Fear the Walking Dead: “Mother” / “USS Pennsylvania” (S6, E14 & E15 review)

Zombies on a submarine! (Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

SPOILERS AHEAD … CLOSE QUARTER WALKERS, KABOOM APLENTY AND SOCIOPATHIC MIND GAMES

If you stop and think about it, and let’s be honest even if you don’t, the zombie-filled end of the world madness that is Fear the Walking Dead, really doesn’t need any more crazy stirring into its already greatly unsettling pot.

But that is precisely what we get when Teddy aka Theodore Maddox (John Glover) almost unleashes his nuclear-fuelled apocalyptic vision for the end of the broken world as we know it – to be fair he hated the world before and after the arrival of the zombies so he’s an equally opportunity denouncer of whichever status quo is in the ascendant – aided by new found disciple Dakota (Zoe Colletti) who, unsurprisingly, finds a kindred spirit in the man who John Dorie Sr. (Keith Carradine).

As if there weren’t enough poisoned Kool-Aid drinkers walking the scrubby landscape of Texas, we now have one more disciple to add to the demented flock with Dakota seduced by the rather twisted idea that being your very own sociopathic self is exactly who you should be.

While a defiant Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) may fiercely disagree (no effective brainwashing for her), Dakota dives right on into Teddy’s wacko vision of the future which, as predicted, involves launching a suite of nuclear missiles all across the United States in a bid to get rid of all the nasty people out there.

Naturally, as is the way of sociopaths, Teddy doesn’t count himself among that number but nevertheless, he is taking all his followers including, rather handily (for him; not so much living extant humanity) the ex-weapons officer of the USS Pennsylvania, Riley (Nick Stahl), into death with him, all of them sacrificing themselves to start some rather hazily sketched out brand new world.

To the cultees following Teddy, who speaks in dulcet, reasonable tones that belie the illogicality and madness inherent in every calmly-modulated word he utters, this is paradise, a place where they can make their own choices and go out being their own very broken selves.

Nothing so unsettling as two sociopaths bonding (Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

Alicia, as observed, is having none of this, nor is Morgan (Lennie James), Grace (Karen David), June (Jenna Elfman), John Dorie, Victor (Colman Domingo), Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista), all of whom crowd onto the sub in a bid to stop Teddy and Riley from enacting their Geiger counter activating plan to let loose all of the USS Pennsylvania’s ordinance.

Watching on from outside the sub are Charlie (Alexa Nisenson), Luciana (Danay Garcia), Mo (Sarah Rabinowitz) and a coalition of other colonists from various towns who are rightly concerned that the launching of all those missiles is going to make an awful situation a billion times worse, assuming, of course, that any of them survive all that radiation.

Bow, if you’re expecting everything to turn out swimmingly well, then maybe you need to switch to a light and fluffy sitcom because Fear the Walking Dead is not about to deliver a bright and shining, rose-coloured finish to proceedings.

Partly because it has always been the type of show that values actual gritty humanity over fairytale confections of how the world should be but because while everyone is trying to save the undead world as we know it, Victor decides to get his macho on and prove he has what it takes to be the hero.

How does he do this, you ask?

Well, apart from endless conversation with Morgan on whether he should try to save the world by himself – Morgan’s messiah complex returns rather impressively in both episodes, to the point where he is about to dash into a zombie-filled, off-the-charts irradiated part of the sub when he is stopped, ironically given later events, by Victor – which are a weak point in otherwise strong episodes, amounting to little more than an addled philosophical pissing contest, Victor’s main strategy seems to be killing Morgan by tossing himself into the massed arms of zombified submariners.

Wait … what?!

Yep, Victor tries to kill Morgan so he can save the day thus proving that even when he tries to be selfless, he actually being destructively narcissistic.

So many smiles, so little actual happiness behind them (Photo credit: Ryan Green/AMC)

It is, as you might expect, all very typical Victor, and it ends up costing everyone a great deal as Victor and Morgan bust into the control room just in time to stop Teddy and Riley launching nine missiles but not, and this is kind of important since it carries ten warheads, a tenth missile which is set roaring viciously into the sky.

Oops! Well done, Victor.

Defeated by coming so close to stopping another apocalypse – really, how many apocalypses can one world handle? I am guessing not two but we have a seventh season of Fear the Walking Dead to see what that looks like – Morgan lets Teddy and Riley go (without missiles, their craziness has no immediately destructive outlet) and angrily order Victor out as everyone suddenly realises that ten warheads is enough to spell the end of everything.

What’s interesting here is how Fear the Walking Dead plans to get everyone out of what looks to be a reasonably unsalvageable situation?

While TV Insider has some good ideas on who will and won’t survive Apocalypse Mark II, it will be interesting to see how the final episode of the season, “The Beginning” (oh, the fabulous irony!) sets everything up for season 7.

It is all about hard scrabble for survival, with some characters racing to save themselves by heading to the bunker in which Alicia is held while others make their peace with their expected fate, and it looks to be all pedal to the metal action with a lot of Fear‘s trademark ability to insert some intensely expressed humanity into the mix.

Perhaps everyone will be okay after all – you would want to hope so with a seventh season in the offing but then it’s the apocalypse so nothing is really guaranteed – but I suspect a few casualties to be had along the way; after all, it is the end of the world and universally happy-ever-afters simply aren’t on offer especially on a show like Fear which has always treated its story as an evocation of how what actually happen to people and not some comic book distortion of it.

… and here is what’s coming up in “The Beginning” … well, an intimation anyway …

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