It’s already been pointed out that Fear the Walking Dead is basically just The Walking Dead now (I personally believe Fear is a bit better than the show that spawned it), and this felt truer with “Just In Case” than with most weeks. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
The story still feels compelling as viewers attempt to unravel the mystery of what happened at the Stadium and how the Vultures factored into its downfall, but we’ve reached a point where some of the same narrative pitfalls that bogged down The Walking Dead have spread to the spinoff. Characters aren’t necessarily developing (Naomi, once again, attempts to flee the Stadium even though Madison keeps telling her she can leave whenever she wants) and the same obstacles persist (Madison, for one, has no become trusting to a fault).
The plot itself, however, remains intriguing enough that even when it slows down, new twists arrive to lure you back in.
One such twist begins with John and Morgan’s search for Laura, whom they now know to be Naomi. They find a Vulture scavenging a gas station and hold him up at gunpoint. John warns that he’s a quick shooter, but the man doesn’t listen and gets his finger blown clean off when he reaches for his weapon. John tosses him a flag to help with the wound, but he wants information on where the Vultures are planning to meet, as well as any information on Naomi. The Vulture claims to not know anything, which only makes him more hostile when he finds a map hidden in his pocket. Morgan steps in when things get too rough and gets John to let the man go. Before the Vulture runs off, Morgan tells him people are planning to ambush his group at their rendezvous point and to avoid the area. John, unprompted, hands over his pistols to Morgan to help ensure he doesn’t lose control of his anger again.
When we pick up with Al and the gang, the story of how Alicia, Luciana, and Victor got to where they are continues. First, Alicia starts asking questions about the van’s rigged gun system, but Al shuts that down quickly: Her weapons are not for hire. She’s maintains her course of documenting everything and intervening as little as possible. With a passing remark, she mentions “it wouldn’t be the first time” she sat back and just watched events transpire. So they continue toward the Vulture meeting point as the others continue weaving their tale.
A new flashback brings us to Naomi picking glass shards out of Alicia’s arm in the newly built infirmary. She had been wounded attempting to scavenge locations the Vultures may not have picked clean. Madison walks in, noting food rations are dwindling down to their last canned hams, but they must keep going out until they find a longterm solution. Outside, Cole overhears Victor talking with Nick and Luciana about where to go next and lying about where he found that car full of supplies. Cole is still distant when Victor pulls him aside to talk, but, thankfully, Madison found a bottle of whiskey and the two go up to the roof to drink.
As they numb their stress with booze, Victor reveals more about what happened after the dam exploded. After asking Madison why she decided to save him after all he did to betray them, he mentions in a string of forced dialogue that she and Alicia pulled him out of the water and nursed him back to health in a cave. Nick, meanwhile, went out to find Luciana. Madison saved him because deep down she knows the kind of person he truly is.
Their bonding moment is interrupted by shouts from below. They rush down to find Naomi trying to leave in one of their cars again. She claims she didn’t want to endanger anyone else with the scavenging trip she has planned, but she tried tricking some of the guards to leaving their posts and sneaking out unnoticed. Naomi mentions a place she once lived that may have seeds, fertilizer, and other resources they need, but that it’s dangerous.
Madison and Victor agree to go with her. It’s a long trip, so they stop at an abandoned motel for the night. The only room secure enough for them to sleep is the office, where they find walkers who had killed themselves as humans fighting over canned beans. Over dinner, provided by Victor raiding the vending machines, Naomi says they’re going to an abandoned FEMA shelter, but doesn’t want to think about what happened to the people there. She also comes clean that she was in fact trying to leave the Stadium, so Victor asks her to hand over her car keys. Madison, giving her some credit for telling the truth, recommends they all get to sleep, but when they wake up the next morning Naomi is gone.
Before they head out in the car to find her, Victor makes a confession of his own about how he had been stockpiling supplies for weeks in case the Stadium fell and he needed to leave. Madison still believes everything he’s done is in the past and that he’s just lucky she’s not like him, otherwise she probably would’ve left him to drown in the water.
They find Naomi inside the FEMA shelter taking safety on top of scaffolding with walkers crowded all around her. She had distracted the herd and successfully snuck into the building to retrieve her notebook filled with instructions about planting crops and crafting sutures, but she became overwhelmed at the sight of children’s drawings on the wall. Her sounds drew the dead to her and she had to flee toward the back rooms where she found walkers that had been people she lived with.
Madison distracts the dead while Victor fashions a zip-line for Naomi to escape her predicament. She finally tells them her story as they’re catching their breaths: She had stayed with her daughter Rose at the shelter, a place that taught JIC lessons (just in case). Naomi hadn’t told anyone that Rose developed pneumonia over fear that they’d be kicked out. She had been gone for three days searching for medicine, but by the time she came back, her daughter had already turned and attacked the shelter, turning everyone else into walkers. Naomi has been trying to run away from these memories, but she hasn’t been successful because of Madison. Though helping the Stadium has been a help. Naomi brings them out back to a truck she had filled with supplies as a back-up plan for Rose. Victor makes peace with Naomi and himself; they both had to do unseemly things in the spirit of staying alive.
Back at the Stadium, Alicia, Nick, and Luciana walk out to tell Mel they found all they need to replant crops, made more effective by the return of Madison, Victor, and Naomi in the truck. Mel commands his forces to roll out since it looks like the Stadium’s downfall will take longer than they’re willing to wait, but warns Madison that people never see “the really bad stuff” coming. The Vultures leave, Victor wins back Cole’s flirtation, crops have already been replanted, and everything seems well again — although, we know things fall apart. Fear creeps back up inside Madison and she tells Alicia to prepare an emergency car with supplies and hide it in the back in case things go south. It’s “just in case.”
Present-day Alicia, Victor, and Luciana had arrived at the Vultures’ meeting spot with Al recording the whole thing. They’re all strapped up and ready for war, but only one car pulls in. It’s John and Morgan. As they’re forced on their knees at gunpoint — Al doesn’t intervene — Morgan says he warned a Vulture that the trio were coming, but soon the Vultures arrive anyway. Mel leads his people out of their vehicles with their own guns. One of his men says Morgan was the one who tipped them off, so Mel says he’s free to stand aside. Morgan, though, stands in between them as both sides are looking to slaughter each other.
A woman’s voice comes on over Mel’s radio, which brings a smile to his face. A car rolls up behind Alicia and she’s shocked to see that voice belongs to Naomi, who’s now one of the Vultures. This prompts so many questions: Has Naomi been a secret Vulture this whole time? Did she help sabotage the Stadium? Alicia thought she was dead, so did the Vultures nurse her back to health? If so, why?
John sees her and runs to her, shouting out Laura’s name. Alicia, furious at this apparent betrayal, goes to shoot her and instead hits John when he throws himself between them. Naomi and Morgan run to stop the bleeding as the camera pans up over what could very well be another death this season. The wound seemed to be off to the side, though, so maybe there’s a chance he lived.
You can find out more on that in EW’s interview with showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss.