Fear the Walking Dead wrapped up its most dull season to date on Sunday night, concluding with a frustrating cliffhanger which is disappointing for several reasons in itself. The AMC series seemed to be reaching its peak in Season 3 and such a thought turned out to be true. Although Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead was not highly regarded as its predecessor, the follow-up in Season 5 offered few highlights or incentives for those fans who had been around since day one to stick around. Not only did the show's major face lift run its course but it proved to be a turn in the wrong direction.
Throughout Season 5 of Fear the Walking Dead, the creative team behind the AMC series was jabbed by fans and critics relentlessly. Those criticisms and knocks were not entirely without warrant, either. While the cast and directors showed up and did their job (quite impressively, considering the material they were given), Fear the Walking Dead had many missteps with its story and overall efforts in Season 5.
Let's take a look at what wrong in Fear the Walking Dead Season 5...
By the end of Season 4, it was clear that Lennie James was going to be the lead actor on Fear the Walking Dead despite the showrunners electing not to rule as much officially (presumably as a means to steer clear of angering fans of Alycia Debnam-Carey and Colman Domingo) but we did ask. If the team had handled James' character more appropriately, this could have been forgiven. In fact, James is one of the best actors on television and certainly among the best on either Dead universe TV series.
However, the creative team elected to turn Morgan into a character who would do what he believed to be "right" and helpful to strangers at any cost. Often times, the cost was all logic. Despite dangerous scenarios or little payoff, Morgan lead the gang in efforts to "help" as a means to make himself feel better about his past. It wasn't very interesting to watch the group try to wrangle up a bunch of kids who didn't want to be wrangled, especially when the survivors were entering into tremendously dangerous situations knowing that there wasn't much of a reward waiting for them if they were successful.
Besides the missions being dull and without logic, the characters who were once interesting completely bought into Morgan's idea. Alicia Clark was becoming a formidable survivor but she was reduced to far less than that (more coming). Victor Strand was an interesting con man always capitalizing on leverage and he simply gave all of that up. Dwight was once one of The Walking Dead's most interesting characters with a troubling inner conflict but he simply decided doing "good" was worth risking his and everyone's lives for. Daniel Salazar, portrayed by a man who was arguably Fear's most talented actor of the original cast lost every bit of ruthlessness and was certainly stripped of his very-interesting story which framed him as an all-but-immortal being burdened with surviving as means to repent.
The finale in itself was an upsetting episode given the decisions made by its characters. If the survivors were able to clear out the Gulch, why did they call Ginny for help in the first place? Don't know.
Top that off with Morgan Jones finally showing signs of changing and having proper motivation. He was actually interested in someone and showing a strong, interesting conflict regarding it as he was finally moving on from his late wife and accepting something new. BANG! It's apparently over -- or is it?
If Morgan dies, it proves that the writers didn't know what to do when presented with a potential character arc and their answer was to just kill him. If he survives, then it's Glenn under the dumpster all over again (which, if you're not familiar, was not a success among fans when The Walking Dead tried to fake out a major character's death).
Not to mention, the whole wedding between John and June was something that once upon a time would have been interesting. Jenna Elfman and Garret Dillahunt teamed up to create one of the best standalone episodes on either series in Fear's fourth season. Since, their characters have been stripped of much meaning other than vague dialogue and occasional the occasional "I don't want to live without you" to remind fans that they're a thing. A wedding and song when everything is about to go bad? It just didn't make sense...
Hey, at least we got to listen to Ruben Blades sing again. While singing on either Dead universe show is usually not very entertaining, Blades is a musical legend in addition to his acting talent, so it was worth watching and listening when his pipes came out.
As mentioned earlier, Alycia Debnam-Carey was not only stripped of the opportunity to become the lead of Fear the Walking Dead but her Alicia Clark character had every bit of growth taken from her -- for seemingly no reason. Now, it makes sense for a character to go through dark times after losing family members as Alicia did. However, she started out as a teenager making bad choices and became a major player with a will to live in the show's third season. This is a television show, keep her interesting and let's stay on that course. Maybe she'll go dark and need rescue when vengeance consumes her... Maybe she'll want to be isolated and learn why surviving in a group is better all around. Something like that, right?
No! Wrong. All of the sudden, Alicia wants to drop her weapons and logic to pick up a paint brush -- as if the taping of positivity wasn't enough of an attempt to spread hope in the apocalypse.
There are terrible things happening everywhere in this post-apocalyptic world. Characters are fighting and dying. Supplies are running low. There's even a massive, sprawling community somewhere out in the world (which, apparently, no one wants to investigate -- not even the one character who is obsessed with telling stories and investigating). So, what does Alicia do now? She paints trees because it is "the only thing" that makes sense to her, suddenly.
Give this girl her knife or gun barrel back and throw in an extra helping of meaningful, logical dialogue and maybe Fear the Walking Dead can deserve to keep the talented, underused actress on board.
While we're at, Colman Domingo's Victor Strand was also stripped of most of what made him interesting with only a glimmer of hope being offered up in the Season 5 finale. The character seemed ready to roll over in every scenario when, in the past, he would constantly be moving and doing what it takes to maintain an upper hand or some sort of leverage.
Strand, from the show's first season, was the most interesting character on Fear the Walking Dead. He was unpredictable and fun to watch, offering up fun hints of swagger not found anywhere else in the Dead universe. An argument can be made that he showed glimpses of his con man self early on when trying to get a plane from Daniel Salazar but he quickly gave all of that up and got on board with the illogically "helping people" train.
Here's to hoping that Strand's plan to attack Ginny "from the inside" as he mentioned in the Season 5 finale actually pans out in Season 6.
Maggie Grace plays Althea quite well. It seems like a great step in a good direction for the actress, taking on a tough and determined post-apocalyptic survivor. So, it's not her fault that the character offers up one of the worst ideas from Season 5.
The concept of documenting the apocalypse is interesting. In theory, it could have worked, but only if it did not become a dominant part of the storyline. How are these characters finding batteries, tapes, and cameras, let alone VCRs and TVs to play their PSA videos? On top of that, how did they recover Tom's camera after he fell down with a bridge stupidly taping the bridge falling down? None of it makes much sense but Al's team of journalists became expert filmmakers and it didn't make for interesting television which was much fun to watch.
Still, Althea gets the biggest win of the season as Episode 5x05 ended up being the most interesting watch of all 16 episodes. It's a shame the vague nature of the Dead universe as uncertain steps toward expansion often put a halt on world-building despite opportunities for it to make stories more interesting.
The first half of Season 5 was built on rebuilding a plane. The group crashed while searching for someone to help but wouldn't give up their flight efforts there. It was one thing to pose a story that they could fly the plane to begin with but for audiences to accept that they knew how to rebuild a plane? How about the fact that the kid was the one who basically cracked the mechanical issue plaguing the once-crashed plane which was almost working?
Treating the audience like it isn't smart enough to apply logic is not a good move. Now, someone reading this just said, "Hey, man, this is a show about dead people eating people!" Yes, it is, but it needs to have some sort of logic and rule set which apply in its own world and apply consistently. Fear the Walking Dead threw a lot of that out the window this season, right down to having a couple of people soaring in a hot air balloon.