NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Now that the nuclear reactor has melted down, and a giant cloud of radioactive death is headed towards the protagonists, Fear the Walking Dead is cranking the excitement up to eleven for what’s essentially supposed to be its midseason finale, even though there’s only a three-week gap between this episode and the next in the case of this season. “Is Anybody Out There?” initially checks in with Logan however, who has actually been pretty much absent from the show since his introduction in the season premiere, before chronicling the intense escape from the radioactive ash cloud by Morgan’s crew, who are mostly together, save for John and Dwight still being separated from the core group at the plane.
Despite all of the fun and thrills though, Fear the Walking Dead still feels too brainless and illogical in its midseason finale, which constantly forces every obstacle, and subsequent quick fix, that it can, before everything ultimately amounts to no real consequence. There are several instances where it at least looks like there will be a genuine cost to what the group has had to do in order to get in the air, and get back to Sarah’s and Wendell’s party on the other side of the mountains. For now though, Alicia’s potential radiation poisoning amounts to nothing, Morgan’s irradiated staff amounts to nothing, and almost every other obstacle that the survivors face amounts to nothing. There are no character deaths, no permanent damage, and nothing that creates a lasting impression on the heroes here. Sure, the protagonists are due for a big win, but this win feels a little too clean to really feel all that noteworthy.
Like I said however, pretty much everything that could go wrong ends up going wrong during this episode. Naturally, Morgan, Alicia and Grace fail to lose the herd from the kids’ hideout, forcing them to book it back to the plane, and warning Luciana, Al, June and the kids that trouble is headed their way. All the while, John and Dwight have to struggle to get back, after seeing the meltdown at the plant from a distance, and having no way to return. John and Dwight fruitlessly try every car they can, with none of them appearing to work, until they find one that works… And then it doesn’t. This at least gets John farther into range to hear June over the walkie though. Interestingly, this also begins to hint at something that the main Walking Dead series already had happen years before its current time jump; Gasoline going bad, and cars no longer being usable. Cars can still be mostly used on Fear the Walking Dead at this point, since it’s still unfolding many years before the events of the previous ninth season of The Walking Dead, but they’re clearly starting to become fussy, which also leads into another interesting plot turn towards the end of this episode.
When John and Dwight appear stranded without a ride as well, the combined threat of the walker herd and the radioactive cloud makes it seem as if they won’t make it back in time before the plane takes off. The prospect of John and June once again being separated, with John tearfully making June promise that she will live on without him if they can’t see each other again, initially presents some extra emotional stakes, but as is a frequent problem with this midseason finale, they amount to nothing here. Instead, in the mother of all Deus Ex Machina’s, John and Dwight make it to Sherry’s former car, and race it back to the plane, somehow arriving right as it’s about to take off! Then some walkers cling to the plane, preventing it from taking off, which John and Morgan weirdly hesitate with taking out… But this amounts to nothing as well, since the walkers are eventually shot and knocked off anyway. Well, what was the point of this minor hiccup then?
Over on the other side of the mountains, Wendell and Sarah have to try and devise a way to get the lights working on the runway, prompting Sarah to seek help from none other than Logan! This is another potentially interesting idea, but the episode yet again squanders it, as Logan simply turns Sarah away, making this whole side trip pointless. Again, this seemed to be a clumsy way to work in another story element for the back half of Season Five, namely that Logan is looking for something that his late partner left behind, something that he thought was at the denim factory, but it doesn’t actually appear to be there. Logan is being threatened with death by his convoy as well, suggesting that whatever Polar Bear left behind is a pretty big deal at this stage of the walker apocalypse.
Regardless, Daniel shows up in the nick of time, presenting another Deus Ex Machina for the heroes, albeit one that at least makes a bit more sense in this case. Daniel also happens to be loaded up with Christmas lights, which he, Sarah and Wendell set up to successfully guide the plane to a safe landing, after Grace simply boots off the bloodied end of Morgan’s staff, handily resolving that nagging issue. Well, why didn’t she just do that before then? Oh well, who cares. In any case, the plane prepares to land, but some walkers appear on Wendell’s side, with one of them unplugging the cord behind the light circuit! Wendell then crawls out of his wheelchair after shooting the walker, appearing to sacrifice himself so that the plane can land!… But then the plane lands without Wendell suffering so much as a scratch. Again, what was the point of this dramatic sequence then?! Why bother having Wendell crawl out of his wheelchair and make a big spectacle, if the lights being temporarily turned off didn’t amount to anything anyway?!
Nonetheless, the happy and emotional reunion between Fear the Walking Dead’s growing number of protagonists at least feels satisfying, even if it’s soon after interrupted by Logan, who comes with a proposal; Help him find a huge stash of un-expired gasoline left by Polar Bear, which will thus allow Morgan’s people to reach those in need. This nicely sets up the back half of Season Five, where Logan is bound to properly come into his own as a major antagonist for the season. At this point though, it really seemed like the show had hit a wall with the whole plane crash struggle, since this midseason finale had to contrive all sorts of ridiculous obstacles to keep viewer interest, none of which amounted to anything for any of the characters anyway. “Is Anybody Out There?” is thus ultimately a very disappointing halfway point for Season Five of Fear the Walking Dead, primarily because it wimps out of any chance to seriously shake up the show’s character dynamic. There are no deaths, no separations, and no permanent damage of any kind. Even Alicia’s potential radiation poisoning just seems like it’s being shrugged off at this point, despite the fact that Alicia could be a huge danger to all of the other survivors now! At least Fear the Walking Dead can now change story gears, and hopefully move on to a better series of obstacles from here, but this episode nonetheless serves as an awkward point to have the show go on its brief three-week hiatus, seeing that this midseason finale proves to be a thrilling, but ultimately toothless dud.
Fear the Walking Dead delivers a series of engaging, but ultimately pointless obstacles for Morgan's crew in, "Is Anybody Out There?", despite at least setting up some decent promise for Season Five's back half.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Plenty of thrills throughout the episode
Emotionally gratifying reunion and meeting between the characters
Logan's gasoline cache proposal
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
John and Dwight inexplicably making the plane takeoff with Sherry's car
Walker hazards may as well have not been there
Alicia somehow being allowed near everyone else by Grace