‘Fear The Walking Dead’: Which Way Is Up? (RECAP)

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Spoiler Alert
Ryan Green/AMC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 4, “The Key.”]

Whether you liked Fear’s new direction or wished the Clarks had gotten to continue their original journey, it’s hard not to fall in love with John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt). The guy’s got a heart of gold and pockets full of Werther’s Originals. He only wants to use his sharpshootin’ powers for good, he loves his wife, and, like his police officer father, he just wants to help everybody “know which way is up.”

But in a town like Lawton, “up” is by no means an easy direction to follow. When one of the rangers winds up dead, Ranger Dorie is on the case. The search for a potential killer leads him to defy Ginny (Colbie Minifie), fight with Strand (Colman Domingo) and question himself and his morals.

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A Murder Most Foul?

The essence of the episode is something of a John Dorie-centric murder mystery. John finds Cameron, a fellow ranger, tangled in the wire fence behind his house with the dead munching away at him. Ginny (Colbie Minifie) insists he was drunk and wound up dead on his own, but John’s suspicious. As it turns out, he has a right to be; at the “crime scene,” he finds a woman’s earring.

This leads him to Janis (Holly Curran), who was in a relationship with Cameron. She’d been sending out letters for John to his beloved June (Jenna Elfman), and she’s adamant that she didn’t have anything to do with Cameron’s death. As the person who does all of Lawton’s laundry, he hopes she might recognize the earring, but she doesn’t. John believes she’s innocent, but the gal doesn’t do herself any favors by trying to run away during Cameron’s funeral. Ginny arrests her and throws her in jail, and that appears to be that.

False Confessions

But it’s not, because John’s going to keep digging (quite literally). Ginny clearly doesn’t want him seeing to it further, but he’s encouraged by Dakota (Zoe Coletti)’s hint that her sister is “protecting someone.” That night, he goes out to the guy’s grave and digs up his body, and, after a scuffle with a few walkers, he examines the late ranger. Turns out, there’s a slit running across his neck: his throat was cut! There’s a shard in his hand, which John believes is part of the murder weapon.

That’s where Strand (Colman Domingo) gets involved. John gets Strand to let him into the armory, where he searches for a knife that’s missing part of its handle. He finds knife number 38 is gone, and so is the page of the weapons check-out log that would’ve said who last had it. Determined to set things right, he heads back to Janis, but they’re interrupted by Strand and Ginny, who are there to “take her confession.” Shockingly, Janis admits to the crime in full, and Ginny says an example will need to be made… meaning, Janis is going to be tied to a tree for the dead to consume.

John knows she didn’t do it, but to Janis, it doesn’t matter. Everyone she loves is dead, and Ginny has had it out for her from the beginning. Innocence, she says, won’t be enough to save her. “It’s okay, John. Let me go,” she tells him. But John, being John, will do no such thing. During their conversation, Janis told John about a way he could escape; he could take the cans of gas from Cameron’s home, get on a motorbike, find June and head for the hills. John intends to follow most of the steps of that plan, but he’s not going to take June—he’s going to save Janis.

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I’m Sorry This Happened to You

As he broods before putting his plan into action, rabbi Jacob Kessner (Peter Jacobson) comes to see him, and the lawman tells a story about how his father planted evidence in a murder case where he was certain of a man’s guilt and his danger to society, but he couldn’t prove it using entirely honorable means. That determination to do the right thing, even if it cost him everything—his marriage to John’s mother, his good standing on the police force—has stuck with John, but he’s not under any illusions that he’ll be able to see June again once he starts running from Ginny. He asks the rabbi to give her a letter, then he goes off to get Janis… and she’s not there.

Surprise! Her execution was moved up. To that night. John finds what’s left of her outside the walls; she’s been mostly consumed by the dead, chopped in half a la “Bicycle Girl” from the main show. John has his own Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) moment in which he puts Janis down, and he buries her.

John’s Reward

He then makes a beeline for Strand, with whom he gets in a pretty nasty fight. He blames Strand for Janis’ death, and while Strand doesn’t deny the role he played, he maintains he did what he did to save John. “Janis was always going to take the fall,” he says, “I kept you from going down with her.” Strand’s re-framing this as an act of mercy for one friend, while John can’t get over the death of an innocent woman.

Or can he? As the episode ends, he’s clearly tortured as he rips out a rotted tooth that’d been troubling him the whole episode with a pair of pliers. There’s a knock at his door, and—gasp—it’s June! Ginny did tell him that bringing Janis to justice would “be rewarded,” and it appears a reunion with the woman he loves was that reward. They embrace, and John, who’s still not quite okay, invites her inside.

The Key

On the Morgan (Lennie James) front, things have gotten a little more interesting. He and his new bloodhound buddy went after Grace (Karen David), since Daniel (Ruben Blades) was able to sneak him an item of her clothing. This was all fine and good until they got into a car crash, and the guys in the other vehicle weren’t too friendly. They were trying to find the key Emile was supposed to give them, and they try to kill Morgan for it.

Morgan kills them both, then stares in curious horror at the key around his neck. “What the hell do you unlock?” he muses.

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Other Observations

  • Okay, I’m just going to say it—this is my favorite episode since the initial Season 4 crossover. To me it felt like a Season 5-era Walking Dead installment, what with the intrigue, deception and suspicion within the community. I also find myself liking Ginny more and more as a villain every episode; she’s no Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) or even Madison (Kim Dickens), but she’s not as corny as she seemed when she was introduced last season.
  • I had a feeling John was going to have a bad time when he couldn’t eat his Werther’s Originals, given how they seem to symbolize the “sweetness” of his character. Morgan Jones is dead, but… is John Dorie dead now, too?
  • Did anyone else get chills when John had his Rick Grimes moment with Janis’ walker? I half-expected him to say, “I’m sorry this happened to you.”
  • Another scene where I had chills: when John was talking to the rabbi about his father. I don’t recall if we knew his home life wasn’t the happiest—I wasn’t stunned, so maybe he might’ve told June at one point, or at least alluded to it?—but that moment felt powerful without being preachy.
  • I am a fan of Morgan’s new half-staff, half-axe weapon. I am also a fan of Morgan using that weapon, without hesitation, on fools who try to fight him. I am also a fan of him having a bloodhound, and not knowing how bloodhounds work; that was (in my opinion) genuinely funny.
  • I was probably the most scared during this episode when Morgan got into that accident. Not because I was scared for Morgan, but because I was terrified something had happened to the dog. This franchise ripped my heart out once with Shiva. I’d rather it not do that to me again.
  • I am a very, VERY big fan of what this show is doing with Strand. Maybe I shouldn’t be, since it seems he’s falling to the “bad” side and the chances of him dying a redemptive death for Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) or John keep going up. But this is the most in-character he’s been since he loaded a car with supplies outside the Dell Diamond “just in case.” Strand’s back to playing the game, and whether or not he’s winning, he’s always the most interesting when he’s up to something.
  • So, these keys probably have something to do with that submarine, which probably has something to do with nuclear weapons. I would be worried that we’re jumping the shark, but given the sharp increase in quality so far this season, I’m reserving judgment. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. Who’s to say that won’t continue?
  • Rating: 5/5. Others might disagree, but to me, this episode was post-crossover Fear at its absolute best.

Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC