NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Fear the Walking Dead yet again brings us another new perspective, another new location, and another new survivor. In the case of, “Ner Tamid”, the show actually moved away from the leaders of Morgan’s convoy, with Morgan himself, as well as many other principal Fear the Walking Dead cast members, such as Alicia, Strand, Al and Daniel, all sitting out this episode. Instead, Charlie’s perspective dominated, “Ner Tamid” for the most part, with John and June providing support with the newest survivor, while Sarah and Dwight hold down the fort with the convoy.
To Fear the Walking Dead’s credit, it comes up with a more interesting new location and survivor than it did during the previous week, especially after Charlie has gotten so little attention during Season Five’s back half. After Charlie ends up sleeping in a car, and inadvertently saving a rabbi based in a nearby synagogue from becoming a walker’s next meal, Charlie meets Rabbi Jacob Kessner, a lone Jewish religious official who has been eking out a living on his own within his former temple’s remains. Happy to encounter someone new, Charlie decides that the synagogue is a dream location, and decides that she wants to live there. If this seems a bit strange, considering that Charlie is traveling with Morgan’s crew, then perhaps it’s prudent to mention the off-screen inciting incident of the episode– Charlie ran away from the convoy.
The idea of Charlie wanting to find a more permanent place to settle down isn’t inherently a bad one, but sadly, one of the weak points of this episode is how questionably it executes the idea. Charlie’s reasoning for wanting to find a permanent location, rather than moving around with the convoy, never truly feels like it makes much sense. It’s especially laughable when Charlie expresses anxiety about her home not being in the same place, failing to realize the irony that she’s the one who ran away from the convoy in the first place! John and June nonetheless go to the synagogue to fetch Charlie, after Dwight realizes that she’s missing, but it’s only because Charlie radioed asking for more car batteries, in order to keep the synagogue’s sacred light burning.
Jacob, fortunately, is one of the brighter points of the episode, being a seemingly chipper and enlightened rabbi who eagerly takes Charlie under his wing, and teaches her the ways of the Jewish faith. This is another especially unique and memorable new look at AMC’s The Walking Dead universe and its personalities, and on that note, I can see why Charlie would feel comfortable wanting to stay with Jacob. Despite that though, Jacob’s character backstory, nor Charlie’s desire to stay with him, doesn’t end up living up to its full potential. Apparently, Jacob’s congregation has somehow sealed themselves away, after all dying under mysterious circumstances, and after they inevitably get loose, that creates the primary climactic obstacle of the episode for John and June in particular.
If this sounds like a contrived, lazy way to recycle story elements from Hershel and Gabriel over on the main The Walking Dead series, that’s pretty much what this is. It’s a lame device to force an outpouring of walkers, right when John and June have to beat a hasty retreat from the synagogue. Inconvenient as ever, Logan’s crew happen to find the convoy right as John and June are struggling to convince Charlie to return with them, and this is supposed to create a ticking clock… Only it doesn’t really do that. Despite the supposed urgency of Logan closing in, the climax of this episode feels strangely laid-back and un-engaging. John and June even just calmly stand on top of a car surrounded by walkers, while Charlie has a full conversation about needing to give up her hope for a home. Sure, all’s well that ends well after the walkers all get locked in the synagogue, and no one suffers any fatalities, so that’s at least good. Despite Jacob thankfully joining Morgan’s convoy however (we’ll no doubt be glad to have him!), the pressing threat of Logan’s people just never really felt that urgent here, especially when we see how their appearance plays out.
Dwight and Sarah end up anchoring the subplot of this episode, on this note, and it actually begins decently enough. The idea of a friendship developing between Sarah and Dwight is pretty smart, and the two enjoying a beer together, while engaging in pretty witty rapport, is fun to watch. As you can imagine though, the coming of Logan’s crew interrupts this, with Dwight and Sarah trying to flee in a separate direction with the tanker, only to run out of gas, because the rig is disconnected from the fuel. Dwight and Sarah are thus ready to go down fighting, until Logan’s crew randomly decides to run away, supposedly because of John, June, Charlie and Jacob all arriving in the SWAT vehicle, just in the nick of time. In reality however, the entire ‘attack’ was a ruse, which was meant to get the convoy as far away from the oil fields as possible, right as Logan closes in on them! Does this mean that Morgan actually gave up the oil fields’ location during the previous episode? Or perhaps Logan discovered it on Al’s tapes? Either way, this will no doubt present a big problem for Morgan’s growing crew, now that their philanthropic operation is about to have their fuel supply threatened!
“Ner Tamid” doesn’t quite present an airtight narrative, especially since Charlie’s reasoning for suddenly wanting to live in a synagogue is ultimately pretty head-scratching, but regardless, the episode at least ended with the addition of another likable new survivor being added to Morgan’s ranks, even as Logan moves in to seize control of the oil fields. Fear the Walking Dead moving away from many of its more principal cast members proved to work pretty well here, even if the protagonists’ latest walker jam once again felt pretty forced. Still, with the synagogue having fallen, and Jacob joining up with Morgan’s people, we once again have the opportunity to look forward to more new locations, and more new survivors. Morgan’s mission is bound to stall if his crew can’t wrest Logan away from the oil fields though, especially since the convoy’s reserves are starting to run low as it stands.
- Jacob is a useful and likable new addition
- Dwight and Sarah developing a friendship
- Logan's clever diversionary tactics
- Charlie's reasoning for staying put doesn't make much sense
- Jacob's walker congregation conveniently being shut away, and spilling out
- Lack of real urgency in the climax