“Humbug’s Gulch” was the strongest episode of the current season, with style and surprises, and might represent something of a return to form for Fear the Walking Dead.
This Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 3 recap for the episode titled “Humbug’s Gulch” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Fittingly for a show about things that die and then reanimate, both The Walking Dead and its spin-off have a tendency to seem completely past it before totally reinvigorating themselves. Usually, this comes with a major change in creative direction; The Walking Dead‘s ninth season, its best in ages, was a vast improvement from the very beginning. But sometimes it can happen out of nowhere. Such was the case with “Humbug’s Gulch”, a perfectly imperfect episode that nonetheless kind of retroactively justified some of the changes Fear the Walking Dead has made in this still-young fifth go-around. On the one hand, it confirmed that the show has no intention of returning to the quality of its stellar third season, but on the other, it also confirmed that, for better or worse, it’s finding a new identity of its own.
Feeling almost like a themed capsule episode, “Humbug’s Gulch” was, if we’re being frank, an excuse to show off the characters of John Dorie (Garrett Dillahunt) and June (Jenna Elfman) as a gunslinging Bonnie and Clyde coupling. And the best way to do that is to erect an entirely Western-themed episode around them just because. It’s silly — as were a couple of other things in the episode, which we’ll get to — but at this point, that’s fine. Fear the Walking Dead is clearly unconcerned with plausibility these days. Here’s a world in which everyone can be found within a couple of miles of each other, the only form of communication is walkie talkies, and if we want to arbitrarily have our cowboy character strut through saloon doors, then you better believe we will.
The big news of “Humbug’s Gulch” was the surprise appearance of Dwight (Austin Amelio), who showed up dressed for the occasion, on the hunt for his missing wife. It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point that he was feeling rather hopeless and entertaining the possibility of suicide since that’s basically a rite of passage for being part of the cast at this point. It also shouldn’t be a shock that when he finally encountered Morgan (Lennie James) and tried to explain all that pesky Saviour business, Morgan just disinterestedly waved it off. You’re here now, he seemed to say. Might as well pretend none of that stuff ever happened!
Don’t get the wrong impression — I’m fine with this. I don’t care what overall direction Fear the Walking Dead takes, including this cartoony Get Along Gang one, just so long as it’s committed to it. And “Humbug’s Gulch” was pretty solid across the board. It had some strong action, some decent character drama, and a sense of style. And, yes, a fair helping of ridiculousness; splitting a rifle bullet with a hatchet is a bit much for even me to take, but I’d rather the characters behave too competently rather than too stupidly if this is what we’re doing now.
The other subplot of “Humbug’s Gulch” was Alicia (Alycia-Debnam Carey) and Luciana’s (Danay Garcia) continuing search for Al (Maggie Grace) and the kids, with the big revelation being that the kids themselves are responsible for the grisly roadblocks. There’s still a lot going on with the season overall, but this pared-down episode showed that there’s no need to deal with it all at once. It’ll hardly go down in history as an all-time great episode, but “Humbug’s Gulch” was the best of the current season, and one hopes proof that the show’s new direction leads to a destination worth arriving at. Time will tell.