“Channel 4” attempts to use a stylistic change to liven things up, but ultimately it does nothing to suggest that Fear the Walking Dead isn’t as rotten as its zombie population.
This recap of Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 9, “Channel 4”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
After an all-too-brief hiatus, Fear the Walking Dead is back and as embarrassingly bad as ever in “Channel 4”. The Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 midseason premiere has adopted a silly and hopefully temporary documentary format, presumably in a misguided attempt to rejuvenate the show’s increasingly necrotic fifth season. Unsurprisingly, it has the opposite effect. This is a show rapidly running out of ideas, and the few it does have aren’t worth having.
“Channel 4” opens with the entire Scooby gang giving bizarrely oversaturated accounts of how wonderful their altruistic plane-crashing troupe is. The backslapping is nauseating, and of course ridiculous; has nobody involved in this show read any of these recaps? Or anyone else’s recaps? Or fan reactions on social media? Far from being a necessary counter to the post-apocalyptic blight, they’re a convoy of idiocy only making matters worse.
Perhaps the group’s insistence of their own cleverness is intended as self-parody, though the fact it’s difficult to tell makes the point moot. “Channel 4” also indulges in straight-to-camera fourth-wall-breaking reaction shots, like The Office, and they sometimes occur in the episode’s scant instances of drama, thus undermining whatever pitiful attempts at suspense-building the Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 midseason premiere bothers to indulge in.
The poor soul in need of rescue in “Channel 4” is Tess, a woman with an asthmatic son and a house surrounded by landmines. Retrieving her kid’s inhaler forms a gratingly overlong and thrill-less middle portion in which the highlight is Morgan standing on a mine while Strand grimaces back at the camera. The faux-doc format saps this sequence of any surprise. Better — slightly — is an ending which reveals another character watching the footage before being accosted by Logan’s outlaw gang, if only because it suggests the abandonment of this ridiculous idea.
The Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 midseason premiere is also fraught with the usual, unbearably tedious meditations on purpose and atonement, mostly espoused by Morgan and Alicia, the latter of whom has experienced perhaps the sharpest decline in recent TV history from no-nonsense ***-kicking Queen of Hotness to a whiny mouthpiece for a frustrated writer’s shallow moralism. In its aggressively parodical but oddly self-congratulatory way, “Channel 4” might have slyly accomplished a major feat in the show’s history by being one of its most insufferable installments.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.