Fear the Walking Dead finds religion this week in an episode heavy with themes of faith and purpose. Surprisingly, it’s not the worst episode of the season. Of course, it’s also certainly not the best.
The primary setting this week is a Jewish synagogue still actively maintained by Rabbi Jacob Kessner (Peter Jacobson from House and Colony). Every day, Rabbi Jacob continues to go through the old rituals and prayers, even without a congregation to lead. The routine is all he has left anymore. When the occasional zombie breaks through the synagogue’s fence, he stabs it in the head with an M-16 bayonet, which any good rabbi should keep on hand during the apocalypse. When Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) winds up on his doorstep, she’s the first living human he’s seen in a while. He invites her in and provides her with an introduction to Judaism, claiming that God led her to him. While that could be the setup for something very creepy, he seems sincere.
Charlie is not only impressed with the rabbi, she believes the synagogue could be a new permanent home for her makeshift family, who have all been run ragged trying to keep ahead of Logan. She radios June and John and asks them to come check out the place, and also to bring an extra car battery so that the rabbi can keep an important ritual lamp permanently lit. Upon arrival, June is skeptical of the location’s long-term prospects. The building is too small for all of them, and it’s too far away from any source of fresh water. Nevertheless, Charlie remains insistent that it can be made to work. John and June offer to help the rabbi repair his fence, but plan to leave afterward.
Charlie doesn’t want to go. Rabbi Jacob tries to push her to leave with her friends, almost as if he has something to hide. Obviously, it will turn out that he does, though it’s not as nefarious as it might be. An attached building is filled with active Walkers, locked in only by a pair of glass doors. They were his former congregation, and he couldn’t bring himself to put them down. The rabbi blames himself for their deaths. When the apocalypse hit, he lost his faith in God and abandoned the synagogue. By the time he came back, everyone was dead and turned.
Sarah radios June with news that Logan’s goons found the convoy. She needs John and June to come back with the S.W.A.T. van stat. Naturally, right at this moment the zombies in the side building figure out how to smash through the glass doors. They encircle the synagogue, trapping everyone inside.
The group climb to the top of the building, and John devises a plan to use an aluminum ladder to cross the parking lot from car roof to car roof. This seems to work at first, but the ladder eventually falls to the ground, stranding John and June on top of a car with zombies pawing at their feet. June tells Charlie that she knows what she has to do to save them. Charlie is very upset and only reluctantly agrees.
Charlie opens the front doors to the synagogue while Rabbi Jacob plays a special horn, the sound of which lures all the Walkers into the building. John and June lock the doors behind them. As Charlie and the rabbi escape, they witness the dead trashing the place. The rabbi’s important lamp goes out. That couldn’t be symbolic, could it?
Field of Dreams
Sarah and Dwight are chased by three trucks from Logan’s crew. Dwight is very disappointed to learn that the redneck whose life he spared a couple episodes ago did not turn over a new leaf and has rejoined Team Logan.
Ironically, the gas tanker runs out of gas itself and slows to a halt on the highway. Dwight and Sarah contemplate blowing themselves up to prevent Logan from getting the gas in the trailer. Just in the nick of time, fortunately, John and June arrive in the S.W.A.T. van to save the day. Logan’s goons hightail it out of there rather than engage. Rabbi Jacob has now joined the crew and says that he’s going to find his faith again. Although relieved, Dwight is suspicious of how easily the conflict was avoided. He worries that Logan may have a trick up his sleeve.
Sure enough, we then learn that the henchmen were merely trying to drive our heroes far away from the oil field, which Logan has located in an old rock quarry. The episode ends as he prepares to invade.
For a TV show about an zombies, perhaps the most unrealistic thing about this episode is the notion that there might actually be a Jewish synagogue somewhere in Texas. (I kid… I kid… Maybe…)
Make no mistake, this is a bottle episode that’s only purpose is to give some screen time to a trio of characters (John, June, and Charlie) who’ve been underutilized lately. The symbolism and the chatter about faith is all very heavy-handed and I’m inclined to reject it outright. Also, the setup of a character storing away Walkers he previously knew when they were alive is a blatant retread of the farm storyline from Season 2 of the flagship Walking Dead series. In fact, didn’t even this show already do something similar on the Mexican plantation in its own second season?
Honestly, however, the episode’s not really too bad. The character work is decent, and the big set-piece with the ladder is suspenseful enough. As far as filler episodes go, this show has had a lot worse. Like last week, for example.