“The End is the Beginning” is, somewhat incredibly, a perfectly solid episode of Fear the Walking Dead, and it gives this sixth season a new style and tone that I very much hope it maintains.
This recap of Fear the Walking Dead season 6, episode 1, “The End is the Beginning”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season by clicking these words.
I’ve written about The Walking Dead a lot recently, from the long-overdue tenth season finale to the premiere of new teen-focused spin-off World Beyond. I have long since given up trying to make sense of it. The flagship show has had one of the more bizarre lifecycles in network television history, and its OG spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, has suffered similar ups and downs. It started out as a family drama that was capable if a little asinine. In its third season, it became great, virtually out of nowhere, and then in its fourth and fifth seasons, it became terrible in a way that is difficult to describe for those who haven’t seen it and difficult to comprehend for those who have. Those two seasons felt, in many ways, like a conscious, determined effort to kill everything that was ever good about the show in the first place, and by the time “End of the Line”, the fifth season finale, came around, it had just about managed it.
It should come as a considerable surprise, then, that “The End is the Beginning” is… well, let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s good. Like, legitimately, refreshingly good in a way that the show hasn’t been in ages. It feels fresh and interesting. It’s no longer a preachy and ridiculous saga about a do-gooding Scooby gang, but a character-focused quasi-anthology that’s becoming more and more of an outright Western. Last season’s finale saw a shootout in Humbug’s Gulch, of all places, that left the series’ new protagonist, Morgan, dead. Or so it seemed.
Long-time fans will probably be a bit put-out that the Fear the Walking Dead season 6 premiere is a Morgan-centric episode after far too much Morgan was a major contributing factor in the show’s decline. And I must admit that catching up with Alicia and Strand might have been preferred. But with that having been said, “The End is the Beginning” felt like a mission statement in that regard, with a surviving Morgan undergoing a transformation throughout the episode that becomes explicit in his final scene, when he tells the still rather naff antagonist Virginia, “Morgan Jones is dead. You are dealing with somebody else now.”
It might be a bit silly out of context, but that line’s a great payoff to Morgan’s journey throughout the episode, which initially finds him alive but so close to death that the walkers don’t even pay him mind anymore; he has to actively antagonize them just to get them to attack him, and even then he’s almost too weak to fight them off. This is classic self-loathing “I must atone” Morgan, and I wasn’t pleased to see him. He was saved between seasons by a mysterious benefactor who left a bullet in his chest and a note in his pocket, and since then he has been kitting out a water tower as a little bachelor pad and pretty much waiting to die.
But Morgan couldn’t die, because he still felt he had something left to do. That something turns out to be meeting Isaac, a fellow traveler with a heavily pregnant missus who wants Morgan’s help in getting supplies to her. He had left the relative safety of their home behind a giant dam in order to gather supplies but had found his route back in blocked by walkers. Once he learns that Morgan can move through them, he senses an opportunity. Talking Morgan around with promises of a safe haven beyond the wall, room enough for him, his group, and his love interest, Grace, they venture there together, being pursued all the while by a hulking ax-wielding bounty hunter, Emile, and his dog, Rufus, employed by Virginia to finish the job she couldn’t.
This is as much of a Western as Fear the Walking Dead has ever been. Isaac’s hideout is a literal ghost town, buried beneath a lake and unveiled by the opening of the dam. But the presence of Emile lends it a menacing slasher vibe too, and it’s a good fit. It’s ridiculous, sure, but not in the dopey, accidental way the show was previously. This is an ostensibly serious drama given the outlandish tone of its comic book source material. From Morgan’s red eyes to Emile putting the chattering heads of his bounties in labeled boxes – a gimmick that has a pretty cool payoff – and being able to track his prey as if by magic, “The End is the Beginning” feels transplanted directly from the pages of a cool genre-bending graphic novel. Somehow, it just works.
It’ll be interesting to see how these capsule stories build into an overarching narrative. I’ll be curious, too, to see if this tone and style is maintained, but I sincerely hope it is. By abandoning all the preachy moralistic hogwash of the previous season and turning up the action, the silliness, and the fun, Fear the Walking Dead is finally a show that I’m excited to tune into again. I’m as shocked as you are.
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