He may be annoying, but Fear the Walking Dead needs characters like Jim to add some healthy tension to an otherwise amiable group.
Get your cold ones ready, because it’s almost time to hold one up for Jimbo. Poor Jim had his first real scuffle with some walkers and he didn’t have beginner’s luck. Just like Carl on The Walking Dead, Jim got bit in the stomach and his fate is doomed. Unlike Carl though, Jim hasn’t been around very long for us to care, but he’s been present just enough to feel like we should.
As the showrunners put it, karma has come for Jim due to his refusal to try and survive in this new world, help people, and his ungratefulness of Morgan’s help:
He wasn’t out in the world trying to survive, he didn’t learn how to survive, he wasn’t helping people, he wasn’t making connections. It’s all of those things coming together that put him in a place where he does get bit.
Does Jim really deserve that? He may be more self-preservative than heroic, but does that make him a bad person who deserves to die? Since coming across this group, he’s hardly been given the chance at redemption. If Fear the Walking Dead is supposed to be about characters, then let’s see a character actually grow.
On The Walking Dead, Carol didn’t start as the independent woman she is now. She was meek, completely unable to stick up for herself both verbally and physically. Over the seasons we saw a natural, satisfying transformation. Couldn’t the same be possible for Jim?
With the characters we have now on Fear the Walking Dead, they’re on relatively the same skill level, with similar goals and mindset. Where’s the internal conflict? A character like Jim adds contention to their decisions and actions. In “MM 54”, Morgan thought it would be best to go to the hospital, Jim didn’t. It was a small moment, but it’s moments like this that allow us insight into a character. If everyone always agrees, there’s minimal conversation, and no one to question a decision to make sure the best choice is made.
In return, the group challenges Jim to be a better person, the one excusable kind of peer pressure. Given more time, Jim was sure to become a less selfish person. He’d have character growth much like Carol did. Indeed, the showrunners teased that Jim’s mortality will cause him to “do some things that will surprise you.” Presumably this means Jim will actually make a selfless act to save his new ‘friends.’
If Jim is so quick to change his ways and help people at the threat of his own demise, instead of curling into a ball and giving up, how bad could he be? How much does he really deserve this fate? It’s far more engaging to watch a character change over the course of time, like Carol or Merle, than to see them change overnight.
The effect of this shift is lost as well. We haven’t been given enough time with him to feel like a selfless act in death will mean something. Carl went out the same way, but we were given 8 seasons with him first. His death at the hands (or mouth) of a cheap bite at least drew an emotion because we’d grown to care for him. The same can’t be said for Jim. We’ve barely known him half a season. It’s difficult to feel anything other than, ‘Well sucks for him’ when we don’t know him, nor have been given a reason to like him.
Keeping Jim around adds a dynamic to the group that won’t be present without him. His selfish survival instinct contrasts heavily to everyone else, adding conflict to a group that largely gets along. It also allows for much needed character development in a show where most of the development comes from Morgan’s ever-changing mind.