Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched Fear the Walking Dead's latest episode.
While the first half of Fear the Walking Dead's fourth season had the Vultures fleetingly holding ground as the major villains, the back eight episodes are being guided by the murderous plight of Tonya Pinkins' Martha, formerly known as Filthy Woman. (And formerly someone I was pumped about.) "MM 54" provided Martha a semi-backstory that explained her current quest to eliminate good samaritans and their efforts, and what we learned about her was flimsy at best and appallingly stupid at worst. Can we go back in time to her just being a random weirdo?
To be fair, the opening minutes of the episode were effective enough, showing viewers Martha's madness was incited by the death of her presumed husband Hank, played effectively by a sweat-soaked John Eric Bentley. The two were involved in a car accident that left Hank impaled by a metal roadside barricade, and though he suspected his minutes were numbered, Martha was convinced that someone would come around and help them. Her in-shock optimism lasted far too many hours, even after she was unsuccessful at stopping the first couple of cars that passed by. After having to eliminate and bury her walker-fied husband -- this is where all the filth comes from -- Martha essentially loses her shit, and she apparently decided that death knells shall sound for anyone who provides assistance to others. As if she's a personification of the legal system in Seinfeld's polarizing finale.
And why? As Martha sees it, when people get help from others, they apparently lose the ability to do anything for themselves. Which obviously isn't true for all kinds of reasons, and it's also a truly bizarre takeaway to pull from her car accident, in which Hank's severe injuries would have probably needed the care of a pre-apocalyptic medical facility. What, had she not gotten "help" earlier in life, she would have magically been able to put him back together like he was made of clay?
Martha has zero reason to blame any other pocket of survivors for not having passed by her car in the minimal hours before Hank's death, only to have provided useless and painful medical assistance if they had. And Martha's perfectly fine with trying to kill Morgan's crew, even though they weren't actually connected to Pervis' group, since her killer rampage probably doesn't have a natural or worthwhile ending outside of her getting killed off. Presumably by Al, whose truck was stolen and used to injure others.
Martha's psychotic break didn't appear to take much time to kick in hardcore, and it's the kind where she shows few symptoms, speaking clearly and immediately accepting guilt for being a killer. She even cops to being a stickler for grammar, hinting at her former life as an English teacher, before stabbing a woman through the throat and later using her undead body to start a deadly domino effect. Which might be kinda cool in a way, if her serial killer M.O. wasn't entirely hinging on being mad at do-gooders.
Don't get me wrong, I know that real-world killers and fictional monsters don't need to have extremely complicated and decades-spanning histories in order to be relevant. But Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 has barely offered any overarching plot strands that appear destined to make it to Season 5, not to mention killing off two of the main stars (for various reasons), and that has had a noticeable effect on the audience, which has fully lost its Season 3 momentum and can no longer boast Lennie James' crossover presence to draw viewers in. Perhaps the constant changes are meant to draw in new people who hadn't watched earlier seasons, but it's a troublesome route to go with longterm fans.
If there are any redeeming elements to be found here, I do wonder if Fear will go back further/farther into Martha's past to show us more about what led to that car accident. Or to show us that her deadly urges had actually surfaced earlier in her life. I'm not sure if that would do anything to pull me back around on how this episode handled things, but I'd be open-minded.
Let's add to all this the fact that every minute spent continuing Martha's bastardized form of vengeance is a minute that we still aren't seeing Garrett Dillahunt's John Dorie. Where the hell is he? He better not be dead is all I'm saying. But I'm fine with Mr. Beerman having gotten bitten without having crafted his perfect brew, even if I wish I had a lot of it after watching this episode.
Fear the Walking Dead has just a couple of episodes left to wrap up Season 4's character-distancing plotlines, and you can find them airing on AMC on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. ET. You can find The Walking Dead making its Season 9 debut on Sunday, October 7, and everything else hitting the small screen soon can be found in our fall TV premiere schedule.