An unexpected glimpse into the future shows us what Morgan’s dream might look like in 16 years or so — see what everyone’s doing and how they’ve changed.
With pink flowers everywhere, a strange dreamlike quality emerged right from the start of this week’s “Fear the Walking Dead” as Grace awoke in a forest, saved by a young girl wielding a sharp stick.
Things weren’t what they seemed at first, a motto that would prove tragically prescient by the end of the hour. Nothing was as it seemed, and even once the reality of what was going one began to emerge, things still weren’t as they seemed, to tragic result.
This was certainly an experimental hour of television, another standout episode in an incredible season for “Fear the Walking Dead.” After a very quiet run as one of Virginia’s prisoners, Karen David’s Grace took center stage this week.
Normally, when a character takes center stage on a “Dead” show for a week, that’s a hint that we might be about to say goodbye to that character. And Grace has had a doomsday clock counting down since we met her. She’d been bombarded with radiation and expected herself to have died already.
Instead, she’s carried her baby to term — and we do mean to term. We already knew she was going into labor, and it turns out the intensity of her labor experience is why we got such an unorthodox episode of “Fear” this week.
Let’s just say that the stark reality of the world was not at all what Grace was experiencing. Where she was, we saw beautiful pink vistas everywhere (reminiscent of the color sweeps in “What Dreams May Come”) and a slightly fuzzy quality around the edges.
What Grace was experiencing was apparently a fantasy, or perhaps a glimpse into the future. As it turned out, the young teen who saved her was 16-year-old Athena, daughter of Morgan and … Grace.
Somehow, Grace had been transported into a candy-colored future where Morgan’s dream had been realized. Not only is her daughter, Athena, alive and well with her father, Morgan, but so many others have found a new peace and happiness.
We saw a glimpse of Daniel giving Victor a haircut. Dwight and Sherry are back together, with a growing family of their own. Charlie’s all grown up and learning medicine from “Doctor” June Dorie.
While we didn’t see them, we got updates on some of the others as well, learning that Alicia had set up her own settlement alongside Wes and Luciana. Al took off to chase a story, but even Morgan knows she was really looking for her missing helicopter pilot, Isabelle.
The group was fractured and destroyed after Virginia’s death, leaving them vulnerable to “The End Is the Beginning,” so what changed? How did they managed to realize this dream that even Grace admitted she doubted. It turns out it was Athena — and in a way, Grace herself.
It turns out Grace did not survive the delivery of her daughter, the radiation poisoning she suffered ultimately proving too much. But at least she survived long enough to bring Athena into the world, and it was Athena’s presence who gave everyone a reason to unite again.
This was the vision of Grace’s dream, a dream interspersed with glimpses of the real world, as well as visions from the past both dark and joyous. There was some very nice editing at work here, creating a very jarring but believable false reality.
This was, as Grace came to realize, as real for Athena as it was for her. This 16-year-old girl was not just a figment of her imagination, but rather the child inside of her. They were connecting within this dreamscape in a very real way, which made it all the more difficult when Grace realized what needed to happen.
Only what needs to happen and what happens are not always the same thing. After fighting her way back to reality — with Morgan convinced at one point she passed — and with June riding hard to get there as fast as she can, Morgan had no choice but to try and deliver Athena himself.
By this point, Grace was satisfied. Her vision, she believed, made her sacrifice worth it because it meant Athena would grow up surrounded by love and security. What more could a mother want.
So enamored was she in this belief, that she even convinced Morgan to give up that mysterious key he’d been hanging onto all this time to Riley (henchman of the fanatical underground leader we met last week).
“He’s already lost, he just doesn’t know it, yet,” she told Morgan. Poor Morgan never even learned what it unlocked before giving it up, assured by Riley that he would go as soon as he had the key. As good as his word, and he could have just killed them both right there, Riley did go.
That left Morgan and Grace to power through the delivery of their daughter together. Lending weight to Grace’s dream, her child was a girl. Until the vision, she’d been certain she was going to have a boy. But then — “Why isn’t she crying?”
Despite all of his efforts, Athena did not survive childbirth, likely succumbing to the absorption of radiation that Grace endured early in her pregnancy. With Athena’s death, does that mean the dream of the dam community dies with her?
Grace had been sure those moments in the dream were her chance to share her final moments with Athena. She never realized that this was Athena spending her final moments with Grace.
A group already rocked by tragedy and loss, this will probably hit the entire community pretty hard. There’s no one to blame it on, either, but a child always represents hope and the future. Now, that representation has been lost just as they’re in need of hope.
“The End Is the Beginning” is out there, and they’re a tremendous threat to the community. Riley said that the key will change everything, but we still don’t know what it unlocks. If it’s a massive weapons cache, the dam community could be in huge trouble. You can bet Morgan will try to find out!
In a way this was a bottle episode with few direct ramifications for the narrative of the show. But as a character piece for Grace, it was very powerfully constructed and performed by both Karen David and Sahana Srinivasan, as Athena.
There’s something sweet about imagining a mother getting that opportunity to communicate with their unborn child in the moment before bringing them into the world. There’s a solace in thinking they could share that type of experience, and especially if mother or child do not survive childbirth.
Next week, it looks like the action picks back up as “Fear the Walking Dead” continues Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.