Based on comments on another forum I read, perhaps I’m in a minority for liking last week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead. The other posters there really did not. I almost hesitate to say that I liked this week’s too.
We saw what happened to Alicia during the storm. Now it’s time to backtrack and find out what Morgan was up to during that time. This is a classic Walking Dead trope, to extend one big plot event into a series of smaller episodes. Sometimes it feels forced, but sometimes it works.
After losing Alicia, Morgan takes shelter in the back of an abandoned tractor trailer. It’s dark inside, but he conveniently finds a lantern with extremely long-lasting batteries and a cardboard box filled with food and other goodies, including a toy truck. A note scrawled on it reads, “Take what you need, leave what you don’t.” After munching on a protein bar, Morgan settles down to sleep through the night.
He awakens in the morning to the sound of a Walker outside the truck. He kills it and exits, only to find that he somehow slept through the truck driving all the way out of Texas to a rest stop in Mississippi. The storm is over and it’s a sunny day outside. The driver is nowhere to be found. The rest stop somehow has power and lights, and even a functional coffee maker. A CB radio crackles, a female voice on the other end asking for “Polar Bear.” Morgan answers, confused, and asks questions about where he is and who the person is. All the woman will tell him is, again, “Take what you need, leave what you don’t.”
Morgan loads up his bag with some supplies and wanders into the restroom, which remarkably has running water. He sits on the toilet to do his business, perhaps the first time since the apocalypse broke out that he hasn’t had to squat in a bush, but is interrupted by the sound of a shotgun racking from outside the stall door. Morgan announces that he’s unarmed and asks for a moment to finish up.
Opening the door, he finds that the shotgun-wielder is a man in a wheelchair (Daryl “Chill” Mitchell) who busts his balls about using the handicapped stall. The man questions Morgan and refuses to lower the gun. Morgan soon learns that his name is Wendell, and is also introduced to a woman named Sarah (Mo Collins from MadTV). They claim that they’re part of an operation to leave boxes of supplies at random locations as a sort of charity project. Morgan isn’t entirely sure whether to trust them. When they ask, he indicates that he’s from a community in Virginia but won’t go into specifics, and that he needs to head back to help some other friends in Texas. Sarah and Wendell say they can’t drive him back to Texas, but they give him some supplies, a working car, and a walkie-talkie.
It isn’t long before Morgan has to abandon the car and trek down the road on foot. When he gets to a bridge, he stops and struggles to decide whether to keep moving toward Texas, or turn around and head toward Alexandria. After a moment, he radios Sarah and Wendell and lies to them, claiming that the bridge is out and he has no choice but to turn back.
By the time Morgan walks back to the rest stop, Wendell and Sarah are gone. He reaches them on the radio again (that walkie-talkie has quite some range!) and they give him a location where they can meet up. Luckily, another working car happens to be available.
On the way to the rendezvous, Morgan spots a man running away from Walkers in a field, frantically screaming. He has a sack over his head and his hands are tied. Morgan stops to kill the Walkers and save him. When he unties him, the man doesn’t seem as grateful as he ought to. He’s kind of obnoxious and smells of beer. His name is Jim (Aaron Stanford from the recently-concluded 12 Monkeys TV spinoff). He claims that he’s a brewer and was kidnapped by bandits who want his micro-brew recipe. Despite the apocalypse around him, Jim is optimistic that society will eventually rebuild and his services will be in great demand. He has a cockamamie theory about how beer has been the glue that holds civilization together.
Morgan brings Jim with him and offers to take him to Alexandria. When they get to the meet-up point, Jim panics at seeing the truck. Wendell and Sarah were his kidnappers and this is a trap. They thank Morgan for returning Jim to them and admit that they stole the truck from the real person who’d been leaving the boxes. They ply Morgan for details about the location of his community in Virginia, because they want to fleece it as well. Morgan won’t talk, so they tie his hands behind his back and lock both him and Jim in the back of the truck.
In almost no time at all, Jim decides that he gives up and is ready to throw in with his kidnappers. The way he figures it, he’ll be able to make a go of things no matter where they wind up. Morgan isn’t down with this plan.
The truck stops when it gets stuck on a broken road. While Sarah and Wendell unload the cargo from the back to lighten the load, Jim accidentally slips and knocks Morgan down a hill. With his hands still tied, he’s trapped by a small herd of Walkers and his only refuge is to climb on top of a crashed car, Walkers surrounding him on all sides. Morgan calls out to the others for help. Sarah demands that he tell them the location of his community first. When it seems like he has no other option, Morgan yells out some directions. Sarah thanks him and shrugs, and the three of them turn to leave without him. Morgan really should have seen that coming.
Before going, Sarah tells Morgan that they know the bridge wasn’t really out. She implies that abandoning him now is no different than him abandoning his friends in Texas.
Morgan is trapped on top of the car all night. He still has the walkie-talkie in his back pocket and talks, admitting that he was a coward. No one responds.
When morning comes, Morgan kicks some Walkers in their heads and leaps from the car. He tries to scramble up the hill, but keeps sliding back down. Luckily, he’s within reach of one of the charity boxes, and inside is a pocket knife he cuts his hands free with. He then picks up a broken mile marker sign and uses it as a new staff to kill the Walkers.
After a little bit of hiking, Morgan comes across the truck again. Of course, he gave bad directions, because he’s not a total idiot. Sarah congratulates him on outsmarting them. She doesn’t seem too angry about it. Morgan announces that he’s going back to Texas to help his friends. If Sarah and Wendell give him a ride and help him, only then will he bring them all to Alexandria. They concede. On the way, Morgan insists that they stop to drop off more charity boxes on the side of the road, continuing the mission of the truck’s original owner. Morgan also uses the CB to broadcast what they’re doing, in the hopes that the trucker or his friends are out there somewhere listening.
Instead, the only person we see receive the message is a crazy lady with blood covering her face, who tracked Morgan’s original transmission to the rest stop. She keeps a zombie named Purvis (presumably the original trucker) pinned to a wall. She tells him it’s time to head to Texas and uses a marker to scrawl the slogan “Take what you need, leave what you don’t” on his face. That doesn’t seem ominous at all, does it?
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this episode has some story logic problems. I really don’t get what Wendell and Sarah’s plan was, letting Morgan go in the hopes that he’ll just happen to stumble across Jim and bring him back to them. None of that makes much sense, though I do appreciate the fact that Sarah and Wendell don’t turn out to be total villains in the end. It’s almost refreshing that they’re just garden variety scammers.
The cackling lady at the end, though? That already seems like a big cliché. Hopefully something halfway interesting comes of it.
Mostly what I liked about this episode is that Morgan seems to be fully back to his old self. This is a very nice character-building episode for him, with quite a bit of effective humor. I also like the addition of Sarah and Wendell to the cast. (I could take or leave Jim.)
It seems curious to me that the last few episodes have hinted that this season will end with all the characters going to Virginia, folding the two Walking Dead series into one another. As far as I’m aware, Fear the Walking Dead is still expected to continue as a separate show. I wonder what the writers have planned for that.