After an inconsistent string of episodes, Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 reveals itself to be a significant step down from previous offerings in “Just In Case”, a nonsensical episode that felt worryingly reminiscent of the sister show’s much-maligned sibling.
After weeks of giving Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 the benefit of the doubt, and even going so far as to give last week’s romantic flashback a positive review, much to the annoyance of the show’s dedicated fanbase I might add, I think I’m now past being kind. There just isn’t much point. If “Just In Case” proved anything it was that the creative team – most of them second-hand transplants ushered in by Scott Gimple, like some deranged, evil rat king – are making a conscious effort to remould AMC’s sister show in the image of its older, more maligned sibling. And I’m not down with it. That episode title has become weirdly meta. I was holding off on panning Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 just in case; just in case it had a few tricks up its sleeve, just in case it knew what it was doing, just in case all this bullshit was a ruse. Seems like the only thing Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 has up its sleeve is more of that very same bullshit, and it’s about time we addressed it.
I didn’t believe Alicia when, two weeks ago, she said John Dorie’s lover-girl Naomi was dead. And I was right about that, as proved by this week’s “shocking” ending, when she was revealed as a Vulture conspirator, no less. Alicia tried to shoot her on principle, missed by a country mile, and shot good old John Dorie instead. I know – “shocking.”
This, I suspect, is part of the show’s on-going efforts to characterise the original cast as immoral, trigger-happy idiots, as evidenced by continuing to use Morgan as a kind of prophetic pacifistic mouthpiece whose proclamations about things not turning out as expected all weirdly come true almost instantly. Violence begets violence, and all that. It worked in the context of The Walking Dead, because that show spent several seasons allowing its ostensible heroes to turn into thoughtless, murderous maniacs without properly addressing the transition. But it’s nonsense here because Alicia, Strand, Nick, Luciana and Madison – whose fate is still unknown, by the way – were never really like that. They were, as much as one can be such a thing in a zombie apocalypse, the good guys.
Except now they’re not. Morgan and John Dorie and Althea – new characters all – are the good guys. And to extoll their virtues, the original cast is being made to suffer. They’ve been sidelined in their own show, and rewritten as dolts rather than the three-dimensional human beings they were in the show’s excellent third season. So divorced does Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 seem from that creative high point, in fact, that we still have had nary a moment of explanation for what happened in its immediate aftermath. Has anyone even mentioned Daniel? Didn’t he survive the finale at the dam?
I like John Dorie, and I hope he isn’t dead. ****, I even like Althea, and I spit on Maggie Grace. It’s all well and good introducing new characters, but not when the fates of the old ones are just being handled with thoughtless exposition. Never mind Daniel. How did they all find one another after being swept apart by the exploding dam? How did they get to the Diamond? How did Madison manage to simply track down Luciana? These aren’t just minor queries; they’re questions that are integral to the show continuing to make any kind of sense. In the absence of those answers, we’re forced to rely on dull explication and easy, lazy drama, like the perpetual threat of Strand having some kind of self-serving contingency plan that he may or may not reveal to Madison when they contemplatively swill liquor in the middle of the day. Haven’t we done this before?
When Nick died, I assumed that because it was at the behest of Frank Dillane the show wouldn’t suffer too much for it. It worked to reinforce Morgan’s moral point about how he who sows the wind must reap the whirlwind, and it was a loss over which the old cast could bond with the new. In “Just in Case”, Morgan not only warned the Vultures of the impending ambush, but Alicia, Strand and Luciana – not privy to that information, by the way – basically ambushed Morgan and John, waving guns at them and demanding they get on the ground or put their hands up or whatever. Aren’t these guys friends now? Or do they just act in whichever way a given scene requires them to?
Thanks to the tip-off, the Vultures roll deep to the meeting spot, outnumbering our heroes at least 5-to-1, no matter how comically large Alicia’s gun looked. Which makes it all the more ridiculous that she span around and opened fire on Naomi, even if you can sort of understand the impulse. Surely, now, the Vultures will gun them all down from behind, thus bringing this tortuous subplot to the decidedly unsatisfying conclusion it deserves.
Who am I kidding? I’ll see you next week.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.