For its penultimate episode of the season, Fear the Walking Dead once again switches to shooting almost the entire hour in crappy SD video. This is a really gimmicky and frustrating affectation that I hope the show discontinues when next season comes around.
To justify the device, we open with Virginia and her group (still not given a proper name, though I’m leaning toward The Keymasters now) filming their own promotional propaganda documentary in imitation of Althea’s. When she sees it, Al gets really pissed off about the plagiarism and smashes the TV she’s watching.
Al then sets off making a new documentary in response to Virginia’s, to tell the “true” story of what each group is really doing. She promises not to hold anything back or mislead viewers. Weirdly, new guy Tom is in both videos, which leaves me puzzled as to how long ago Virginia filmed hers. Tom is now fully on board with Morgan and company and disses Virginia any time he can. He’s especially thrilled when his sister Janice catches up with the convoy, and credits his new friends for the reunion even though Janice seemed to get there all on her own.
When recent scavenging runs come up dry, June worries that she’s directing the convoy in a bad direction. Strand wants to change course, but John is supportive of June and convinces her to stick with her first instinct.
Grace appears to recuperate from her recent health scare and finds time to start teaching Charlie how to play guitar. However, she soon deteriorates again and becomes catatonic. June says that she’s severely dehydrated and needs a saline IV, but of course they don’t have any.
Dwight kills a Walker wearing a tin sheriff’s badge that John recognizes as coming from another Humbug’s Gulch theme park. He takes this as a good sign that the park must be within range. He gets everyone’s hopes up that it could be an ideal new home base. Somehow, it never occurs to anyone that the place may have been destroyed, or at least may already be occupied.
Morgan wants to make a side trip to a nearby retirement home to search for medical supplies for Grace. June doesn’t want to split up, so she directs the whole convoy to go. Sarah says that she knows a shortcut they can take afterwards so that they don’t lose any time.
John tells June that he wants to get married as soon as they reach the Gulch. They try to keep this low-key, but when word spreads it starts to become a much bigger deal. A wedding seems like it would be a great morale booster for the whole community.
Al finds some saline bags at the retirement home, and Grace recovers enough to be lucid again. Unfortunately, Sarah’s shortcut doesn’t work out too well when they encounter a rickety wooden bridge that won’t support the weight of all the trucks in the convoy. Only one big rig and the S.W.A.T. van get across before some of the wooden planks collapse. All the other cars, and the gas tanker, remain stuck on the other side.
Although members of the group get to work patching the hole, some of the bridge’s support cables snap and whip around dangerously. Just then, Virginia shows up and makes a big show of offering to help. She’d been following the convoy, waiting for them to run into trouble just like this. Nobody trusts her or wants her help, though Strand at least wants to hear exactly what she’s offering and what she expects in return. Virginia is a little vague about the details, but the implication is that she’ll make their lives hell if they have to work for her.
Pissy at being rejected, Virginia orders a couple of her goons to fire shots into the air in order to draw the attention of a nearby herd of Walkers, thus greatly increasing the urgency of finding a way across the bridge. Virginia leaves, calling out, “When you need help, give us a holler.”
Everyone works frantically to carry as many items as they can across the bridge, including buckets of gas for the cars that got across. The scene turns chaotic as the herd approaches. Morgan and a few others fight to hold the zombies back.
More cables snap and a big section of bridge collapses under the weight of the Walker herd. Fortunately, almost everyone makes it across in time. Sadly, Tom behaves like a dumbass and stays on the bridge too long with a video camera, shooting footage for Al’s documentary. He falls to his death when the bridge gives out under him.
March to the Gulch
Somehow, by methods unexplained, Al managed to get hold of the camera Tom was holding when he fell off the bridge. She’s seen later trying to edit his footage into a tribute to him when the truck loses power. Grace feels responsible for Tom’s death; he wouldn’t have died if they hadn’t taken a detour for her benefit.
Their remaining vehicles all out of gas, the entire group begins a trek toward Humbug’s Gulch. Despite everything that’s happened, most of them still remain optimistic. Wes tells Alicia that he’ll start painting with her again (though he suggests that they find a new medium other than trees). John asks Rabbi Jacob if he’ll perform a wedding ceremony, and asks Morgan to be his Best Man. Salazar advises Morgan that he ought to tell Grace how he feels about her. He tries, but she cuts him off and tells him that it would be better not to say anything.
Everyone’s spirits are buoyed when they see a billboard advertising Humbug’s Gulch just five miles away. That distance is doable on foot. Their promised safe haven is within reach.
As most viewers had surely already figured out long before the characters on the show do, Humbug’s Gulch is a disaster. The place is swarming with hundreds of Walkers, all fenced in like cattle within the park’s perimeter.
Panic sets in. The group has no food, no water, no supplies, and nowhere else to go. They’re in the middle of nowhere and have no alternate destination they could try if they wanted. In short, they’re utterly screwed.
Strand is the first to suggest what previously seemed unthinkable. He says they have no choice and need to call Virginia. Dwight wants nothing to do with that plan and walks away, heading off alone wherever his feet will take him.
Morgan makes the call. He gets on the walkie-talkie and asks Virginia for help.
I really wish the show didn’t fall back on the SD video gimmick again. It detracts greatly from what is in most other respects a pretty good episode. The bridge crossing scene is quite suspenseful, and I like the plot turn about Virginia stalking the group and waiting for them to fail so that she can recruit them.
The revelation about Humbug’s Gulch is pretty obvious, however, and the characters seem terribly naïve that none of them even considers the possibility that the place might not work out.
Next week is the season finale, after which AMC will jump right back into the flagship Walking Dead series with no buffer between the two shows. If the network had its druthers, I suspect that it would keep the various spinoffs in the franchise running in constant rotation all year round, jumping right from one iteration to the next, over and over again in a non-stop cycle of zombie horror. That’s a surefire way to burn viewers out on the franchise.