Fear the Walking Dead went almost all of Season 5 without killing a major character, but it turns out that was because they were saving the arguably the biggest death in the show's history for the final moments of the finale, "End of the Line." Morgan (Lennie James), the only character other than Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) still alive from The Walking Dead's first episode, is no more. [UPDATE: Fear's showrunners are saying this is a cliffhanger, and Morgan might not actually be dead. We'll see. But for now, we're going to assume he is.]
The episode was about Morgan's group of survivors making one last attempt to secure Humbug's Gulch as a place to live so they wouldn't have to bend the knee to Virginia (Colby Minifie). That failed, so Morgan surrendered and made a deal with Virginia that his people would join her colony, as long as they all could come, even the young, old and sick. They were all split up — newlyweds John (Garret Dillahunt) and June (Jenna Elfman), siblings Sarah (Mo Collins) and Wendell (Daryl Mitchell), Salazar (Rubén Blades) and his cat Skidmark, and Morgan and Grace (Karen David), moments after they finally admitted their feelings for each other.
Finally, it was just Morgan and Virginia left, and Virginia pointed a gun at him. "Gotta protect the future," she said. He tried to knock the gun out of her hand with his staff, but she plugged him in the heart. She tried to finish him off after he used the last of his energy to drag himself to the steps of Humbug's Gulch's chapel and pull himself into an upright position, but the gun just hit him with a face full of powder. Then she got a call on the walkie from the doctor she'd turned Grace over to. She was pregnant. She had had sex with a man she worked with at the power plant before he died, and now she was a few months along.
"You would have left her out there to die," Morgan said. "You said what we were doing out here had no future to it. Had no future. And you were wrong." Virginia then left him there to bleed out.
The last scene of the season was Morgan sitting there alone on the chapel's porch, talking into a walkie as the dead approached. "If any of you are listening, if any of you can hear me, what we were doing out here, it wasn't just about doing right, it was about the future," he said. "We fought for the future. We made the hard call. For her. For all of us. So Grace, if you're listening to me, live. All of you, if you can hear me. Just live." The screen went black as the walkers closed in.
It was a shocking, heartbreaking end to one of the franchise's signature characters. We watched him go through so much from when he met Rick Grimes in "Days Gone Bye." He lost his family, went insane, met Eastman (John Carroll Lynch) and learned all life is precious, rejoined Rick, went insane again, walked from Virginia to Texas, found a new family and a new purpose, fell in love again and finally put what he'd lost behind him, only to get killed by a smarmy cowgirl. It's like when Kennard killed Omar on The Wire.
In hindsight, it's not a huge surprise. It makes sense that Lennie James would sign on for two seasons of this other show, knowing that his story had an endpoint. Perhaps he'll do like Andrew Lincoln and go back to England to spend more time with his family. It's sad that we'll never see Morgan and Rick reunite one last time, but maybe he'll show up in a vision Rick has.
Morgan's death creates an interesting vacuum in Fear the Walking Dead going into Season 6. Will Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) become the ensemble's anchor after kind of disappearing in Season 5? Will Dwight (Austin Amelio), who's found something to live for other than the search for his wife? One thing's for certain, and that's the fact that splitting up the characters was a good move. Morgan's death and the surviving characters' quest for reunion from under Virginia's oppressive regime will create inherent stakes at the start of the next season, which Season 5 lacked. It was kind of an aimless season, and hopefully this big change refocuses it and gets it back on track.
Fear the Walking Dead will return for Season 6 in 2020. The Walking Dead premieres Sunday, Oct. 6 at 9/8c on AMC.