The fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead started off with such promise, enough to convince some fans that it had surpassed the flagship show. Sadly, much of that flittered away in the back-end of the season, which drew to a close this week in particularly frustrating fashion.
The finale begins with a flashback showing Althea’s escape from the hospital. After making her way out through the basement, she almost gets trapped in an alley with Walkers closing in on her, but fortuitously finds an unlocked door that leads to a parking garage. Miraculously, inside are both a police car and a news van. She takes a loaded shotgun and a tactical vest from the cop car and a new camera from the van, then hotwires the car and heads back toward the hospital to rescue her friends.
Before she can get there, Al is ambushed by Crazy Martha, holding the zombified Jim on a leash. The loony woman doesn’t attack Al right away. She says that she likes Al and considers her strong, but needs her to deliver a message to Morgan. For some reason, Al hesitates from blowing both Walker Jim and Martha away with her shotgun. She gets distracting having to shoot another random Walker coming from behind, upon which Martha releases Jim. Al wastes her second and apparently last shell shooting Jim in the abdomen, which knocks him down but doesn’t kill him. Out of ammo, Al then just stands there as Martha strikes her across the head with a big stick.
Luckily, Martha didn’t feel like killing her. Al wakes up inside a truck with June and John hovering over her. They say they found her in the street holding a video message from Martha to Morgan, in which the nutty bat once again insists that she’s going to make him strong. When the whole group camp out in the woods outside the city for the night, Morgan tells them about Alexandria. However, he just can’t let Martha go. When John pulls him aside, Morgan admits that he still feels compelled to help her. “I used to be her,” he says. He gives John directions to Alexandria and then heads out alone. John tells him that they’ll wait for him for two days at the truck stop in Mississippi. Morgan promises that he’ll be there.
It doesn’t take long for Morgan to make contact with Martha on a walkie-talkie. She lures him to mile marker 54, the site of her fateful car accident. Morgan finds Walker Jim locked in the back of the stolen police car, and puts him down. He then spots Martha herself lying face-down in the grass nearby. He approaches cautiously and flips her over with his staff. She’s in bad shape. The gunshot wound in her shoulder is infected. She murmurs “Not yet” and moans that Morgan wasn’t supposed to see her like this. Morgan carries her to the car, locks her in the backseat, and sets off for Mississippi.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group arrive at the truck stop, which is still unmolested and fully stocked with food and supplies. It even has the exact type of machine gun ammo Al needs for her S.W.A.T. truck. They make some coffee and settle down to wait for Morgan.
While giving her truck a tune-up, Althea gets dizzy and collapses. The others soon start following suit, one after another. June gets on the radio and calls out to Morgan that, “Something’s not right.” Because they have a powerful transmitter antenna, Morgan can hear them, but his own walkie-talkie doesn’t have enough range for his response to get back to them. Eventually, June notices that all the seals were broken on the bottled water in the truck stop. They’ve been poisoned!
Morgan guns his car to get to the truck stop as soon as possible, but Martha tricks him and causes a distraction that results in him crashing their car. When he comes-to after the accident, Martha has scrawled “I lose people, I lose myself” on his forehead. His leg is impaled with a shard of metal. Martha gloats that he now has no choice but to kill her and return to his old, strong (and crazy) self, or else she’ll die from her injuries and turn and eat him (and then make him strong as a Walker). Either way, it’s a win for Martha. The possibility that Morgan could kill her and not become crazy from it doesn’t occur to either of them.
Martha also admits that she poisoned all the water at the truck stop with antifreeze the last time she was there, not knowing specifically who would drink it but just as a way to screw with the charity box operation. The fact that all of Morgan’s friends drank the poisoned water is just delightful to her. In a fit of rage, Morgan strangles Martha, but pulls himself together and stops short of killing her. Instead, he pulls the shard of metal from his leg and handcuffs Martha to the police car. He won’t kill her himself, but he can stop her from hurting anyone else after she dies and turns. Martha is furious.
Morgan limps down the road on his bad leg, periodically calling out on his walkie-talkie to tell his friends what they’ve been poisoned with, but the signal still won’t reach. He finds a working car and drives it until it dies, then hikes some more until his legs give out. Fortunately, he makes it just far enough for his walkie signal to reach Mississippi. He gets June on the radio and tells her that the poison is antifreeze.
As a nurse, June announces that they need ethanol to neutralize the antifreeze and prevent it from metabolizing in their systems. Wouldn’t you know it, there’s a tanker truck full of the stuff right outside the truck stop. The problem, unfortunately, is that the place is surrounded by Walkers and they’re all very weak. The group rally and fight their way through the zombies. Strand and Luciana get to the truck, but the nozzle is stuck and they can’t get it open. As the Walker swarm intensifies around them, Althea calls out for everyone to get down and then opens fire with her S.W.A.T. truck’s machine guns, mowing down all the zombies with a suppressing fire of impeccably aimed head shots. She also punctures a bunch of holes in the side of the tanker truck, causing the ethanol to pour out. You’d think that would be a good thing. (How much could they need? Just grab a bucket!). But everyone despairs that all hope is lost and retreat back to the truck stop to wallow and die.
Just in the nick of time, the sound of a truck pulling up is heard from outside the building, followed by fighting noises. Morgan charges in. He made it! He asks June if ethanol isn’t just a fancy name for alcohol, and then reveals that he found an Auggie’s Ale delivery truck loaded with beer. They’ve saved! And thanks to Jim, no less! A round of beers for everyone, even young Charlie, and they’re all right as rain in no time.
Morgan finally washes the writing off his forehead. Once everyone is fully recovered, he leads them all back to Martha. A severed arm dangles from the police car. She ripped it right off. Martha’s zombified corpse shambles down the road a bit. Morgan walks up, looks at her with sadness in her eyes, and impales her skull with her staff. Thus endeth Crazy Martha’s reign of terror.
Where Do We Go Now?
The enemy defeated, Morgan announces that he’s not going back to Alexandria anymore. He feels that he can do more good staying where he is. Using Polar Bear’s journals, he traces the charity operation back to an old denim factory. He says that not only does he want to start delivering charity boxes again, he thinks they should establish and build a new community. It doesn’t take much to convince everyone to get on board with this plan.
In no time at all, they assemble a convoy of armored trucks and head off in search of survivors who might need their help, using Althea’s video interviews as a starting point.
As has been a common problem in recent episodes, the script for the finale is filled with weak plotting. Characters continually stumble upon exactly the thing they most need right when they need it: working cars, weapons, a truck filled with beer made by their dead friend – which of course is still good despite sitting in a metal truck in the Texas sun for presumably weeks or months. For that matter, how did a small-time craft brewing operation like Jim’s get its own branded delivery truck, anyway?
I don’t really know the medical science behind it, so perhaps a doctor can weigh in, but can you drink raw ethanol? What was June’s plan to do with the ethanol if they had gotten any out of the truck? Would that tanker truck have even been filled with pure ethanol, or would it have been synthesized into gasoline? Does drinking a beer really neutralize antifreeze poisoning, even what seems to be days after the initial exposure?
Characters behave in illogical or irrational ways just to move the plot along. At this point, Morgan makes almost no sense at all as a character. He may be a pacifist, but does he have to be an idiot? Martha was a deranged lunatic clearly beyond helping, but he kept leading her right to the group time and again, needlessly putting his friends in danger. She wouldn’t have done any of them nearly so much harm if he’d just left her the hell alone.
I think I understand what the show’s writers were trying to do with Martha, showing how the apocalypse can drive even seemingly normal people to madness. I can see a storyline like that possibly working if it had been better written. Unfortunately, as presented, she was a ludicrously overpowered supervillain who was far more dangerous than any single person could reasonably be. The heroes had numerous opportunities to take her out, or simply escape far enough away from her that she couldn’t be a threat anymore.
From the final scene, it appears that all the hints about Morgan and this cast merging up with the original Walking Dead crew were just a misdirect. They’re going to stay and try to build a community. Because that’s never been done before in this franchise. I mean, hell, the whole first half of this season was all about how Maddie’s attempt to do exactly what Morgan proposes was always doomed to failure.
I don’t dislike Fear the Walking Dead, but this season feels like a lot of opportunity was ultimately squandered. I will probably watch again next season hoping for the best, but I’ll try to keep my expectations low.