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.
“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?”
My information is coming from my knowledge as a formulation chemist (not sure why a doctor is needed for basic chemistry information).
While some people like to put a million times emphasis on people that are reeling from poisoning, the facts are that depending on what the truck had it is possible to fend off the effects of antifreeze poisoning. Of course you also risk blindness from the methanol content and I can’t imagine how many other impurities in denatured alcohol.
Regardless, we don’t know if they planned on distilling it and perhaps they were going to makeshift it with draino (sodium hydroxide). This would explain them not falling down and lapping it all up off the ground like so many armchair quarterbacks proclaim they would do. Then again distilling was not a great option either because then you got time and volume (again another reason they were perhaps sad at seeing most of it leaking out) and cooling down etc…it is a tv show…not a big deal to me. As we see, being wasted out is probably what saved their life. I still enjoyed the show for what it was (though the ending was kinda meh).
“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.”
I think I can see why we have been in debates about science…this does not seem to be your strong suit.
First of all, we don’t know how much antifreeze was put into the bottles. A small amount can make you very sick and in this black and white world, I don’t know how anyone could truly say what color that water is. You have people that drink crap from everywhere on the show, I don’t see them being too picky when they are thirsty.
Beer maybe won’t taste as good, but it if sealed properly it doesn’t go “bad”. In most cases it certainly doesn’t become poison. The yeast will continue to break the sugars and continue to produce ethanol. The Beer only gets stronger with age until the yeast dies (which is often in excess and quite resistant as anyone that has used old yeast from the pantry will tell you). The fact that you point out the metal truck, seems to make you think that Beer is like milk. Actually the beer for their case will benefit because of not being directly put to sunlight that will make the bacteria growth accelerate faster. Heat accelerates the ethanol reaction to completion which I am sure can double the ethanol content. As for age, there are some people that have drank beer after 35 years of being bottled up…I know I have drank beer up to 2 years after the fact and it tasted fine to me. Call me nutty, but when you want beer and you don’t want to go out, it can be done. Tasty as bought new, of course not, but when you want to get drunk, not a big deal. I am sure there are some that actually would drink beer that is bottled from the 1800’s. With people cooking up frozen Mammoth steaks, I guess anything is possible under the right conditions.
I could write a book on the explanations for most of what comes up on the show without even hurting my brain at all, but then again I don’t sit around thinking about “plot holes” in an apocalypse about zombies.
Feel free to delete this post because that is your style. This will be the last time I comment (if I haven’t already done so). Obviously opposition isn’t welcomed or valued because as you see….*chirp* *chirp* there isn’t much here. Me thinks if you leave this up, this may be the most action you will have seen, because unlike some people I do welcome discussion. I am not afraid of opposing point of views because that is where you learn the most. Feelings being hurt only come if you are called names etc… Being “wrong” is just a part of life and it is nothing to be afraid of. Though the nitpicking instead of discussion of an episode has become tiresome and that is what any show becomes toward the end of its life with know it all viewers who should just move on. Most shows don’t last this long with still pretty strong popularity (Fear the Walking Dead still remains #2 on AMC). There is just nothing left to see here with your commentary and at this point you are writing just to hear yourself. I say go on with it. Respectfully.
I don’t delete comments just for disagreeing with me. The only comments I delete are spammers, trolls, and those that are particularly abusive, a-holish, or racist/misogynist/etc. (which are almost always politically motivated). Disagree with my opinion of this show all you want. I welcome debate.
That said, did you really read this recap and believe that my only misgivings about the show were about the science? For that matter, do you honestly believe that knowledge of science is a strong suit of the show’s writers?
Ratings for Fear the Walking Dead dropped precipitously over the course of the season. Viewers are frustrated with the show’s increasingly poor writing and drama. You call it nit-picking when I call this out. I don’t see any point in sugar-coating over the show’s flaws or pretending they don’t exist. If what you want is enthusiastic cheerleading for a show clearly in decline, that’s what The Talking Dead is for.
“If what you want is enthusiastic cheerleading for a show clearly in decline, that’s what The Talking Dead is for.”
Do you only see in black and white? So I say your comments have become mostly put-downs and dislike to the point of unpleasant to even read so therefore all I want is enthusiastic cheer-leading?
As for science, again what I wrote and what you dismissed made sense. It is possible to get an anecdote from ethanol and people have survived from far less resources. The human body is quite resilient. But do I come to any Walking Dead for a science lesson? Really?? Coming from worrying about beer expiration because of being stored in a truck? Please please go to a backwoods beer joint and look closely at expiration dates. Believe it or not, all situations are not regulated that closely.
I still enjoy the show and it is not because of “cheer-leading” it is because I watch it without arms folded and I am not looking for Citizen Kane. The show has not changed. Every moment you put down can be traced back to the beginning of the show where there are all kinds of people doing goofy things because they are HUMAN.
You can have last word, because I am out. If I want crap talk, I will go to youtube comments where I swear the brain dead really do reside.
Honestly, you just seem to be making excuses and rationalizations for some pretty poor writing. What it amounts to is shrugging it off as, “These characters do stupid things because sometimes people are stupid.” Well, that’s not great drama, at least not when it keeps happening over and over again. It’s frustrating to watch characters whose fates we are supposed to be invested in behave like idiots when they should know better. For a TV series to survive multiple seasons, the characters need to be smarter and more compelling than these are.
You acknowledge that this series has always had characters doing goofy things. That’s true, and it was probably not accurate of me to say that the show is in decline when it started out as mediocre and has always been the lesser sibling to the original Walking Dead, which has itself greatly struggled in recent seasons.
I hardly recapped Fear the Walking Dead at all last season, just the premiere and finale. I’d grown tired of it and very nearly gave up on the show entirely. However, the series showed some improvement last year over the previous two, and the big changes in cast and direction this year seemed to indicate further growth. Early episodes this season were very promising, as if the show was on an upswing. Sadly, after the mid-season hiatus, the writing quality took a steady dive and never recovered.
I am certainly not alone in this feeling. The show’s ratings have been on a downward trajectory as more and more viewers lose interest in it.
You say you’re tired of reading me complain about the show. I’m tired of HAVING to complain about the show, but I’m not going to give it a pass when the writing has become so obviously deficient.
Looking back, I’ll note that we also had virtually this same conversation about Walking Dead season 8.