We might have said our (temporary) goodbyes to The Walking Dead, but last night, April 15, 2018, its sister show, Fear the Walking Dead, returned to our screens for its fourth season. The premiere episode, What’s Your Story?, featured Lennie James’s Morgan as he crossed the spin-off transom, and also introduced new characters played by Maggie Grace and Garret Dillahunt.
I haven’t mentioned this before, but I love Fear the Walking Dead. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have its problems. It took a while to find its feet and it has often been a victim of contrivance; conspiring ways to pull its relatively small cast apart and then back together again just in time for midseason breaks. But for the most part it’s a smart and well-written show with excellent characters and sensible plotting that runs at a decent clip and does enough – in every area – to distinguish itself from the misadventures of Rick the Prick and his Merry Men. Now, with What’s Your Story?, it’s back. Or is it?
Blimey, what a clichéd transition that was. But it’s not inaccurate. If it weren’t for the smaller details and the basic level of competency, and the overdue appearance of the show’s regular cast by episode’s end, you could be forgiven for thinking that What’s Your Story? was an above-average episode of the main show. Same washed-out aesthetic, same disjointed narrative structure, same flashbacks, and same Morgan. Luckily, after a rocky opening, it managed to peel away those old associations and found a different, more comfortingly distinct tone towards the end – like Morgan himself accepting a pair of fresh socks from a new friend.
That opening, though. Yikes. Having seemingly run all the way from Hilltop to Texas like Forrest Gump, Morgan, still with wavering mental health, ran into a new character by the name of John Dorie (“like the fish.”) A gunslinger with a six-shooter on his hip and a cowboy hat on his head, the bloke’s looking for his lady love, Laura, but in the meantime would enjoy some company. Played by Dillahunt, John is immediately interesting and likeable, which is why it’s a shame that we leave him for a while so that we can indulge in absolute bullshit.
Flashbacks! And here I was thinking that Fear the Walking Dead was above such things. Not only flashbacks, but flashbacks with ghosts. Morgan, hiding out in Jadis’s old digs, was visited by the spectres of Jesus, Carol and Rick, and when the latter said, “you can hide but you can’t run,” which makes no sense at all, I was honestly almost sick in my lap.
Thankfully What’s Your Story? didn’t waste too much time here. Set upon by some ruffians, Morgan and John (getting quite pally now) are rescued from disaster by Althea (Grace), who drives a SWAT van with two built-in machine guns that she controls with a lever from the driver’s seat. Which is utterly bonkers, but I honestly don’t care. A show that deals with such serious themes as this one deserves an extravagance like that, and hopefully it’ll prevent Maggie Grace from irritating me as much as she has in the Taken series and most recently in The Hurricane Heist.
Althea’s a journalist, which isn’t a bad profession, as far as character traits go. She rescues John and Morgan in exchange for “their stories”, which gives Morgan an excuse to say, “I lose my friends, and then I lose myself” as slim justification for why he legged it across state lines. I’m probably going to say that the next time someone asks me to attend a mad night out.
If there’s a single, major difference between The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, its action, and when that gang of wrong-‘uns caught up with Morgan, John and Al, What’s Your Story? reminded me how much better the latter actually does it. Behold, viewers, people who fire their guns and hit the things they’re aiming at. Marvel, if you will, at guns being reloaded, and at regular old zombies actually being a threat. Watch our heroes use cover and tactics. How refreshing. There was a moment I especially liked when Morgan got shot in the leg while approaching a gunman perched on a rooftop – it was like confirmation that he’d arrived in a different show. In Fear the Walking Dead, not everyone shoots like handicapped storm troopers. I’m sure he’ll get used to it.
And the ending! Morgan, John and Al find themselves lured into yet another ambush; this time, though, they’re caught short by my love Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), along with Strand (Colman Domingo), Luciana (Danay Garcia) and Nick (Frank Dillane). Huh. There’s a twist for you. Not accosted by highwaymen, or faux-military leaders in eye patches, or whistling maniacs with sporting goods, but by the heroes of the very show we tuned in to watch. Bravo, What’s Your Story?, for doing what a premiere episode should: Making us eager to see what happens next.
We’ll find out next week. I’ll see you then.