October 1, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Fear the Walking Dead”


In their teardown season as new showrunners of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg didn’t solve all the problems inherent in the franchise, and the season was uneven, only partly for reasons of transition.  Still, they accomplished a lot, more or less creating a new series from the one that had aired for the previous 3 seasons.  By the end of Season 4, only Alycia Debnam-Carey’s Alicia and Colman Domingo’s Strand remained from the original cast (Danay Garcia, a Season 2 addition, also survived).  Lennie James crossed over from The Walking Dead to become a series regular, and veterans including Garret Dillahunt, Jenna Elfman, Maggie Grace, Daryl Mitchell and Mo Collins joined the ensemble, either as regulars or heavily recurring newcomer characters.  More importantly, the entire concept and tone of the show changed.  Morgan’s arrival required a time jump that meant Fear was no longer a prequel to the mothership series but one that co-existed in time with it.  And even as the two series moved closer chronologically, Fear adopted a somewhat different worldview, generally more positive and forward-looking than the nihilism of The Walking Dead.

Tonight’s Season 4 finale, unfortunately, wasn’t the new regime at its best.  Although Tonya Pinkins is an excellent actress, and Chambliss and Goldberg took pains to give her character Martha a fairly detailed backstory, in the end Martha was another random psychopath who had to exist because the zombies, by their nature, are dull adversaries, incapable of any cunning or motive beyond hunger.  Her obsession with Morgan, and her insistence that he submit to her ideal of “strength” by either killing her or becoming a walker, only made sense because the show said it did.  Meanwhile, her almost accidental poisoning of the rest of the cast with antifreeze-laden bottled water led to some nearly silly scenes, as everyone sat exhausted in a truckstop and waited to die, until they were saved by Morgan’s arrival with some brewskis.  (And not to get too logical, but even after holes were shot in the tanker full of ethanol antidote, wasn’t there more than enough left in the dregs of the truck to cure them all?)  Fear needed Morgan to trek his way back to them so that he could be reborn as a true hero, and so it twisted its storyline to get there.

Some of the new characters, notably Dillahunt’s and Elfman’s, have been fully developed, while others like Grace’s remain rather vague.  As is the case in Walking Dead, setpiece walker confrontations sometimes exist mostly for their own sake.  Still, there’s a point of view in the new Fear that’s been lacking in Walking Dead as that show shuttles from showrunner to showrunner (a new one begins this fall), and from supervillain to supervillain.  Although Walking Dead gives lip service to the notion of its characters trying to create a new civilization, that show is overwhelmingly concerned with power struggles between humans, more often than not culminating in bloody battles.  It’s notable that once Fear finished cleaning house, its characters survived the back half of the season, and that Season 4 ended with the decision not to pursue the grand crossover of the Fear cast joining Walking Dead in Alexandria (for now, at least), but rather to try to form the core of a new society built around helping other survivors.

Perhaps it’s just the real world that surrounds us now, but even a taste of hope in a post-apocalyptic dystopian hellscape feels like a good thing.  The new Fear team has virtually brought to a halt the steep ratings drops of the previous season (from Season 2 to 3, a recent parallel week plunged by nearly 50%, while the Season 4 drop was just 10%), and while Fear the Walking Dead remains a work in progress, it seems to be on the right path.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."