OK, 'Fear The Walking Dead' Is Getting Good Again
Since the Morgan (Lennie James) crossover in Fear The Walking Dead’s fourth season, a gap between what viewers wanted and what was playing out on screen became increasingly apparent. Longtime fans had hoped Morgan wouldn’t interfere too badly with the Clarks’ story (little did they know, Season 4A would conclude with two-thirds of the family dead), and that the dark, morally gray tone of the show would survive.
Neither of those hopes were fulfilled, and Fear changed from a story about the apocalypse awakening a family’s inner demons and turning them against each other to a program about helping people. Always, always helping people, to the point of annoyance.
At least that was what it was about until Season 6. Surprisingly, the TWD-verse’s original spinoff seems to have taken fans’ concerns to heart, and the first handful of episodes this year have been immensely watchable. Here’s why you might consider returning to the show, if you jumped ship sometime after Morgan showed up.
Characters Are Acting Like Themselves Again
One of the biggest bummers of the past few seasons? The way longtime characters suddenly developed new personalities, quickly and with feeble, if any, explanation for that change. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) was suddenly terrified of killing walkers and wanted to spend her time painting trees. Strand (Colman Domingo) stopped being the morally gray former conman we all knew and loved. Daniel (Ruben Blades) lost his scheming edge. We’re not saying they couldn’t grow—character development is a good thing, when it makes sense and keeps the characters engaging. These changes didn’t.
But now, in Season 6, these characters have re-gained aspects of their “old” personalities in ways that make them fun to watch again, especially Strand. Without delving too deeply into spoiler territory, he’s back to playing the game of survival. Daniel’s staying a few steps ahead of Ginny (Colby Minifie) in a brilliant way, and Alicia hasn’t painted a single tree (thank goodness). Oh, and Dwight (Austin Amelio) finally has something to do beyond pining for his wife, and Al (Maggie Grace) is getting more depth beyond asking people "what's your story?"
The Villain is Interesting
To be fair, we’re only five episodes in, so there’s still time for the show to introduce a head-scratcher of a main antagonist. But at this point, Ginny isn’t nearly as cheesy as she seemed when she was introduced in Season 5. She’s no Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), sure, but she’s a far cry from the lady in Season 4 who wanted to “make everyone strong” by turning them into walkers or the “Vultures.”
Her interconnected groups of communities are fascinating, as is the hypocrisy that seems to run rampant throughout them. There’s an air of mystery to these settlements that could have implications for the larger TWD universe once it’s blown open; even if doesn’t, we're curious to see where this story goes.
It Fixed A HUGE Problem With Morgan...
Namely, that he seemed unable to be the same character for more than one season at a time. We’ve had “Clear!” Morgan, “all life is precious” Morgan, “I don’t want to be around people” Morgan, leader Morgan and now, at last, we seem to have settled on a version of the character that combines the best of all his various iterations.
Season 6’s Mo-Mo isn’t afraid to kill, but he’s not going around “seeing red” and killing anyone who crosses his path. He wants to help, but that’s no longer his sole purpose in life. He’s a leader, but that’s not the whole of his identity. And he has a cool new weapon that seems symbolic of his change.
The Plot and Dialogue Are So Much Better
There are still a few groan-worthy moments and plot points, but it’s nothing so glaring as that infamous beer-shaped hot air balloon. The forced humor (that scene of Morgan on the toilet, his “Mo-Mo” nickname, “Jimbos Beerbos,” etc.) has gone by the wayside. By and large, Fear has adjusted its plot lines to feel a little more real—and quite a bit less Disney-like. The tone of the show is much darker and deals with heavier stuff, which is what fans have wanted for years.
These characters still care about their friends, but they’re not saying the word “help” 15+ times in a single episode. They’re not rebuilding planes from scraps when, in reality, they should have no clue how to do that. They’re not randomly hosting fancy weddings at weird times. Instead, they’re struggling with decisions that feel authentic and human, and they’re forming relationships that are engaging (Al and Dwight work better as friends than anyone might’ve anticipated).
If you left Fear during Season 4 or Season 5, it's worth picking it back up now. We’re only about a quarter of the way into the season, and there’s a chance it might all fall apart again, but as of this moment, Fear has started to resemble the back half of Season 5 and Season 6 of the main show, which isn’t a bad thing. If you’re missing the zombie apocalypse in your TV diet, try giving the first few episodes of Fear's sixth season a watch—they’re a vast improvement over what you remember if you left after the Morgan crossover.
Fear The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC