone or dead, but she won’t listen.
Strand gets the best line of the episode after he fights a zombie that wandered into the mansion while the oblivious Luciana sits with her back to them lost in her music. When she finally turns around, Strand shows her the broken wine bottle he used as a weapon and quips, “These grapes were not meant for wrath.”
When Alicia determines that the notes originated from a nearby lumber mill, Morgan agrees to go with her to keep her out of trouble. She hot-headedly charges into the place with little concern for her own safety until she finds a group of Walkers congregating around a foreman’s office. Morgan leads the Walkers away and Alicia goes into the office, where she discovers that Mogan was of course correct. The victim, who’d shot the notes through a window using a bolt gun, died and turned into a zombie several days earlier. She never could have saved him. Alicia is devastated. Since her mother died, she made finding and saving this person into her new purpose, and she failed. Morgan tries to console her, but she lays a guilt trip on him about abandoning his new friends and then storms off on her own in a huff.
Seeing a bunch of zombies wash down the river, John and June assume that there must be another back-up at the bridge. Because John isn’t up for much physical exertion, June goes to check it out. Althea, who’d popped by to say goodbye before her trip, offers to help. As they drive in the S.W.A.T. truck, the wind and rain pick up around them. They quickly realize that the problem isn’t another breach in the bridge. A serious storm is coming that will be bad news for everyone.
John tries to coax Charlie to talk again, but the girl sneaks away and runs off. Because everyone else is busy, John asks Strand to help him search for her. After they leave, Luciana spots Charlie skulking around in the mansion and chases her away. (Luciana is understandably still pissed that Charlie shot and killed Nick.) However, when she discovers that Charlie was trying to return the copy of The Little Prince that Nick had given her, she’s overcome with guilt and has a change of heart.
The episode ends with Althea needing to pull her leaky S.W.A.T. truck over to ride out the storm. The wind is so strong that Walkers are actually blown off the road and slam into the truck.
This episode moves very slowly and feels like an hour-long tease for a big storm set-piece that only barely just starts when the credits cut to a cliffhanger. Perhaps that means the storm will be the central focus of the entire next episode? We’ll see how that goes.
In the meantime, Morgan’s decision to return to Alexandria sure looks like a convenient excuse to allow Lennie James to participate in the next season of The Walking Dead, almost as if his pitstop on this show never happened and never mattered. If James does indeed leave Fear the Walking Dead after this season, I’m not sure what will become of the spinoff. With Nick and Madison written out, Morgan’s absence will leave the show with a serious hole in the main cast that someone else will need to be introduced to fill.
As for The Talking Dead…
I don’t typically watch The Talking Dead after Fear… (though I do watch it when the original Walking Dead is in season), but I, like I assume many viewers, tuned in to the beginning of the episode to find out how Chris Hardwick would address the scandal that left him suspended from the network over the summer. Although Yvette Nicole Brown had been slated to fill in as host, the network abruptly announced a couple weeks ago that Hardwick would be reinstated following an investigation into the accusations that he had abused a former girlfriend. The details of that investigation have not been disclosed. A female producer and several staffers quit the aftershow in protest.
Hardwick of course had no choice but to acknowledge all of this up front. Of all the ways he could have handled it, I honestly did not expect him to play full-on, blubbering victim, as if he were just recovering from some terrible travesty that had been perpetrated upon him. Without actually saying anything about what he’d been accused of, Hardwick copiously shed tears and thanked supportive fans for helping him through this ordeal. Brown sat on the panel as a guest, like a wife standing by her man after he’d been publicly shamed for cheating on her.
And that was pretty much all there was to it, after which The Talking Dead went about its regular business of cheerleading for the franchise. I fast-forwarded through most of the rest to see if Hardwick would say anything else at the end, but he didn’t.
I obviously don’t know what really happened between Hardwick and his ex-girlfriend, nor how the investigation into the matter was handled. As an onlooker watching this train wreck, I have to say that Hardwick acting like he is the real victim in all this is an interesting strategy, but I’m not sure it’s the smartest one, whether he actually did anything wrong or not.