Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's Fear the Walking Dead, "The Portrait." The Morgan Jones (Lennie James) versus Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) cold war has gone nuclear. A conflict that has been brewing since last season — when Strand sacrificed Morgan by throwing him to walkers during a desperate attempt to stop Teddy's (John Glover) nuclear warheads from firing — comes to a head inside The Tower where Strand decides which of Morgan's friends to give shelter. Strand granted admittance to Wendell (Daryl Mitchell) and the Dories (Jenna Elfman and Keith Carradine), but turned away Morgan's nuclear family of Grace (Karen David) and Baby Mo to fend for themselves in the fallout of the nuclear-zombie apocalypse.
Below the spoiler recap of "The Portrait," co-showrunner Andrew Chambliss explains Morgan's move against Strand ahead of the mid-Season 7 finale "Padre":
"The Portrait" Recap
When Morgan shows up at The Tower to get help for a sick Baby Mo stricken by a double ear infection, Strand grants Morgan temporary entry because he needs him to do something he can't. "Doing what I ask," Strand says over drinks, "will be the only way you'll see that little girl again."
The Tower comes under siege from Arno (Spenser Granese) and the Stalkers, who have loaded a catapult with walkers stuffed with radioactive material from an undetonated warhead. If Strand turns them away again, the Stalkers will fire the contaminated walkers at the building and make The Tower uninhabitable.
Morgan urges Strand to let him radio Grace and Sarah (Mo Collins) outside The Tower to fend off the Stalkers with the MRAP van nearby, but Strand suspects Morgan might be with the enemy. Strand acquiesces when Morgan convinces him he wouldn't launch explosives at his daughter.
Strand suddenly collapses with what June determines to be poisoning with Methylene Blue. Whether he lives or dies depends on the amount ingested and when.
Delirious and desperate, Strand accepts Morgan's offer to get six floors down to the armory and radio Grace for help. Suspecting even right-hand Howard (Omid Abtahi) as the inside man who poisoned him, Strand says he trusts no one but himself. Using Baby Mo as collateral, Strand demands Morgan get him down to the armory and save The Tower.
Morgan makes it past walkers in a bomb-blasted elevator shaft and tells Strand to lower the baby down should he succumb to the poison and turn. "The universe gave you to him. The universe gave me this tower," Strand says to Mo. "We're both trying to save things that we love."
Morgan makes it to the armory when Strand reveals why he let Morgan into The Tower: to help him find the still-absent Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey). "I don't think she'd want me to find her," confesses Strand. "But with you... I know she would think different."
Strand passes out from dehydration and wakes up to find the Stalkers gone, fended off by Grace and Sarah. Morgan brings June to check on Strand, who learns the poison in his system wasn't enough to kill him.
"I thought she'd try to stop me from doing what I need to get done. But even with all this, it wasn't enough," says Strand, who threw Will (Gus Halper) off The Tower roof to keep Alicia away in "The Beacon." Morgan will find Alicia, but Strand needs to make The Tower someplace she would want to live.
Strand's instincts tell him that Morgan will find Alicia. "That we will."
Strand spots Morgan's stained blue thumb and realizes Morgan poisoned his Scotch. In the ensuing struggle, Morgan confesses, "If I knew what Arno was planning, I never would have put everybody's life in danger!" Asked if he was working with them, Morgan says, "I stopped them."
Morgan doesn't deny trying to kill Strand. "You gave me no choice," he tells Strand, overpowering him. "We nearly died out there!"
Strand sentences Morgan to death, ordering his Rangers to throw Morgan off The Tower roof and into his walker horde below. From the call box posted outside The Tower, Grace negotiates for Morgan's life: let him live and she'll help Strand find and remove the explosive contaminant walkers let loose into his zombie moat surrounding The Tower.
Strand accepts with a caveat: Morgan will be banished and sent into the fallout, but Grace and Mo will live under his rules inside The Tower — and no one leaves.
As Morgan sets out in his search for Alicia, a hissing Strand orders Howard to bring him the baby. "She's got to get used to her new father sometime."
"The Portrait" Ending Explained
"[Howard] doesn't understand why Strand would bring Morgan into The Tower. It is, in fact, because [Strand's] lonely, because he needs an equal in here, but that equal isn't Morgan. That equal is, in fact, Alicia," Chambliss explained on AMC+'s Fear TWD: Episode Insider. "And the only reason he wanted Morgan to come in here is because he thinks Morgan's the person who can go out into the world, find Alicia, and convince Alicia to come back."
Strand installed a beacon atop his Tower to draw the dead and killed Will to keep Alicia away, but "he still needs what everyone else needs, and that's companionship, love," Chambliss said. "Colman really got to embrace everything he has brought to the character. On the other hand, we have Lennie, who is playing Morgan in a very desperate place."0comments
"But as long as he is centered and in his right mind, he really does adhere to moral principles," Chambliss said of Morgan's move against Strand. "But this episode sees him take a big step because he tries to take Strand's life when one could argue there are other ways to navigate that situation."