Reviews | Written by Rich Cross 20/11/2021

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, Season 7, Episode 5, TIL DEATH

The atmosphere and imagery of a classic western permeate the drama of Til Death, the fifth episode of season seven. It’s an association that delivers some impactful visuals and fits well with the setting of a sparsely populated frontier landscape (albeit awash with radioactivity in this case). And, as in any decent postmodern western, the good guys are the ones dressed in black. Disappointingly, in this new wild west, these and other ingredients are cooked up to produce something closer to hogwash than to moonshine.

In a lawless land, pilfering and burglary of scant resources have become rife. The reputation of the fearsome Dark Horses has spread throughout the state: avengers dispensing rough justice against wrongdoers and returning stolen property to its rightful owners. The secret identity of this masked duo is revealed to be Dwight and Sherry, still based in the fallout shelter with the Larsons and (like so many others) hunting for the whereabouts of a sanctuary named Padre. Recruited by Strand to hunt down Mickey, an escapee from the Tower, the pair set off after her and then join her efforts to locate her missing husband.

Even to get to this point, the plot relies on a series of nonsensical contrivances, with the writers once again displaying a lack of interest in questions of time and distance. Before the apocalypse, Mickey and Cliff were a professional wrestling tag team, known for a series of signature moves and sporting bride-and-groom costumes in every bout. Events culminate in the settling of accounts at the Grapple Chapel, the pair’s carnival-style gym and showcase ring. What unfolds is what can only be described as a ‘zombie smackdown’, complete with a jaunty soundtrack. It’s the type of absurd conceit that would fit seamlessly into the ropey, dopey tropes of a show like Z-Nation. In the context of Fear the Walking Dead, it’s simply embarrassing. For some long-frustrated fans of the show, this ringside ridiculousness could well be the ‘knockout blow’.

Back in the director’s chair for a second time, Lennie James puts in as creditable a job as anyone could do given the constraints of the budget and the material. But there’s little he can introduce to salvage matters. Til Death also completes the redefinition of the character of Strand. With all nuance and ambiguity removed, Victor is here redrawn as a cartoon baddie - a ruthless assassin and merciless tyrant devoid of redeeming features. It’s a reshaping that the writers have done little to prepare for, and which flattens the nature of the season’s key villain to two-dimensional tedium.

Season Seven of the show is in serious trouble. Aimless, directionless, and lacking any sense of momentum or urgency, the showrunners seem more focused on exploring whatever idea provides them temporary amusement than in finding renewed dramatic purpose in what was once distinctive and intriguing about this Walking Dead spin-off.

Season seven of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD is screening in the UK on the AMC channel and to rent on Amazon.

Read our previous reviews of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD below:

Season 7, Episode 1, THE BEACON

Season 7, Episode 2, SIX HOURS

Season 7, Episode 3, CINDY HAWKINS

Season 7, Episode 4, BREATHE WITH ME