Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead Season 5.
Fear the Walking Dead dropped a doozy of a reveal in its Season 5 premiere, loosely tying Althea's disappearance to the group responsible for taking Rick and Jadis away in The Walking Dead's ninth season. With Episode 2, the zombified spinoff confirmed a prediction that fans had going into the new episodes: there are irradiated walkers out there, and everyone is at risk of exposure. What's more, this game-changing information got delivered by the show's newest star, Karen David (Legacies, Once Upon a Time).
Ahead of "The Hurt That Will Happen," virtually zero information had come out about Karen David's character, or how she fit into the Fear the Walking Dead universe. We now know Grace has a huge role to play in connection with the season's big new threat, which is eerily timed with the finale of HBO's nuclear-minded miniseries Chernobyl. Let's go a little deeper into it.
Who Is Karen David's Grace?
In a nutshell, Grace is Fear the Walking Dead's newest character sporting a giant morally conscious monkey on her back. She first crossed paths with Morgan and Alicia in an initially uncomfortable way (that naturally ended with Morgan taking his clothes off), and explained:
There are two pressurized nuclear reactors. They’re two miles north of here. The cooling system failed in one. The reactor melted down last year, killing a lot of people who were trying to keep it humming, including that corpse. Which means his body’s carrying some particularly dangerous particles.
Later, Karen David's Grace – whose last name starts with "Mu-" – revealed that she was the Head of Operations for the nearby nuclear plant, seemingly making her the opportune person to have around after learning that there are random walkers shambling around that are capable of exposing survivors to radiation poisoning. Wouldn't that just be the cherry on top of having survived this long into the zombie apocalypse, to die by molecules?
Just how ideal Grace is as a new team member is yet to be decided, however. While most characters on this show withhold secret information from others for far too long, Grace made it until after the sun went down before unburdening herself of her big guilt-ridden confession. It went like this:
Once things started going south, I called in all the shifts to help keep the place running. Once things got worse, I called in their families. We had food, supplies, fuel to last for months. The place was designed to keep terrorists out, so the dead weren't a problem. I was. Once cities fell, they didn't need the power we were making. I just couldn't see that things weren't going back to the way they were. I should have evacuated the plant. We didn't have the infrastructure to keep the place going the right way.
Basically, Grace doomed the entire plant crew, and their families, along with potentially every other survivor in the area. Non-maliciously, of course. She was just unable to grasp the massiveness of the situation from her limited perspective, and it appears no one was properly equipped to handle a situation in which abandoning the reactors was a logistical option.
Plus, Grace admitted near the end of the episode that she's also doomed from exposure, though she doesn't know how long she has. It wasn't fully explained why she's still alive and seemingly healthy while everyone else she worked with is now a lesion-covered walker, but it likely doesn't say anything good about her character.
Now that we know more about Grace, let's further discuss the horrors that she brought about.
How Dangerous Is The Irradiated Walker Threat?
I'd put it somewhere around DEFCON Fuck-All for those in Texas, even though I'm fairly confident the situation will get resolved in whatever way that allows (most of) the show's lead characters to survive into later seasons. Still, this is easily the Dead franchise's biggest walker-related threat since the introduction of giant herds, and the radiation-infused zombies are all the more dangerous given their non-obvious nature.
As Grace put it, there are still a large number of exposed walkers out there. She claimed 63 remained, although that number dropped by half when accounting for the burn pile that John and June found. In any case, Grace has been on the prowl for a long time, and there are still dozens of them out there. The chances of her or anyone finding every single one of them are slim to none. Especially if any lost the identifying cylinders around their necks.
It definitely doesn't help that the exposed walkers should only be killed in specific ways to minimize the threat of further exposure. As that one group proved before turning, one of the worst things you can do with the walkers is burn them outside, since that releases the radiated particles into the air.
However things play out, I'd expect for the irradiated zombies to have a massive effect on the rest of the season, if not the franchise at large. Even if everything gets cleared up effectively in the case of these particular Texas reactors, there are still plenty of other nuclear plants in the country and around the world that likely faced similar situations in the years after civilization crumbled. It's a threat that can likely never be eradicated fully, so I'm excited to see what's on the way.
Other Thoughts About The Episode
R.I.P. Morgan's gore-soaked stick. This could go down as one of the season's biggest tragedies, for better or worse. I'm suddenly worried that Morgan might slip back into madness without his trusty piece of wood to guide and advise him in times of need. Seriously, someone whittle this man a new pointy stick!
Welcome back, Rubén Blades' Daniel Salazar! The tough-as-ten-bags-of-nails character hadn't been seen since the dam explosion at the end of Season 3, but his return put him in a familiar position: mistrusting Strand while holding him at gunpoint.
Why was Strand being cryptic and weird when explaining why he wasn't on the plane with the others? Is there an opposite-of-Flight backstory here where Strand got too drunk to fly a plane, forcing Al to do it on her own? Or was it a lack of alcohol that led to a lack of confidence?
What's with all the camera shots of characters through doorways? Is there a relation between doorways and nuclear walkers that I'm not picking up on? (That may sound like sarcasm, but I'm genuinely wondering how direct the doorway-as-barrier motif relates.)
The side effects that Luciana suffered from that pain medication included blurry vision, brain fog, and some seriously egregious screenwriting. I almost felt sorry for Danay Garcia herself for getting saddled with this injury arc. There's absolutely no justifiable reason for Lucy to have blindly shot at walkers when retreating back inside was the obvious thing to do. Who did she think she was, TWD's blind-and-infected Father Gabriel letting Jesus take the trigger?
Where. Is. Dwight? WHERE IS DWIGHT?
Seriously, though, how bizarre is it that this episode is airing just six days after the finale of HBO's wholly acclaimed Chernobyl? The miniseries put a new spotlight on both the nuclear disaster and the infamous Ukrainian location where it went down, so it's winningly timely for Fear the Walking Dead to usher in nuclear zombies this weekend. Plus, we're probably like nine months away from some low-budget horror movie showcasing a zombie outbreak happening in Chernobyl and the nearby ghost town of Pripyat. Unless that's already happened before.