Fear the Walking Dead co-showrunner Ian Goldberg opens up about the "tragically poetic" reunion between newlyweds June (Jenna Elfman) and John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) in Sunday's midseason return. Spoilers for Fear Episode 608, "The Door." John and "Naomi" meet as strangers in Season 4 Episode 5, "Laura," when an unconscious "Naomi" — fake name Laura, real name June — washes up on the shore outside John's lonely little cabin where he's locked himself away from the world. It's there that a romance begins over fishing and games of Scrabble, and it's where the June-John Dorie love story comes to its tragic end in "The Door."
In the first callback to "Laura," Season 6B opens on John spelling out a message for June with Scrabble tiles: "GOODBYE JUNE." In Season 4, "Naomi" spelled out her own goodbye message when she left him alone: "I LOVE YOU TOO IM SORRY."
Wracked with guilt over the death of their friend Janis (Holly Curran), who was framed and summarily executed by settlements leader Virginia (Colby Minifie) when John investigated the ugly mustard murder of Ranger Cameron (Noah Khyle) in "The Key," John has retreated to his cabin to take his own life. Because June is committed to building a hospital promised to her by Virginia, John left the group without her (in "Bury Her Next to Jasper's Leg").
Morgan (Lennie James) and Dakota (Zoe Colletti), Virginia's defecting little sister, attempt to convince John to come with them to the new community Morgan is building. But the despondent John feels he's "not meant to live in this world" and has just one thing left to do before he leaves it: replace his cabin door to keep walkers from getting at him when he's gone.
As John wrestles with "the passed," his term for the undead, he recalls his past and something his father used to say: "It's not too late. It's not too late to learn something, to do the right thing, fix a mistake."
When a twist of fate reveals it was Dakota who killed Cameron, she turns John's pistol against him and tearfully tells him she won't have him ruin her one chance to escape her sister. John tells Dakota she could be his reason for living, but she pulls the trigger and shoves the fatally wounded John into the river below.
"What we wanted that scene in the water to be about is, he looks at that picture of his father and he's remembering those words. 'It's not too late,'" Goldberg said in the episode commentary. "He really, really wants to live. It is the opposite of the man who was sitting at the table loading the gun to kill himself in the beginning. Now he's fighting for every breath he's got."
But when John washes up on the shore of his cabin, another callback to "Laura," it is too late: June finds her husband reanimated as one of the passed.
"We always thought it was tragically poetic that June, who washed up on the shore outside John's cabin and brought him back to people, is now in the position where she sees John washed up on that very same shore where he rescued her ... and he's died and he's become a walker," Goldberg said. "It just felt like kind of the right circularity to that story. As we get deeper into Season 6, we're gonna see that this has profound implications for June as a character. It's really important in terms of where we're going for the rest of the season. This is obviously a game-changer for June."
We'll see how John's death changes June when she returns in next Sunday's "Things Left to Do."
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 premiere Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.