Spoilers for this season of Fear the Walking Dead
The sixth season of Fear the Walking Dead has been good. It has been very good. Part of that has to do with much better writing, and more intimate, self-contained stories. Part of that also has to do with the new attitude of the series’ nominal lead, Morgan Jones. He nearly died at the end of last season and returned as a “new Morgan Jones,” a man who would kill when necessary and refuse to take anyone’s bulls–t.
In this week’s episode, however, Morgan Jones took everyone’s bulls–t. What happened to the New Morgan Jones? Where did he go, and why did he choose to disappear? The penultimate episode of the season, “U.S.S. Pennsylvania,” is also easily the worst episode of the season, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the old Morgan Jones resurfaced. I don’t want to sound too harsh, but honestly, the old Morgan Jones is a pathetic guy.
This week’s episode takes place largely inside of a nuclear submarine, which is a cool setting, especially given the fact that there are also 100 zombies inside of an enclosed space. There is one mission: Navigate through the submarine to where Teddy, Riley, and Dakota are and prevent them from launching enough nuclear missiles to essentially destroy the continent. It has all the makings of a cool video game.
The setting, however, does not leave a lot of room to maneuver, so early on in the episode, Morgan decides he needs to go it alone, even if that means sacrificing himself. Strand, however, decides for some inexplicable reason that he refuses to let Morgan play hero by himself. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Strand seems hellbent on impressing Alicia (currently locked away by Teddy in a fallout shelter), and he believes that stopping Teddy will put him back in Alicia’s good graces. Strand, therefore, forces himself onto Morgan, but Strand never stops being Strand. At one point, when he and Morgan are blocked by a small horde of zombies, Strand takes Morgan’s ax away and pushes Morgan into the horde, sacrificing his friend so that Strand can escape and be the hero. It’s a move that Strand has pulled before, but never on someone as close to him as Morgan Jones.
In any respect, Strand leaves Morgan behind and makes his way toward the command center, but before he enters, he’s confronted by Dakota, who is holding a gun to his face. She gives a big long speech, and just as she’s about to shoot Strand, Morgan arrives and knocks her out (Strand is grazed by the bullet, but otherwise unharmed). Does Morgan kill Dakota for what she did to John Dorie, or what she tried to do to Strand? No, he does not. Does Morgan get angry with Strand for throwing him into a horde of zombies? No, not really. “We’ll deal with what you did later,” is all that Morgan Jones can muster. Do we find out how Morgan escapes a horde of zombies? We do not.
The confrontation with Teddy and Riley does not go much better. Morgan manages to prevent them from launching all but one nuclear missile. After that missile launch, however, Teddy gives Morgan another big speech, and then Morgan just … lets him go. “Get out of here,” he says to Riley and Teddy, arguably the most dangerous villain in Fear history, a man hellbent on near-total annihilation of the human species. And then he tells Strand to “leave,” too.
That’s it. That’s the entire episode. Morgan and Strand try to stop Teddy from launching a bunch of nuclear missiles, but Teddy gets one off, and Morgan lets everyone (who tried to kill him in the episode) go. For dramatic reasons, I may understand it — the showrunners may want to save those big deaths until the season finale and hopefully, at least, allow John Dorie, Sr. the satisfaction of killing Teddy. But from a character standpoint, Fear basically assassinates the “New Morgan Jones” and replaces him with the same old “life is precious” Morgan Jones whose inability to kill occasionally cost him the lives of his friends.
Not that it matters. Teddy and Riley suggest that the one missile that got off would fall back down in their general vicinity in Texas, destroying them all, and that’s what the promo for next week’s season finale portends. It looks like everyone will either be searching for a way to avoid being decimated or finding a way to spend their last few minutes together. I don’t expect everyone to live, and that’s not a bad thing, considering how little screentime characters like Charlie, Lucianna, Wes, Sarah, and the Rabbi have gotten this season. It might be time to use a nuclear bomb to pare down the cast.
It does appear, however, that the bomb will land, which will pave the way for a time jump, which may allow Fear the Walking Dead to catch up to The Walking Dead timeline and, potentially, the Rick Grimes movie.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC.