Warning: Full spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 4 finale follow…
Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 4 finale had one job, basically. Regardless of who lived or died, of who survived to see the adventures ahead (spoiler: it was freakin’ everyone), none of these folks could ever step foot in Alexandria.
I know, I know. That’s crazy, right? This whole half season’s been solely about Morgan collecting his new compadres (even meeting some new ones) and taking them all to his friend Rick. To house them in a safe environment. To show them the king he’s always talking about. The king who – er – used to have a tiger. It’s been his directive from the get-go.
Now all of that had to unravel in 50 minutes. Or 80 minutes including commercials. Or really, the final five minutes because that’s how quickly the show had Morgan ditch his entire plan. Because The Walking Dead’s about to hit us with an eighteen month time jump. Yup, just as Fear caught up to Walking Dead, the original show’s like “Smell ya later!” and is skipping ahead a year and a half.
I don’t review Fear episodes weekly anymore so I’ll just lay this out: I liked the first half season of Season 4. I enjoyed the dark path Madison’s family was on, the addition of new characters, and how it all collided. I even thought Madison’s end was satisfying, though it wasn’t necessary for anything other than remaking and reshaping the entire series. This back half of Season 4 though? With the hurricane and Martha (played with crazed gusto by Gotham’s Tonya Pinkins)? I wasn’t a fan overall. The story geography was confounding, as were the overbearing serendipitous events that both saved and thwarted people, on a whim.
The plot saw fit to split everyone up just as easily as it worked overtime to have them all find each other again. Althea lost, and found, and lost, and found her truck. Martha was able to, in the middle of the Texas lowlands, sneak up on everyone by just walking up behind them, as if she’d just magically apparated ten feet back. People’s walkies worked right when the story needed them to, and didn’t when the plot called for silence. And all of the dangers were giant awkward metaphors for whatever personal drama needed to be serviced.
The writing twisted itself in knots trying to come up with Martha’s exact psychosis, all so that she could serve as a bizarre mirror-verse foe for Morgan and represent who he used to be. And tell him exactly who he’d become if all his new friends died. Too many things were woefully on-the-nose. I was all for who the group was at the end of the half season, but the new new faces – Mo Collins’ Sarah, Daryl Mitchell’s Wendell, and (briefly) Aaron Stanford’s Jim(bo) – were a slog. The “MoMo” nickname, that Morgan eventually tolerated, was awful and – hey – I love Aaron Stanford, but having a “Beer Guy” along for the ride was worse than enduring a selfish whiny teenager.
What’s even worse is that everyone else had to take a back seat to them. Of course, I’m not really giving you a seasonal review here, just one for the finale. But even in this finale, “…I Lose Myself,” things fell into place too neatly. After eight episodes of a story that sprawled out over three states, where the only few remaining characters in those three states (apparently) kept fortuitously finding each other, I wanted chaos. I wanted some folks to fall. Man, I love Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie, but I would have gladly accepted his death, as the fallout of actual danger and consequences, over having everyone get saved by beer(bo).
It was remarkable how Martha, as an insane wasteland crone, was able to get the drop on our heroes time and time again. When they caught her, she escaped. When Althea had a shotgun trained right on her, this week, a walker waltzed up and gave Martha a window to take out Al. When Morgan had her dead to rights, in the backseat of a police car, she was still able to cause him to crash in the middle of nowhere. Funnily enough too, everyone else managed to get poisoned by the water Martha had laced with antifreeze, and she didn’t even really mean to target them specifically. They just happened to be the next people in there. Martha meant that water for anyone needing help. So even when she didn’t mean to upend their s***, she did.
In the closing moments of “…I Lose Myself,” Morgan laid out a plan for them to all live in an old factory and drive supplies out for people in need of a box or two of sundries. They all stood on a hill, on the other side of a river, and stared at their new home, neatly paired off in twos for a forced group photo. Strand and Alicia. Sarah and Wendell. John and June. Al by herself. It was the most unnatural looking shot ever. It almost like a series gallery photo, not an episodic one.
“…I Lose Myself” wasn’t outright terrible. Don’t get me wrong. On the surface, it moved. It had action. It was overlong, sure, but that’s kind of a show hallmark now. Just below the skin though, it was riddled with coincidences that undermined the intrigue. To be fair, so did most of this half season. I was just hoping for more savagery. When it seemed like Morgan was going to lose everyone, in one fell swoop, it appeared, for a second, like everything might take a diabolical turn. It was exciting. But then the walkie worked, beer was consumed, fast travel came into play, and everyone was fit as a fiddle. Overall, it would have been better if this half season didn’t feel so much like an obvious lesson that forced Morgan to learn about loving people and losing people all over again. And that everyone else was, for the most part, in service of that arc.