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Spoiler warning for those who have not yet watched the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead!
With the first two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead's format-shifting sixth season having given fans more insight into Morgan's gangrenous survival and Strand's promotion in Virginia's crew, the third installment focused almost entirely on Maggie Grace's Al and Austin Amelio's Dwight as they documented their mission to retrieve supplies and survivors, among other things. (Old, hot beer!) Al revealed her ulterior motive of making another connection with Sydney Lemmon's Isabelle, but inevitably gave up her goal for the sake of Dwight and others, leading to quite an emotional reunion.
Having followed the CRM helicopter group's movements via radio, Al planned to cross paths with a supply drop atop a high-rise building. But after a highly stressful and plague-rat-filled trip to the roof, which included the discovery of a new group of ailing survivors, Al chose to shoot a flare up and sent the incoming chopper away with a difficult message to Isabelle. That decision thwarted what might have been her only chance to escape her current situation with Virginia, which obviously sucks. However, Al did locate a supply of medicine to help those in the building return to health, and more importantly for Fear the Walking Dead fans, her flare captured the attention of Christine Evangelista's Sherry, who reunited with Dwight for the first time since The Walking Dead Season 7.
During a Fear the Walking Dead press event that took place ahead of Season 6's premiere, I asked star Maggie Grace how she felt about Al's big sacrifice, and here's what she told me:
I think you you hit the nail on the head. I think it costs her quite a lot in that moment to turn that helicopter around. You know, I was so lucky and happy to have Colman [Domingo] directing that episode. Wasn't that one take, that roof scene? It was just at the end of such a big day; we were reconciling a pretty crazy schedule and an important episode, and he handled it so beautifully. I just felt so lucky that I got him on that journey, especially for that last scene. It was really special and tough to navigate that moment, I think, because it is quite a lot to ask of that character, given what she knows about Isabelle and her organization. It's not just a sacrifice on a personal level; it's the greatest story she's never told. But I hope that it makes sense in the context of the stakes of that moment.
Perhaps if Al and Isabelle had a more organic relationship that wasn't formed through suspicions, deaths, and rule-breaking, she might have been that much more open to going away and not looking back. Or perhaps if she had been paired with someone other than Dwight that didn't also have a long, lost love out there somewhere. Or if she and Dwight didn't come into contact with all those sick people. Alas, things happened as they did, and presumably for good reason.
Of course, it's technically possible that Al might not have survived the helicopter's arrival. Al and Dwight were warned earlier in the episode that the last person who went up to the roof to check out the helicopter situation was shot in the head for his efforts. (It was his rotting body that Al and Dwight found outside the building.) Al was obviously optimistic about her chances, given her connection with Isabelle, but there's no real guarantee that she would have been allowed to go off and have a happy life with the Beer Lady. At least, that's what I'll keep telling myself to further justify her sacrifice.
In the end, I cannot lie that seeing Dwight and Sherry's reunion did a hell of a job of making Al look heroic, in a sense, for choosing to stick around and call off the helicopter. Especially after seeing the loving video that Dwight made for Al to watch during her trip out. Still, though, I cannot deny how much I wish Al would be able to head out and share the "greatest story she's never told." At least Isabelle sounded kinda sad when they stopped talking. I mean, that probably shouldn't make me feel better, but still.
During the press event, both Colman Domingo and Maggie Grace spoke more about "Alaska" when asked how they felt about these more anthologized episodes as compared to past seasons that focused on everyone in the larger ensemble each week.
COLMAN: I think you get to go deeper, which is a beautiful thing. There was something about even the episode that I directed with Maggie and Austin. I think you get to more of their interior lives and you get these private moments as well. Like the idea of when Maggie's on the rooftop of the end – like, you get the part that is not in response to someone else. It's just the audience and that character at times. So I think you get a lot more of those moments, and I think you get a bit more breathing room. Because, you know, in these group dynamic scenes, you're just going, going, going with the action. You don't get a moment to sit and actually just be with someone and pop a beer and have a conversation. Right? [Laughs.] So that's what I enjoyed about these episodes. I'm talking to people more. I'm not just like, 'Point, point, go!' I'm sitting and actually having a conversation, which is I think, as an actor, that's really fulfilling. I think we all love the action sequences and stuff as well, but I do know that any actor worth a grain of salt loves those moments where you can just go deep with character and story.
MAGGIE: It feels a little bit more powerful in a way, too. Because it does actually pull the audience in, and we're not relying as much on external environmental effect. Yeah, I mean, you nailed it, Colman. I find it more enjoyable as an actor. I do love the action stunt stuff, but there's an energy when you just get to work more intimately.
Interestingly enough, this episode started off not with Al and Dwight, but on a cold open featuring Lennie James' Morgan and Brigitte Kali Canales' Rachel, both of whom are familiar with characters sacrificing themselves for the greater good. (Speaking mostly of Rachel's late husband Isaac in this case.) Morgan is determined to go off and find Karen David's Grace again, with the idea of bringing her bundle of joy back to eventually have some playtime with Rachel's baby, also named Morgan. Here's hoping James' and David's characters have a better shot of reconnecting than Al and Isabelle.