One of the changes that came with last season’s quasi-reboot was to give Fear the Walking Dead a strong Western vibe. The show very nearly makes that literal this week by taking the characters to the Old West… in a manner of speaking.
This week’s episode also brings the promised crossover with a second member of the original Walking Dead cast.
The Good, the Bad, and the Zombies
While out searching for Althea, John and June drive out of radio range of their other friends and find themselves fired upon by an unknown shooter. They retreat and wind up in an abandoned Western-themed tourist attraction town called Humbug’s Gulch. John is familiar with the place. It’s part of a chain, and he even used to work at one as a trick-shooter. This is promising, because the place is stocked up with guns and ammo, and he knows just where to find them. Unfortunately, just after they arrive, a big dust storm starts brewing. June wants to wait it out, but John is adamant that they need to get out of Dodge before they get trapped there.
On the way back to their car, the shooter fires again, taking out their tires. John shoots back and hits him in the arm. June then circles around and knocks out the man from behind. The assailant is Dwight (Austin Amelio), the semi-reformed former Savior from Negan’s crew back in Virginia, but of course John and June don’t know that. They’ve never met or heard of him before. When he awakes, Dwight rants about searching for his wife, Sherry. After escaping Negan, she left him a trail of clues, one of which led to the car John and June were driving, which he assumes means they took it from her. The story reminds John of how desperate he was to find June when they were separated. He frees Dwight and offers to help.
When a herd of zombies break into the saloon they’re hiding in, the trio escape and run to Dwight’s car instead. However, Dwight himself turns around and runs for John and June’s car. He locks himself in and searches it for more clues from Sherry, but the car gets swarmed by zombies, trapping him inside.
There’s another walkie-talkie in the car. John radios to Dwight and explains that they found the car at the campground, and everyone there was dead. Dwight is despondent.
John and June waste most of their ammo picking off zombies to help Dwight escape. Dwight crawls out of the car and runs, swinging an axe, but stumbles and falls with two zombies lurching toward him. John unfortunately only has one bullet left. He tells Dwight to hold up the axe with the blade pointing toward him, then pulls off a crazy trick shot that splits the bullet in two and takes out both zombies.
John searches through the car and uses his detective skills to determine that it’s actually not the car Sherry was driving. There’s a chance she might still be alive after all. Dwight is relieved.
The Kids Are (Not) All Right
Trying to reach John and June on the radio, Alicia and Luciana cross signals with another transmission and hear the voices of Dylan, Annie, and Max, the kids from the season premiere episode. Alicia tries to offer them help again, but the kids cut off the conversation.
Refusing to take no for an answer, Alicia sets out to find the kids. How she would know where they are is puzzling, but she doesn’t get far before the tires in her car blow out due to a tire spike trap left in the road. Somebody really doesn’t want them going in that direction. Like an idiot, Alicia continues to talk on the radio, announcing her location, even when it becomes clear that other people may be listening. They manage to reach Morgan, who meets up with them shortly.
Morgan, Alicia, and Luciana make their way to the Old West town and find their friends. Morgan is surprised to see Dwight, but not upset. He’s actually glad to see a familiar face. “We’re all trying to start over,” he says.
Discussing all the roadblocks in the area, Dwight doesn’t know who left them either, but he does bring them to a big barricade he couldn’t get past. As soon as they reach it, the voice of Max comes on the radio and tells them that he’ll meet them back at the truck stop. The group get in their cars and head in that direction. On the way, they spot the Camp Cackleberry van on the side of the road. Inside is Dylan, and he appears to be injured.
Somewhere on another road, however, we find Max and Annie tying zombies together to make a new barricade. The kids have been behind the roadblocks the whole time, and Dylan is a mole left for them to find.
I found the writing in last week’s nuclear contamination episode very disappointing. This one is much better in comparison, though you’ll still need to put up with a lot of silliness.
What happened to the big dust storm that John was so worried about? The episode seems to forget all about it as soon as John and June step out of the saloon.
John’s bullet-splitting trick shot is not just dumb (at the very least, it should have knocked the axe right out of Dwight’s hand), it’s also a waste of a perfectly good bullet. John and June could have easily taken out two zombies with hand weapons.
It’s enormously improbable that Dwight would coincidentally also go to Texas, which is a good four states and well over a thousand miles away from Virginia even by the shortest route, and just happen to run directly into someone he knows.
If you can set all of that aside, I think Dwight will probably make a good addition to this cast. While I don’t have any great attachment to him as a character from The Walking Dead, he seems like a good fit here.
I also like the plot twist with the kids being villains. That’s pretty novel for this franchise. On the other hand, coming off a season with an evil schoolteacher, perhaps we don’t need another ridiculous villain. We’ll have to see where the show goes with it.