NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
After its extensively rebooted new direction during the previous season, ironically coming off of arguably the show’s best season immediately beforehand, Fear the Walking Dead finally appeared to settle on a pretty promising story direction for this year’s Season Five; Morgan leading a small group of altruistic survivors, all dedicated to helping other survivors who are in need. It’s an interesting concept that perhaps leans even further into the comic book inspiration behind this universe than AMC’s main Walking Dead series, which is directly adapted from actual comic books! Thus, “Here to Help” kicks off Fear the Walking Dead’s fifth season by showing off how well this mission is going, and if you’re any kind of Walking Dead enthusiast already, you can probably imagine that it’s going pretty damn poorly.
Things at least start on a pretty exciting note, as a couple of young boys, Dylan and Max, try to hunt a deer, stupidly firing a gun that will attract tons of walkers in the nearby vicinity (how these kids have survived this long is anyone’s guess), before a plane suddenly crashes near them, which just so happens to contain Fear the Walking Dead’s protagonists! Apparently, a lot has happened since the events of the Season Four finale, with Morgan’s crew successfully setting up shop at the denim factory, while also somehow getting hold of a plane, which Al somewhat knows how to fly, but apparently not well enough to avoid burning out an engine and crash landing. Apparently, Strand was also training to be a pilot, but this begs the question as to why Strand wasn’t on mission with Al and co. then. Strand even comments that he decided not to go later in the episode, yet never clarifies exactly why. This is genuinely head-scratching, and just seems like a forced excuse to start trouble right off the bat.
Fortunately, despite the contrived circumstances, we at least get an exciting initial battle with a bunch of walkers, which Alicia, John and Morgan try to fend off, while Dylan and Max, who come to investigate, are petitioned by Morgan to apply pressure to a wound on Luciana, who has been impaled on some metal pipe. June and Al also come to in the cockpit, with John narrowly saving their own skin in the process! Right when things truly look bad though, Dylan’s and Max’s sister, Annie drives up in a van, and allows everyone to get away with no casualties. That’s certainly pretty lucky, but Annie is predictably confused and scornful toward the mission of Morgan’s party. She even slams on the brakes out of sheer shock when she realizes that Morgan’s crew are directing her toward a truck stop that’s apparently surrounded by walkers! Well, yeah, it’s hard to disagree with Annie there. After all, Morgan’s party is completely breaking the rules of the walker apocalypse, at least outside of the Alexandria safe zone region in Virginia.
Admittedly, the idea behind honestly wanting to help other survivors leading to more distrust from those same troubled survivors is a good one, and the revelation that every survivor that the protagonists have attempted to help is either missing or dead feels painfully logical for this universe. Clearly, more threats are out there as well, as radiation signs placed around the vicinity, along with networks of trapped walkers and dangling walker heads, appear to suggest that sinister survivors are still thriving just fine in the Houston area. I will say however that the writing works a lot better when it’s not portraying Morgan’s crew as frustratingly naive nincompoops. Even as they manage to get Luciana to the safety of the truck stop, in what’s honestly a pretty thrilling race against the clock, the kids ditch Morgan’s crew, saying that there’s clearly something wrong with them, and again, it’s tough to blame them for this. Alicia soon after begins to realize that something definitely isn’t right too, since the survivor crew that Morgan’s group was meaning to help is nowhere to be found.
It turns out that Logan, the survivor leader that Morgan had been in contact with over the radio, actually lured Morgan’s crew away from the denim factory so that he could move in and take it back with his own people, being the legal owner of the property. Apparently, Logan was the former partner of the late Polar Bear, who disagreed with Polar Bear’s charitable habits. Strand, Sarah, Wendell and Charlie even get stopped at the factory gate, which, again, miraculously results in no casualties whatsoever, despite Strand in particular refusing to put down his weapons. On this note, it didn’t feel like Strand’s separate crew had anything to do in this episode, beyond fill up space in the runtime. They basically only appeared in the episode to have Strand discover something very shocking within Al’s cache of tapes; One of the people that Al interviewed was Daniel Salazar! This is a great tease, and one that finally delivers on a failed promise from Season Four, which was supposed to address Daniel’s fate, but never actually did so. Finally, Fear the Walking Dead appears to be bringing back one of its best characters, who has been AWOL since the Season Three finale.
Back to Morgan’s group however, once they get Luciana stitched up, they’re left to sit around with their thumbs up their rear ends, simply losing the denim factory to Logan without a fight. Granted, Logan doing everything to take what’s his while also actively avoiding a fight is a bit of a novelty for AMC’s Walking Dead universe, suggesting that he could be a much more interesting antagonist to the group than just another two-bit survivalist thug, but even so, what the hell did Morgan expect to happen when he left the denim factory unguarded? This is what I mean when I say that Morgan’s crew are acting like nincompoops, having good intentions, but not actually being smart about the way they’re helping people. The reason why Alexandria and Hilltop are thriving over on the main Walking Dead series is because they’re setting up stable communities with clear-cut rules and vetting processes, and are still arming themselves against nefarious survivors who would do their citizens harm. I get that Morgan’s crew is a lot smaller, and Texas seems to be far worse off than Virginia apparently is, but Annie and her brothers are absolutely right when they say that Morgan’s party aren’t being very smart, and are liable to get themselves killed, not to mention swindled out of their stuff out of pure incompetence, like they were in this very episode!
To that end, it’s a little bit tough to get behind Morgan’s altruistic survivor mission when his crew aren’t really using their heads. Al even punctuates the episode with the mother of all stupid ideas to boot, going back to the site of the plane crash, by herself, and eating up gas in the process, because she thinks, “A story is there.” Predictably, she then gets herself captured by some unknown party of survivors in what appear to be full-scale riot gear. Once again, this is an obvious risk that Al should have anticipated, and when she went alone to hostile territory, she was practically begging to be captured, if not killed! Sure, we do get a decent share of excitement in, “Here to Help”, especially by Fear the Walking Dead standards, but at this point, it’s just too tough to care about the stakes behind it all. Considering that Morgan had been a citizen of Alexandria and its neighbouring communities over on the main Walking Dead series for years beforehand, you’d think he especially would be aware of the necessary caveats to providing a better example during the walker apocalypse. As it stands though, it’s tough to root for a group of survivors that are plain and simply begging to get themselves killed at this point.
Fear the Walking Dead's fifth season premiere offers plenty of excitement, but Morgan's mission to improve quality-of-life for survivors is too often dragged down by his group's wanton carelessness.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Exciting plane crash opener
Daniel being one of the subjects within Al's interviews
Logan is a potentially interesting new antagonist
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
Morgan's group are far too careless in their mission
Strand's group has nothing to do for most of the episode