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The Significance Of The Keys On The Latest Fear The Walking Dead Episode

Fear the Walking Dead took some inspiration from the classic detective film Chinatown in the season 6 episode "The Key." The hour is mostly focused on John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) as he puts his past as a police officer to use while trying to get to the bottom of the suspicious death of one of Lawton's rangers. When John begins to realize that Virginia (Colby Minifie) herself is interfering with the case, he's put in a precarious position. While navigating a personal and political minefield, John has to figure out how his personal beliefs in a lawful society square up with his growing feeling that in Lawton, Virginia uses the law to hold onto power and squash dissent, not to give her people justice.

Like the other rangers in Virginia's communities, John wears a key on his lapel, and as the title of the episode suggests, keys play an important thematic role in the proceeding events. Outside of John's storyline, we also get a few scenes with one of the series' most divisive characters, Morgan (Lennie James). He, too, is in possession of a key that has the ability to grant him powers that he doesn't quite understand.

Morgan is in possession of a key men would kill for

Although most of "The Key" focused on John's murder investigation, we did get a few scenes with Morgan, who is trying to reunite with Grace (Karen David). With the help of the bloodhound he adopted after decapitating its owner, the bounty hunter Emile (Demetrius Grosse), Morgan heads out to follow her trail. But he faces a major interruption when he gets into a car crash (not a common phenomenon in the post-apocalypse) with two men.

Although these characters are dispatched almost instantly, they do appear to have some major significance to the season. We saw them at the end of the sixth season premiere, when they were spray painting "The end is the beginning" on a beached submarine. When they literally run into Morgan, they reveal that they are looking for a key they were supposed to collect from Emile. Morgan has that key and after he kills both men, he looks down at it and asks, "What the hell do you unlock?"

At this stage in the season, we're still in the dark as to what his key is for. But considering the lengths the two men he killed were willing to go to get it, it's clearly something of extreme importance.

John's key gives him great privileges, but at what cost?

While Morgan is wearing his key around his neck, John has his pinned to his lapel. The key pin signifies his status as one of Virginia's rangers, a symbol that we also see flying on a flag over Lawton early in the episode. The key brings its owner great privileges, but as John learns in the episode, it also requires great sacrifice.

John spends his investigation into the murder of Cameron (Noah Khyle) trying to unlock a number of things, both literal and metaphorical. He's looking for the key to the identity of the killer. His close friend, Janis (Holly Curran), is wrongfully accused and spends much of the episode locked in a cell from which John is trying to free her. John also struggles to unlock an understanding of his purpose as a lawman in a society that uses law and order not to bring peace and justice to its citizenry, but to squash dissent and uphold the ruling class.

After Janis is executed for Cameron's murder, Virginia holds a ceremony thanking John for his work on the case in which she gives him a new key lapel, presumably denoting a higher status. Virginia is aware that John knows Janis didn't commit the murder and the gift of a coveted key is just another signal that compliance with her authority unlocks more privileges in her communities.

Virginia's keys keep her communities functioning and obedient

When Virginia gives John his new lapel pin, she refers to it as "a key to the future — our future." She is an authoritarian, a leader who promises the security and prosperity of her subjects, but requires them to pay the price of personal freedom. Those who help her maintain this rule are given keys, a symbol that they have access to status others don't. After Virginia gives John his new key, she tells him, "I think you'll find this honor affords you many privileges."

While Morgan wonders what his key unlocks, Virginia's keys are used to keep her system functioning. During the episode, there is a scene in her office that begins with a lingering still shot of the face of a grandfather clock. An old clock like that has to be wound regularly with a key for it to continue to work properly. So, too, does Virginia's society. Wearing the key lapel doesn't just mean one has privilege. It also signifies that they are a tool for Virginia to use to retain power and keep her society functioning like clockwork, pun intended.

Virginia's need for total control is why she wants Morgan dead. If her keys are used to keep her authoritarian system running, perhaps the mysterious key Morgan is in possession of — that men are willing to kill for — unlocks something that has the power to bring her down. As Reddit user SturbyT speculated in a discussion thread about the episode, "Whatever door the key unlocks can be broken into, rather I think there's 2 identical keys for nukes on the Galveston sub."

Whether it's nukes or some other incredible power, Morgan may already have the key in hand to destroy Virginia's system.