The Walking Dead embraced silence early on as a narrative tool. Instead of filling in lulls with dialogue, as many TV shows have done, it bathed in silence. The mood of a scene could make a bigger impact than any crafted conversation. That comes with its own set of issues; the lack of dialogue naturally puts a larger emphasis on the words that are uttered, and how do you maintain the rhythm of an episode with so much left unsaid?
John Dorie is a man who lives in this silence. As he mentioned in the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead‘s current season, he hadn’t spoken to anyone in a year until Morgan came along. Where we find him now in a flashback episode is his solitary cabin by a river in the woods.
It’s not clear how long he’s lived here, but he’s in a rhythm of a routine. He sits on his back porch cleaning his two white-handled revolvers that he keeps in a box. Trenches were dug in the ground out back to deter any walker who might shamble up onto the shore. When one does, he lays down wooden planks so he can walk across them and silently handle the dead with his axe. The rest of his day is pretty standard: He wakes up every morning to the sound of a singing fish alarm clock, makes eggs and coffee, does his chores around the yard, collects wild blueberries and plants, and plays Scrabble with himself and watches movies when he’s bored. The silence of his day is punctuated by the words he says aloud, trying to come up with a good one to use in Scrabble. “Platypus” is the one he settles on.
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John can’t sleep, though. He lies awake, staring at the ceiling until he hears a walker coming through the water — in which case, he’ll get up and deal with it — or day breaks. One night, he hears something by the river. Though he thinks it to be another one of the dead, he finds Naomi. Smeared with mud, she lies barely conscious in a canoe, mumbling, “I have to get back.” John brings her inside, gives her his bed, and treats the deep cut in her side as best he can. He leaves two butterscotch candies for her on the nightstand as he tucks her into bed.
Her presence breaks his life of silence, though she’s hesitant to share her story. So “Laura,” the fifth episode this season, continues to saunter through this flashback, revealing how these two people met and fell in love. It’s not all that remarkable a story, but it holds an endearing quality through the sweetness of John, a reserved man who wants to be loved and to love someone.
The next morning, John is going about his business when he finds his home has been trashed and the woman he saved is missing. He finds her outside, trying to find keys so she can take his car. John isn’t trying to stop her, though. He tells her where the keys are above the visor. Sadly, the engine won’t start. He offers up his home until she gets well enough to leave. John helps her thread a needle so she can stitch up her wound, tipping him off to the fact she was a nurse before the outbreak, but she asks him to do it. Later, as he’s pouring her a bowl of fish stew, he asks if he can call her Laura, because she looks like a Laura.
John makes her a partition around the bed and takes the couch so she can sleep. He’s unable to sleep that night, as well, and Laura finds him out on the porch cleaning his guns. By daybreak, John’s clearing out two more walkers who found their way to his home from the river. He tells Laura he wants to go upstream to see where all these walkers are coming from, but, because it’s Tuesday, he also needs to go to the store. That’s part of his routine, too: Every Tuesday he goes to a store that used to be owned by a guy named Bill, but no one came back to it after the roads were shut down.
Laura wants to go with him. John offers her boots to wade through the terrain (and the snakes that linger nearby), but she declines the offer. She wants to be able to run. Rowing along the river, she asks John about his story. He reveals he used to be a police officer, a profession he liked “for a time,” but he also performed trick shooting and lassoing part-time for Wild Wild West shows for fun.
They reach the source of the problem: A car fell over the side of a bridge and crashed into the water, leaving an opening in the railing where walkers have been falling in. They first head to the store for supplies. That’s where Laura grabs her bag John will later recognize when Alicia, Luciana, and Victor are unearthing their hidden supplies. She also rearranges some of the store shelves so that supplies to make splints are close by the medicine; she mentions people might not think to look for stuff like that in the heat of the moment. (Recap continues on the next page.)