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The Real Meaning Behind John's Tooth On Fear The Walking Dead

Spoilers for season 6, episode 4 of Fear the Walking Dead ahead!

The latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead got things moving in the right direction once again as fan-favorite John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) is brought back to the forefront. John's now working as a ranger for a small Virginia town. He stumbles upon a conspiracy after Cameron (Noah Khyle) ends up zombified under suspicious circumstances. John ends up going on a bit of a murder mystery to figure out who's responsible for Cameron's demise. Despite having some promising leads, John's mission is upended when Janis (Holly Curran) comes forward and admits to the crime. 

Everything ends neatly tied up with a nice bow on it, which is a little too pretty for John. John doesn't believe Janis is truly responsible for the death, but everyone else seems to be going along for it just to have some semblance of closure, which means Janis is going to get thrown to the walkers. It's clear how corrupt this new world has become, and the changes season 6 brought to the series has helped keep the long-running spinoff interesting. Against all odds, Fear the Walking Dead has found new and exciting ways for fans to see this universe continue to decay — just like John's rotten tooth.

John removes his rotten tooth as he confronts the rot in Lawton

There's something rotten in the town of Lawton, as evidenced by the fact that John is certain the wrong person was sentenced to death for Cameron's murder. John's rotten, blackened molar in the back of his mouth has accrued meaning over several episodes, and in this episode it became a pretty explicit symbol of the social rot in Lawton. Ultimately, he ends up removing it on his own with a pair of pliers.

The presence of the rotten tooth shows how the corruption in Lawton has rubbed off on John. There's this nagging pain that something is off, and for most of the episode, he does his best to push the pain to the back of his mind — the same way he tries to push back the feeling that Janis shouldn't have been punished for Cameron's murder. Janis may have perished at the hands of the Lawton law, but John won't let dead dogs lie. This becomes symbolized in how he physically removes the molar from his mouth. The act shows how John wants to get rid of a spiritual rottenness that's been present ever since he became a ranger for Lawton. He's done with upholding unjust rules and seeing innocent people pay the price. 

It remains to be seen how John will go about becoming a force for good in Lawton. Will he continue searching for justice on behalf of Cameron (and now Janis)? What happens the next time the townspeople turn to him to enforce unjust laws? In a season filled with surprises (including some unexpected deaths), John's journey may be the one to watch going forward on Fear the Walking Dead.