Spoiler Warning for Season 5, Episode 2 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.

“You can’t put a weapon between you and losing people, and you can’t even run away from them either.”

After a thrilling return episode, “Fear the Walking Dead” keeps the momentum going by furthering the mysteries presented last episode. With a plethora of new threats and moving pieces, this season is already quite impressive.

The cold open is a tape recording of Strand, warning that he may not survive much longer. He urges Sarah, Wendell and Charlie to finish what he started, and save the rest of the group. He leaves the SWAT truck on the side of the road and begins walking toward what seems to be El Paso. He ultimately arrives at a complex with a series of walker traps outside, quite similar to those Morgan utilized during his “Clear” days. He’s welcomed by a cat, a walker and the sound of a gun cocking. Worried for his life, Strand urges the person pointing the gun at him to take a breath and not act on the Pavlovian response to fire. “You still talk too much, Victor,” Daniel states. The cat is named Skidmark and Daniel says that he likes Strand, but he also “licks his own ass,” so there’s that. After killing a walker that comes close, Daniel invites Strand inside to talk where it’s safe. It is revealed that Daniel has a warehouse of many different vehicles, something that Strand asks about. Strand also asks about the plane and states that Althea told him about it, letting Daniel know that they have a mutual friend. Daniel asks who is still alive that he used to know, and Strand notes that they lost Madison and Nick, but that Alicia is still alive. Just like their dynamic in Season 3, Daniel refuses to believe that Strand is actually trying to help others. Daniel does allow Strand to use his radio to contact the truck stop, but there is no response. There’s further questioning of Strand’s actions, and Daniel throws it back to the Gonzalez Dam exploding and him being shot in the face. Strand manages to make contact with Luciana and they update one another on what they’ve been through. Mentioning that he and Alicia both know Daniel, Strand guarantees that he will get the plane to them. Rather than give Strand the plane, Daniel kicks him out to prevent him from making the situation worse. He notes that Alicia and Althea are both survivors and will be fine without his help. And just like that Strand is left without a plan or way to help his friends.

John and Alicia return to the crash site, along with Morgan. John is confused when he can’t find the walker that Althea was so curious about. They’re also suspicious about the fact that the weapons they brought along with them are now missing. Deciding to take back supplies, John heads to the truck stop while Alicia and Morgan keep looking. Alicia feels regret for not being able to predict that Al would do this, but Morgan states that they can’t play the blame game here. While venturing away from the crash site, Alicia and Morgan come across a roadblock warning of radiation. The possibility of Al being on the other side of the roadblock causes Alicia to further doubt her leadership. They spot a truck that Alicia notes is still warm and was running recently before hearing the noise of birds cawing. They walk into the woods to investigate before splitting off to cover more ground. There’s a creepy scene that Morgan wanders into involving two crows trapped in a box with walkers snarling and reaching for them below. Morgan kills one, but his legs are suddenly lassoed and bound causing him to impale the other with his stick and struggle to not be bitten. A mysterious figure wearing a full hazmat suit arrives and shoots the walker in the head before turning her gun on Morgan and ordering him to remove his clothes. The woman, later revealed to be named Grace (Karen David), lowers her gun and tells Morgan to try and not speak or breath much while untying himself and slowly moving away from the body. Grace grabs Morgan’s stick and tosses it as he asks for it back, prompting her to pull the gun on him again. Suddenly, Alicia tackles her to the ground, removes her mask and demands to know where Al is. It is here that the some answers are given about the radiation mystery…and it’s just as dangerous as it seems.

A piece of vital information regarding the show environment is revealed. Grace explains that one of two pressurized water reactors 13 miles away had a meltdown. The meltdown killed several people and radiation is now being carried by their walkers, and may have just gotten on Morgan. Back at Grace’s truck, Morgan is given a decontamination shower to remove any radioactive particles that may be attached to him. Grace gives him careful instructions on how to clean himself, including the fact that he needs to remove his wedding ring and clean under it. There’s a solemn moment in which Morgan removes the ring, seeming to take a moment to think back on his wife Jenny. Alicia asks about objects that Grace is removing from the dead, to which she explains are dosimeters used to measure radiation. She also asks about the walker roadblocks, but Grace isn’t the one who set those up. At the truck stop, June tends to Luciana’s wound and gives her painkillers. Luciana is concerned because she can’t feel her fingers, but June explains that it is normal and that her recovery period will be long. In a rather strange question, Luciana wonders when she will be able to play the accordion, something she is wanting to learn. John arrives with two surviving notebooks from Polar Bear, as well as the copy of “The Little Prince,” that survived both a hurricane and a plane crash. It is decided that John and June will head in the opposite direction of where Alicia and Morgan are going. Luciana will stay at the truck stop…alone, which is an especially odd decision. John gives Luciana one of his pistols for her just in case; she plans on trying to radio Strand to see if he got Al’s previous message.

Alicia radios John to let him know to be careful about the walkers with the dosimeters on them. This news is a bit defeating to John, but June notes that this only stands to reason that they should keep their mission going. The two end up making it to Camp Cackleberry, which was seen on the side of the van Annie drove the group in the last episode. John posits that the children most likely don’t want to be found, but June points out that when she ran away, she hoped that he would find her. They find bullets inside the camp and deduce that some sort of battle for the locale erupted and they likely won due to the fence seeming to have been repaired. They hear banging noises and go to investigate, finding several walkers locked in the cabins with warning signs written on the outside. Grace asks to be brought back to the crash site to investigate the walker bodies that Alicia and the others killed. Morgan asks if he will ever be able to get his stick back, but Grace explains that the wood is porous and therefore cannot be cleaned. After a full inspection of the walkers, Grace notes that the ones killed are clean, but the fence she put up to keep them from venturing away from contaminated area was knocked down by the crash.

A collection of walkers stumble out of the trees and one of them is radioactive. Grace prepares to go through her protocol of safely killing it, but Alicia is prepared to stand her ground and take them all down. The walkers stumble into a pit of mud and become covered as Morgan and Grace collect her killing supplies. Alicia kills several before Grace suits up and uses a geiger counter to check the remaining three. Not wanting to get potentially contaminated blood on her, Alicia struggles to hold off one of the walkers as Grace does her work. It’s a tense standoff, but Grace finds the infected walker and shoots it, forcing it to land on a tarp; Alicia is able to kill the walker in front of her. As night falls and the site is cleaned up, Grace lambastes Alicia for being so reckless. We learn more about Grace as she explains that she ran operations at the plant and when things started falling apart, she called in all the shifts and eventually their families to hunker down and keep things running. When cities started falling, the plant’s power was no longer needed and the plant melted down. According to Grace, there are 63 radioactive walkers still out there. She believes it is her responsibility to take care of those she couldn’t protect when they were alive.

John radios Alicia to let her know that he and June have found a collection of walkers with the dosimeters, although they are corpses burned in a pile. Grace, Alicia and Morgan head over to Camp Cackleberry and they come to find out that these bodies are in fact radioactive. By burning the corpses, the particles were simply released into the air and June points out that the walkers locked in the cabins are probably the ones who burned them. The additional dead that are found just add to Grace’s guilt as the radiation keeps spreading and killing people via her walker coworkers. After successfully radioing Strand, Luciana ventures outside of the truck stop after hearing noises. Outside, she notices that the long-range antennae has been knocked down by “wind” and she radios John and June to let them know. A number of walkers emerge from the trees and Luciana suddenly becomes dizzy, attempting to fire John’s pistols but missing. She manages to make it inside as the walkers close in and bang on the doors.

As John and June head back to the truck stop, Morgan and Alicia wait for Grace to finish up at the camp. We get an excellent moment between the two characters as Morgan opens up to Alicia about his past, specifically the time in which all he did was kill. She feels that her contribution to the greater good is killing as many walkers as possible. “You are not locked in. A door opens. There is a way out,” Morgan tells Alicia, echoing precisely what Eastman told him in “Here’s Not Here.” Morgan tried to run away from people on many different occasions, and at the time, it seemed like the best move, but it wasn’t. He needs people. And so does Alicia. The pain that they experience comes as a result of them opening themselves up. It hurts, but it is part of life. Morgan’s life started over again because he found the door and went through it. This is exactly what Alicia needed to hear right now. Outside, they find Grace packing up her truck, preparing to leave to go to caverns near the plant to dispose of the bodies…and Morgan’s stick. Morgan and Alicia offer to help and invite her to join the rest of the group at the denim factory, but Grace explains that she can’t do that. When the plant was melting down, she went inside for days to look for survivors and was exposed to massive amounts of radiation. They part ways, but keep open the line of communication via radio. Everyone returns to the truck stop and finds Luciana. Outside, they discover a grim sight: the heads of the walkers that chased Luciana are now hanging from a billboard next to the truck stop, similar to the roadblock. The group believes that they are getting close to something, and that whoever is doing this, is trying to scare them away.

The good in “The Hurt That Will Happen”

  • Daniel Salazar being back…and having scenes with Strand right off the bat. Plus, he has a cat!
  • Morgan acting as a mentor of sorts to Alicia. This is especially important, given the pasts of both characters. They have shared trauma and both have piles of loss.
  • Alicia being in a dark place, similar to how Morgan used to be, shows that she is still deeply affected by the deaths of Nick and Madison. She is allowed to mourn, which is sometimes skipped over in this franchise.
  • Strand pleading with Daniel, trying to show that he has in fact changed, but not being believed because of his lies in the past.
  • Luciana’s drug induced humor is a welcome break from the gloom and doom.
  • More John and June time is always welcomed, especially with the references to their spectacular standalone “Laura.”
  • Grace is a strong new character right out of the gate, providing fascinating backstory and context for the exciting environmental changes. Her radiation mission is something unique and has the potential to shake things up a lot.
  • The tone and cinematography is both eerie and frightening.

The iffy in “The Hurt That Will Happen Here”

  • Morgan not naming Eastman, Rick or any of the people from his past. This feels a bit like the writers are trying to avoid directly referring to characters and events from “The Walking Dead,” and simply want viewers to know who is being talked about. It would be epic to have Morgan talk to Alicia about Eastman and Rick directly by name.

The bad in “The Hurt That Will Happen Here”

  • Luciana’s skirmish with the walkers outside of the truck stop is such manufactured tension. She has survived long and is far smarter than to just wander outside alone like this when she is fully aware that there are mysterious threats all around. Also, the fact that she suddenly becomes dizzy as walkers approach her feels like more drama to create tension.

Top performances in “The Hurt That Will Happen”

  • Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
  • Lennie James as Morgan Jones
  • Danay García as Luciana Galvez
  • Rubén Blades as Daniel Salazar

Lingering thoughts and predictions

  • The fact that one nuclear reactor melted down is concerning. The fact that there is another that hasn’t melted down is even more concerning. Could our group have to avert a nuclear disaster this season?
  • Is Grace being totally truthful about what happened? Is it worse than what she is saying? For some reason, her story feels like it has shades of Father Gabriel locking his parishioners out of his church. Did she actually do something similar?
  • The plant was equipped to survive terrorists attacks and other disasters similarly to the CDC as described by Dr. Jenner. No one could have predicted a walker apocalypse though.
  • This episode has a tone that feels similar to “Friday the 13th,” mostly because of the creepy summer camp.
  • What happened to Daniel since the last time we saw him? Will we get flashbacks or a bottle episode dedicated to showing his time after the Dam explosion?
  • Morgan makes several clear references to the analogies made by Eastman, specifically “opening the door.” Will there be more references later in the season?
  • Has Morgan really lost his stick forever? It has been with his character since the start of Season 5 of “The Walking Dead,” so it would be a massive gut punch to lose it all these years later.
  • Morgan’s taking a moment to look at his wedding ring while taking it off shows that he still carries his love for Jenny. It would be touching to have him talk about her and Duane to someone at some point.

“The Hurt That Will Happen” is a solid follow up to an excellent start to the season. There are a ton of moving pieces in the story, which is precisely what was needed after Season 4. Hopefully, the season can keep this momentum as the mysteries unfold.

Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m.

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