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Spoilers ahead for those who haven't watched Fear the Walking Dead's latest episode.
One might be hard-pressed to name the most successful element of Fear the Walking Dead's enthralling fourth season, but no one can deny the power of Garret Dillahunt in any situation. It was perhaps telling that the whole season kicked off with John Dorie -- whose name is like the fish, and he also likes to fish -- with his connection to Jenna Elfman's Laura/Naomi earning its own bottle episode. Without any major shocks or stomach-churning twists, "Laura" was a near-perfectly conceived one-and-done tale of complicated emotional connections, with both Dillahunt and Elfman delivering on all fronts. This season is so good, guys.
Various levels of romance are obviously present everywhere in The Walking Dead universe, from Nick and Lucy's recent relationship to Richonne to Negan's...well, maybe not anything Negan was involved with. The more unprecedented move here was to give a full episode to two new-to-the-season characters, and it paid off in spades, with John revealing much about his past and his way of life. Before the walker outbreak, John was both a police officer and a performer in a "wild west" show for kids, which definitely isn't the most dull way for someone to hone their sharpshooting skills. And those two worlds collided in the form his twin pistols, which he spent a long time refusing to shoot.
While it's not quite clear what John's story was right when the world went into chaos, he'd apparently lost his passion for police work (and guns in general) after stopping a robbery one evening. He attempted to take down the crook by grazing his leg with a bullet, but the guy turned and it went in his thigh and he bled out. John felt terrible, but was deemed a hero because of his actions, which didn't sit well with him. This backstory felt extremely heavy-handed when viewed through a reality filter, and still felt weird even without it, but it speaks to John's sense of justice and logic, and Garret Dillahunt makes it all the more believable, so I'll leave it at that.
John was living a relatively calm and self-sufficient life prior to what we've seen from him so far, complete with weekly grocery trips, berry-picking and the occasional trip outside to plunge a blade into a river-bound walker or two. The writers won me over completely with its prominent use of Scrabble to start and end this story, with John playing a game against himself and just endlessly vocalizing potential words for his next turn. (I relate so hard, John!) His solitary life got disrupted in the best and worst way when Laura appeared outside his home, suffering from a major gash on her side.
Just as we'd seen her do before, Jenna Elfman's former nurse was extremely skeptical and untrusting upon coming to her senses, keeping John at a certain distance, despite warming to him over time. Their days together were at times sweet, at times intentionally awkward, and at other times unintentionally cringe-worthy. John became overly passive-aggressive about Laura's intent to leave upon healing, which made his declaration of love all the more out of place (though very much expected). Or maybe it was how he went berserk while stabbing that walker's head in that made it feel weird. In any case, it was all still heartwarming and heartbreaking when Laura left her loving goodbye note using Scrabble tiles, as well as when we saw that John was still carrying those tiles with him.
This early in Season 4, Fear the Walking Dead certainly didn't need to put the brakes on other characters' stories to sidestep into John's past, though Laura/Naomi's seemingly confirmed death last week made it a timely divergence. Still, "Laura" was more proof that this show is killing it on the storytelling front, despite the fact that so many plot points are still cloaked in mystery. Hell, I'm not even sure I feel like Laura/Naomi can be considered a fully fleshed-out character at this point. I feel like I know exactly who she is now, though, and the same goes for John Dorie. Not because of big and overstated sequences, but because of smaller details, such as John's movie night and his rituals for said experience.
Seriously, though, there are few ways to provide insight into a character than by showing that John not only continues the process of checking movies in and out as he watches them, but that he keeps a written record of everything hanging on the wall, complete with super-brief reviews. Which are seemingly all worthy of contemplating. He thinks The Green Mile was too long, but wishes Watership Down was longer. He thinks Somewhere in Time was questionable, and that Road to Bali was a "good time!" He's not much of a genre fan, either, calling Labyrinth "unsettling" and Friday the 13th "too violent." So what I'm trying to say is, Garret Dillahunt is perfect, Season 4 is shaping up to be the best year of Fear the Walking Dead yet. But if anyone else breaks John's spirit, we riot!
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, so keep watching to see where this time-hopping story will go next. And in the meantime, check out our rundown of all the cancelled and renewed network shows, and bookmark our summer premiere schedule to see what other shows are coming soon.