Last season’s semi-reboot of Fear the Walking Dead started off with what seemed to be a lot of promise, only to turn frustrating and dumb as it went, leading to a very disappointing finale. Now the show is back for a fifth season and we can only hope for the best.
The premiere episode opens with a couple of kids practicing hunting in the woods. One named Dylan hits a deer, but the gunshot attracts a nearby zombie (or “growler,” as they call it). As they struggle to get the jammed gun working again, a small plane very nearly crashes on top of them. Unfortunately, the sound of that draws a larger herd.
Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) crawls out of the plane and starts killing zombies with a piece of broken propeller. Inside the wreckage, still alive, are Morgan (Lennie James) and John (Garret Dillahunt). Luciana (Danay Garcia) is impaled through the shoulder with a metal rod. June (Jenna Elfman) and Althea (Maggie Grace) are in the cockpit.
Morgan introduces himself and asks the kids for help stabilizing Luciana while he goes outside to fight alongside Alicia. Althea tries to radio Strand for help but doesn’t get a response. Eventually, John and June cut Luciana free and everyone gets out of the plane. Weirdly, one of the zombies is wearing riot gear including a helmet, which makes it hard to kill. Also, a sign knocked down to the ground warns of radiation danger.
As the zombie corpses pile up with no end in sight, a van driven by a young girl pulls up. The other two kids call her their sister. Everyone piles into the van and escapes. The group explain that they’ve made it their mission to go around helping people, and were flying to rescue someone named Logan. The kids are incredulous at their do-goodery.
The driver, Annie, asks, “You have no idea where you landed, do you?” but is cagey with details about what supposedly makes the area so dangerous. One hint comes when the van runs into a roadblock made up of three zombies chained together across the road. Dangling from tree branches above them are dozens of chattering zombie heads. Whoever did this certainly wanted to make a point.
Morgan convinces Annie to drive them to a truck stop where this Logan guy is supposedly holed up, surrounded by zombies. However, the place is deserted, no living or dead in sight. Alicia suspects a trap. The three kids agree and take off, advising the others to do the same.
June performs some emergency surgery on Luciana’s shoulder. It looks like she’ll come through. Morgan gets on the radio and tries to reach Logan. When he does, he gets confirmation that, yup, they’ve been conned. Rather than lure them into a trap, however, Logan merely wanted to draw them away from the denim factory they’ve been using as a headquarters. It turns out that it’s his building. While they’re away, Logan (Matt Frewer) and his men easily get into the factory and take over, locking out Strand (Colman Domingo), Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), and Sarah (Mo Collins). He says that he doesn’t want to fight. He’s just reclaiming what’s his. He even dumps a bunch of their charity box supplies outside the gate.
Fortunately, Strand did hear Althea’s radio message earlier. Per her instruction, he watches a videotape labeled “Skidmark,” which is supposed to contain info on someone with another plane he can use to rescue them. When Strand loads up the tape, what he discovers is a recording of Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades), still very much alive, at least at the time of the filming.
While the others hunker down to determine a new strategy, Althea slips away and returns to the plane crash scene. She believes that there’s a great story she needs to investigate. Searching the corpse of the body-armored zombie, she finds documents with a logo reading “CRN.” That’s very strange, but before she can think about it too much, another helmeted figure (this one apparently living) sneaks up behind and tazes her.
Honestly, this is a pretty good premiere episode. It has some suspenseful moments and the new storyline it sets up is interesting so far. Althea is kind of a dumbass, unfortunately. Her obsession with being an important journalist or documentarian once again flies in the face of common sense. She puts herself in danger for no reason at all.
I could do without that, but otherwise the season gets off to a decent enough start. I’d like to remain optimistic, but experience tells me that this show has a lot of trouble maintaining its quality over an entire season.