Splintered into separate groups, everyone scrambles to survive the incoming missile (and its ten warheads) … or to at least die on their own terms.
Last week’s final moments on “Fear the Walking Dead” delivered a real shocker in the successful launch of one of Teddy’s missiles. It wasn’t quite the guaranteed apocalypse he was hoping for, but with ten warheads still ready to detonate on impact, it’s definitely poised to at least be a regional disaster.
And scattered throughout the region, still fractured as they’d been most of the season, are the survivors of Morgan’s group, and even what’s left of Teddy’s group. Told in visual short stories from the same starting point, each segment carried our cast from launch through the moment of impact.
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The through-line for each piece, aside from the missile itself, was a message from Morgan sent from within the submarine after he’d just failed to stop Tommy from launching the missile. In it, he told everyone to “give yourself the end you wanted, even if it’s not the one we imagined.”
For some, that ending was more permanent than others, as not everyone survived this season finale. But there was also forgiveness and genuine affection and love on display. In spite of looming disaster, or perhaps because of it, a lot of the petty b.s. that has divided people suddenly seemed to go away.
Well, not for everyone But we’ll get there.
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Rachel & Baby Morgan
The hour opened with a genuinely tragic — and yet brilliant — scene with Rachel. Brigitte Kali Canales has served more of a symbolic role on the show than ever being fully developed as a character in her own right, and she carried that role again here.
She also carried, quite literally, her baby right into the arms of yet another symbolic moment. But first, she gave an incredibly strong and emotional performance as Rachel found herself stranded with her baby on the side of the road.
After an accident with the car left her with a broken leg, and with the missile’s return flight visible and Morgan’s message ringing in her ear, she gave herself one of the most inspired and creative deaths we’ve seen yet on this show.
Knowing she could never make it anywhere on her broken leg, and with seeming death looming, she sacrificed herself to save her baby. She had baby Morgan in a pack mounted to her back, wrapped a bandanna around her mouth to make it harmless and then killed herself.
The true spark of genius was in tying herself to her dog, Rufus, and giving him the order to seek out people. And so, that’s how she was found, with the baby crying behind her following Rufus. She died to save her baby, a tragic and brilliantly beautiful end.
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Daniel finally got a chance to redeem himself in the second segment, as the group sought shelter in the SWAT truck. First, not trusting his own memory, Daniel relented in letting Riley lead them to what he promised was the same shelter Alicia was tucked away in.
But after hearing Rollie drop a line about the “phoenix” — something Riley had been spouting from inside the truck — the pieces clicked together in Daniels’ head, and he quickly shot Rollie dead. Charlie followed by shooting Riley, though not dead just yet.
It could have turned quickly for Daniel, but Riley admitted that the groups own in-fighting had caused Rollie to lose faith in them, and so he joined up with Teddy’s forces. Riley also revealed he’d lied about where he was taking them. He was just bringing them somewhere to watch the end and die.
And so, after he saved their bacon, the group decided to trust the coordinates Daniel was sure he’d hear someone familiar say, and they arrived in the middle of nowhere. But it was only nowhere for a second as an even more familiar helicopter suddenly arrived.
The familiar voice was Al, and the pilot was likely Isabelle. This answers and raises so many questions about where Al has been, but at least we know she and Isabell have rekindled their relationship, in some capacity.
“World Beyond” viewers have some idea of the vast scope of CRM, so there are clearly a lot of questions about how (or if) Al convinced them to let her use this helicopter to save her friends. We also have to wonder where they’re going now.
Are they just being relocated somewhere safer, or brought into the fold? For that matter, is Al even in the fold, or did Isabell go rogue?
Riley did finally succumb to his gunshot wound, but not before Wes spray-painted the final word of his own message on Riley’s back. To counter “the end is the beginning,” he wrote, “This isn’t the end.”
And while the warheads coming down is devastating and promises major changes to come for the show, it’s definitely not the end.
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Dwight & Sherry
It took the end of the world — or the seeming end — for Sherry to finally be able to let go of her anger and re-embrace Dwight as the man she fell in love with. But when they found themselves desperately in need of shelter, Dwight realized something, too.
At first, they decided to just die in this nicely-kept home they found, but the family fearfully tried to get them to leave in peace. That’s when they learned some of Teddy’s people had commandeered the family’s storm shelter — not so willing to die, after all.
The couple cleared the shelter but actually shot and left one of them crippled and outside to face the blasts. It’s a darkness in them that is somewhat reminiscent of their time with Negan. Is it justified? Perhaps. But is it the right thing to do? Morgan definitely wouldn’t think so.
That’s one of the more interesting things about this season and this finale, as it pushes all of the characters up against Morgan’s moral stand — that he doesn’t even consistently follow — and asks if this really is the only way.
Dwight and Sherry made it clear they have no intention of following Negan’s path, but sometimes it’s worth fighting for what’s right. And sometimes that fighting can look pretty ugly. That said, killing the man would have been justified and a mercy. What they did was perhaps justified, but also cruel.
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June, John Sr., Teddy & Dakota
A tense confrontation at the beautiful vista Teddy had planned out to watch the fruition of his vision turned out to be as much of a fraud as the man himself. But that wasn’t the biggest tragedy.
He brought Dakota there, and the two spoke as if she was the long-lost daughter (or granddaughter) he’d never had. He told her she was the first to understand him, and Dakota felt he was the first who thought she was okay as she was — a reckless and dangerous sociopath.
But Dakota, still a kid and very mixed up even with her sociopathy, finds herself torn when John Sr. and June both show up and both forgive her for killing John. At the same time, there’s no way they can accept her as she is, instead offering her the chance at a new beginning.
By happenstance, John uncovers the trapdoor Teddy had not told Dakota about, his plan to actually survive the apocalypse himself, despite what he said. He also tells Dakota that Teddy doesn’t care about her, he only needs her to help launch missiles as it’s a two-person operation. Sociopath to sociopath, Dakota recognizes the truth.
But she still gives Teddy a chance to try and lie his way out of it, but not a very long one, before she kills him. This after June and John had managed to temporarily disarm her long enough to get into the bunker themselves. Dakota, refusing to be anything other than who she is, would not go with them.
And so, with the pair gone and Teddy dead by her hand, Dakota took to the vista to face the incoming bomb herself. In an unnecessary but brutally raw moment, we actually saw the charred remains of her body still standing briefly after the initial blast. It was a tragic end, but this was a character that clearly had no future and was a danger to everyone.
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Victor & Howard
As much as Dakota was a danger, she was at least an understood danger. Victor Strand, though, is the consummate survivor, a rat or a snake or whatever he needs to be to navigate this next challenge and come out alive.
As he proved by nearly killing Morgan, he’ll kill anyone and do anything as well, but his is always with the motive of self-preservation above all. The apocalyptic bombs dropping left him in two states of mind.
First, after meeting Howard the historian atop the Franklin Hotel with his nice things and nice bourbon, a shamed Victor couldn’t even admit the truth of who he was. He described what went down in the sub, but introduced himself as Morgan, the man who was willing to die.
After the blast, though, when he and Howard survived, Victor gave an impassioned speech about how he was, in fact, Victor Strand, the ultimate survivor of this world. He did not hold back in suggesting just what he was willing to do to survive.
As he saw it, the fact he was standing there alive was vindication and proof that all of the horrible things he’s done throughout his life are the right things to do. Could it be that the explosion stripped away his uncertainty and shame over his own behavior.
If so, Victor might prove the most dangerous character on this show. Could he become the “big bad” of the next season? Will Morgan and the others ever truly trust him again? At this point, he’s betrayed them countless times, but they keep giving him chances.
With Colman Domingo still in the cast, and Howard not running in terror, and enjoying the finer things in life he’d taken a liking to when we first met him, there is clearly some plan for this new development with his personality and motives. It might be that he will no longer play the anti-hero role at all, and slide directly into villainous.
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Morgan & Grace
Of all the characters on this show, Grace understands the full meaning behind the launch of that missile and those warheads. This is not remotely a contained blast, and so the fallout will be immense, worse than Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl.
And so, having already seen so many of her friends and colleagues and even her baby’s father die from the radiation poisoning, she would rather her and Morgan die now than face what life will look like after the bombs hit.
But at the moment Morgan was about to end it for them both, they heard the crying. It was baby Morgan, led by Rufus and brought directly to them. Here was Morgan’s symbol of renewal of new life of hope for the future.
For Grace, though, who’d just lost her own child to radiation poisoning, this baby was a reminder of just how much there is to lose. They survived the first explosion, but as they stood there and saw bomb after bomb detonate over their shoulders, she knew the real challenges lie ahead.
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After the Bombs
Ultimately, while we lost Teddy and Riley and Dakota this week, none of the good guys (with the exception of poor symbolic prop, Rachel) bit the dust even as the bombs fell. But that could still change as they try to navigate this strange new landscape.
Will they simply hightail it out of Texas, or will this irradiated landscape become their new normal? How could they live there with such elevated radiation levels without simply dying themselves? Will they all manage to avoid that fallout, or is there a horrific death in store for some?
With the death of Teddy, the show is now lacking in a “big bad,” but there is always Victor and there is always just the struggle for their very survival. The type of blast we witnessed would wipe out structures, destroy crops, kill animals and — well, who knows how it impacts the dead.
Bottom line, though, is that simple survival will be a bigger challenge than they’ve faced in a long time. They’d become used to surviving off the land, but this is not that land and this land may be poison. They understood the dead, but these dead may come with new threats.
We remember how they had to keep their distance from irradiated walkers last season in the radiation zone where they first found Grace. But those walkers were clearly marked. What about the ones wandering now? Letting them up close could be a death sentence.
Luckily, we won’t have to wait that long to find out what comes next. Already deep into filming for Season 7, “Fear the Walking Dead” kicks off this fall on AMC.