When Fear the Walking Dead kicked off the sixth season with an outstanding premiere, I was skeptical about its ability to maintain that level of quality. Fear has delivered great season premieres in years past, only to falter as the season wore on. However, after the second episode of the season — another outstanding one — I grew cautiously optimistic. Could Fear, which had one of the worst seasons of TV in 2019, really rebound so dramatically?
After this week’s third episode, I am convinced that it can. Showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have found their new formula, and it’s a wildly successful one: focus on only a few characters at a time, generate chemistry between those characters, set up an intriguing obstacle, and overcome that obstacle in surprising or crowd-pleasing fashion. In the meantime, bookend the episodes with short scenes with Morgan and the season-long arc, which seems to be about trying to take down Ginny and reunite everyone.
This week’s episode paired together Dwight and Althea. Dwight, the second character to move over from the parent series, has done a serviceable job on the series, after being paired with John Dorie for much of last season, but the combination of Althea and Dwight is dynamite. The two seem to hit it off immediately, and both share a mutual passion for the loves of their life. For Dwight, that’s his wife, Sherry, who he has been searching for essentially since the 7th season of The Walking Dead. For Althea, it’s the mysterious Isabel (who may be the daughter of Elizabeth on The World Beyond).
The episode, ostensibly, is about Althea’s search for Isabel, a CRM soldier patrolling the area. Althea has eavesdropped on conversations Isabel has had on the walkie-talkie and is determined to greet her the next time Isabel lands in her helicopter. That opportunity presents itself in this episode, but it requires that Dwight and Althea climb the stairs to the top of a skyscraper, where Isabel is supposed to be landing that day.
It’s easier said than done. Along the way, Dwight and Althea encounter a number of walkers, but also a group of folks who have been living in the office buildings since the outset of the zombie outbreak. Many of them have died literally of the bubonic plague, which is transmitted by rats. For those who do not like the sight of rats, there are a great many of them in this episode, so be warned. In fact, Dwight is infected with the plague, but even still, he marshals all of his energy, because he is committed to Althea finding Isabel (and because if he can’t find Sherry, someone should be able to meet the love of their life).
In the end, however, Althea speaks to Isabel on the radio from atop the building, but she cannot bring herself to force another face-to-face encounter, because it would mean abandoning Dwight, and she and Dwight have hit it off. On a radio call with Isabel, however, the CRM soldier alerts Althea to the location of some Cipro, an antibiotic used to treat the plague. The antibiotic saves the life of Dwight and all the near-dead people in the building.
… and then there is another voice in Althea’s walkie-talkie. It’s that of Sherry. She’s outside the building. Dwight runs down, and in one of the sweetest moments in the entire run of The Walking Dead universe, the two are finally reunited. They don’t say a word to one another: They just kiss. It’s like a much-needed rom-com scene in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
It’s lovely, capping the third terrific episode in a row. In fact, I saw someone on social media say that this has been the best three-episode run in The Walking Dead universe since Obama was President. I’m not sure about that — Angela Kang has had some very good runs these last two seasons on The Walking Dead — but the point still holds. It has been a remarkable run, and here’s hoping that Fear can continue it next week with a John Dorie-centered episode.
— Morgan makes a brief appearance at the beginning of the episode, having cleaned up thanks to a haircut from Daniel. He tells the woman behind the dam with the new baby that he has someone on the inside now (Daniel) and that he’s going to reunite everyone back behind the dam.
— Morgan also as a funny, meta-line in the episode. “I feel like I’ve been 16 different somebod[ies] since it all ended.” We all feel that way, Morgan!
— We see that “The End is the Beginning” message spray-painted in the skyscraper lobby. It’s the same message those men looking for a key that Morgan now possesses spray-painted on a submarine in the opening episode. Althea suggests that whoever is behind the message is also behind inserting the plague into the building. Neither she nor Dwight believes that Ginny is involved.