Is a tragic backstory enough to make for a compelling villain any more? That’s the question Fear the Walking Dead asks in MM 54 with the origin of the crazy lady Martha. MM 54 was both an interesting and moderately frustrating episode thanks to some rare questionable actions.
Back in the show’s original heyday these kind of moves would have been the norm, but we haven’t seen a lot of moments where the characters behave as clueless as they did this episode.
The episode kicks off with Martha’s origin. Basically she and her husband got into a car accident. Martha insisted that help was on the way as it was a matter of time before someone stopped on the highway to help them. Except no one did until it was too late. One of the big issues with The Walking Dead universe is it relies too often on people acting like jerks.
Thanks to a lack of aid, Martha loses it and dresses like a cosplay Ezekiel determined to kill all of the people dropping off the supply boxes on Mile Marker 54. It’s a fairly near-sighted agenda, but that’s Martha’s goal. The montage of Martha siccing walkers on truck stop aide folks was silly and didn’t make her origin all that interesting. This is kinda weak for an extended villain arc. Maybe a two-episode antagonist character, but not someone who’s been around nearly half the season.
Back to the present day, Martha shot up the tractor trailer, but didn’t hit anyone. That’s Stormtrooper-like aim. Wendell is a good enough shot that when Martha comes to check on her handiwork he shoots her. Martha did do enough damage that the trailer ignites.
Somehow that proves to be a big enough distraction for the entire crew that they let Martha get back into the SWAT van and ride off. That was really unbelievable. We’ve seen Al act incredibly reckless when the van was much further away. Would she really not immediately get to the van the second Wendell shot Martha? I could see that happening with Madison and Nick’s crew, but this was a real stretch.
With no wheels of their own and a horde of walkers in slo-mo pursuit, Morgan leads the gang to a hospital. At least Jim offered up some mild protest. It’s hard to argue with Jim here as he’s making valid points. Morgan’s plan to hold up in the hospital wasn’t a great one. The small barricade wasn’t going to do much. Seems like the better plan would be to find a working wheelchair Wendell could use and keep it moving.
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Naturally this leads to a flight from the walkers. This provided some nice tension filled moments, but it still felt avoidable. During a brief conversation, Sarah seemed to tell Morgan she was a lesbian, which maybe explained her out of nowhere bond with Al. Not that Al seems interested in anything besides her van and collecting stories.
In the next conflict, Jim manages to get bit. He wasn’t around long enough for this loss to really have any meaning and if nothing else, it reinforced that the new additions to the cast are just cannon fodder. But Jim can still hopefully contribute something before his inevitable dramatic death scene.
Of course that implies Morgan can warrant June’s faith in him and get the gang off the roof. I have my doubts.
Alicia meanwhile has realized trying to find the others is a lost cause. She’s a realist and simply wants to do something good like taking Charlie to the beach. Charlie wants none of this and simply wants to find the gang. Alicia isn’t sold until Charlie finds John’s hat floating on the makeshift river and across the distance they spot…a cliffhanger. We’ll just presume it’s Strand and John.
MM 54 was a return to old form for Fear the Walking Dead with some dumb choices at the worst time in the season. Hopefully the final two episodes will get things back on track.