“Skidmark”, a fitting title, proves that the show isn’t improving quickly, stuck as it is in a dull rut of silly contrivances and baffling decisions.
This Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 4 recap for the episode titled “Skidmark” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
When all else fails, introduce a cat. Cats are cute and they do funny stuff and people like them, which is useful because none of those things can be said about Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 4. Luckily the cat is called Skidmark, which applies to the whole endeavor at this point.
Last week’s episode showed some tantalizing signs of improvement, but “Skidmark” was a reminder that this show rarely keeps its promises. It’s hard to watch an episode like this, in which virtually nothing happened and everything that did happened for questionable reasons, and not feel as though the entire show is stuck spinning its wheels in a rut of contrivance and stupidity.
Case in point: Daniel. He’s an OG Fear the Walking Dead badass, presumed dead but reintroduced living within a couple of miles of where the main cast happened to crash land in a plane that they hijacked despite nobody knowing how to fly one. It’s a remarkably silly coincidence, but I could brush it aside if Daniel injected some much-needed tension and excitement into proceedings. But “Skidmark” proves him to be just as much of a moralistic soft touch as the rest of the cast, having presumably contracted whatever airborne contagion has turned everyone into a do-gooder Scooby gang.
At least last week Daniel turned Strand away when he tried to bargain for his plane. In Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 4, Strand, true to form, attempts to steal it, but Daniel saw that coming and sabotaged it in advance. Even left him a note. It’s all very polite and utterly devoid of anything even resembling tension, even when Charlie, who let’s not forget killed a major fan-favorite character last season, stowed away in the back seat of Daniel’s truck.
It’s completely typical of Fear the Walking Dead‘s new bizarrely sentimental and optimistic viewpoint that, after a five-minute conversation, Daniel apparently likes Charlie enough to hop on the noble self-sacrifice bandwagon and start leading a herd of walkers… somewhere. It’s kind of unclear. Practically, he’s leading them towards the plane’s giant propellors, so we can have an admittedly fun moment of gore as they all dopily stumble into the blades. But within the confines of the plot, I don’t think he was leading them anywhere in particular. He was just “doing the right thing”. Ugh.
I like to think I’m quite a nice guy, which is partly why I don’t want to see myself reflected in television shows. Being nice is boring. And attempting to be nice even when it is quite clearly not in your best interests isn’t just boring — it’s stupid. That stupidity is what Fear the Walking Dead burns for fuel these days. Every decision every character makes is explicitly designed to get them into bother so that another character can generously rescue them. That way, everyone can be friends! But what also happens is that these seasoned survivors all come across as blithering morons. Nobody who has survived this long in a zombie apocalypse should be behaving this way, because if they did they’d never have survived this long.
“Skidmark” is rife with this kind of thinking. Morgan and Alicia — I still kind of consider Morgan to be Patient Zero for this horribly annoying happy-clappy tone — spend most of “Skidmark” dealing with those feral Lord of the Flies kids who find themselves requiring help, and even though they were ominously presented as a threat just like week Morgan and Alicia decide to help them anyway. The slim justification for this — beyond it being the right thing to do, obviously — is that they’re uniting against a bigger, more nebulous threat — namely the enigmatic militaristic outfit that took Rick from the main show and most recently Al from this one, although at the end of “Skidmark” their helicopter just flies away, thus, one assumes, removing them from current goings-on for the foreseeable future.
It’s all so dumb. And it leaves the show in a weird predicament. After Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 4, I genuinely have no idea what the central conflict is. I don’t know why any of the characters are where they are or are doing what they’re doing. This is, in part, a casualty of the fact that there are virtually no smaller character moments to help the plot cohere. We’re running on blind moral idealism, we’re doing the right thing, so the writer’s room evidently didn’t bother to justify any of this in dialogue. There’s no sense of what anyone actually thinks and feels about these events, beyond what the script tells them to.
Pardon me for being dour about the whole thing. But when the most interesting thing about Daniel, a historically interesting and engaging character, is the name of his cat, then we have some problems. And perhaps the biggest problem of all is that Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t seem interested in addressing them — only introducing new, stupider ones.