There’s a lot to unpack in Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 14, “Mother.” While last week’s episode took us down a path of forgiveness, this week’s episode was a stark reminder that you should still be cautious about who you forgive. It was a fascinating story when viewed in contrast with last week’s story.
This article has MAJOR spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 13, “Mother.” This review is based on the early AMC+ release.
This Episode Was a Battle of Wills and Manipulation
The new episode was basically an ongoing battle of wills between the main characters. Teddy was manipulating Alicia to decide if she was worthy of leading his bunker group. Alicia was manipulating Teddy to get his plans so she could share them with her people. Dakota was being manipulated by Teddy so he would have someone to protect him when Alicia ultimately chose to rebel against him. And Cole was manipulating all of them at first to try to get their resources. No one was being up front about their intentions, and in the end it was Teddy who came out on top. (Although Alicia was able to give an advantage to her group that they didn’t have until the end of this episode.)
Teddy appeared to be trying every trick in the book to manipulate Alicia into deciding that his cult was the best approach for a broken world, but she was never won over. Alicia, however, got him to reveal his plans for the nuclear sub and was able to communicate them to Victor just before she was recaptured.
But as it turns out, Teddy’s plan was successful too. He wasn’t really trying to convert Alicia to his cause. Rather, he was determined to learn if she was the right person to add to his underground bunker — if, in essence, she would be the right person to lead it. Her fiercely independent streak and her dedication to holding onto hope proved to him that she was worthy to lead his bunker. And when he locked her down there, he didn’t even join himself. He believes he is destined to be part of the “end,” not the new beginning. Her group will “reclaim” the land after the nuclear fallout clears.
(On a side note, let’s be clear: his sub isn’t going to destroy the world or even the continental United States. When the fallout clears, other people on the surface will be able to move into that land too. So I’m still a little unclear about his ultimate plan.)
The entire episode was a battle of wills, where we learned that Teddy’s strength comes not in physical strength, like so many villains in TWD Universe before him, but in his ability to con and manipulate people. He had planned to take Alicia and Dakota on a trip where he showed Alicia that everyone her mom helped had died, rendering her mom’s plan fruitless in the new savage world. He pretended they had to go to that region so he could get his mother’s body and bring her back to the underground cult. But it was all a ruse. The body he tracked down was a random body and not even his mother. He kissed a random corpse and then screamed when it fell out of his truck to make his ruse seem more believable.
Instead of finding that everyone Madison helped had died, Teddy fell into someone else’s trap just as he was planting his own. Cole planted a spike in the road that disabled their car, and then led them to an autoparts store where his friends waited to jump them and take everything they owned. Teddy tried to use this to show Alicia that her mom’s plans really WERE fruitless, because the people she tried to help just ended up being murderers. Despite all that evidence, Alicia chose to cling to hope. And that made Teddy decide she was perfect for his apocalyptic bunker group.
Teddy Is a Well-Written Villain
As I mentioned earlier, Teddy is one of the more compelling villains in TWD Universe. He gains power through manipulation and sheer faith, rather than through physical prowess. JD talked about how smart Teddy had been in the past. He was so smart that he only ended up in jail because JD broke the rules and planted evidence on him. But once Teddy got out, he was able to manipulate people all over again.
Here are some comments written about Teddy in a subreddit that really sell what a great villain he is:
I’m really looking forward to the JD vs Teddy showdown that we’ll likely see in the last two episodes. JD isn’t nearly as cunning as Teddy, but he has John Dorie’s tenacity and passion for justice. He will make a fascinating adversary.
Alicia Tried to Play the Long Game
Through most of the episode, I was really mad at Alicia for not simply shooting Teddy the first chance she got, taking him out, and being free. But she was patient and playing the long game, hoping to manipulate him into giving away his destructive plan. She was able to get the information out of him and share his plan with Strand before she was taken again. But it was a risky plan, for sure.
When Cole showed up and everyone just let Teddy boss them around like he was still in charge, I thought that was really odd. There was no reason to continue to let Teddy call the shots when they could have easily overpowered him. But I guess, once again, that was part of Alicia’s plan to try to persuade Teddy to trust her enough to reveal his plans.
Can We Just Kill Dakota?
Has there ever been a character in The Walking Dead Universe more annoying than Dakota? She already killed John Dorie, which was awful enough. But in this episode she revealed that she didn’t even regret it! She convinced herself that she had no other choice, which really wasn’t true. And then she decides to immediately cling to Teddy because he gives her just a little encouragement, despite being so sketchy. And in the end, she decides she would rather kill Alicia than let her take out a dangerous man who wants to destroy the world, or at least as much of it as he can.
Ugh. Can we just kill Dakota already?
The Cole and Madison Question
So, Cole has his own code that he lives by. He and his group decided that being even a little nice to anyone was enough to get them killed. So they jump people, steal from them, and kill them so they can’t track them down later for revenge. It’s dark, but it’s the approach they decided gives them the best chance of survival.
It’s also the complete opposite of what Madison was trying to build. And interestingly, if Cole had simply dropped his code, he and his group could have survived. If he hadn’t given Alicia that ultimatum, he probably would have lived. But instead, he started shooting at the corpse, drew the attention of a lot of zombies, and then lost his own chance at escaping when he and Alicia had their showdown.
The scene where his friends died is really the only complaint I have about this episode. They all had guns and had a long history of surviving in a world of walkers. There was no reason for his two pals to get killed so comically and unrealistically by the walkers. But they did, and that’s a director’s choice that I’ll be shaking my head at for quite some time.
I’m not alone. Check out these comments from fans:
I’m Not Sure What To Expect Next
What fascinates me most about this storyline is that I’m not sure what to expect next. If you visit the Fear the Walking Dead subreddit, you’ll see that fans are divided on whether they think Teddy will succeed in launching the nuke from the sub or not. And that’s a sign of good storytelling. We don’t automatically think the good guys will definitely win, because they’ve left us with this compelling story of Alicia locked in the bunker. So we have two competing storylines that could play out depending on the final two episodes. Either Morgan and company could stop the nuke and free Alicia, or they don’t, a lot of people die, and we jump ahead in time to Alicia in the bunker years down the line. The first scenario is far less risky, but the second leaves us with a lot of unique storylines. (There’s also the possibility that they stop the nukes but aren’t ever able to find Alicia, which would be an interesting twist.)
Just as an interesting side note… Alycia Debnam-Carey played Lexa on The 100, and there was another storyline in the series about a main character getting locked in a bunker and what happened to them. So nukes being set off and Alicia being in a bunker would be quite the callback to Alicia’s previous series!