NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Even though all of the pieces have been laid for the protagonists escaping their current predicament in short order, Fear the Walking Dead nonetheless had to drag out its current conflicts before the supposed midseason finale (which really only presents a three-week gap in the case of Season Five), resulting in a pretty obvious filler episode that spends most of its duration merely wasting the viewer’s time. “Still Standing” feels doggedly-paced to the extreme, with only a couple of noteworthy developments, all of which could have been just as easily addressed in another episode.
Of course, this also means that we need to spend yet more time slogging through the adolescent survivor conflict, which is now being spear-headed by Alicia, after she single-handedly takes on the responsibility of bringing all of the kids back to the truck stop. Somehow, in a very short span of time, the kids have already constructed a literal labyrinth of walker corpses too, which Dylan has to actively guide Alicia through, in order to get back to the kids’ base camp. Okay, now the show isn’t even trying! This walker blockade idea was already stupid to begin with, but the reveal that Annie came up with it based off of a nightmare that Dylan had, and drew out, is even more moronic and non-sensical. Even in this very episode, yet again, the blockade fails, and Annie and Max have to flee a herd of walkers suddenly coming up to the kids’ fence.
If this all sounds very forced to you, well, it definitely is. This more or less serves as the convenient means through which Alicia can make her final appeal to Annie and the other kids, proving that she’s there to help, after admitting that she wants to help people not just for their sake, but for Alicia’s own sake as well. After pledging to try and cleanse her own soul by trying to do something good for the kids, Annie finally agrees to get the kids to safety, while Alicia tries to fight off the walkers. What this all amounts to is Alicia getting a face full of blood after getting her sharpened barrel stuck inside one of the walkers, which it turns out, is one of the irradiated walkers. The kids do make it back to the truck stop from here, with a little help from Annie’s very crappy shooting (again, how in the world have these kids survived like this for so long, least of all when their other guns have no bullets?!), but Alicia gets separated, ultimately hiding her radiation exposure from Morgan when he radios for her. Again, this is stupid and out-of-character for Alicia, ultimately deflating the otherwise nice moment of Morgan and Alicia admitting to each other that they need to live for themselves, and not just other people.
At the same time, Morgan continues to go after Grace, trying to appeal to her that she needs to escape after fixing up the generator. After Grace points Morgan to her house to get a radiation suit as well, Morgan doubles back to save Strand and Charlie, who inflate a barrier from the hot air balloon to keep the irradiated walkers at bay. This initial hazard at least proves to be very interesting, and Strand’s trick with the balloon did end up coming in pretty handy too! Strand and Charlie are thus able to get the propeller back to the truck stop, though Morgan refuses to abandon Grace, ultimately finding her again, even as the generator that Morgan loaned out to Grace ends up failing. This means that there’s no chance of stopping the meltdown, and it’s officially happening in less than a day. This is very obviously going to be the main hazard in the following episode, before Fear the Walking Dead goes off the air for a few weeks.
Al and June end up headlining another subplot in turn, wherein Al, June and Luciana realize that the plane’s fuel line has been hit, and that they need more aviation fuel. This motivates Al to go to the site of the helicopter landing, bringing June along, though not telling her the details. Inevitably though, after Al gets the necessary aviation fuel to help the plane take off, she’s compelled to confess to June that she met someone while she was away. Al doesn’t give specifics about Isabelle, but June once again finds an inspired way to relate her own experiences with John to Al, motivating Al not to lose hope. I have to say that if there’s one character that’s actually been done really well throughout Fear the Walking Dead’s fifth season, it’s June. As much as some of the other character arcs have been shaky at times throughout this season, June’s formerly hopeless disposition has since given way to genuine wisdom and inspiration, making her a surprising beacon of emotional support at this point in the show, and one that has ended up keeping her group strong when nothing else can.
Speaking of continued strength, John and Dwight also hold fast in the hunt for Sherry, despite John carrying the secret that Sherry no longer wants Dwight to look for her. After some more searching, and being warned over the walkie-talkie that a meltdown is imminent, and that the two men need to return to the truck stop ASAP, John skips another opportunity to pass Dwight the note as well, ultimately going along with Dwight’s desire to defy the clock and keep searching. In the end though, after the timeline becomes too tight, John does eventually hand over the note, with Dwight walking out of a busted truck that they attempt to hot wire. This seems like a dramatic rift that could have formed between Dwight and John, but disappointingly, there are no consequences of note here. Dwight actually takes the fact that John withheld the note from him astonishingly well, and the two just head back to the truck stop as if nothing happened. So, essentially, this entire subplot did nothing but waste time, and render the fact that John hid Sherry’s note in the first place completely pointless!
Evidently, Fear the Walking Dead is starting to run out of excuses to stretch out its current set of obstacles. With the plant’s meltdown finally beginning at the very end of the episode however, hopefully the following midseason finale can prove less contrived and more interesting. At this point however, “Still Standing” is a dull and irritating filler episode, which transparently invents more silly excuses to stretch out the characters’ current predicament for as long as possible. There were at least a few solid developments of note, most notably Morgan finally convincing Grace to join his crew of survivors, and Alicia likely being infected by a lethal dose of radioactive walker blood. John’s dishonesty with Dwight ultimately amounts to nothing though, as does Sherry apparently wanting Dwight to stop looking for her. Strand and Charlie at least came up with a cool solution to keep the irradiated walkers at bay until Morgan could come and rescue them, but even then, that issue may as well have not happened, considering how quickly it’s solved. Like I said, now that the characters are officially out of time, hopefully Fear the Walking Dead can stop screwing around now, and start actually moving forward.
- June once again being a wise source of emotional support
- Strand's and Charlie's creative balloon barrier solution
- Alicia possibly being infected with a lethal dose of radiation
- Alicia inexplicably hiding her radiation poisoning
- John withholding Sherry's note is ultimately pointless
- The kids' inexplicable walker defenses obviously failing