Fear the Walking Dead: Laura

"You may not think you're a hero, but I do. And an honorable person. I'm very, very lucky to have washed up in your front yard."

I admit to dreading this episode a tiny bit, since Fear the Walking Dead's originator likes to do character-centric flashback episodes and they are (to put it charitably) very hit-and-miss. They tend to turn into overlong nothing-fests. However, I couldn't help but be charmed by the strange, sweet John Dorie.

I've been expecting a revelation about John Dorie ever since he was introduced. He seemed like a psychopath-in-waiting to me: he's a loner who seemed too eager to join a group, he's on the search for a mysterious woman who may have been his victim, he wears a black hat, he generally seems too good to be true, and most crucially, he's played by Garret freakin' Dillahunt. Yet, I was genuinely surprised to find that John Dorie is exactly who and what he appears to be: a good man.

Time and time again, John showed himself to be an inherently decent human being. On a show where everyone struggles to reconcile survival with doing the right thing, John didn't need to think twice. He took Naomi in and treated her like an honored guest. He was polite and respectful, and it never seemed to occur to him to be suspicious or look for some advantage that could aid his own survival. He helped her because she needed help, and he didn't even think of himself as a hero. He gunned down a criminal in his capacity as a police officer, and it actually took some prodding from Naomi for John to admit that most people would consider the robber to be a "bad guy", and John asserted that he sees things as more complex than just good/bad. I think he saw things as more simple than he realized: he killed a man, and he hates that he did so even if it was to save his own life.


There were plenty of contradictions about John. He's able to get along by himself, but he clearly thirsts for companionship. He's a little childlike, but highly competent. He's something of an innocent, yet not naive. And of course, he's a deadly sharpshooter who hates using guns. The way he so diligently cleaned and looked after his pistols made me think that he'd love to consider them ornamental pieces, and also reminded me of Jeremiah Otto's creepy fetish for a well-made gun. Much like the incident with the armed robber, John didn't want to fire his guns for the sake of his own life, even when it became incredibly dangerous for him not to do so. When he eventually did, it was to save Naomi's life.

Naomi was evasive even without John asking her any questions. Is it too cliche, too Kate Austen, to say that it feels like she's running? And even she was charmed by John. Romance has rarely worked on this show. Travis and Madison didn't feel too connected, while Luciana and Nick were just...kinda there. Here, everything came together beautifully and by the end I found myself enormously invested in their relationship. John's confession of love to a woman whose real name he didn't even know was so achingly sincere and utterly selfless. He was deeply saddened that she was going, but what he really wanted was for her to be alive and happy. That's love, isn't it?


Most of this episode's success can be attributed to the usually creepy Dillahunt, who's one of my favorite genre actors. He has the look of a leading man from a mirror universe: tall and well-built with a strong jaw and an intense gaze, yet his face is just a little too long, his drawl a little too lazy, his eyes a little too intense. As such, he's often played villains, although he always brings something more to the table than straight evil, be it charm or humor or even pathos. And he was terrific in this episode. When John finally blew up and lashed out at Naomi for going through his things, his anger felt almost apologetic. I'm not sure how well this episode would have worked without him, although the direction and writing had plenty going for it.

Something Fear the Walking Dead does that The Walking Dead has recently failed at is making the world feel truly post-apocalyptic. John's cabin and the surrounding area felt old but new, and there was something oddly beautiful about that little boat trip. Come to think of it, wasn't this episode a little like a paperback romance? Two people, isolated from the world in a romantic setting, slowly falling in love.

Bits & Bobs

- In my neck of the woods, John Dorie is the name of a fish and chips shop.

- Jenna Elfman also gave a very likable performance as Naomi. This was more John's episode than hers, but she did communicate effectively how skittish Naomi was. She saw everything as temporary, although she certainly wanted something permanent with John.

- John is even respectful to the dead. He calls them "The Passed", which is perhaps the most respectful name they've had yet.

- Morgan was a true friend to John, and I loved that they chose to believe fully in the better angels of their nature. I hope they bring our central group around to that way of thinking.

- I still don't believe that Naomi is dead.

- The song that awoke John every day is, of course, "Take Me to the River" by The Talking Heads. A very appropriate choice.

Quotes

Naomi: Doesn't matter how many people say it's not your fault. Only thing that matters is if you believe it.

John: I love you. I love you. And I didn't want you to know.
Naomi: Why didn't you want me to know?
John: 'Cause you're gonna leave. And I don't want you to. I don't want you to. If you want to be on your own, you stay. I'll go. I need you alive. If you're alive, this whole world this whole world feels alive.

Four out of four singing alarm fish.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

It was a brilliant move on the part of the producers to cast an actor who always plays incredibly creepy evil bad guys -- as a good guy. I've also been waiting for him to turn somehow, but it's so, so nice that John Dorie is the nice guy he appears to be. I liked your paragraph about how Dorie is a mass of contradictions: childlike but competent, a sharp shooter who hates using guns, and so on. Dillahunt is so good that he makes this character extremely appealing.

Patryk said...

And we have an episode that's totally devoid of the original cast for the first time. Foreshadowing?

Dillahunt is great, just like he was as the Terminator on Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Great episode and great review. I'm back in on FtWD. It has definitely taken a direction in my liking, probably because - as you pointed out - THIS world feels apocalyptic. This season, so far, almost feels like an anthology.
It has a western-feeling, almost akin to the old series Kung Fu with David Carradine!

One thing that irked me with this episode though. It was a little too perfect, wasn't it - another thing you pointed out: a paperback romance?
Then it struck me: we are seeing the episode from Johns perspective, or rather Morgans perspective as John is telling him the story of the guns.

This means that this entire episode is only one side of the story, the story as it played out in John Dories mind/reality.
Now think of John as a stalker and how a stalker would perceive love.

I'm not entirely certain that this was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Only HIS truth.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Addendum: I'm not sure JD was a cop. Something about how he told the story of shooting that robber, he said something like "I told him" or "I said I was a police officer..."
Wouldn't someone like JD say something like "I identified myself as a police officer".

It's other bits and pieces I can't quite put my finger on but I don't trust JD. I think he's maybe a good guy but probably delusional.