After a week off, Fear the Walking Dead returns to an unwelcome level of peak stupidity in “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now”, a sloppy and nonsensical episode that sets up a mid-season finale it’s difficult to care about in the slightest.
It has been two weeks since we last checked in with Fear the Walking Dead, and in that time I’d sort of purged it from my memory. It’s a bit like how the human body doesn’t remember pain, presumably to preserve one’s sanity. In watching “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now”, I could tell why I’d forgotten about this show. It’s bullshit.
It pains me to say that, but here we are. Now indistinguishable from its much-maligned big brother, Fear the Walking Dead is a show of pervading, overwhelming stupidity. It’s impossible to enjoy the few scant things it continues to do well because the idiocy has seeped into the creative fabric of the whole enterprise. It’s a dumb show about dumb people doing dumb things.
In “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now”, one of the dumb things is Nick and Alicia, in the “Before” timeline, jeopardizing their safety and that of their entire community to go on a fool’s errand at the behest of Charlie, of all people. The perennially untrustworthy Vulture spy needs help rescuing the mortally-wounded Mel, who you might recall has bullied and threatened the people of the Stadium for the entire season and has been banking on their demise this whole time.
If we’re supposed to buy into the idea of the Clarks being unwilling to stoop to the Vultures’ moral level – and blimey, “The Wrong Side of Where You Are” lays that idea on thicker than a McDonald’s milkshake – then we should probably ignore everything that happens in the “Now” timeline, which has Alicia, Strand and Luciana behaving like psychopaths. Mel makes it to the present-day, where he’s mortally wounded again, this time by the heroes, and despatched unceremoniously by Alicia, halfway through his “Before” storyline. It’s nonsensical.
This non-linear storytelling format might have worked for a couple of episodes, but it’s no way to structure the entire half-season. The characterisations have U-turned so severely in the intervening time that our old heroes are virtually unrecognisable; the before and after versions clash with and undermine each other. And it saps all the tension, particularly from the flashbacks. We don’t care what Nick was doing back then because we know he’s dead now. And we don’t worry that Alicia might die when a zombie horde is closing in on her and her brother. We know she survives.
The only compelling dramatic question that Fear the Walking Dead even has at this point is whether or not John Dorie survives, which is exactly the same dramatic question it was relying on two weeks ago when the show took a week off. Trust Scott Gimple to tease out plot reveals over such a long period of time that you stop caring about the outcome anyway. And it’s hardly a consolation for those of us who have been here since the beginning, and continue to see what was once a great zombie show hideously necrotise before our eyes. The mid-season finale is next week. After “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now”, I’m looking forward to another break.