AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
Season 4, Episode 5: “Laura”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Anna Fishko
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Buried” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Just in Case” – click here
Echoes of Tony Soprano and Big Mouth Billy Bass singing some Al Green, as John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) sits alone in his shack, cleaning his guns, killing any zombies that need killing, and playing Scrabble against himself. It’s a quaint lifestyle, if it weren’t for the whole post-apocalypse thing, y’know. Eggs and coffee on the back porch. At night he’s got enough electricity to watch some television still.
But the days stretch on and on. And how long can they go on like that?
One night, John hears noise out back from the nearby river. He finds a woman, Laura (Jenna Elfman), barely conscious and bleeding. He brings her inside. She’s got a nasty cut up her side. As John says: “At least it‘s not a bite.” He helps her out, then gets her to bed for a night’s rest. Seems like a pretty nice guy, this Mr. Dorie. When Laura wakes up she’s naturally suspicious, looking for a way to leave. She’s not in good shape, but looking to flee. He doesn’t particularly try to stop her, either. Just looks out for her best interest, even if she’s wary of the situation.
Between the two of them they get Laura stitched up. It’s a rough job, of course, and John has to do it because, well, self-surgery ain’t exactly easy. Not a bad shack to be recuperating, all the same. John’s a decent cook, there’s obviously fish swimming the river, so he’s got a nice stew prepared. And we see that Laura’s not actually Naomi’s name – or whoever she is, really. It’s just what Mr. Dorie calls her in lieu of her legitimately introducing herself. Plus, she plans to move on real soon.
For the time being, John puts up a curtain to give Laura privacy in the shack, and he spends the nights barely sleeping, cleaning his guns. It’s not a tenuous relationship, it’s one of necessity, at least for her. He’s happy to have another living body near, instead of only water-logged zombies around the shoreline. John says something’s “amiss upriver” causing the dead to wash up there.
In the meantime, John’s got to go for a run to “the store,” which prompts Laura to go with him. She’s a cautions woman. Smart. I’m very intrigued by her, seeing her here with John after already seeing a bit of her as Naomi amongst the other group of survivors. There’s quite a backstory behind this lady. She and John head out on the river in his canoe, up towards a town not too far. They also see a bridge’s fencing is busted, allowing walkers to topple into the water below, sending them down around John’s place.
They get to an old store John frequents. Inside, he and Laura scavenge for goods. There are still a decent few things left kicking around, from foods to clothing and various other items. Laura doesn’t only take things, she puts necessary items for others in one place, to hopefully give people a one-stop shop in times of emergency. That speaks to her character’s nature. I feel she’s a good person. If not, she wouldn’t bother to do that for some anonymous other people who could potentially come by later. Bad people usually don’t deal in hypotheticals, not when their own interests can be satisfied instead.
Tuesday night is movie night in the Dorie household. He has a bit of popcorn, sometimes he’ll make brittle from the candies he gets at the store. He and Laura sit together on the couch, watching an old movie and eating junk food. As if living is normal again. In the middle of it all, Laura confesses: “I lost my child.” A heartbreaking confession out of nowhere that rocks John.
The next day, Laura wants to learn how to fish from John. He agrees to teach her. They head out in the water by the little house, and he shows her everything from actually fishing to gutting the catch to cooking a nice feed afterwards. For once, John’s got someone to play Scrabble with at night, too. He knows she’s leaving. Although she hasn’t left as quick as she intended. So he keeps up a bit of hope.
One day, she’s ready to go. First, she agrees to help John do a better patch on the bridge’s fencing upriver. On the way she notices he’s touchy about guns, particularly his ivory-handled revolvers. He doesn’t like guns, out in the world causing damage and trouble. The two of them head out with an axe and a knife to clear the zombies on the bridge, and get the job done just as well without gunfire. They work on putting a vehicle up next to the fence’s hole. They get surprised by a walker. Instead of shooting, John lets things get pretty intense before he’s able to stab the walker viciously in the head. Back at the shack, Laura finds out more about John. Seems the former cop wound up at a store being robbed at gunpoint, where John ended up accidentally killing the man. Others called him “a hero,” whereas he knew the truth and couldn’t deal with that. At the same time, back upriver, the fence is doing even worse, as the zombie horde pushes against it and collectively forces an opening again. This washes a ton of them up onshore right next to Mr. Dorie’s shack in the middle of the night.
Both John and Laura head out there. But the place is under siege by the dead. Some start falling over in the mote John dug, which only creates a path right across for others behind them. It’s a massacre, almost. When a horde fall onto Laura, pushing her in the ditch, John finally takes out his dual pistols and gets to shooting.
Following this, John cleans one of the guns, and asks Laura to take it when she goes. Peace of mind for each of them. However, he tells her he doesn’t want her to go, he doesn’t want her to have to struggle out there in such a hideous world. And as if he weren’t attached enough, they fall into each other’s arms.
Except the next morning, she’s gone. It’s only Big Mouth Billy Bass and John left there, and a Scrabble letter message. Jump ahead to John, who’s told Morgan (Lennie James) his story after hearing that supposedly Laura/Naomi is dead. Morgan tells him he was right to tell her that he loved her, because waiting is “how you lose people.” Not that it takes the edge of heartbreak’s sting.
What an episode! John’s one of my favourite characters already on Fear the Walking Dead. I’m glad the core group of characters has expanded, and things are changing. This series could learn from The Walking Dead‘s mistakes, in the sense that we don’t NEED to have all the same characters go from start to finish. Some, sure. Not all. Having Morgan and John and Althea (Maggie Grace) turn up for Season 4 is the best direction this show can take, in addition to keeping some of the main group who I love; specifically the women.
“Just in Case” is next time.