With The Walking Dead wrapping up the last of its six "extra" Season 10 episodes last Sunday with "Here's Negan," the spotlight shifts to the return of Fear the Walking Dead with the eighth episode of the sixth season, "The Door." Though a number of familiar faces appear at certain points, the focus of this episode is on Morgan (Lennie James), Dakota (Zoe Colletti), and John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) as Dorie looks to help get Morgan and Dakota back to the Morgan's growing community- and Morgan and Dakota try to convince Dorie to return with them. Was there pressure being the episode that not only follows the fourth-highest-rated episode of TWD ever but also serves as the return episode for a season that's been embraced by viewers and critics alike? If there was, it doesn't matter because director Michael E. Satrazemis and writers by Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss crafted a heart-crushing game-changer of an episode that actually represented a first for us. But before we go any further, you need to know that there are some ten-ton "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" so if you haven't screened it yet? Seriously. Go see it now and then come back? Otherwise, we'll see you after the following image spoiler buffer…
First? F**k you, Satrazemis, Goldberg, and Chambliss.
Second? Thank you, Satrazemis, Goldberg, and Chambliss.
It's our fault, actually. We only have ourselves to blame. Because as much as the cast and crew have been telling us to expect the unexpected and how the second-half would be chockful of game-changers, we fell into the trap of "assumptions and expectations." Even though Dorie was contemplating suicide at the opening of the episode, we "just knew" Morgan and Dakota (especially Morgan) could get him to see the light, return with them, and fight the good fight for a better tomorrow. We could see it in the way he was beginning to bond with Dakota and how Morgan was slowly working his way past Dorie's defenses. Just look how hard he fought when he was on the truck to clear the walkers? And even when Dakota was exposed as Cameron's true killer and she shot Dorie to keep her secret, dumping him into the river? There was no way it was going to end, and then we had it. That moment when Dorie was underwater and facing the very real choice of whether to keep fighting or give in, and he chose to fight! Yes! So all he needs to do is drift off to the side of the river so June can save the day and…
Then it happened. There wasn't going to be "The Big Reunion" between lost loves. June (Jenna Elfman) wasn't going to get to do for Dorie what he did for her when they first met. John Dorie died. And it crushed us. Because as we said in the opener, this was a first for us- the first time a character we truly cared about was killed and we didn't see it coming. And it's still hurting 24 hours later because as a Dorie fan? It sucks. But as a fan of Fear TWD and the TWD universe overall, it was a bold, heartbreaking decision that the team should be applauded for. If you want to send a message that the danger in a series is legit real, the best way to do that is to show that anyone's expendable- just like in life. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I truly have no clue where the series might be going this season- and it's fun in a weird, twisted way (just not for our heroes). Also, aside from the emotional levels, Dorie's death mattered in that it lit some dangerously interesting storylines moving forward. What does Morgan do with a homicidal Dakota, who he needs to keep alive? How will June react to Virginia (Colby Minifie) after having to put Dorie down? Will this be the very thing that inspires Morgan's side- or fractures them?
As for those emotional levels we mentioned earlier? Goldberg and Chambliss deserve special merit for offering us a story in which we see Dorie as an almost "What If…?" contrast to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). It's no secret that there have been comparisons between the two since Dillahunt first debuted, and many thought that would be the role he would play on Fear TWD moving forward. And in many ways, the two were similar- but that's when the writers added that TWD adage about how different people could've turned out if even the smallest thing went one way instead of another. But in case you didn't see it before, we were shown the correlation in the Dorie-themed opening graphic, that Dorie faces off against a large horde of walkers on a bridge, that Dorie is left for dead to float down a river, and other moments. Hell, we even got a Rick/Carl vibe during the early conversations between Drie and Dakota.
But in the end, it was how their stories ended (for one, at least for now) that showed the difference. Rick died on that bridge embracing the hope and the possibility of a new tomorrow and a better society those that remained could be a part of, so he sacrificed himself for that faith in what could be. And in his "death," he was reborn- though where and into what role still remains to be seen. Dorie thought following his father's path was the way to go, secluding himself away from a world he had convinced himself he could never be a part of. And though he finds his faith in the end, it's not enough to save him- but like Rick, it's about those he left behind who are still alive because of him that would mean the most to Dorie.
I would need an entirely separate post to give both Dillahunt and Colletti the credit they deserve for some masterclass acting. Dillahunt's Dorie is a man in pain, torn between doing what's right and what the world wants of him. It's not that Dorie isn't meant for this world- Dillahunt portrays Dorie as a man who's afraid he might not be enough for what the future needs- so instead of running the risk of ruin, he runs away. Dillahunt portrays that conflict amazingly, conveying both the nobility and doubt behind the decisions he makes with only a few words- he tells his story as much through his face and body language as anything else. As for Colletti, this is a game-changing episode for the actor personally and professionally- and begins to change our perception of her past with her sister Ginny. The manic, sociopathic way she rages at Morgan with both pleasure and disgust, revealing answers to questions we've had since the season started, demonstrates a range we hadn't seen from Colletti on the series- and we really, really like it. In less than an hour, Dakota just became one of the more fascinating "big bads" Fear TWD has seen in some time with so many possibilities storyline-wise.
So congratulations to AMC's Fear the Walking Dead and a moment of silence for Dillahunt's Dorie- a hero in every sense of the word. Halfway through its sixth season, Fear TWD took a page from the flagship series and made itself dangerous again- and we still have eight more episodes to go.