Just like the walkers that hobble through the wasteland with misty, dead eyes, a meandering back-season of Fear the Walking Dead concludes — one that could’ve been handled more expertly with fewer episodes and less moping around.
The death of Madison in the fourth midseason finale posed a question I’m not convinced the story is ready to answer: what is Fear if it doesn’t involve a mother determined to maintain her family’s survival against a brutal world? Morgan rose up as a new lead for the spinoff, but the character wasn’t strong enough to hold the focus of The Walking Dead, and he’s still not compelling enough as a series transplant. The problems he faced are the problems he still faces, and we spent the entire crossover season reaffirming what we already knew: Morgan can still be a good person, even in the face of violence.
Perhaps the more interesting plotline then became a subplot: Alicia found herself the last remaining member of the Clark family. She lost everyone and was on the verge of losing herself. It seemed perfect, considering Morgan’s catchphrase is literally “I lose people, I lose myself.” But while the back half of season 4 seemed ready to set Morgan up as her emotional mentor, that course soon diverged to Morgan being plagued by Martha, an uninspired villain, as the rest of the group remained splintered. Now everyone is back together — except, aw, poor Jimbo — with a new can-do spirit, one that’s getting old real quick.
At the very least, everyone isn’t wallowing in self-pity by the end of it.
Al is still alive, as well. She made it out of the hospital and is currently dodging walkers on the street when we open. She picks up a walkie from a police car but can’t get a hold of anyone because she’s too far out of range. She suits up with a bulletproof vest and the rifle she pulls off the vehicle and heads back to the hospital. No one except for walker Jim, who’s being pulled by Martha, is there.
Martha doesn’t want to kill Al, though. She spent some time looking over her tapes and realized Al doesn’t help people, she just gets people’s stories and then leaves. But Al refuses to pass along a message to Morgan, so Martha sicks dead Jimbo on her, and it ends with Al running out of ammo and getting knocked unconscious. She wakes in the SWAT van. June and John found her passed out with a message from Martha attached to her. The villainess had recorded a video warning that the next time she sees Morgan, she’ll be stronger than ever and able to make him strong too.
The group is sitting around a campfire later that night before the big push to Alexandria, but Morgan can’t shake Martha’s message. He tells John in the woods that he needs to go alone to meet her. He thinks he might be able to help her because he used to be her, and therefore can understand her. Morgan writes down the directions to Alexandria with plans to rendezvous with everyone else in Virginia. Instead, John says they’ll hang out at the truck stop and wait for him; otherwise, the group will come looking for him.
So that’s what happens, Morgan goes off to find Martha, who locked dead Jim in a police car and now lies face down in the dirt waiting to become a walker herself. Meanwhile, his buddies drink coffee and stock up at the truck stop. Morgan picks her up and sticks her in the back of the cop car to drive her back to the truck stop. She doesn’t want to go, she certainly doesn’t want the antibiotics Morgan offers, and she doesn’t want to tell Morgan about the event that made her into the “Filthy Woman.” She eventually opens up about her husband’s death, and while she’s weaving this tale, something is happening at the truck stop.
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Al goes to take care of a few straggler walkers, but she’s overcome by something. It seems like a virus of some sort. Maybe Martha’s warning about using Al to deliver her message to Morgan was a biological attack that would spread to the others. Soon everyone is suffering from this internal attack. Morgan hears June calling over the walkie for help, so he drives faster. Martha tricks him, though. She asks for the medicine, and he as goes to hand her the bottle, she grabs his arm, forcing him to crash the car. Morgan goes in and out of consciousness, but he sees Martha pulling him out of the car and writing “I Lose People, I Lose Myself” on his forehead.
Martha reveals her gunshot wound is far worse than Morgan believes. She made sure he wouldn’t be able to save her, so now he has two choices: kill her and become the man he used to be, or she kills him and makes him “strong.” He almost opts for the former when he hears June’s latest revelation over the walkie. June has realized that all the seals on the water bottles have been broken, and Martha admits she put antifreeze in the supply. Morgan begins to strangle her when he realizes he can’t walkie back to the truck stop, but he spots his reflection in the car’s rearview mirror and thinks better of it. Instead, he handcuffs Martha and goes in search of a better signal.
While Morgan is fighting through his injuries, we learn just a little bit more about Al. Shaking from the antifreeze effects, she pops in a tape to her camera and starts tearing up at footage of a woman with two young boys, as well as a separate video of a man hugging and kissing his baby. Are these people she knows or do they remind her of a child or a family? It inspires her to make proclamations of killing Martha over the radio, which Morgan hears. He’s finally within range and tells them they ingested antifreeze. June says ethanol is the cure and there happens to be a tanker truck full of it crashed outside. The problem is walkers have surrounded the area after Alicia fired her gun to save Al from those two initial skin munchers. The group does their best to retrieve the supply, but the walkers prove too much to handle, and Al uses the guns on her van to subdue them. The bullets also out holes in the truck and they are forced to watch the ethanol spill to the ground.
Later, as they’re recounting this to Morgan over the radio, Morgan regurgitates a lot of the same dialogue he’s used before (some of it was even verbatim) about how he can’t lose any of them; otherwise, he’ll become the man he once was. John reminds him that there were many opportunities for him to revert to his old ways, but he didn’t, and he has to take comfort in that fact. Morgan eventually makes it back to the group, and he brings a truck full of Jimbo’s Beerbos with him. Cut to everyone drinking together as they celebrate their lives and recognize things they took for granted before they were poisoned. Victor definitely has people he can drink with now.
After washing off the writing on his forehead, Morgan goes back to where he left Martha. Only her severed arm remains attached to the car, and her new walker form is hobbling down the road. Morgan kills her and then buries her body with rocks. This experience made him realize something: he doesn’t want to go to Alexandria. He uses Polar Bear’s journals to find a denim factory, where Polar Bear’s trucker operation began. Now, Morgan wants to keep his vision for helping others alive, and Alicia wants to emulate her mother to build it into something more. Al, too, is ready to be selfless — “What? I’ve got layers,” she says — and offers to use the tapes she recorded to find people in the area in need.
And that’s where we leave them all, not on their way to Alexandria, but in new vehicles filled with supplies from the factory, on their way to help people.