‘Fear the Walking Dead’ season 5 gets off to a slow start, but Dwight’s return makes it worth a watch

Come for Alicia and stay for the many connections to

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Come for Alicia and stay for the many connections to “The Walking Dead” on season five of “Fear TWD.”
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Ryan Green/AMC

  • Warning: There are vague spoilers below for “Fear the Walking Dead” season five.
  • The fifth season of “The Walking Dead” spin-off, “Fear TWD” debuts on Sunday, June 2, on AMC at 9 p.m.
  • I’ve previewed the first four episodes of the season and I’m not really impressed so far.
  • The first two episodes of the season are pretty slow. The third episode is the best one I watched and one “Walking Dead” fans should tune into.
  • If you’re invested in the larger world of “TWD,” you’ll also want to tune in for the end of episode four.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Season five of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” starts out rough. The first two episodes are slow moving and frankly a bit boring. It’s not until some familiar faces show up that you may start to have a real interest in the mystery surrounding this season.

I’ve watched the first four episodes of “Fear TWD” for INSIDER and while it offers a few meaty mysteries I hope to see resolved this season, the spin-off dangles the “Walking Dead” universe carrot so much that it feels like much of “Fear” exists solely to tie into the larger world “TWD” universe chief content officer Scott Gimple is creating. It’s immensely frustrating.

Expect to see plenty of your favorites like Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and Morgan (Lennie James) on a do-gooder mission to better the world no matter the cost. Regardless of how season five of “Fear” is, you’re bound to keep watching for its connections to the main show and an answer to the larger mystery of the season.

What to know: There are a few new faces, but some old ones return, too. Domingo directs another episode of the season and another “Walking Dead” character crosses over.

Colman Domingo directs and stars on the show's third season.

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Colman Domingo directs and stars on the show’s third season.
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Ryan Green/AMC

Morgan (James) crossed over to “Fear TWD” last season and this season it’s Dwight’s (Austin Amelio) turn to make the jump. Not familiar with Dwight or don’t recall where we last saw him? Daryl spared Dwight’s life at the end of “TWD” season eight. Instead, he gave him the keys to a truck, banished him from the communities, and told him to go find his wife Sherry who fled during season seven.

In addition to Amelio, expect to see a cast of kids enter the zombie apocalypse. Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss (“Once Upon a Time”) return as showrunners for season five after joining the show last season. For anyone holding out hope that Madison (Kim Dickens) may appear once again, don’t get your hopes up. Madison is still gone after supposedly being eaten alive by walkers last season. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

What’s hot: The return of two familiar faces to the franchise, connections to the larger “Walking Dead” universe, some great zombie moments, and an adorable feline.

AMC sent me a guideline of what I can and cannot talk about regarding season five. Unsurprisingly, the list is a bit long.

For instance, I’m not supposed to tell you the first episode where Dwight appears. So I’ll just tell you where he doesn’t appear – the season premiere. (I imagine that’s not too much of a shocker.)

The return of Dwight in

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The return of Dwight in “The Walking Dead” universe is a very bright spot on “Fear’s” fifth season.
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Ryan Green/AMC

The man who never seems to die, Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) returns just in the nick of time as the first two episodes start to drag too much. Where has he been? What is he up to? All will be revealed early on and I’m surprised he’s quickly climbing my list of “Walking Dead” characters I’d want to be with in a real zombie apocalypse. His interactions with Strand (Domingo) have always been a highlight of the show. As we know, Salazar doesn’t take any crap from anyone, let alone Strand. Expect to see more of the two together as hinted in the season five trailer.

AMC would've been better off leaving the surprise of Daniel's return out of the trailers.

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AMC would’ve been better off leaving the surprise of Daniel’s return out of the trailers.
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AMC

Let’s talk a bit more about Domingo. The actor directs the third episode of the season and it’s easily the best of the four I watched, featuring one of the coolest walker kills I’ve seen in a while involving an ax, a gun, and some fantastic aim. There are a few good zombie moments on the first four episodes, but that one takes the cake. Episode three was also the first one of the season to really make me feel engaged with the story of any character. It’s a story many fans will surely find themselves rooting behind. In a world where you don’t get too many happy endings, this is one you hope will turn out for the best.

Out of all the new characters introduced so far, your favorite is going to be the tabby cat first teased in the trailers for season five. His name is Skidmark (poor cat) and I think I can tell you he belongs to Daniel. Note to AMC: Please give us more furry companions in the “TWD” universe.

Watch out, Goose. Despite the name, Skidmark is a very good, well-behaved cat.

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Watch out, Goose. Despite the name, Skidmark is a very good, well-behaved cat.
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AMC

The main reason you’re going to tune into season five of “Fear” is equally the most frustrating and most interesting. Without saying too much, we start to get some real hints about some lingering mysteries on “TWD.” Did I want to come over to the spin-off to get these answers? Not really. But one of those mysteries becomes part of the main story for “Fear” season five. So, I’m along for the ride. So far, I have more questions than answers after four episodes.

What’s not: You’re not going to care too much for many of the new characters introduced. Some favorite characters are making some silly choices five seasons into the show.

Ethan Suess and Cooper Dodson play Max and Dylan, two new young children you probably won't care for much on season five.

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Ethan Suess and Cooper Dodson play Max and Dylan, two new young children you probably won’t care for much on season five.
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Ryan Green/AMC

We don’t really need any more large character introductions onto “Fear” five seasons in. Like the flagship show, “Fear” already has plenty of characters to juggle. Any of the new characters who join feel a bit expendable.

And the characters who are on the show are making some silly decisions on the first four episodes, placing themselves in harm’s way for no real reason at all. We’re seeing characters go off alone, in the dark, to check on hunches when they can wait until morning when it’s safer. At another point, another character, who has already been injured, decides to step out of a safe zone alone at night, putting themselves in danger when they can’t even defend themselves. These are rookie mistakes. Michonne, Magna, and Daryl over on “TWD” would be embarrassed.

After considering the first four episodes of “Fear” for a bit, I’m more appreciative of the larger story it’s building. However, it’s one that appears more valuable for the “TWD” universe at large than for “Fear” itself.

For some time, I’ve been thinking season five could be the final one for “Fear.” The first four episodes of “Fear TWD” only make me more convinced of that because of where the story is heading. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if “Fear” ends on season five or six and the two shows are eventually merged together in some way.

Overall: If you’re invested in “The Walking Dead” at all, you’re going to watch this for Dwight and any connections to the main show that have been teased.

For its fifth season,

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For its fifth season, “Fear TWD” appears to exist as a mouthpiece for the larger plans of “The Walking Dead” universe.
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Ryan Green/AMC

I shouldn’t solely be tuning into “Fear” just to get some updates and hints on some of “The Walking Dead’s” largest mysteries, but that’s where we’re at right now. The most interesting parts of “Fear” season five have to do with its connections to the flagship show, the majority of which occur on episodes three and four. Aside from that, you’re probably tuning in to see what’s going on with Dwight since we last saw him. It’s a bit frustrating and insulting as someone who started watching “Fear” to gain another perspective of life during the zombie apocalypse. Seasons one and three delivered well on that promise.

One of the major problems is that there are few great characters left on “Fear TWD.” Alicia, Daniel, and Victor are the three most interesting characters on the series by far along with “TWD” additions of Morgan and Dwight to give the show new life with some of the main characters like Madison and Nick gone. If we’re going to watch a spin-off that’s becoming centered around expanding the mysteries of “TWD,” I’d love to see a bold “Fear” which cleaves away at some of the fat while doing so. Right now, the show needs to take some big swings, and I hope it does as the rest of the season peels back at some important questions we’ve all been asking for years while watching “The Walking Dead.”

Grade: C

Follow along with our “Walking Dead” coverage here. You can watch a trailer for season five below.