SPOILER WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Fear The Walking Dead Season 4.
If you’re confused by the big fanfare that accompanied Morgan’s transition from The Walking Dead to Fear The Walking Dead, you’re right to be. Why make a big song and dance about one of the most popular characters on the main show crossing over into the spin-off show when he’s simply going to fade into the background? We’re puzzled as to why the showrunners thought it necessary to mess around with a show that was just finding its groove only to undo the good work with a time jump and the introduction of an underutilised fan-favourite. Here’s why Morgan’s crossover has been so disappointing.
The Time Jump
When the crossover was first announced, there was, for a moment, a tantalising notion that we’d see Morgan Jones during one of the periods he was absent from the main show. Once we’d accepted that Morgan was the crossover character, that is — and not Abraham Ford who, fans speculated, might have made more sense.
One of the main unique selling points of Fear the Walking Dead has always been that it was set at the start of the outbreak. The Walking Dead, meanwhile, picks up some way into a full-on zombie apocalypse.
With FTWD’s events taking place in the past, then, there was an opportunity for the show to fill in the gaps of Morgan’s story and build a more complete narrative around a character that would go on to become one of the zombie juggernaut’s most popular.
Although it would have been a stretch to make Morgan’s journey from Georgia, where the main show is set, to Texas, where FTWD is set in Season 4, — and back again — in the time period convincing, it could have been done. And an inventive way of building this in would have been entertaining, in retrospect. Even more so, in revealing the reason he didn’t discuss his time in Texas in the main show.
But it wasn’t to be. Instead, the show caught up with Morgan in the present day, charting his presumably cathartic journey away from the main Dead crew and into the arms of the Fear-ful ones.
By introducing a time jump, killing off more of the show’s original characters and ignoring (up to now) the villains introduced in Season 3 – who were evolving into a significant and effective threat – the series is essentially starting over under the new showrunners. It could have been a chance to make the most of Morgan’s arrival with some bold new storyline.
Instead, the first half of the season has been more focused on how the show tells its story than the lacklustre story it’s telling. Using flashbacks, it presents a narrative in the first eight episodes that could have been, less frustratingly, recounted in fewer episodes. And without the jarring back and forth. It’s felt slow and pointless and is something we’re not invested in — it has essentially told how Madison and co. built up a community at a football stadium and how it fell apart.
In concentrating on all these things, not only has Morgan been sidelined but also the energy and momentum have been sapped from the show. It’s also killed off the characteristics that set it apart. The Walking Dead has played with flashbacks and flashforwards already, so this approach doesn’t feel especially fresh here. And now that FTWD is all caught up time-wise with the main show, and the engaging family drama aspect of it has been obliterated with the deaths of Nick and Madison, there’s little to separate it.
Lack of Character Development
Morgan decided to leave his group in The Walking Dead after helping Rick slaughter Saviors had a destabilizing effect on him. He began to lose his mind. Haunted by the faces of those he’d killed, he felt himself losing his grip on sanity.
It wasn’t the first time we’d seen Morgan struggle with his mental health. When Rick first came across Morgan again in Season 3, he was confronted by an unhinged man. Rick helped him get back on his feet. The next time we saw Morgan, in Season 5, he was profoundly different. A skilled fighter, and still a survivor, he vowed not to take life. In Season 6, we discovered the origin of that pledge in a standalone flashback episode in which Morgan met mentor Eastman. It stands out as one of the series’ most popular episodes.
Following this, we saw Morgan struggle with that oath – and when he finally found himself drawn back into killing, he was unable reconcile things in his mind. On top of that, it’s been established that he’s still plagued by the death of his wife and child. Seemingly forever trapped in this cycle, Morgan’s journey was perhaps done when it came to The Walking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead was a place for a fresh start. So why have they simply repeated his story again?
He’s once again fallen in with a group of people – like Rick told him he would – and has made little impact, playing second fiddle to the stilted non-drama going on and the storytelling device the showrunners are intent on exploiting. He’s stagnated – a case of same shirt, different day/location sadly. Instead of shaking things up, he’s blended into the background. And instead of paving the way for further crossover, he’s been embedded into the fabric of a fading show.
Cause for Hope
It’s worth remembering, however, that we’re only halfway through Season 4. When the story picks up again on August 12, the reason for the low-key integration of Morgan may become clear. And if the show is preparing for more crossover between shows, Morgan’s realisation in the first half of the season that his journey has been about figuring out that he needs people could come into play.
The mid-season finale teased more crossover when a subtly-placed Easter Egg suggested that Maggie Grace’s documentarian Al had bumped into and filmed TWD‘s Abraham and Eugene on her travels. A tape in her box of cassettes was marked with ‘Abe/Doctor’. It would be thrilling if Morgan were the catalyst for more integration between the two shows. And would give his character’s crossover a purpose that could it all worthwhile.