So… happy Mother's Day?! After four serious gut-punches in a row that have clearly defined Teddy (John Glover) and his "The End is the Beginning" folks as possibly the greatest threat the TWD universe has faced so far, Sunday night's episode of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead shifted the focus to Morgan (Lennie James) and Grace (Karen David). When Gace begins going into labor, Morgan looks to get her to June (Jenna Elfman) for medical help- that is, until Riley (Nick Stahl) forces a conversation. From there, viewers are presented with a story that flows between what's real and what's imagined- between what's happening in their dark reality and what's happening "In Dreams." So with that in mind, we're throwing on the "MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!" sign and throwing down a spoiler buffer image- and we'll meet you on the other side for our review.
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis, and written by Andrew Chambliss, Ian Goldberg, and Nazrin Choudhury, "In Dreams" is an interesting choice to have airing on Mother's Day and I don't have an issue with anyone who might have an issue with that. With that in mind, I also believe it was a very touching and heartbreaking tale of the sacrifices a mother is willing to make for her daughter- and in this case, vice-versa. Having the episode begin with Grace in the dream-future was a particularly effective touch because it created a sense of dread and foreboding in the viewers. Of course, that's just a fancy way of saying that we were certain that Grace was either dead or dying and that we were watching her go through (for lack of a better phrase) her death throes.
So now with the foundation set, David and Sahana Srinivasan (Athena) take the episode and raise the season's emotional bar even higher- no easy feat considering how the season's been firing on all cylinders. Watching Grace trying to squeeze in both years lost and years that will never paint Grace in a tragically heroic light, while Athena stands as a proud personification of everything Grace, Morgan, and the others have been fighting for. David's performance was foundational, offering more about Grace in less than an hour than what we've gotten to experience from her in the past two seasons. As for Srinivasan, we only have one complaint. It pisses off a little that we won't have her back in the TWD universe because she is an on-screen presence that as a viewer you want to connect with and care for.
And then they flipped the switch on us, and it felt like someone had sucked all of the energy- and hope- out of the room. Because Grace wasn't imparting wisdom onto Athena before she would go on to die in childbirth so that Athena could live- in dreams, that's what happened. But in reality, Athena would never be born alive… would never become the symbol of hope our survivors need… having absorbed Grace's radiation. What we had been watching was a dream Athena was having before she died- leaving the viewers and our survivors left to wonder if their last, best chance at hope died with her. Or could Athena's death and a renewed focus from Grace be a different kind of inspiration for the group? It focuses on the personal without losing sight of the season's bigger-picture storyline, making "In Dreams" another impressive outing for The Walking Dead spinoff series.
Okay, so other quick thoughts. First, the dream scenes showing a future for our heroes were such a wonderfully "cheap" (we mean that in a good way) way to twist our feels. Daniel (Ruben Blades) cutting Strand's (Colman Domingo) hair, apparently having moved past their past? Althea (Maggie Grace) possibly off looking for a certain CRM soldier? Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) running her own community at the old sports stadium? Doctor June Dorie? And best of all, white-haired Morgan as a dad? So many things to make us smile- and then feel that punch to our feels after quickly realizing that it's all about to go away. Second, we're wondering if there was a conscious decision for this season to thematically mirror a number of key moments from TWD's run- offering some very interesting takes.
RANDOM SPECULATION ALERT! Finally, we get to our unpopular theory about Grace- which we're still not sure this episode was able to excuse away. Didn't it feel weird the way Riley went after Morgan? Considering they already know how dangerous Morgan is, why would they only send a handful of cultists to take him out? It felt like the attack was more to kill time and delay Morgan- but for what? Also, how did Teddy's cult know when to strike at Morgan and Grace? And what was up with Grace thinking handing over a key to cultists was a good idea? Then there's the matter of Daniel and how Grace challenged his recollection of his own instructions- that helped take Daniel off the playing field. You know, we're going to stop there before we make a direct accusation- all we're officially saying right now is that no one is ruled out as a possible mole for Teddy.