Fear the Walking Dead: “Here to Help” (S5, E1 review)

Alicia takes an early lead in the zombie apocalypse staring contest (image via Bleeding Cool / Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

SPOILERS AHEAD AND KIDS WITHOUT PARENTS … ZOMBIES WITHOUT SOULS AND SOME SECOND-HAND IDEALS LOOKING WORSE FOR WEAR …

There’s a great yawning chasm between ideals and execution at the best of times – you know, when there’s running water, bedding and fresh episodes of Grace and Frankie – but how much worse is the void in the middle of the zombie apocalypse?

Exhibit A through Z, and then through all the letters of every other alphabet of every other language and dialect on earth, is Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Morgan (Lennie James) and the rest of their haplessly-idealistic group who, ensconced in the denim factory vacated by good Samaritan, Clayton aka Polar Bear (Stephen Henderson), have tried their darnedest (Get it? Get it?) to keep their now-dead inspiration’s idealism in play.

But there are a number of things standing in the way of their “Take what you want, leave what you don’t” creed, all of which are taking quite the toll on the idea that the better angels of humanity can not only come out to play when the dead are wandering all around, but actually be heeded too.

News flash: No, they won’t be.

I mean, for crying out loud, even kids – in this case parent-less siblings Max (Ethan Seuss), Annie (Bailet Gavulic) and Dylan (Cooper Dodson) who can barely keep themselves alive thank you – are leaving them behind, with claims they’re off in lala-cloud cuckoo land.

Someone back in the denim factory, now occupied by Clayton’s less-than-charitable business partner Logan (Matt Frewer), has even been keeping a list of who they’ve tried to help and who’s alive and who isn’t, and there’s rather a depressing pattern developing.

Everyone, and I mean everyone on the list with no Lazarus-like outliers to be head, is either dead or missing, and not a one has believed Morgan’s annoyingly-earnest claim that they’re “Here to help”.

(On an aside, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Morgan fan but his earnest idealism of late is, if possible, even more drive-you-up-the-wall saintly to the point where it’s a wonder they haven’t tried to leave him by the side of the road, with one of their care boxes.)

But seriously, can you blame them?

By this stage of the apocalypse, which was a gigantic morality-free, Darwinian survival of the fittest/meanest/most selfish shit show from the get-go, everyone knows, even the freaking little kids, that no one does anything just because …

There’s always an angle, always an agenda, especially if someone says, like Morgan does to Annie, that they are here to altruistically help.

Annie, mirroring the survivalist, self-preservationist mantra of the day, rightly observes that the people who say that are exactly the kind of people you should avoid; which she and her brothers do as quickly as they can.

Just add them to the list, I guess?

June / Naomi / Laura challenges her though with a vehicular stare of longing and vulnerability (image via Bleeding Cool / Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

So it’s not all rosy in “let’s paint the apocalypse a prettier shade of humanity” garden.

Morgan, as ever, isn’t easily dissuaded – he says, in a conversation with a despondent Alicia that he has to keep believing or what’s the point of living? So bloody perseverance then? – but Alicia, as noted, isn’t seeing the point of it anymore, and John (Garret Dillahunt) wants to believe but is beginning to wonder why they’re even bothering anymore.

He’s somewhat though not completely buoyed by encouraging words from Naomi/Laura/June (Jenna Elfman) who when she’s not saving Luciana (Danay García) from death by pipe through the shoulder, is reminding her beloved that his dogged persistence is what brought her back to the land of the hope-filled living and yep, gave her a whole lot of love when she had pretty much decided Cupid and Hallmark had died in an end of the world bonfire to end all bonfires.

Interestingly, and this is a whole other angle of things that speak to how intelligently Fear the Walking Dead is written and how well it grapples, in way that really matter (unlike The Walking Dead which pretends to but never really nails it), with the expression of grounded humanity deep down in the trenches, John feels guilty that he’s alive, has found love, friend and a community when so many others are dead, missing or zombified up the wazoo.

It makes sense; survivor guilt is totally a thing, and it makes absolute sense that John would feel increasingly ill at ease with the fact that he has everything he ever dreamed of at a time when life is as nightmarish as it gets.

Whereas so many conversations on The Walking Dead, which is far more action-oriented and far less substantial in its existential musings, feel hollow and pretentious, the ones on Fear the Walking Dead like that between John and Naomi/Laura/June feel life the stuff of real life. (You know, life when you crash the plane you were flying to help someone, get surrounded by walkers, are told off by kids that you’re way too Anne of Green Gables for anyone’s good, and have just lost your HQ to a usurper … more on that last one later … It’s an unusual situation, true, but hey, people are still people and the reactions by the people of Fear the Walking Dead always feel authentic.)

Newcomer makes it clear he’s in for the staring long haul with their virtuosic performance (image via Bleeding Cool / Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

Quite apart from all the existential angst and it was there in zombie intestine-cutting spades (specifically those off a plane), the big material issue affecting the group was the fact that Clayton aka Polar Bear’s old partner, Logan came back to the denim factory and simply took it over after he sent Morgan et al on a wild goose chase for a non-existent survivor in peril and kept the other part of the group, which includes Victor (Colman Domingo) locked out at gunpoint.

To be fair, it is his factory, and while he is not all warm and fuzzy, tofu and mung beans like his dear departed partner, he does have a right to come waltzing back in if he wants to.

Of course, he talks about having the title deed, which frankly in an era where nation states, legal entities and the rule of law are long gone, is silly at best, but it is his and as Morgan or someone observes, is he really the bad guy for taking it back?

After all, from his point of view, and it’s a valid one, it’s his place and he has a right to take back; having said that, rights went out the window with actual enduring death, and you could argue that possession is now not simply nine-tenths of the law but all of it.

But no one cares why you want something, simply that you have it; so while Morgan might say, and blessedly he hasn’t, that they should have it because they are good and virtuous people “Here to help”, the reality is that no one has right to anything anymore and Fear the Walking Dead acknowledged that moral equivalency in a way it’s parent show has never managed (Rick forever saw himself as the good guy and everyone else as evil interlopers).

So, while Victor, Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), Wendell (Daryl Mitchell) and Sarah (Mo Collins) it outside the gates of the factory, Morgan and the others are preparing for a life doing good out on the road … or are they?

It’s not really clear right now, but what we do know – ta-dah! – is that Daniel (Rubén Blades) is alive and kicking – watching Victor watch his old adversary on one of Al’s (Maggie Grace) videos was chillingly comic – and that everyone’s favourite apocalyptic journalist has just been kidnapped by the mysterious, clad-in-black CRM people who, I’m guessing, are not in it for the good karma and warm, fuzzy feelings.

Here to help? Lovely idea, but so far, it’s not really doing anyone any favours …

Next on Fear the Walking Dead in “The Hurt That Will Happen” …

Posted In TV

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