AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead
6×04: “The Key”
Directed by Ron Underwood
Written by David Johnson
* For a recap & review of “Alaska,” click here.
* For a recap & review of “Honey,” click here.
John writes a letter to June. He’s been thinking a lot about his family lately. He continues his days as part of Virginia’s colony, doing what’s expected of him. He’s got a slightly bigger role these days, but he remains under Ginny’s thumb. He’s one of Lawton’s cops, putting on the badge again in this new life post-zombie apocalypse. Things could be worse. He gets home one night to a letter back from his wife. He’s making the best of a bad situation, suggesting to June “if we play our cards right” they could have a decent life. But he’s really only kidding himself, letting Lawton brainwash him. No matter how hard he tries to pretend the ugliness is no longer surrounding him, he’s constantly reminded. Someplace else on the road, Morgan’s looking like a cowboy in his own right these days. He finds a pair of work overalls left by Daniel for him. He uses those to let his bloodhound get a scent. He’s trying to find Grace again, against all odds.
Later, Victor and John run into each other after ages. Strand is part of the “inter–settlement council,” so he roams from one colony to another; currently he’s there for a meeting. He asks what’s been going on, getting an earful about Cameron, the other Lawton cop who wound up dead, found by John getting gnawed by walkers. The next day, John goes to speak with Janis—she and Cameron were close. He’s unsure why Cameron wound up out there. He found an earring, questioning Janis whether it belongs to her, and she claims it’s not hers. After that conversation, John has a chat with Virginia. He doesn’t believe that Cameron was drunk, like ole Ginny’s trying to push as the narrative. She’s more concerned with the illusion of safety, whereas John would rather actually make people safe. And the lawman’s concerns only become greater as time passes. Something is DEFINITELY going on here, and it ain’t good.
“People deserve to live in a world where they know which way is up”
Something’s nagging John and he tries to speak with Dakota, getting swerved off by Virginia. All the attention soon turns to Janis when guards catch her looking to flee. So, Ginny picks apart the woman’s things and they find the other earring from the pair. This puts Janis in the jailhouse. John wonders why Janis would lie about her relationship to Cameron. He found a drawing at Cameron’s place, very surely of Janis. He wants to know the truth. Janis says she didn’t kill Cameron and the earrings aren’t hers, telling John she thinks Ginny planted them. Basically, Cameron and Janis kept their relationship secret, they were going to leave with supplies and go somewhere on their own. Did Virginia find out and preemptively kill Cameron? Wouldn’t put it past her.
At least Janis has John on her side. Hopefully he can do something to save her. First he has to convince Ginny there’s need for further investigation. She shockingly reveals she’s read all his letters to June, that Cameron was the one who intercepted them via Janis. Oh, my. This could help Johnny Boy snap out of believing Lawton is some wasteland Utopia. Following the meeting, John runs into Dakota. The girl says her sister’s “protecting someone.” Curiouser and curiouser.
When John tries to get a look at Cameron’s body—noticing it looks like the guy’s throat might’ve been cut—he’s toppled in the grave by a bunch of walkers. A tense moment leads to an interesting zombie kill, and thank all that’s holy Mr. Dorie makes it out alive and unbitten. Close call, no doubt. He also finds the tip of a knife handle dug into Cameron’s palm, more evidence that may prove helpful to his investigation. Great imagery of John coming out of the grave, emerging with the truth. In the morning, John shows Victor his evidence. They go look through the armoury, attempting to suss out who signed out the knife that evidently murdered Cameron. What do they find? A missing page in the armoury log. Strand’s worried about the repercussions here while John only wants to give people the truth. The lawman’s morals won’t allow him to stand back and do nothing, particularly with Janis’s life on the line. Right then, Ginny and Strand turn up, and Janis has decided to confess instead. Janis claims Cameron wasn’t going to escape with her, so she killed him. Her story’s clearly not the truth, and John knows it.
What it comes down to is that Ginny prioritises the illusion of safety, as I mentioned before, and it’s genuine tragedy because it’s merely recreating the old institutions and systems that led to America’s downfall via zombie apocalypse. Meanwhile, Janis tells John about the escape method she planned with Cameron, urging him to use it and find June, to get away. He doesn’t want to let her die, though. John spends that night lamenting and drinking, joined by Rabbi Jacob. The lawman says he isn’t running, he wants to free Janis. He recounts a story of his father planting evidence to nail a serial killer. But he realises that was wrong, it came at a cost. He sees himself in a similar situation. And he sees whatever’s about to happen to him, as he chooses to help an innocent woman, as a similar cost.
Except John finds that Janis has already received her punishment. He sees her dead, tied up, and writhing in the dirt. All he can do for her now is put a bullet between her eyes. He puts one in the boom box, as well. At daybreak, he digs a grave for Janis and puts a marker there with her name on it. After that he pistol whips Strand for telling Ginny that Janis was a “flight risk.” He beats Victor a bit and blames him for getting Janis killed. The cowboy is sick of Lawton, officially. He’s given an award for protecting the community, yet he knows it’s all performative nonsense, just like Ginny’s concept of community safety.
It’s all a bittersweet time for John to wake up and find June on his doorstep. She’s been transferred to Lawton. Right as the cowboy figured out this place won’t be a good one for them after all. That rotting tooth in his head is a symbol of the rot festering beneath the surface of Lawton. Appropriate time for him to remove it, for better or worse with that wrench. Can he rid Lawton of the rot, too? Or is removing one little piece good enough for him right now?
Morgan and the dog are driving when they’re suddenly crashed into by a speeding truck. Luckily the dog’s fine. Morgan is okay, apart from a bad shoulder. So he gets out cautiously with the axe to have a look at the other vehicle and whoever’s inside. The other driver falls out and Morgan begins questioning whether this was an accident. These are those THE END IS THE BEGINNING guys. They’re looking for the key the bounty hunter had in his possession. They attack Morgan and he opens one of them up with the axe before almost being choked out. He gets the upper hand, though the remaining man sees the key. Morgan’s too quick and he runs the dude through before being killed himself.
What’s the key for? Must be important. Hope the payoff is worth it.
2 thoughts on “Fear the Walking Dead 6×04: “The Key””
Man, that confession scene and the talk afterwards between John and Janis were really powerful. Excellent dialogue, superb atmosphere and touching performances by both actors. Same goes for the scene between John and Rabbi Jacob.
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One of my favourite episodes in The Walking Dead universe, I think.