A poignant and deftly-written episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “Laura” was perhaps the high point of the show’s current season, and one of the only believable romances in any apocalypse.
I found myself wondering how John Dorie’s television worked in “Laura”, this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, but I don’t suppose it matters. Details weren’t really the point of this episode, which was a good old-fashioned romance, and one which, somewhat incredibly, actually felt like two human beings meeting and falling in love. I know – I’m as surprised as you are.
John was living in an idyllic cabin by the river, with a kind of medieval moat between the building and the water, to catch shambling corpses in much the same way John snares fish and berries for sustenance. A lonely existence, no doubt, but not a bad one, all things considered. If you play Scrabble by yourself, you’re guaranteed to win. You’re also guaranteed to lose.
It’s no wonder, then, that when Laura washes up in the river, John takes a shine to her. We know Laura as Naomi – but she doesn’t offer John a name, so he gives her one. He tends to a nasty wound in her side and feeds her fish. Initially, she wants to leave, but for a while he convinces her to stay.
This is a writing task in itself, and I’m surprised that the scribes of “Laura” managed it without serious incident. Convincing a vulnerable, wounded woman to do anything, let alone stay in your lonely cabin during a zombie apocalypse, is quite a feat. But the sheer warmth and kindness of John’s character melts through her cynicism. We’ve been told over four seasons of this show and eight of its cousin who shall not be named that trusting people in this world is a bad idea. But we can trust John Dorie, like the fish. He might be the last decent man in the world.
And you know he’s decent, because in the end he doesn’t get what he wants. She stays longer than she planned to, watching movies on the couch with John, playing Scrabble with him, sharing bowls of fish soup. She stays long enough for him to tell her that he loves her, and that he’d rather he left and she stayed in the cabin, safe, if she had to be alone, which struck me as quite the romantic suggestion, all things considered. But she left. She took the boots he offered her and one of the polished revolvers that he explained in “Laura” he doesn’t like to fire. The Scrabble tiles on the table told John she loved him too.
“Laura” never really told us much about Laura, least of all why she felt she had to leave. She mentioned having lost a child, but that wasn’t explained either. But what it did tell us was really the only thing we needed to know. It told us that John Dorie is, somehow, for real. That’s who he is. He’s eccentric without any outlandish affectations; quirky without being defined entirely by quirks. After years of Eugene and Ezekiel, I never thought we’d see such a thing.
“Laura” ended in the present-day, with John presumably telling this story to Morgan. (Hark! They even contextualised the flashback.) Even in the wake of Laura’s apparent “death”, John still isn’t willing to succumb to the morality of the apocalypse. He pretends just for a moment that he is. But Morgan knows it’s a front, and tells him so. They’re kindred spirits, these two. Both are united by their losses. Both are burdened by how much they care.
The two men sling their packs over their shoulders and set off together. I wonder where they’re going.