Complaining about realism or plausibility in a TV show about zombies is always a dicey proposition, but this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead has quite a bit of eye-rolling silliness.
Events start with Annie, her brothers, and the other kids from Camp Cackleberry making themselves at home at the truck stop. Annie even washes her face with running water and cleans herself up, while the other kids watch a cartoon on an old TV and VCR. Morgan then arrives with a big surprise. He leads a convoy of trucks towing the wreckage of their crashed airplane, and gives a big inspirational speech announcing that they’re going to put it back together and fly away.
Soon enough, the whole group gets to work fixing the plane. When they can’t figure out a problem with one of the engines, they radio to Sarah (Mo Collins), who’s working on the other airplane. Its engines don’t work (due to being clogged with zombie guts), but she can look inside and provide direction for which parts are supposed to fit where.
Althea fires up the engine on her plane for a test. It seems to go well at first, until the propeller flies off and gets smashed beyond repair. This leaves the two groups in quite a predicament. One has a plane with good engines but no propeller, and the other has a plane with good propellers but no working engines. If only they weren’t so far away and could meet up somehow…
Morgan receives a radio message from Grace, the lady from the nuclear power plant he met a few episodes back. She calls asking him to disconnect the truck stop’s generator and bring it to her. Although doing so will leave the truck stop with no working radio (except the short-range walkie-talkies), she needs the generator for the coolant system at the plant. Without it, the plant will have another meltdown. That sounds bad, so Morgan complies.
These two setbacks leave Annie more skeptical than ever that these adults can do anything for them. She orders her brothers to pack up and leave with her. When Alicia begs her to stay, Annie tells the tearful story of what happened to her parents at the summer camp (the short version: the grown-ups sent the kids off to hide while they fought off zombies, but got irradiated in the process and died). This explains why Annie is so distrustful of following anyone else’s authority.
Morgan brings the generator to Grace. She explains that it’s only a stopgap solution. When the generator runs out of gas, the plant will inevitably melt down. She tells Morgan to get his people out of the area as soon as they can, then she leaves him behind to go to the plant alone on what is presumably a suicide mission.
When all hope of finding a replacement propeller seems lost, Luciana’s walkie-talkie suddenly crackles to life. Strand is on the other end, and he sounds elated. A photo of their dead friend Jim led him to an official Auggie’s Ale hot air balloon shaped like a giant beer bottle. He and Charlie are on their way with two propellers from their plane. Hooray! The day is saved!
Alicia goes to tell Annie the good news, but all the kids are already gone.
Of course, Strand’s wonderful balloon runs out of fuel short of reaching his friends and crashes down right in the middle of the nuclear contamination zone. Morgan (who’s nearby) radios to warn him not to kill any zombies because their blood will contaminate him. Cue a herd of contaminated zombies heading straight for the balloon.
Alicia goes back to Camp Cackleberry to search for the kids and has to fight her way through a big zombie roadblock. At the same time, Morgan crosses the border into the contamination zone to rescue Strand and Charlie.
Oh Sherry, Our Love, Holds On, Holds On
While the plane repair is ongoing, John and Dwight split off from the group to go searching for Dwight’s ex, Sherry. This gives the boys some time to bond.
John finds clues that lead to a house where they’re certain that Sherry stayed. It’s as close as Dwight has ever come to finding his wife, and for the first time in a long time, he feels optimistic that they’ll be reunited soon. However, John also discovers a letter Sherry wrote telling Dwight to stop searching for her; she’s not going to leave any more trail for him to follow. Seeing the hope in Dwight’s eyes, John elects not to tell him about the letter.
When did all the characters on this show become expert aircraft mechanics? The idea that this group of people, not a one of whom is a mechanic or an engineer, could rebuild an airplane from a pile of wreckage is patently absurd. Did the plane just happen to have a really detailed owner’s manual in the glove box? It’s too bad they don’t have the internet so they could watch how-to videos on YouTube.
(This also speaks to another gripe I have this season about how Althea is conveniently revealed to be a skilled pilot in all forms of aircraft. The writers of this show don’t seem to be aware that piloting a helicopter is very different than piloting an airplane, which is very different than driving a truck. The show treats Althea as an all-purpose vehicle driver, whether land or air.)
The hot air balloon stuff is also a big groaner, both in conception and in execution. The beer bottle-shaped balloon looks dumb and impractical, and the visual effects for it are awful. Why would a microbrew outfit like Auggie’s Ale have a custom hot air balloon, anyway?
Honestly, despite these issues, I don’t hate the episode. It has some pretty decent character work, especially between John and Dwight. However, when it comes to plotting this season, the show’s writers are really struggling to be clever, but have failed in big ways.