The biggest misstep Fear the Walking Dead ever made was killing off Madison (Kim Dickens) in season 4 and pivoting the whole show from a story about the Clark family to a vehicle for Morgan (Lennie James). The character is a contagion that spread to everything and everyone: His story arc about someone who feels compelled beyond reason to “do the right thing” and “do right by people” to make up for the sins in his past has become the story arc for practically every main character on the show to the point where they all willfully ignore logic. It’s not prolific, it’s just boring — as tired and dead as the titular animated corpses.
It’s hard to imagine suffering through yet another season after two irksome outings (the sixth season has already been ordered), but the season 5 finale appears to have made a sacrifice for the greater good. The problem is, A) we’re not sure if it’s gonna stick and, B) even if it does stick, is it better off for everyone involved to just finish off this show?
Considering all the available evidence, it appears Morgan has been killed off. But, as we know, the FTWD writers don’t seem to care for the rules of their own world and the showrunner is being super cagey about Morgan’s fate in a new interview with EW, which seems to suggest Morgan may somehow find his way out of this predicament. If that’s the case, God help us. On the other hand, Madison’s death wasn’t explicitly shown on screen, leaving some fans to muse about a possible return that hasn’t come yet. So… who knows?
After Morgan accepts Virginia’s aid at the Gulch, she and her forces agree to some of his terms in that everyone — including Grace and the elderly in need of healthcare — gets to come with them, no one is left behind. The caveat is that they will go wherever she sees fit, which means splitting them up. John and June, who just got married, are separated; Daniel and his cat don’t get to travel together; Al is stripped of her camera and commanded to tell Virginia everything she knows about the helicopter; Alicia is carted off with Victor; Morgan and Grace profess their feelings for one another before getting split apart; and Morgan gets to stay at the Gulch. Why? Because Virginia hates his face and is going to kill him.
Once everyone else drives off, she goes to fire her gun. Morgan is able to whack her across the face with his staff, but the bullet lands in his shoulder. He’s unable to get himself off the ground, so he crawls towards the church. Virginia, having dropped and apparently lost her pistol (just one of the simple but oh so stupid plot points in this episode), goes to grab another gun off a nearby dead body. She points it at Morgan’s head and fires, but it’s faulty.
At the same time, she hears over the walkie that Grace isn’t sick or dying from radiation poisoning, she’s just pregnant and severely malnourished. Guess that sonogram could’ve come in handy, after all. Also, why the heck didn’t June, a nurse, not even consider this to be a possibility? We digress, but it’s stuff like this that makes this show so frustrating.
Anyway… As walkers start to approach, Virginia leaves Morgan where he sits –bleeding out without weapons — and says she hopes he dies. The final scene we see is Morgan sending a message out over the walkie to anyone who may hear, urging them all to “just live” … not to say that Virginia betrayed him and he’s gonna die. Whatever. It’s literally his funeral. Walkers are nearly upon him as he continues to heavily bleed out when the screen cuts to black.
The show needs to let him die and take his moral mission with him. As the writing dictates, the characters have become concerned about reverting back to who they used to be and it’s all for silly reasons: Alicia couldn’t kill walkers for the longest time because she felt killing was bad and peace was good, even though letting walkers (that are already dead) live would mean those walkers would kill others and cause more killing. June feared becoming a nomad scavenger again without John, so, like, don’t become a nomad scavenger. Easy. Victor and Daniel, two of the more interesting characters produced by the show, are now just 2D shells of human beings who are so utterly boring. And Morgan is just off-the-charts irritating. It took him the entire time from when we meet him in the premiere of The Walking Dead to season 5 in the spin-off to realize it’s important to make life worth living for others but also for himself… which, duh.
More of this silly storytelling ran rampant through this finale episode.
Over the walkie, Virginia lies to Morgan, saying those who used to live at the Gulch didn’t take her advice and died when the watering hole dried up. When Dwight returns, having found a group of rider-less horses, they learn there was a fight between Virginia’s forces and the people at the Gulch who defended themselves. Since they don’t have enough man or firepower to fend off Virginia, Morgan and the rest devise a plan to herd the walkers in the Gulch like cattle and unleash them on Virginia when the time comes.
Daniel and Victor remain by the SWAT van and their abandoned supplies to signal when Virginia arrives, but when she does, they see Luciana is with her. So, for some reason, they immediately call off the entire plan. Victor goes off by himself to speak with Virginia and give her the key to unlock their vehicles as a way of currying favor. (He tells Alicia later they can do more damage from the inside. It’s a sparkle in the eye of the man he once was.) Morgan and the others quickly lose control of the herd when Dwight’s horse gets spooked and he’s forced to flee on foot. They then lead the herd into a rushing river to be swept away in the current. Great plan, folks. Without the walkers, they’re not able to fight Virginia and are forced to accept whatever is coming their way.
Also, here are a couple more of those small flubs that happened: When Morgan gets off his horse to help Dwight and fend off the dead, he literally pushes one walker to the ground and that somehow kills it. Dwight keeps shouting at the group to stick with the original plan and lead the herd to attack Virginia, but all this shouting is what keeps drawing the dead to him, which seems counterproductive.
It mostly felt like a waste of an episode: the majority of this “extended” finale was spent trying to execute a plan and then promptly torpedoing said plan. When it came to the final minutes, they were all back to where they started the episode, only now they made a home for themselves that Virginia will take away. It’s not that the performances from the cast are bad. It’s poor narrative planning that breeds less confidence in those manning FTWD, even with the promise of never having to hear another Morgan life lesson.
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