THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 704, BREATHE WITH ME.
On this week’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead – Breathe With Me, Sarah goes in search of Wendell and her breath, Josiah catches up to Morgan, and the stalkers start to show their cards. It is an emotional episode so get your tissues handy and prepare to dive in.
FORT SAN VICENTE B&B
After a nightmare about an unexploded nuclear warhead, Sarah awakens in a strange room. After wandering her new surroundings, Sarah runs into a walker. Al saves the day. Within minutes the scene becomes reminiscent of the end of the Wizard of Oz as a host of characters pop into the room to greet Sarah. Daniel, Charlie, Wes, Luci, and Jacob are all holed up in the converted bed and breakfast. The helicopter pilot helped them find the safety of the converted fort but then left. Al still refuses to say anything about the pilot.
The warhead from Sarah’s dream is actually real. The group has not found the warhead, but they have a limited supply of pills to deal with the radiation exposure on their searches. Sarah is obviously eager to find Wendell, but Al insists that there is not enough medication to make that search possible. Over a period of months, Sarah talks over the radio in the hopes that she will hear Wendell’s voice again. Sarah searches from a hilltop through binoculars, and she marks up a map to narrow down the field.
At some point, Sarah’s frequency is picked up by Morgan. Morgan likely came into range when he was digging at June’s bunker. Morgan is only able to tell Sarah that he is at the Pennsylvania before he is cut off. As Sarah looks to the horizon, she sees a car at the base of the hill with Rufus the bloodhound out front. Sarah rushes to greet her old canine friend, and when she gets to the car, she finds an undead head in the box marked Morgan Jones. Josiah gets the drop on her.
After a bit of conversation and a brief tussle for the gun, Josiah forces Sarah into an agreement. In exchange for Josiah’s help in finding Wendell, Sarah will get Morgan to walk into a trap.
BROTHER FOR BROTHER
While Rufus follows Wendell’s scent up the road, Josiah buries the bodies of the two walkers he killed. Either Josiah digs a lot of graves, or he does not kill very many walkers if he insists on this protocol every time. Sarah tells Josiah that he is crazy if he expects to kill Morgan when his brother could not. That is more than fair, but before Josiah can make a defensive argument, Rufus’ barks alert them.
There is a vehicle on the road nearby. A man releases radioactive dead from the back of the truck. From the clothing, the man appears to be one of the stalkers. Though the man attempts to shoo the dog away, Rufus will not be shaken from Wendell’s scent. Wendell’s scarf is in the back of the truck.
After Sarah makes a plea for her brother, the stalker takes Josiah and Sarah to a stockyard filled with the dead instead of cattle. A quick search reveals Wendell’s mangled wheelchair in a pile of trash. The stalker confirms that he had killed the walker that had been tangled up in the chair because it was not useful to his purpose. The news devastates Sarah, and the stalker attempts to make a run for it. The stalker opens pens of the dead along his escape route.
HOW’S MY DRIVING?
Sarah gets to Josiah’s truck first, and after a moment, she starts to leave without him. Josiah manages to grab a door and jump in before Sarah can leave him to fight the dead alone. In a panic, Sarah attempts to shove Josiah out of the car, but she only succeeds in driving off a small cliff. When Sarah awakens, it is nightfall. The doors are pinned shut, the windows cracked, and the dead have caught up to them. With the dead knocking on the windows like they are about to ask you for your license, registration and a hunk of your intestines, it is pretty apparent that Sarah is in deep trouble.
Josiah stirs awake, and he reaches the same assessment. To make matters worse, Sarah has located the errant dud warhead. The warhead is cracked and lying about 20 feet away. With more dead on the march, the only workable plan is to make a run for it. But since Sarah and Josiah have been sleeping for hours while they soaked up radiation, they are not sure they are going to live through this regardless. The ticking Geiger counter is not making it any easier to think through a plan either.
Josiah tells Sarah that in his former life, he had been a park ranger. Josiah stresses that he knew when his brother Emile was alive, and he had felt when his brother had died. With a nod, Josiah tells Sarah that he thinks she has the same connection to her brother that he had to Emile. Sarah chuckles as she explains that Wendell is not her biological twin. Sarah then tells a beautiful story about how she had struggled to breathe after her birth, but when the nurses had placed her next to baby Wendell, she would breathe better. Josiah states that he thinks that Sarah does not believe that Wendell is really dead. Reluctantly, Sarah agrees.
It is nice that Josiah and Sarah had that moment to bond, because here comes Morgan to save the day. Josiah still has visions of revenge dancing in his head though. Once Josiah dispatches the immediate walker threat, he turns his rage on Morgan. Josiah fishes brother Emile out of the box, and he holds it up to Morgan’s face. Morgan begs Josiah, “Don’t do this.” This is a phrase that makes up approximately 73% of Morgan’s dialogue. Morgan slaps the head away.
In one of the worst turns of fate of the entire series, Rufus eagerly rushes over to the head of his former person. Undead Emile’s head bites sweet Rufus. This was, and I cannot stress this enough, my greatest fear about animals on this show. I love animals but every time one graced the screen I found myself muttering, “can we just not?” for this very reason.
GOOD BEANS AND GOODBYES
The shock of what has happened shakes Josiah out of his tunnel vision. In tears, Josiah holds Rufus and apologizes to him for what he has caused. Morgan is at peak Morgan, and he tells Josiah he is sorry for his loss. With the thirst for revenge out of his system, Josiah prepares Rufus’ favorite meal as his last. Josiah admits that he had held onto his quest for revenge because he had not wanted to let his brother go.
“I know why you didn’t want to let your brother go because every moment that I am without mine, I feel like I can’t catch my breath,” Sarah says. Morgan and Sarah sit quietly by the campfire as Josiah holds and pets a whimpering Rufus. Rufus has little interest in the can of beans, so Josiah knows it is time to put the dog down.
After the deed is done, they bury Rufus and Emile’s head. Josiah then places the empty can of beans on the grave. If that gesture did not make you tear up at least a little, you may be undead yourself.
Josiah apologizes to Morgan for Emile’s hunt for him. “He wasn’t always like that,” Josiah says. “None of us were,” Morgan says. That is a simple bit of dialogue, but it is very effective. Of course, Josiah would feel vulnerable at this moment. Morgan proved what kind of person he is with this one statement.
Morgan then gives Sarah some hope when he suggests that Victor may have Wendell in his tower. With a grimace, Morgan reasons that Victor would have saved Wendell as a way to prove a point to Morgan. As for Josiah, he asks Sarah to let him keep his promise and help her find Wendell.
THE TOWER DETENTE
When Sarah, Josiah, and Morgan get to the communications platform set up outside the undead perimeter of Victor’s tower, Sarah picks up the phone to call in. Howard pops out of the bushes with men and guns. For someone that seemed so passive at first, Howard has really been getting his hands dirty outside of the tower lately. Howard confirms that Wendell is safe inside the compound and is in charge of supply logistics for the community. Unfortunately, Howard also confirms that Victor holds a grudge, so Sarah is not welcome because of her support for Morgan.
The choice Victor gives Sarah two choices. to leave without talking to Wendell or talk to Wendell but it means his banishment from the tower. Sarah is desperate to see her brother. Desperate to breathe again, Sarah would also do anything to protect Wendell, so she agrees to walk away. As a comfort, Josiah reminds Sarah that unlike him, she was able to let go of her brother when it counted. “And you’re still breathing,” Josiah says.
WORST RUMMAGE EVER
The stalkers mill about at the crash site of Josiah’s truck. One references someone named Arno. When the camera pans to a handcart with the cracked nuclear warhead in it, my first thought is, “My life for you.” So either Arno is Randall Flagg, or we have not met this character yet.
What does Arno want? The episode ends with a hint. “[This is] the thing that will get us exactly what we want,” the voice says. Unless your thing is a painful death by sloughed-off skin and liquifying organs, tooling around with that warhead inches from your body is a very bad idea.
IS FEAR THE WALKING DEAD – BREATHE WITH ME WORTH WATCHING?
A lot happened in this episode. It was nice to see how they were able to bring Demetrius Grosse back to the show for a longer turn. With this episode, we see how Josiah goes from an adversary to a very necessary ally for Morgan. Not only that, I believe the turn. Why? Because nothing will make you reevaluate your choices in life like getting your dog killed.
And it is because of the dog’s death that I hesitate to recommend Breathe With Me at all. It is not because the episode is not good. And it is not even because the dog’s death was pointless. On the contrary, something emotionally jarring had to have happened to bring Josiah over to Morgan’s side. No, I can’t recommend it because it is a bit too Old Yeller for my taste. But if you need an ugly cry, then Breathe With Me may be the episode for you.