'Fear The Walking Dead': Althea Gets a Deadly, Mysterious New Story (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 5, Episode 5 of Fear The Walking Dead, "The End of Everything."]
Fear The Walking Dead might be having trouble balancing its various, wide-ranging storylines right now, but this week it proved—as it did last year, with the sweet, moving "Laura"—that it knows how to do a bottle episode.
"The End of Everything" picks up where the season premiere left off. It devotes the majority of its screentime to two characters: Althea, and the CRM soldier who captured her. After some fighting the pair reach an understanding, if not a compromise. Althea wants the soldier's story, and the woman keeping her away from her friends wants the post-apocalyptic journalist to destroy the footage she shot of the walker and the maps he carried.
Equal parts illuminating, heartfelt and mysterious, "The End of Everything" gives viewers a glimpse into Al's past while hinting at where the series (and indeed, the entire franchise) might go in the future.
What Are You Protecting?
Al gets away from her captor during a rainstorm and manages to fight through the forest, but her efforts end with her surrounded by walkers. The CRM soldier finds her again, and saves her from the dead. Make no mistake, these two aren't friends—she shoves Al to the ground and demands to know what she did with the footage she shot of the dead soldier. Al won't give up her story so easily.
The next morning, she again breaks free of the constraints the woman places on her and finds herself in the middle of a barbed wire enclosure. "What are you protecting?" she says. That answer becomes clear as she finds a familiar helicopter with a three-ring logo... but it's out of fuel. She tries to use its radio to get in touch with Morgan or Alicia, but the soldier returns and removes her from the helicopter at gunpoint. The voice on the other end of the radio, from CRM, tells the soldier they're sending in a "reclamation team," which doesn't seem to make her too happy.
She and Al have a standoff in the woods, where both hold something the other wants just out of their reach—Al won't give the soldier the footage from her camera, and the soldier won't tell Al her story. At last, the latter relents, saying she needs to refuel the helicopter.
Her quest to refuel the helicopter takes them to a cliff's edge, where she tells Al to wait in the car. When she refuses to do so, the soldier gives Al her jacket, saying she can't afford for her to get bit. At first Al seems to think that's silly, but the jacket saves her life when an avalanche topples the car... and lands her arm in a walker's teeth as she tries to retrieve her camera from the wreckage.
The soldier, thinking Al's clip of her undead comrade is in her bag, yanks out a tape called "The Bog #7." Enraged, she assumes Al had what she was looking for the whole time, but the journalist tells her to watch the footage. She's telling the truth: it isn't from the previous night. It's from when the outbreak started.
The soldier asks her why that tape was important enough for her to risk her life. "I could've said goodbye to my brother," Al says. "I got the story instead. Now he's gone, and the story's all that's left." Visibly upset, Al says that if they're getting transactional, there's something she wants to know. "Why'd you kill your partner?" she asks the soldier. That night, as they camp at the base of the cliff with supplies they scavenged, the woman explains. Apparently she was just doing her job, and—like Al—her job matters more to her than people's lives.
Al and the soldier climb the cliff, but things go sideways when the soldier falters, leaving Al to find a way to get them both attached to a new clip. She's able to do that by killing a walker still strapped into a different one and making a dangerous jump to secure them to it. Once she's safe, she looks down at the soldier with a smile. "You fall, I fall," she reminds her.
On the way, the soldier explains more about why she killed her partner, Beckett. She says that they were going to get supplies for purifying water, but when Beckett saw what the radiation in the area did to the dead, he "cracked." In order to maintain operational security, she had to kill him. Al puts two and two together and realizes that the soldier will likely have to do the same to her after she gives her the answers she's searching for.
Make Sure He Lives
They reach the top of the cliff where the supplies rest, and Al snags the soldier's weapon (for her own "operational security," as she tells her). She does eventually get her interview, in a manner of speaking. That night, the soldier discloses some of the details of her operation ("it's bigger than all of us, it's the future," etc.) and insists that Al get rid of the tape not for her, but because as long as it exists, their operation is threatened. "You want your brother's death to mean something? You want stories to matter?" the soldier asks. "You have to make sure there's people around to hear them one day." With that, Al agrees to let her destroy the footage.
The journalist guides the soldier to the tape the next day, which she'd hidden on a dead walker. Her companion sets it on fire, destroying it and its threat to operational security, but she has a much harder time doing the same to Al. With a gun to her head, Al asks the woman to take "The Bog #7" tape. "Make sure this story matters," Al says, referring to her brother. "Make sure he lives."
The End of Everything
At that point, the soldier answers her with something surprising: "I want you to live." Much like Al chooses the greater good over a story, the soldier chooses Al over her mission. She tells Al not to try to find her, and not to chase this story. "My name is Isabelle," she says. "And I got to see the prettiest thing I've seen since the end of everything." They share a passionate kiss, then go their separate ways. Isabelle refuels the helicopter and leaves. The ominous reclamation team is called off.
After watching Isabelle's helicopter fly away, Al radios Morgan. He and Alicia find her and embrace her, then they ask her what happened. Remembering Isabelle's words, Althea lies—she says she got overrun by the dead and had been trying to escape them. That's a good enough explanation for the team, and they, along with the band of children they found in the previous episode, head off into the woods to face their next obstacle.
- I was always fond of Al, but after this episode I could see her becoming a fan-favorite. Maggie Grace portrays her with just the right balance of quirky humor, badassery and endearing charm, proving that when the writers give Althea something to do besides saying, "What's your story?" and holding a camera, she's a compelling protagonist.
- This was the best episode so far this season in my opinion. It shares similarities with last season's "Laura," but I'm more invested in Althea and Isabelle than I ever was in John and June (probably because I find them somewhat bland now, and I grew annoyed by June's name changes and inconsistent characterization). "The End of Everything" succeeded in answering just enough about CRM to peak fans' interest ("You don't want to go there" has me worried about Rick Grimes) without giving everything away. The majority of the dialogue wasn't "[insert character name here], do you copy?", and there was relatively little plot nonsense and no "We need to help!" theme—just Al coming to a realization about herself and why she is the way she is. In a season that has been confusing and bewildering at times, this was a pleasant surprise.
- I don't necessarily expect the show to address this going forward, but Al is in a very unique position. She has the story of a lifetime and maybe even a route to salvation for her and her friends, but Isabelle has sworn her to secrecy. Can—and should—she uphold that vow? Would she destroy what she started to build with Isabelle to save her friends, if faced with that choice? I hope she ends up in the Rick movies and/or tracks down CRM to figure out their story, if only for that conflict to continue. That, in my opinion, is a far more interesting struggle than "We're trying to help people, but no one wants our help! :("
Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC