SPOILERS for Fear the Walking Dead‘s Season 6 will be found below.
Welcome to the zombie apocalypse’s nuclear apocalypse!
A literal nuclear bomb exploded in Texas on this week’s Fear the Walking Dead sixth season finale. If you Google it, you’ll find a number of different answers about how far the radiation fallout extends from a blast radius, but I suspect that it doesn’t matter. The science in Fear the Walking Dead is clearly plot-dependent. How big is the blast radius? In the finale, it was big enough to decimate Dakota, but elsewhere, it sent a violent cloud of dust forceful enough to shake an 18-wheeler and leave a nearby zombie smoldering, yet it did not hurt the people underneath the 18-wheeler. It also caused a building to rumble violently, but it didn’t shatter the windows through which characters were gazing. It leveled a house, but four characters were apparently able to survive in the cellar beneath it. Meanwhile, it lit up the sky, but a helicopter was apparently capable of navigating through the blast radius.
Fear the Walking Dead has had a very fine season — a remarkable one in fact — until the last two episodes, when the series abandoned what made it so successful: small, intimate stories centered on a limited number of characters. The season’s final episode brought most of the characters back together, scattered them within 20-minutes of each other, told a huge story involving nuclear destruction, and threw logic out the window.
With that said, the story itself is very simple. It picks up where last week’s episode left off. A nuclear bomb with ten warheads has been launched into the atmosphere. It’s expected to fall back down to Earth in about 20 minutes, and so each of the characters has around one-third of an hour to figure out how they want to spend the remainder of their lives.
With a decision that recalled the ridiculous beer balloon from a few seasons ago, Dwight and Sherry decide they want to spend their final minutes before the bomb falls drinking beer and eating pretzels together. They break into a home they believe is abandoned and find two warm beers (no pretzels, alas), only to discover that it’s inhabited by a couple who were kicked out of their storm cellar by a couple of End-Is-the-Beginningers. Dwight and Sherry decide to do something good with their last moments and remove the bad guys from the cellar. They shoot one of the guys in the leg so that he has no choice to but lie there and watch the nuclear bomb fall. The couple, meanwhile, asks Sherry and Dwight to come into their cellar with them, where they will presumably ride out the radiation fallout.
John Dorie, Sr., and June inexplicably use their final 20 minutes to track down Teddy and Dakota, not to kill Teddy, mind you, but to forgive Dakota and ask her to come with them (Where? That’s unclear). They find, however, that pervy, serial killer Teddy had planned to take Dakota down into a bunker and ride it out there until it was safe to resurface, at which point Teddy was going to launch the remaining nuclear missiles. Dakota isn’t keen on that plan and feels used by Teddy, so she shoots him dead (in anticlimactic fashion) and is incinerated in the nuclear blast (John Dorie, Sr. and June, however, manage to get into Teddy’s fallout shelter).
The show’s most expendable characters — Daniel, the Rabbi, Charlie, Sarah, Wes, and Luciana — allow Rollie to drive them to the fallout shelter where Alicia is being held, or so they believe. Riley gives them a fake location, and Rollie — in the episode’s most inexplicable twist — drives them out into the middle of nowhere because he had at some point somehow aligned with the End is the Beginning-ers. Daniel, however, sniffs it out and kills Rollie. Meanwhile, he directs them toward coordinates he overheard on the radio, where Althea (who we haven’t seen since episode 11) arrives with Isabelle and a CRM helicopter and flies them all away before the bomb kills them all. Where are they going? Ten years into the future and the second season of The World Beyond? (Possibly, but unlikely.)
Strand — the Loki of Fear the Walking Dead — has the most devilishly delightful subplot. He finds a building inhabited by a history professor, and sells himself as a good-guy hero, at least until the bomb goes off. When the bomb doesn’t kill them, however, Strand goes full Strand and confesses his true nature. “I’m a man who has thrown men to the wolves when necessary,” he says. “I’m a backroom dealer, a grifter, a shark … Why? Survival. I’ve done it all my life, and despite the critics, I’m still here.”
It’s not great writing, but Colman Domingo doesn’t need great writing. He can sell any line he is given. Whatever AMC is paying him, they should double it. Strand is also clearly positioning himself as next season’s primary villain, and I don’t hate it.
The most affecting (but also the most preposterous) subplot involves Morgan and Grace, who finally confess their love for one another. They remain inside of the submarine and decide to take their own lives rather than suffer the effects of radiation poisoning. However, seconds before Morgan pulls the trigger, he hears the sound of a baby crying outside the submarine. It’s Rachel’s baby, named after Morgan. In the cold open, a car falls on Rachel’s leg while she is trying to change a tire, so she decides to put her baby in her baby backpack, kill herself, and let her dog, Rutherford, lead them to people. The dog leads them to Morgan and Grace, who put down zombie Rachel and decide, on the spot, to start a family together with baby Morgan. They are outside the submarine when the bomb goes off, and they hide under the shell of an 18-wheeler.
If Grace is afraid of what radiation poisoning might do to them from inside the submarine, God knows what it will do to them in the open air. Maybe Grace plans on getting pregnant again so that the baby can absorb all the radiation. Otherwise, it’s completely nonsensical to think they will live long with that much exposure. I have no idea what Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg are thinking, except that they’ll punt and figure it out next season. There is no cure for radiation poisoning, but then again, Grace survived it once already.
If the plot demands it, then it shall be.
Meanwhile, despite the overstuffed cast and the use of an actual nuclear bomb, the only two major characters who die are the villains, Teddy and Dakota. The series passed up the perfect opportunity, unfortunately, to thin the ranks of Fear. The biggest question that remains, however, is this: Where the hell is Wendell?
The seventh season of Fear the Walking Dead is currently filming and will return this fall.