Who would have thought that Jesse McCartney showing up on Fear the Walking Dead might just be the thing that turns the tides of this show? Before we dive into why, consider this your spoiler alert. This article will contain plot points pertinent to this week's episode.
Now, back to McCartney. As you may well remember, he originally got his start in the '90s playing young JR Chandler on the daytime soap opera All My Children.
However, it wasn't until he joined the boy band, Dream Street, and then subsequently started a solo musical career that he really caught fans' attention. Translation: he became a bona fide heartthrob, and young girls the world over dreamed of being serenaded by him ("Beautiful Soul," obviously).
Over time, he started picking up more film and TV roles, most recently as Cooper in the series Young & Hungry. Still, nothing that would necessarily have hinted at just how brilliant he'd wind up being as a ruthless marauder on Fear the Walking Dead.
Outside of the 2012 film Chernobyl Diaries, I've never seen McCartney in a role quite so brutal and searing. In his capacity on FTWD as Reed, he's been haunting in just how convincing he plays a sociopath.
Last week, the survivors managed to overthrow him (by stabbing him). This week's episode found him being guarded by Chris, who was racked with guilt and desperate to make up for letting Connor's crew aboard the Abigail in the first place. There, with a stake through his abdomen, McCartney baited Chris by telling him what Connor was going to do to Alicia and bragging about his brother's wrath.
Although Chris is visibly shaken, it seems as though Nick is able to calm him down and convince him to keep his cool. Unfortunately, though, shortly after Madison arranged a trade — Travis and Alicia for a living, breathing Reed — a shot rings out.
Upon rushing below deck, everyone learns that Chris did in fact shoot Reed, half of whose face is now missing. His excuse? He was going to turn. C'mon, kid. You can do better than that. Of course, it's a few moments later, when Reed does actually turn, that McCartney once again steals the scene. As strange as it sounds, he makes one hell of a walker.
Because Daniel is really good at being bad, he comes up with the clever idea to cover Reed's walker-fired face and move forward with the exchange.
Not only is Madison able to pull this off but, in doing so, she takes down Connor and a few of his lackeys. Or, to give credit where credit is due, Reed takes them down — starting by snacking on a sizable chunk of his big bro's arm.
For the first time this season, and possibly the entire series, I felt a bit of the beautiful dread I experience when I watch The Walking Dead. You know the sort: I'm tempted to cover my eyes because I can't stand the anticipation of whatever gruesome thing is coming, but I just can't look away.
That's good stuff, and we have Jesse McCartney to thank for it. His character dying breathed new life into a show that, quite frankly, was in need of resuscitation.
In full disclosure, I have mixed feelings about it because I think his character was dark and complex and interesting — something I don't always think about the core characters of the show. However, his character needed to die in order to drive the action and character development forward.
We finally got to see the family start to kick some ass. Madison makes the ballsy move of transporting the newly-turned Reed and making the daring exchange. Travis head-butts the ever-loving nonsense out of some dude. And Alicia escapes by sliding off the top of a frickin' ship into the water below.
Even Chris became a bit more intriguing, thanks to his altercation with Reed. In addition to likely creating some complicated emotional repercussions from him in the near future, the moment served to spark a maternal intimacy between him and Madison that we certainly haven't seen before.
So, while I'm bummed that McCartney had to go the way of the walkers, I'm grateful for his killer (quite literally) cameo. And judging by the fan-girling she did on The Talking Dead after show, I'd say Alycia Debnam-Carey agrees with me.
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