Spoiler Warning for Season 5, Episode 11 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
“People are people.”
After one decent episode and one stellar episode, the second half of “Fear the Walking Dead’s” fifth season delivers a chapter that exposes yet another recurring issue the series has. While not a bad episode by any means, only a handful of characters are featured, which inherently slows down the story. That being said, there are some really solid character moments here that do wonders for development.
This episode is largely Alicia-centric, which is always a good thing. Following her decision in the Mid-Season Premiere to search for the person painting the trees, Alicia inspects the tree that started this search. When a few walkers stumble upon her, Alicia completely freezes and is unable to kill them. Strand steps in and kills them for her, providing more context to how she has survived since being stuck in this non-killing phase. He’s even using her flash suppressor weapon. Later, Strand notes to Alicia that their vehicle is running low on fuel and that they should head back to the rest of the convoy, worrying what being out here is doing to her. The voice of Wes comes over the radio and immediately recognizes the voices of Alicia and Strand from the tape. They track him down and help him by loading his broken down and shot up motorcycle into the back of their truck. They learn that he had a run in with Logan’s crew and decide to offer him a ride to meet up with his brother. While being driven to where his brother is, Wes asks Alicia how long she has been searching for the tree painter. She explains that whomever is painting the trees sees the world in a way she wishes she could. This is essentially a side mission from their main mission to help others.
This episode also follows Morgan and Althea as they find themselves on a very important mission that ties into the larger world. A series of interviews conducted by Althea have been released online during this season as a companion series. One ties directly into this episode; in it, Al interviews a former bank manager named Clark who provides her with the combination to the vault. In this episode, we see Morgan and Al arrive at the bank and take down a few walkers. Morgan struggles with his now shortened staff, but he assures Al that he’ll get used to it. Upon opening the vault, they find a lone walker stuck inside and posit that the person must have taken refuge inside, but eventually died. Al’s interview with Clark gave her the idea to store the tapes she made inside due to the fact that it is highly impenetrable. She explains that if something happens to the group, the tapes will need to survive. Morgan questions if anyone will be around if the group dies out, but her adventure in “The End of Everything” leads her to believe that Isabelle’s group will still be around. Al can sense that something is going on with Morgan. She knows him. And she knows he’s not doing so good right now.
The place Wes is trying to get to is a local police station. Alicia and Strand bring him here, but Wes finds something other than his brother when he goes inside. A chase occurs as a man rushes out of the building with Wes following behind. Strand tries to hold Wes back, but the fleeing man steals their truck and drives off. Wes fires several shots and seems to hit the man, but walkers arrive and force the trio to retreat. Strand and Wes arm themselves with weapons they find in a police cruiser, but this backfires when they realize they are riot gear. After shooting several tear gas canisters, Strand struggles to see and urges Alicia and Wes to flee inside. Once everyone makes it indoors, Alicia uses water to clear the tear gas out of Strand’s eyes, but he’s going to have to suffer through this for a bit. We also learn that Wes doesn’t actually have a brother anymore and that he only came to this police station to reclaim something he lost to the fleeing man. The trio discover that walkers are preventing them from leaving immediately. Upset at Wes’ lies, Alicia decides to ask him how many people he has killed. She can tell he hasn’t killed before and she explains that it will change him as a person. Wes doesn’t believe she has killed before seeing as how she can’t even kill a walker. Boy…he sure is wrong.
Alicia decides to radio Al and Morgan to let them know of the man Wes shot. Being that she and Strand are currently trapped, she hopes that Morgan and Al can get to him before he bleeds out. This episode features a really moving heart-to-heart between Alicia and Strand in which she admits that she shouldn’t be out here. She thanks him for stepping in and killing walkers for her. Strand knows that Alicia has a lot to figure out for herself, and he reaffirms that he will stand beside her until they figure it all out. Alicia sorta switches into therapist mode and begins asking Wes questions about what he’s looking for, the man he shot, and his brother. “I lost a brother too,” Alicia states, but Wes doesn’t care. He does open up and explain that his own brother died by an “eater” at the start and that the motorcycle he rides around on now belonged to his brother. “This is the way things are now,” Wes tells Alicia. This is pretty much the opposite of how she is trying to live her life. Hearing from Al that she and Morgan haven’t been able to reach the dying man, Alicia mobilizes and prepares to head out on her own. Wes actually decides to assist, seemingly being affected by Alicia telling him that he hasn’t killed anyone yet because the man he shot is likely still alive.
Morgan and Al decide to race to try and find the man that was shot by Wes. Unsurprisingly, they come across a roadblock set up by none other than Logan and his crew. They have been listening to the radios and knew to stop them here. Logan just wants to know where “the damn oil fields are” and he wants to know NOW. Knowing that Morgan and Al are in a hurry to save the bleeding man, Logan explains that he has all the time in the world. He expresses the fact that he has grown rather fond of this group and doesn’t want them to suffer. Al suggests that they take a different route, but Morgan knows they simply don’t have the time for this. Morgan tries to reason with Logan, but even he notes that the helping others mentality is something he is so far beyond at this point. Logan isn’t actively trying to harm others, but he isn’t going out of his way to help people. A line is CROSSED as Logan points out that Morgan trying to help others will not make up for him not being able to help his wife and son. This causes Morgan to snap into a mode we haven’t seen for quite some time. He pins Logan against his truck with the staff as guns are trained on them. Al desperately tries to get Morgan to stand down. Logan rudely, but also validly states that Morgan shouldn’t get angry about others getting into his business when he openly aired it all out on the tape. Jenny and Duane are a line not to be crossed.
Wes really proves himself to be a formidable survivor this episode. We see him leave the building through a back exit (why Alicia and Strand couldn’t have slipped out this door also is unknown) to face the walkers head on. He shoots several of the walkers banging on the front entrance, but one of his bullets breaks the glass door. This forces Alicia to step forward and try to kill a walker that gets in. Unfortunately, she has flashbacks to when she killed the radioactive walker in “Still Standing” and she freezes up. Even though he can barely see, Strand steps in to help Alicia and Wes arrives to kill the other walkers that have stumbled in. Meanwhile, Morgan and Al leave Logan’s roadblock feeling defeated by what transpired. Al apologizes for including Morgan speaking about his family in the documentary. Morgan claims that their deaths are just part of who he is, but Al contests this and states that they’re not “ghosts.” Wes, Alicia and Strand manage to catch up to the man that was shot, but they see him walking away as a walker. When Wes approaches the man, he turns out not to be a walker and tackles him to the ground, choking him in the process. Wes stabs the man in the side in self defense before demanding to know where his manuscript is. The dying man is caught off guard when he realizes that Wes is the one who wrote it and explains that he didn’t get to finish reading it. Alicia is horrified that Wes would kill someone for stealing a book, but Wes doesn’t even want the book anymore seeing as someone died for it.
The ending of the episode is really the best part. We see Alicia and Strand bury the man that Wes killed under a tree. Upon inspecting the manuscript, Alicia sees the line “if you’re reading this, it means you’re still alive” and figures out that Wes is responsible for the tree messages. She finds his paint supplies in the motorcycle and Strand expresses his sorrow that she didn’t find what she was looking for. Alicia decides that it is up to her to make things better for herself and she decides to make her own tree painting. When a walker stumbles upon her and Strand, Alicia actually steps forward and kills it. She’s finding her way again. Morgan and Althea arrive and admire Alicia’s finished work. On the tree, Alicia has written Madison’s final words “no one’s gone until they’re gone” along with a phoenix rising from flames. Morgan tells Al that she is both right and wrong about him holding onto his trauma. He holds onto the bad because it is connected to the good. He’s worried about losing the good memories, but Al offers a solution: record him speaking about the good so they can be preserved forever. The cliffhanger comes as Logan and his people somehow manage to break into the impenetrable bank vault. They are looking for Clayton’s journals, but are satisfied with the tapes that Al left behind. Their plan is to scour the tapes in the hope that someone slipped up and gave the location of the oil fields. “Adios yesterday, hello tomorrow,” Logan eerily states as the episode concludes.
The good in “You’re Still Here”
- The heavy focus on Alicia and Strand’s relationship is so vital. They have been surviving together since the Los Angeles days of Season 1 and have experienced so much shared trauma. They have each other’s backs and always will. We should be seeing more of them together honestly.
- Wes is a really interesting character right off the bat. His ideology about the world conflicts with that of the group currently so there is clear tension and disagreement. The show really needs the energy he is bringing.
- The Morgan and Althea friendship is another major highlight. These two have been surviving together for nearly two full seasons and have grown to be very close. Al knows something is going on with Morgan and she desperately wants to help him through it.
- Morgan dealing with the trauma resulting from the deaths of Jenny and Duane is fitting. We always saw him dealing with it on the main series, but here he is actually talking about them and trying to move forward.
- Alicia painting the trees is a beautiful tribute to her mother, and really seems therapeutic to her.
- The musical score and cinematography in this episode, as well as this half of the season, is really on point.
- Logan’s slow evolution from angry survivor to a formidable threat is a fun arc to watch play out.
- The fact that story from “The Althea Tapes” carries directly over to the main series is a really rewarding way to further link the universe.
The iffy in “You’re Still Here”
- Not to disregard Alicia’s trauma from the exposure to the radioactive walker,but it is a bit bizarre that we are only just now seeing her experience this level of PTSD. Thinking back to Seasons 2 and 3 specifically, Alicia experienced massive amounts of brutality and killing, but wasn’t ever shown to be dealing with the trauma from it. That being said, trauma manifests itself in many ways and can never be explained fully.
- It is a bit disappointing that the fan theory that Madison was responsible for painting the trees didn’t come true. The fact that her death had almost no closure and is still a point of anger for fans shows that it wasn’t done right. The door was open for her to be brought back and they fumbled it.
The bad In “You’re Still Here”
- Alicia chastising Wes for killing the man is a strange considering it wasn’t just over the manuscript. Wes had no choice, but to stab him seeing as he was literally being choked to death. Alicia has had to kill in self defense before, so she should recognize this as a necessary kill.
- Strand and Alicia fighting so hard to save a man that attacked Wes is really rather odd also. It just feels so extreme even for their positive outlook.
Top performances in “You’re Still Here”
- Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
- Colman Domingo as Victor Strand
- Lennie James as Morgan Jones
Lingering thoughts and predictions
- The fact that we see Clark’s interview have an affect on the main story could hint that other interviews conducted by Al could factor in later.
- Now that Alicia has found new purpose in life, will she continue painting the trees? Hopefully there is more story than that for her.
- Morgan seems to be open to the idea of being interviewed by Al about his family. Will we hear unheard stories about his life with Jenny and Duane?
- What larger force is Logan referring to when he enters the vault? Is he working for someone more powerful? A bigger villain?
- Will Wes decide to join the group? It seemed as though he had a moment of quiet reflection when he came across one of his trees. Maybe he will have a change of heart and join the group’s mission.
“You’re Still Here” is a decent episode that does a lot of good for Alicia, Strand and Morgan’s characters. The fractured narrative of this season really hurts the story seeing as we go episodes without following certain characters. That being said, hopefully this will shift the characters forward for a climactic end to the season.
Be sure to tune into “Fear the Walking Dead” Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC.