Major spoilers below for the midseason premiere of Fear the Walking Dead Season 6, so be warned!
Well, Fear the Walking Dead fans, the AMC zombie drama depressingly went all the way to the dark side kicking off the back half of Season 6 by shockingly killing off Garret Dillahunt's mentally shattered John Dorie just as he was seemingly becoming convinced to join Morgan's cause. Having made it beyond those suicidal moments that kicked off "The Door," John proved his hero status once again by helping Lennie James' Morgan and Zoe Colletti's Dakota, only for the latter to shoot John and push him to a watery death.
The Walker John reveal kicked off one of Fear the Walking Dead's most heartbreaking scenes yet, and I was both ecstatic and mournful to talk to star Garret Dillahunt about John's big death episode. Since John didn't really get a chance to verbally react much after that point, I asked the actor for his thoughts about that unexpected death, and how he thought his character would feel about Dakota's heinous and selfish actions.
I think a lot of people at any time would take issue with someone shooting someone else. I'm sure John, if he was alive to have an opinion about it, would probably think that was not the thing she should have done. I think he feels like you can work anything out, and if there's someone that would protect you from Ginny, it would be someone like John. Just like John was gonna take his own life, which wouldn't have been the greatest decision, I think Dakota wasn't making the best decisions either. Sometimes you're not yourself. Sometimes you're just in a bad moment, and you do something that, if you survive it, you'll regret for the rest of your life. I think you saw a couple of people in the same episode just not in the best place mentally, not making the best decisions.
Indeed, even beyond being a live-saver on the regular, John was the kind of person you'd call instead of your parents when you got busted for getting too smashed in a Taco Bell parking lot, or the kind of guy who would find the cherished item you thought you'd lost forever. Generally an A+ dude, despite his lack of self-confidence. Which is obviously a giant part of why John's death is so hard to watch and comprehend, even beyond how big of an asset he was in the post-apocalypse.
Making things all the more depressing is the fact that John's self-exile leading up to the midseason premiere meant he didn't get a chance to reunite with Jenna Elfman's June one last time, at least not while still living and breathing. I asked Garret Dillahunt how he thought John felt about dying before he saw her again, and if he thought John felt guilty about having left June and Colby Minifie's Virginia behind in the first place.
I don't know, actually. I guess you're asking to articulate about things that aren't on screen, so I'll just be making stuff up. I guess I'd imagine, certainly when he gets shot, he probably wishing, 'I wish I could see June one more time,' or something like that. We aren't treated to what's going on in his head. A lot of that's going to be filled in by the audience, which I think is a great thing about what we do, is all the stuff that's not on camera or not spoken out. . . . Maybe John feels guilty. I don't know. Maybe he just wishes everything was like it used to be. I'm sure he doesn't want to feel suicidal, but he does. He's just in a real pit of despair, thinking she'll be better off without him somehow. I think the whole audience already knows that's not true, and that he shouldn't have been thinking that way, but he was. But Morgan talked him out of it, and I think he was planning to go back to get Dakota and Morgan safely home and have at it again. But I think that's good storytelling as well. You know, it's a tragedy. This is a tragedy, which is genre, you know? 'Oh, man, he was just about to turn the corner. Oh, no, don't! I hope that doesn't happen now!' That's why it hurts, you know? That's why it hurts.
Fear the Walking Dead really twisted that knife, too, by putting John at death's door a couple of times in the episode before pulling him back, only for that late-episode reveal of his walker-fied body. It was clearly worse for June than for audiences, but since we're real and she isn't, I feel like my sympathy is in the right place. While John didn't get any kind of closure, Garret Dillahunt was happy that June experienced a concrete conclusion in that sense. In his words:
At least June got to actually see him and have closure for herself, no matter how horrible that closure is. At least she got the chance to hold his face. It's a beautiful act of mercy and love, isn't it? I thought she acted it beautifully.
As humbled an actor as there is in the world of movies and television, Garret Dillahunt apologized each time I commented on how sad the episode and John's death were, and he sounded as sincere as he did at any other point in our chat. While he's obviously coming at the death from a different point of view than audiences are, he is definitely aware of how much the fanbase is on John's side, and hopes that everyone can move on without taking it too hard.
When I asked how long John's death had been in the creative pipeline, Garret Dillahunt didn't give too specific a response, mainly just implying that he was aware John's death was going down for a time before that episode's script was delivered to the cast. Here's how the actor put it:
I don't know, and even if I do know, that's not the kinds of questions they like me answering. I'll just say we've obviously known this happened for more than a year. I knew it was coming before that, so it's been quite a while, but I knew it was coming. I was expecting it.
John's death episode gave Garret Dillahunt even more stress than just making him say farewell to the character, too. As it turns out, Fear the Walking Dead was nearly finished filming "The Door" when production had to shut down due to the COVID pandemic, which is why the episode flipped from being the midseason finale to becoming the spring premiere. So the actors had to bottle up those characters' emotions for more than six months before coming back to film the remainder of the episode.
How will June respond to John's death when Fear the Walking Dead returns for the episode that was originally planned to be the spring premiere? Find out next Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET.