That crazy dreadlocked lady on Fear the Walking Dead finally has a name. She gets some backstory this week too. I wish I could fully buy into it.
The fact that the opening scene is in full color should be clue enough that it’s a flashback. A car sits on the side of a lonely road, having crashed into the guard rail. Inside, a man is dying, impaled on the metal rail. His wife’s face stays off-camera at first, but her voice immediately gives her identity away. The man calls her Martha. She reassures her husband over and over again that help will come, but the few cars that pass their way speed right on by without stopping, despite her attempts to flag them down. No one wants to help.
Hours pass until a human-shaped figure shambles toward the car. Martha at first thinks that someone has come to help, but no, it’s a Walker. (The episode is ambiguous as to how far into the zombie apocalypse this scene is supposed to take place.) Recognizing the danger, Martha picks up a rake that had fallen off a passing truck and whacks the Walker across the head, killing it.
Eventually, the husband dies and turns, and Martha has to put him down as well. She digs a grave for him by hand. (I’d think the rake would be at least a little bit useful.) As night comes, she completely loses her mind, babbling a bunch of nonsense about how nobody helped her.
The next day (or close to it, because the dead Walker corpse on the road hasn’t decayed at all), a tractor trailer rig stops by the accident scene and a woman unloads a charity box. As the driver writes a note on it, Martha appears and corrects her poor grammar, explaining that she was an English teacher. The trucker thanks her for her help, to which Martha insists that she doesn’t help anyone and promptly murders the driver with the rake.
In a montage, Martha develops her m.o. of murdering truckers and keeping each resultant Walker as an attack pet to kill the next one. For some reason, the truckers are never armed and are always oblivious to any danger around them. Before killing them, Martha questions them about “Polar Bear,” the man who started their charity operation.
At the end of the pre-credits sequence, Martha gets on a tractor trailer rig’s CB and radios out a call to Polar Bear. Instead, she reaches Morgan on the other end of the transmission, catching us up with his first arrival in Mississippi.
The rest of the episode picks up where the last one left off, following Martha’s machine gun ambush on Sarah and Wendell’s big rig. Everyone survives the initial attack, though some are injured and Wendell’s wheelchair is wrecked. Apparently, Martha used up all the S.W.A.T. truck’s ammo. With gas leaking all around them, the survivors climb out of the tractor trailer. A Walker attacks June but Morgan saves her. Wendell shoots at Martha with a shotgun and hits her in the shoulder, causing her to climb back in the S.W.A.T. truck and drive away.
Just then, the leaky gas ignites and the tractor trailer goes ka-boom, destroying all the food, supplies, and weapons inside. The sound of the explosion draws a herd of Walkers toward the scene, forcing the group to retreat down the road. Jim gets stuck with the task of dragging Wendell on a makeshift sled, and he’s very vocal about how unhappy he is about it. The need to accommodate Wendell also slows everyone down and makes it very difficult to get too far ahead of the Walker herd.
At an intersection, Morgan spots a sign for a hospital and suggests that they take shelter there. Jim thinks this is a bad idea and wants to keep moving down the highway, but ultimately acquiesces and goes with the group.
The hospital is, remarkably, not completely overrun with Walkers. June even finds some medical supplies to patch up everyone’s injuries. Sarah grabs and distributes some new walkie-talkies that somehow still have a charge.
Although they do their best to barricade an entrance, the entire wall gives out and a herd of Walkers gets into the hospital. Jim is pissed and blames Morgan for bringing them here. With all the exits blocked, Morgan leads everyone upstairs. On the top floor, they seem to have no way out. That’s bad news, because Walkers have apparently learned how to climb stairs now.
Morgan wants to get everyone to the hospital roof, but the only way to get up there is by taking an elevator. (Really?) Of course, that’s difficult when the building has no power. Fortunately, June points out that hospitals keep their generators on the top floor in case of flooding. She and Althea separate from the group to search for the generators, but Al soon sends June back to rejoin the others, potentially sacrificing herself to save everyone.
Morgan and Jim are attacked by Walkers. Because Morgan has his hands full, Jim is forced to fight and kill a Walker himself – the first time he’s ever done so. He feels awfully proud of himself.
Althea gets the generator working (how convenient that it still had gas left), and everyone else takes the elevator to the roof. Al doesn’t respond on the walkie. Locking the door behind them, the group rest for a moment. June offers to take a look at a scrape on Jim’s back and discovers that it’s in fact a Walker bite. He’s doomed. Jim laments, “I have beer to make!”
When asked by June what their plan is to get off the roof, Morgan admits that he doesn’t have one. He feels that he’s failed as a leader.
Alicia and Charlie
Lest we forget about Alicia and Charlie, they arrive at the scene of the tractor trailer wreckage long after everyone else has left. Unsure of which direction the others went, Alicia randomly picks east to search. (Wouldn’t Wendell’s sled have left any marks on the road they could follow?)
After their car runs out of gas and they’ve found no sign of their friends, Alicia admits to Charlie that she’s not really looking for them. She’s given up hope on that. They’re really heading for Galveston, so that she can bring Charlie to the beach like the girl always wanted. “I just need something to be good,” Alicia says.
Mature beyond her years, Charlie insists that they go back for the others. Slightly down the road, however, they come to an unexpected body of water caused by a flood. Charlie is delighted; they found a beach after all. Looking down into the weeds, Alicia finds a cowboy hat that looks an awful lot like the one John used to wear. Charlie urges her to look up across the water, to which Alicia smiles and mutters, “Holy shit…”
I can’t tell you how pleased I would be if the next episode opens with an alligator lunging out of the water and gobbling up Charlie. I’m not holding my breath for that, unfortunately.
I have issues with the Martha flashback. Her instantaneous transformation from seemingly normal woman to cackling, homicidal lunatic is far too expedited. The idea that one trauma is all it took to turn her into, essentially, a serial-killing evil genius is extremely pat and simplistic. I also find it ridiculous that this English teacher has not only taught herself to drive big equipment like tractor trailers, but can even operate the S.W.A.T. truck’s complicated machine gun rig while driving.
Although reasonably exciting and suspenseful, the plot of this episode is driven by far too many coincidences and conveniences that kept eating away at my suspension of disbelief.