Coming into the fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead is very much akin to your first day of high school. After a year of feeling on top of the world, you’re suddenly thrust into a new and unknown place where, sure, there are a couple of people you recognise from last year, but it’s mostly scary new kids that you’re not sure you’re going to like or not.
After an outstanding third season, fans of the show were left on tenterhooks as to the outcome of the dam explosion. Who lived? Who died? What would come of that phenomenal showdown between Victor and Daniel? And with Madison finally becoming the badass leader the show had been lacking, it seemed as if The Walking Dead’s often forgotten little brother was finally starting to live up to its sibling’s name.
And then it was announced that Morgan was coming in.
And there was going to be a freakin’ massive time jump.
And that Ruben Blades wasn’t coming back.
And even for this fan, who has stood by the spin-off since its inception, warning bells started to sound.
Was I wrong to worry? Partly. It’s difficult to go into a conclusive review of season four without giving too much away, so let’s put it simply; a show that started as the tale of broken family coming together and surviving through the apocalypse has evolved into an entirely different beast altogether. The Clarke family are no longer the focus of FTWD, with new characters such as Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie and Maggie Grace’s Al taking the forefront. And they’re great. Dorie is a charming gunslinger with a heart of gold, and while Al’s video-journalism seems like little more than a narrative McGuffin throughout the first half of the season, she certainly comes into her own during the tail end. We also have a ragtag group of miscreants in the form of Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), Sarah (Mo Collins) and Jimbo (X-Men’s Aaron Stanford in a delightful little turn) who, despite sharing more than a fair few similarities to Abe’s Army when they were first introduced (oh, hello Scott Gimple…) bring some much-needed light relief to a show that so often takes itself far too seriously.
The introduction of Gimple as showrunner has led to a little fatigue in the storytelling; we have the first half in a sanctuary, destroyed by a rowdy group (no spoilers there; if you couldn’t see it a mile off, then you’ve clearly never seen a Walking Dead show before), followed by the group being separated, following clues along the road to a final destination, meeting new allies along the way. In that sense, it is an almost beat-for-beat copy of the main show’s fourth season.
But that’s not to say that there isn’t fun to be had. The new characters are great, with special mention to Dillahunt, as well as young Alexa Ninenson as troubled teen Charlie, and it’s nice to be on the road again, as these shows always thrive when they keep their cast moving. Added to that is the fact that Lennie James has had more to do in 16 episodes than he did in a full eight seasons prior, and I find myself reaching the finale actually liking Morgan, something that I never thought would happen.
And it keeps you guessing.
One gripe I’ve had with previous seasons of the show is that you never know where it’s going simply because characters keep making freakin’ stupid decisions. In season four, however, the speculation has been one of the most enjoyable parts. As an audience, we don’t know what’s going to happen, and for the first time since the show’s freshman season, we’ve actually had fun guessing.
Where do we go in season five? I have no idea. But I’m intrigued to find out. One thing, however, is for certain; it couldn’t be any further from the pilot. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Created by: Robert Kirkman & Dave Erickson
Scr: Scott M. Gimple, Andrew Chambliss, Ian Goldberg
Starring: Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Maggie Grace, Colman Domingo, Danay Garcia, Garret Dillahunt, Lennie James, Jenna Elfman, Aaron Stanford, Daryl Mitchell, Mo Collins, Alexa Nisenson
Episode Run Time: 42mins
No. of Episodes: 16
Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 is available now on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Entertainment One