NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Fear the Walking Dead” are present in this review
Fear the Walking Dead has officially gone off the deep end. Perhaps that’s what the show needed, in fairness. After all, last week’s season premiere presented a show that finally abandoned any pretense of a more grounded tone, and instead went all in on the same comic book-style flavour that’s driven the past several seasons of the flagship Walking Dead series. That direction continued this week as well, with, “Welcome to the Club” shifting focus to another pod of Morgan’s captured survivors, specifically Alicia and Strand. Naturally, it’s not long before these two become a handful in Virginia’s community, leading to them being forced to undertake a dangerous job that’s claimed the lives of everyone else to attempt it thus far.
Even better is that Morgan actor, Lennie James directs this episode, and James definitely doesn’t seem to be shy about pumping more shots in the arm into Fear the Walking Dead’s newest season. This episode certainly begins on a memorable note, as we see that Virginia’s mysterious job involves sending prisoners to eradicate a slew of walkers, which are somehow all packed into a warehouse, and all covered in molasses. How? Why? Who even cares anymore? Sure, both the comic book and TV universes of The Walking Dead don’t always offer a believable or sound explanation for how these weird walker varieties are created, or how they end up confined in certain places, ready for plot-convenient characters to be thrust into battle with them. Even by those standards though, this latest walker conflict is truly bizarre, sometimes in a good way, and sometimes in a way that’s just head-scratching.
The craziness only gets bigger from there too. As if Fear the Walking Dead’s showrunners are sore about recent criticisms surrounding the series, it seems like the Fear the Walking Dead is now actively going out of its way to be over-the-top and strange. Still, I suppose it’s fair to say that this spin-off is at least no longer boring, with a direction like that. Virginia even forces Alicia and Strand to clean the latrines as their community career, meaning that the two surviving OG leads of Fear the Walking Dead are literally tasked with shoveling shit all day. Again, why not? After Strand inevitably picks a fight with a ranger however, and finds himself and Alicia facing an involuntary audience with Virginia, they both get sent as the latest sacrifices for Virginia’s weird molasses walker warehouse. Yeah, it sounds weirder every time I have to type that.
There are still some big pluses in what’s otherwise a bit of a strange Fear the Walking Dead episode though. Chief among these is the introduction to Virginia’s sister, Dakota, who doesn’t seem at all content with the kind of community that Virginia’s Pioneers have put together. Since Dakota lives with Virginia, she quickly claims that she can be a valuable spy for Alicia and Strand, beginning with providing the knowledge that Virginia is after a certain weapon that’s hidden in the molasses warehouse. Ugh, still weird. Anyway, Strand proposes an alternate plan to take out the rangers and flee, but Dakota urges against this, explaining that several other groups have tried this plan, and they’ve all failed. This motivates Alicia to speak in favour of going along with Virginia’s mission, if for no other reason than to get whatever weapon Virginia seeks, before she can.
What follows next is a fairly tense, but undeniably weird walker battle. Somehow, walkers are intelligent enough to crawl under narrow gaps now, but not onto slightly elevated surfaces or cars? Huh? Moreover, a cowardly prisoner named Sanjay claims that a car horn can no longer divert walkers, because they’ll always favour fresh meat, and he’s then proven to be correct when Strand tries to use this strategy. Uh, what? In both the comic book and TV universes of The Walking Dead, clusters of walkers almost always respond to any loud noise, if not the entire herd, even when living people are near them. The walkers suddenly ignoring a car horn because the plot says so feels far too contrived, mainly so it can force this weird molasses walker battle, which ends up being moot anyway, because the walkers end up gated off until the sticky ones can be safely eliminated. That being said, Strand sacrificing Sanjay to buy enough time for Alicia and Charlie to mow down all of the walkers with machine guns (Charlie ends up on the same thankless prisoner job here, after attempting to flee Virginia’s forces off-screen), is perfectly brutal, and represents a dark, but worthy regression for Strand’s character.
Better still is that Virginia surprisingly rewards Strand for completing the walker job, despite the fact that nothing seems to be inside the warehouse that she was trying to get into. In what’s admittedly a bit of a hokey turn, Virginia then declares that she wasn’t after anything in the warehouse, but instead needed to groom a leader with which to build an army, to some unknown end, and that worthy leader has proven to be Strand. Considering some of the hints in last week’s season premiere, I have to wonder if Virginia’s community might be at war with another community, which may be something we’ll see unfold later this season. Either way, because Strand now needs to preserve his darker side, he uses his new authority to send Alicia away to a different arm of the Pioneers, so she can’t remind Strand of who he’s supposed to be. Again, this is a little hokey, but hey, maybe it will lead to a better story turn later. In any case, at least Strand and Alicia both don’t have to shovel shit anymore, right?
Finally, amidst all of this, it’s also revealed that Daniel apparently lost his memory, after sustaining a hit on the head over protests regarding the displacement of his cat, Skidmark. This could be interesting, and the mystery nicely thickens in the final seconds of this episode to boot, when Daniel reunites with Morgan after sending his chaperone away, and appears to recognize Morgan just fine. Is Daniel’s ‘amnesia’ part of an elaborate plot to bring down Virginia? Maybe. Either way, as much as Fear the Walking Dead makes even less sense this week, at least I can safely say it’s doing a much better job of engaging the viewer so far this season. Still, the writing is getting a bit too contrived and weird at this point, even if the action and twists are at least decently entertaining. I also really like the addition of Dakota, who should give a fighting chance to Morgan’s survivors, assuming she isn’t also a mole for her sister. Even with the script hiccups, there seems to be more than enough intrigue to keep me invested in what’s going on during Fear the Walking Dead’s sixth season, even if it’s also rapidly becoming a brain-off series that you really shouldn’t ask many questions about.
- Strand returning to his darker, self-serving roots
- Dakota is a superb new addition to the show
- Daniel's potential treachery with Morgan
- Molasses walkers? Seriously?
- Some hokey writing with Virginia and Strand
- The storytelling in general is starting to go off the deep end