[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 12, “Sonny Boy.”]

The Strand-Morgan-Alicia war has claimed its first of the drama’s main characters.

In “Sonny Boy,” Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) is extremely paranoid, and he believes anyone caught with a walkie is out to get him and take down the Tower. This trail of obsession eventually leads to Strand’s right-hand man, Howard (Omid Abtahi), who is found with a walkie in his room. Dangling off the edge of the tower, Howard swears vehemently that he was framed. His claim gets Strand’s attention, and they pull him back up – then a call comes in, and John Dorie Sr. (Keith Carradine) picks it up.

That call? Baby Mo is missing, and no one’s sure who did it. Howard volunteers to look for her as a way to redeem herself. But Strand puts John on the case because he still doesn’t trust Howard. What follows is an episode that’s a part whodunit and part a conversation about legacy, and it offers two major character deaths. Here’s how it happens.

Lauren “Lo” Smith / AMC

John asks June (Jenna Elfman) and Grace (Karen David) about what happened to Mo, and neither give up any intel; he also goes to Howard and gets a little of the guy’s tragic backstory (he pretended to make a major career discovery pre-apocalypse, only for it to be found out that he forged it, and then his wife left and took their child with her ). His ruthlessness in the tower is all in hopes of building a place for his family, once they make it there, to live. Unfortunately, he has no clue that Strand has already found his dead wife and child months earlier.

John’s detective skills do eventually guide him to the culprit. Judging from the mud on her shoes, he realizes that June took the baby – and he finds her on the tower’s ground floor, gearing up to take Mo out to Morgan (Lennie James). As she explains, Morgan won’t attack the tower with Mo inside it, so they have to get her out of there first. John still believes he can get through to Strand and takes Mo back from June, saying that Mo is his “legacy” and that he has to protect her. Predictably, walkers start pouring through and they’re forced to take cover.

Keith Carradine as John Dorie Sr., fear the walking dead

Lauren “Lo” Smith / AMC

At one point it looks like they might be able to fight back and fend them off, but it’s no use, and June’s forced to reveal her accomplice: Grace. While they wait for Grace’s help, John reveals he’s dying. He has radiation poisoning from getting Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) out of the building where she was infected. Oh, no! Then, Strand and his men arrive and take Mo, and Strand has a meeting with Howard and John on the roof. Again, Strand orders Howard thrown off the roof. Under duress, John admits the truth: He planted the walkie, so that Strand would be forced to listen to him over Howard. Strand sees this as a feature rather than a bug, and he takes John’s untruthfulness as a sign of dedication to the tower. He tells him to throw Howard over, anyway.

John follows orders and kills Howard. As a reward for this, he’s given Howard’s apartment… and his booze, which John drinks heartily. Strand walks in, and they have a conversation about the leadership in the tower during which John tries to change Strand’s mind and convince him that he can leave a better legacy than the dictatorship he’s running, and Strand basically tells him he doesn’t care what he thinks. Feeling he has failed to turn the tide peacefully, the moment culminates with John aiming a gun at Strand while his back is turned but choosing to knock him out instead.

From there, he goes to get June and Grace, and they sprint to get Mo out of the tower. John volunteers to go through the crowd of walkers, because he’s already dying of radiation poisoning, anyway. He says his goodbyes to Grace and June – who really isn’t as emotional about losing her father-in-law as it seems like she should be? – and then he gears up in wrestling pads with Mo safely and carefully strapped to him, quietly singing “Sonny Boy” to keep her calm as they walk through the horde.

fear the walking dead

Lauren “Lo” Smith / AMC

As they move, Strand sees them, but there’s nothing he can do that won’t harm Mo. Instead, he and his team take June and Grace back into custody. John successfully gets Mo to Morgan, who was waiting outside at the phone platform. Morgan tells him to come with him, but Dorie can’t: He’s not just suffering radiation poisoning anymore. He’s bitten, too. “I’ll buy you some time,” he volunteers, then he sacrifices himself to the jaws of the irradiated walkers.

In the tower, Strand watches this unfold with great dissatisfaction. Thankfully, Wes (Colby Hollman) is there to help. Strand tells him to get a radio antenna they have sitting around in the tower and bring it out to boost the signal, then he delivers an ominous message to Morgan. “I have people here who care about you,” he says. “June, Grace. If you take a step into this place, I will kill them. ” He also tells anyone else on Morgan’s side that the offer to join him still stands: “You know where to find me.”

fear the walking dead, colman domingo as victor strand

Other Observations

  • Goodbye, Dad Dorie. John Sr. was a good character and his dynamic with June was sweet, so it’s sad to see him go. It’s also sad for June to lose the only connection she still had to John. It kind of feels like we’re losing the “original” John Dorie all over again
  • Judging by Charlie’s appearance this episode, we might lose at least one more major character before the season’s over. I’m also not confident about Wes’ future.
  • RIP, Howard. I knew you were marked for death the minute you started having a tragic backstory that involved a missing family. Kind of a bummer, though – I know Madison (Kim Dickens) is coming back, but Strand can have more than one friend!
  • How on Earth does Strand come back from this? Does Strand come back from this? I have a hard time believing Domingo isn’t in Season 8, but at what point is this character irredeemable? Unless… he and Madison have a villain team-up. I’d support it.
  • Rating: 3.5 / 5. “Sonny Boy” had plenty of action, although all the “legacy” talk got distracting and some situations didn’t feel realistic. It was an improvement over 9 and 10, but not quite as good as 11.

Fear the Walking DeadSundays, 9 / 8c, AMC

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