Warning: Full spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead’s Season 6 premiere follow…
Fear the Walking Dead opened its sixth season strong with a violent, hyper-focused Morgan “rebirth” story that got our crossover champ back in the (literal) saddle – and with a whole new look, purpose, and weapon.
Fear’s Season 5 experiment with mostly keeping its large ragtag ensemble apart (for narrative, but maybe also budgetary, reasons) and delivering character-specific episodes had both its ups and downs. The episodes were usually pretty good due to the spotlight, but the season, as a whole, suffered under the fragmentation.
Of course, story-wise, ensemble-wise, Fear is a far cry from what it was when it started. Heck, it even feels distant from what it was two years ago. Maybe that’s this show’s ultimate trick: to constantly shift and morph while The Walking Dead stays resolute in its stasis. Regardless, when talking about either show, we know Morgan Jones has been through it. The guy has experienced everything. He lost his family, he went full-blown mad, he tried to be a pacifist, he tried to be a terminator, and then he literally Forest Gump-ran from Virginia to Texas to start over with a new batch of bozos. My point is, it takes some special care to give us a Morgan adventure we kind of haven’t seen already.
“The End Is the Beginning” — where the title comes from some suspicious dudes tagging a large nuclear sub (and who are possibly after its payload key) — has its flaws, in that it only answers one of the character cliffhangers from the Season 5 finale (though, admittedly, the most important one), but it winds up putting Morgan through a solid pressure-cooker adventure that heals him, refreshes him, and sets him out as sort of a ghost of his previous identity. He’s finally found a place where he can bring everyone. One that’s safe and off the (and every) map. Now he just has to go rescue them all, while also handling Ginny. “Morgan Jones is dead,” he eerily tells her over the radio, “and you’re dealing with someone else now.”
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The bulk of “The End Is the Beginning” was about getting Morgan’s head right after failing fairly hard at the end of last season. How do you get this guy back on the “we’re not doing careful, we’re doing right” track that was the crux of the videos he and his team sent out all across Texas. Well, you do it by showing him how that message affected other people. One person, who we never even see (which is sort of cool), saves Morgan’s life after Ginny shoots him. Of course, the now-bearded Mr. Jones is still very much at death’s door, some time later, when the episode starts and walkers barely give him a second glance, but the point is that some altruistic citizen saved his bacon.
Then there’s Isaac, played by Michael Abbott Jr, who’s a former ranger in Ginny’s outfit who Morgan meets out on the road. Yup, he’s a previous villain whose heart opened wide after watching one of Morgan’s VHS tapes. Isaac, who’s oh-so-briefly an antagonist here, just wants to get back to his pregnant wife and sees Morgan, with his gangrene smell, as way past some walkers. And it turns out, the very sweaty Isaac is very sweaty for a good reason. He’s already been bit by the time he finds Morgan and just wants to be there for his wife. He’s a good single-episode character to have, as his story gives Morgan hope, perspective, and the motivation to “power up” and fight off walkers with one good arm. Also, Morgan made the decision to fight through those walkers so that Isaac didn’t have to take two more days to go around them before he knew Isaac was dying, so that was a nice touch.
Oh, but Isaac wasn’t the only new face this episode. Demetrius Grosse (The Rookie, Westworld) infused this premiere with some delicious villain vibes as a bounty hunter named Emile. Using a dog that can apparently track someone’s scent for an unheard of distance, Emile, like the It in It Follows, is guaranteed to find whoever he’s after. With a cowboy hat, an appreciation of beans, a vicious axe, and a love collecting dead heads we haven’t seen since The Governor, Emile was a pure pleasure to watch. Plus, mini arc-wise, Morgan went from willfully sparing Emile (by shooting him in the arm) to willfully ending him (with the swing of an axe). Now we’ve got a Morgan (donning Emile’s hat and trading in his staff for the axe) dead set on rescuing his friends and a pregnant Grace.