“Blackjack” gets the band back together as Fear the Walking Dead approaches its fourth season finale, but the ham-fisted storytelling is still barely tolerable.
The word of the day is contrivance. You know the one: “a device, especially in literary or artistic composition, which gives a sense of artificiality.” And if you were still struggling, here’s an example: in “Blackjack”, the latest episode of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, after a major, zombie-flinging storm has terrorised the state of Texas, almost all of the show’s major characters found themselves within a few miles of one another on the same lonely stretch of road.
It’s all about the boxes. “Take what you need, leave what you don’t.” I’ll tell you what I need – a better writer working on this show. Aren’t these people in a rush to find each other? Do they really have time to be depositing boxes of supplies with little notations and radio instructions? You might suggest that the ploy is worth it, considering how in “Blackjack” Luciana (Danay Garcia), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) all stumbled upon one. And I might suggest you’re an idiot.
Even if you can overlook the preposterous convenience, there still wasn’t much about “Blackjack” to enjoy. Luciana went hunting for Polar Bear’s beer while parroting Morgan’s dopey redemptive aphorisms. We all have things to make up for, guys, and I don’t even live in a zombie apocalypse. (Having said that, with the state of my new neighbours, it sometimes feels like I do.) I wish these people would cut themselves some slack, but then again, I wish a lot of things. I wish I didn’t have to watch Fear the Walking Dead every week, for a start.
Somewhat incredibly, all the best bits of “Blackjack” came courtesy of John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) and Strand (Colman Domingo), who found themselves stranded on an island with a crocodile between it and the shore. Their differences are what gave these sequences some personality. When you have such a large cast it’s always a good idea, if you’re going to contrive to separate them, that you at least pair them up in interesting compositions. John’s misty-eyed romantic idealism is a nice contrast to Strand’s self-serving cowardice. And they’re both more interesting than Moralising Morgan’s (Lennie James) tedious lectures.
That isn’t saying much. At this point, nothing about Fear the Walking Dead is particularly interesting, and even though “Blackjack” ended with something resembling a cliffhanger, it’s hard to care. Is it likely that the show would elect to kill off, say, Al (Maggie Grace), when it has only just introduced three expendable, unlikeable, glorified extras? I suspect not. I won’t mourn Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), Sarah (Mo Collins), and Jim (Aaron Stanford) if they snuff it, but I’ll continue to mourn Fear the Walking Dead and the once-great show it used to be. How ironic that in a world where the dead rise from the grave, the only things that seem incapable of coming back to life are the shows themselves.