“Channel 5” embarrassed itself with a tedious gimmick and trademark stupidity in another failure of an episode.
This recap of Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 15, “Channel 5”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
It took “Channel 5”, the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead, about half a second to annoy me. The penultimate episode of this woeful fifth season opens with the show’s favorite home-video gimmick, but this time with a change of perspective. The grainy footage is of a dopey propaganda video put together to extol the virtues of Virginia (Colby Minifie) and her expansionist settlers, one assumes because the showrunners think its a clever inversion of the usual Handycam hijinks. Needless to say, it isn’t.
That the Scooby gang create their own counter video designed to expose “the truth” of what really happened, and that “Channel 5” runs with it for virtually the entire episode, is equally egregious. Does anybody really like this worn-out mockumentary format, with its straight-to-camera mugging and rapid-fire switching between the testimonies of characters we’ve either just met or don’t care about? Surely not.
At this point, it’s even getting difficult to follow the basic continuity of the episodes. Last week, the cast was separated, and a last-minute cliffhanger suggested that Grace (Karen David) was on death’s door. This week, everyone’s together and Grace seems quite alright until for plot purposes she isn’t again. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is still painting trees, Wes (Colby Hollman) is still gawping at her with either artistic respect or sheer lust or some combination of the two, and Daniel (Rubén Blades) is teaching Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) to play guitar, since last week he decided pretty much out of nowhere that she was his entire reason for being in this tired post-apocalypse.
The convoy’s new plan in “Channel 5” is to make a home at Humbug’s Gulch, an authentic Wild West attraction built to run without any modern conveniences like electricity and gasoline. This is suggested by John (Garrett Dillahunt), so I suppose he deserves most of the blame, but everybody else is complicit for allowing him to believe it’s a good idea. How deep into the end of the world are we, at this point? Are we seriously expected to believe that nobody thought of this before now and that the place will just be an idyllic Luddite utopia waiting to be claimed? The writers’ lack of respect for their audience at this point is almost as insulting as the idea that we’re going to feel tense when a major character starts wrestling on the floor with a lone walker.
On their way to Humbug’s Gulch, the gang is accosted by Virginia and some goons, who have been keeping an eye on them for the purposes of being villains, but it’s just another incredibly long-winded recruitment drive for the settlers. Nobody in the convoy is bold enough to make a heel turn, though I suppose the vast majority of them are extras with no discernible personalities anyway, so it wouldn’t have made much difference if they did. Annoyed at the rejection, Virginia gets her henchman to pump bullets into the air to entice a nearby herd of walkers, leading to an extended action sequence as the convoy attempts to traverse a rickety bridge before it collapses.
Credit where it’s due: The handheld camera actually gave this portion of “Channel 5” a halfway decent aesthetic and sense of style. At some point, Tom (Joe Massingill), the random bloke we met last week, dies. At an earlier point he was reunited with his sister, Janice, who sticks around afterward so that functionally we’ve just swapped one breathtaking nonentity for another. A bit later, John asks Rabbi Jacob Kessner (Peter Jacobson) if he’ll marry him and June (Jenna Elfman), and Morgan (Lennie James) says this is just what everyone needs. Trust me, it most certainly is not.
In a truly shocking development, the gang arrives at Humbug’s Gulch to find it completely overrun. For some reason, the journey there completely sapped all their supplies and every ounce of their principles, so the decision is made that there is absolutely no other alternative than to radio Virginia and beg for her help. Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, Episode 15 ends with the gang profoundly embarrassing themselves — nothing new there, then.