Fear the Walking Dead season 5 review: All about the mission

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Lennie James as Morgan Jones - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC
Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark, Lennie James as Morgan Jones - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 5, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Ryan Green/AMC /

Fear the Walking Dead returns for season 5 with a lot of action, a lot of drama and jaw-dropping moments that will leave fans speechless.

The first four episodes of Fear the Walking Dead season 5 reveal a thoughtful plan to build upon the stories that began in season 4. The four episodes feature the group working together to help people, making it clear that everything fans saw in season 4 was done to set up this season and take the show into a whole new direction. And it totally works.

There’s no denying that Fear the Walking Dead season 4 was divisive to fans who were on board with the story building out of season 3, and that’s understandable. Season 4 was a complete shift that some fans enjoyed and others didn’t. In terms of season 5, though, it’s absolutely clear that the upcoming season, when viewed through the lens of the first four episodes, uses season 4 as its foundation and turns it into something really special. In other words, without season 4 the stories in season 5 wouldn’t be possible.

Alycia Debnam-Carey shines in the first four episodes and Alicia Clark fans will see that she has been elevated to the leader of the group. While they’re all following Morgan’s missions, the group looks to Alicia for guidance and that is abundantly clear in the season premiere with Debnam-Carey has some standout moments. Fans who enjoyed her in The 100 might see a little bit of Lexa peeking out every now and then and it’s fun to see.

Season 5 improves upon season 4 by giving the entire cast plenty of screen time. The first four episodes change locations quite a bit, but at no point do they linger too much on any one actor or group. These aren’t “bottle episodes” and that’s a good thing. The cast is far too talented and fun to watch to relegate anyone to the periphery, and that says a lot about the start of season 5: Everyone is needed to make these missions work. It’s a group effort, and so you see the entire group in action.

The theme of season 5 is one of redemption. After enduring unspeakable tragedy in season 4, in addition to battling their own demons, the group has realized that the path to redemption is paved in trying to help others.

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Director Michael E. Satrazemis delivers the explosive season premiere episode, entitled “Here to Help”. It’s an episode to starts with a bang (literally) and never lets up. A few months have passed since the season 4 finale and the entire group is working together to help people, to varying success. They keep hitting roadblocks but they don’t let them get in the way. They keep moving forward, because it’s what they do.

The missions mean something different for everyone. For Morgan it’s about doing what’s right. For Alicia it’s about honoring her mother’s memory. For Luciana it’s honoring Clayton’s mission, while John and June are dishing out gratitude because they found each other. Charlie is growing up and learning how to cope with her past, and Al is always after the story.

There are jaw-dropping moments in each of the first four episodes along with some of the most spectacular walker kills the franchise has seen in a long while. The creativity from showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, along with their talented team of writers, really shines through in these episodes and reflects the show’s transition into a bona fide zombie adventure story.

Thinking back to Scott M. Gimple’s comments at WonderCon about something big planned for season 5, there’s no question that the first four episodes of the season are building up to a bigger story. By bigger story I mean a HUGE, butterfly-effect kind of story.

Eagle-eyed fans might pick up little clues of what’s to come along the way. The good news is that Goldberg and Chambliss won’t make fans wait long. Once you have that “oh, I get it now” moment you’ll be dialed in. I promise. (Seriously, if you’ve read this far and watch the show and don’t see what I mean, come back and tell me)

All of this is not to say the first four episodes are perfect. To use one of my 6th grade vocabulary words the story starts in medias res, which is a fancy Latin term for starting in the middle of the action. There are lingering questions from the very first moments of the premiere that don’t make sense until you realize, later on, that the answers don’t actually matter. In order to save time, the story starts in the middle of the action and later on it makes sense because in this case it’s about the destination and not the journey.

Some fans will notice issues with pacing. Being able to watch all four episodes in succession without commercials gave me a very different viewing experience. There are moments in these episodes where the pacing slows down, and when viewed back to back it makes sense, but the pacing issues will be noticeable, though not problematic, week to week.

For fans who enjoyed season 4, season 5 will be a very welcome addition to the series. Fear has a completely different vibe from The Walking Dead and that’s probably a good thing, because it allows for new adventures and new stories that wouldn’t be possible back in Alexandria.

For the fans who did not enjoy season 4, season 5 reveals why the events of season 4 had to happen the way they did to set up this bigger story. Some fans can’t look past losing Madison, and that’s fair, but hearing Alicia’s impassioned speech about keeping her mother’s vision alive could change your perspective.

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Fear the Walking Dead season 5 is going to be a non-stop thrill ride for fans of the show and fans of The Walking Dead franchise at large. As a viewer and a fan, it reminds me of the early days of The Walking Dead and I love that. I love not knowing what’s about to happen. It’s why I like the new direction. Taken as a whole the show is moving to retain that adventure quality to it and it keeps both shows fresh and different.

You can catch the season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead on June 2 at 9pm on AMC. For more Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead coverage be sure to follow me at @SarabethPollock and @UndeadWalkingFS.