Spoiler Warning for the Season 4 Finale (Season 4, Episode 16) of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
The Season 4 Finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” is weak. Sorry to be blunt, but it just is not good. As a whole, Season 4 is really disappointing. One year ago, the series was at it’s prime…but now we’re here. There’s very little coherent direction and the story doesn’t have much focus at all. The season comes to an end in quite possibly the most lackluster way possible. What happened to this show?
That introduction may suggest that there’s nothing good here, but there are some positive takeaways. The character of Althea is left to her own devices in downtown Austin as the walkers close in on her. There’s major “The Walking Dead” Season 1 vibes as Al is nearly trapped in alleyways whilst trying to find an escape, later finding a car and breaking it’s window in a shot that mirrors one of Glenn doing the same. She makes her way into a parking garage where she radios her crew and explains where she is. In the first of many convenient moments, Althea is stunned to find a news van that immediately excites her, especially considering the fact that there is also a working video camera. She equips herself with her shotgun and puts on a bullet proof vest to head back out into the city only to stumble upon the spot where Jim landed after leaping from the roof last episode. She is horrified when she turns around and is caught by Martha with walker Jim. Martha admires Al for being a hardened survivor and for being hesitant to directly help others. Rather than taking out the threat like so many should before her should have done, Al lets down her guard for a second and is knocked out by Martha. The way this severely injured woman is able to get around these characters is baffling. She is such a small threat that could easily be taken out…but her plot armor is THICK.
As previously mentioned, this episode is full of plot conveniences that really weigh this finale down. Al being trapped in downtown Austin seemed as though it would be a major aspect of the finale, but after being knocked out by Martha, she is immediately found by the rest of the survivors. It is explained that Althea was left by Martha as a means of delivering a message via one of the tapes to the rest of the group; the tape is basically Martha rambling about how disappointed she is in Morgan and whatnot. Quite possibly the best moment of the episode comes as the group gathers around a fire at their makeshift campsite for the night to hear Morgan’s explanation of where they are going. He tells them that they are headed to Alexandria and that there are several communities in the surrounding area that he is also part of. Althea once again mentions the King and the tiger, clearly fascinated by them and wanting to get their story; Morgan doesn’t flat out say it, but a look on his face suggests that he knows Al will be upset when she realizes that she won’t get to meet Shiva. Strand calls Alexandria by name, making a fascinating shift in the world of the shows as they have become even more linked than ever before. Morgan states that their best course of action is to stop by the Flip Flop Truck Stop in Mississippi to stock up on supplies before heading to Virginia so they can leave help boxes all the way on their journey. For fans of this Universe, hearing these plans is truly exciting as it makes it feel as though the shows are that much closer to merging. However, as the episode progresses, it becomes more clear that this is all just a bait and switch.
Late at night, John comes across Morgan watching the tape and immediately knows what he is up to. Morgan still wants to help Martha. Since they first met in the Season Premiere, John and Morgan have developed a beautiful friendship and have become exceptionally well at reading each other. Morgan is planning on heading out to find Martha and to try and bring her back from the place in which she is “stuck.” The reasoning for this absolutely makes sense, specifically because Morgan has been exactly where she is now. That being said, there is too much at risk and Morgan doesn’t seem to have learned from his past mistakes of helping people that cannot be helped. Morgan hands John a map to Alexandria and urges him and the rest of the group to make the journey without him, stating that he will meet them there eventually…with Martha. John recites one of his poignant fish metaphors to Morgan about Martha being a fish that wants and needs to be left alone, but he also ties it to Morgan; John knows that this is just something that Morgan has to take care of, and he can’t get in the way of that. In a series of shots that parallel those from the Season Premiere, Morgan heads out in search of Martha, radioing to her and eventually getting through to her. She weakly reveals to him that she is at mile mark 54, the site of her crash with her husband, when everything started to go down hill for her.
Mile marker 54 is an important place in the story of Martha. It’s where her life changed forever, so it makes perfect sense that she would return to it to make her final transition to her “stronger” version. When Morgan arrives, he finds walker Jim in a police car and puts a merciful end to his undead life. Morgan spots Martha nearby laying on her husband Hank’s grave, weaker that ever before. Morgan puts her in the back of the police car, much to her objection, and offers her painkillers before beginning the drive to Mississippi where the others have planned to wait a few days before making their trip to Virginia. Much like Eastman did for him in “Here’s Not Here,” Morgan forces Martha to face her past and questions how she ended up the way she is now. She tells the story of what happened to her and the viewer must listen to it even though her story was told during the opening scene of “MM 54.” Still, it is rather interesting to hear and see the emotions of Martha as she narrates the most tragic day of her life. Tonya Pinkins really delivers here as she pours her heart out to Morgan. This story and emotions seem to make Morgan think that Martha can immediately be trusted, because he opens up the barrier between the front and back of the car, allowing her to grab his arm and cause the car to spin out and crash. So many of the moments within this episode could have easily been avoided if it weren’t for stupid mistakes such as this. Morgan is way smarter than this, yet he is being written in a way that is totally out-of-character for the sake of allowing certain plot points to come to fruition.
The portions of the episode spent with the rest of the survivors really don’t contain much meat to them. Upon arriving at the Flip Flop Truck Stop, the characters are blown away by the amount of supplies, the electricity and the running water; this is almost a cruel tease for the viewer as they will have these luxuries should they arrive at Alexandria. Sarah makes and serves fresh coffee for everyone, Althea reloads her machine guns with ammo, Charlie brushes her teeth, and Alicia plots out the options for her, Luciana and Strand; it seems as though they are somewhat hesitant to make the long journey, but they also realize that there is nothing left for them in Texas. June and John have a heart-warming moment together in the aisles as they discuss their love for one another with June expressing that she figured out who she is because of John; their scene together is highly reminiscent to “Laura,” with their time shopping at the general store even being referenced. There’s a haunting bit of foreshadowing as Althea refills the SWAT van with antifreeze as two walkers stumble up to the gas station. Al claims that she can take down the walkers, but she collapses to the ground, showing signs of a mysterious sickness. Thankfully, Alicia steps in and is able to save Althea by killing the two walkers; this is really one of the few scenes in the entire finale where Alicia is given significant material to work with, a sad sign that her character is being disregarded.
As Morgan and Martha head toward Mississippi, June radios him to alert him to the fact that everyone at the truck stop has fallen ill. Everyone is experiencing serious symptoms, but no one can quite figure out what is happening and why they suddenly became sick. June starts to pass out water bottles to everyone, but realizes that the seals have been broken and that someone put something in the water; why no one noticed this when they first drank the water is one of many instances of just bad writing for the sake of plot convenience. The characters are left to accept their fate as they all lay around, slowly succumbing to whatever has poisoned them. Althea watches back her tapes and sees previous interviews, overcome with emotion as she sees all of the faces of people she has crossed paths with. Morgan and Martha are badly banged up after crashing the car, but Martha somehow manages to pull him from the wreckage and write his famous “I lose people…I lose myself” quote on his forehead. Morgan is placed in a difficult position when Martha reveals a bite wound on her shoulder, with her stating that she wanted to make sure he couldn’t stop her from becoming the strongest version of herself. They’re at a standstill as either Morgan will have to kill her or she will kill him. When June tells Morgan that the situation at the truck stop is getting worse, Morgan snaps and begins to choke Martha while demanding that she say what she did to the water. She ultimately tells him that the poison is antifreeze. Things aren’t as easy as Morgan simply radioing the rest of the group to let them know about this development, so instead he must hobble his way to Mississippi on a severely injured leg. He handcuffs Martha to the car, a final blow to her that will prevent her from attacking people as a walker, her one true wish.
The season began with Morgan running away from his family in Virginia. Rick told Morgan that he would end up with people again, because he is part of the world. This season ends with Morgan running to get back to a new family he is part of. He reaches a certain point and is finally able to contact Althea over the radio, relaying the fact that they have been poisoned by antifreeze. This is where June snaps into nurse mode and shares with the group that ethanol can be used as a cure for antifreeze poisoning. Sarah flat out calls this an unbelievable stroke of luck that there is an ethanol truck parked just outside. The only problem is that dozens of infected are now pounding on the windows and doors, preventing the weakened group from getting outside. They decide to make a stand and take out as many as they can seeing as how they have no real other option. The burst out of the front doors and take out several walkers while June and Charlie try to distract them from the inside. Strand and Luciana make a run for the ethanol truck while Althea positions herself in the SWAT truck and fires multiple rounds at the walkers. Unfortunately, several of the bullets pierce the ethanol truck, causing it to leak. For an unexplained reason, the characters return to the inside and mope about the fact that the ethanol is now gone even though they had plenty of time to soak some up or capture some in buckets or bottles. If they weren’t even going to use the ethanol from the truck, then what was the point of this entire action sequence? It’s dumb moments such as this that weight the episode down even more and prevent the finale from have any real quality to it.
Due to the power of fast travel and plot convenience, Morgan manages to make it all the way from Texas to Mississippi just in the knick of time as the group seems to have lost all hope. He even made a stop along the way to collect a truck full of Augie’s Ale, also known as Jimbo’s Beerbos, since ethanol and alcohol are the same thing. Problem solved! How easy was that? The group chugs down bottles of beer to flush the antifreeze out of their system and there are a few excellent character moments sprinkled throughout. Luciana has a moment to herself where she cheers to Clayton. Strand and Alicia have a heart-to-heart about Madison with Alicia stepping into the role of Strand’s drinking buddy in the Clark matriarch’s absence; this is a moment that was first teased in the San Diego Comic Con trailer and it is totally rewarding to see it finally come to life. There’s a hilarious moment as Charlie drinks a bottle of beer and John tells not her to be poisoned again until she’s 21. Jim has saved the group once again; it’s crazy that a relatively minor character has gone on to have such a huge impact on the story. Morgan decides to head ALL THE WAY BACK to Texas to the spot where he left Martha behind. He finds that she has detached herself from her arm and is now wandering around as a walker. He very honorably puts her down and buries her, bringing an end to the madness that is Martha. She’s finally at peace, and hopefully that gives Morgan some semblance of peace also. Even though he couldn’t bring her back from the place that she was stuck, he did prevent her from slipping down to an even darker place. He also saved countless others from being caught in her sick games. For that, maybe his efforts were worth all of this.
The second half of Season 4 has been heavily focused on Morgan making his return to Virginia, possibly with the characters of “Fear the Walking Dead” beside him. Those plans are thrown right out the window as Morgan establishes a new idea for the group. Similarly to what Madison did upon finding the Stadium in the flashbacks featured in “No One’s Gone,” Morgan shows the group an abandoned denim factory that was used by Polar Bear to distribute supplies in the help boxes. He explains that Martha became so far gone and went on a killing spree because she needed help and wasn’t given it. The new plan for the group is that they will help people. The world may be in rough shape and there may not be many people left, but they are going to help whomever they can. Alicia really seems to like this idea, because it is something her mother would have done. Al proposes that they try to find some of the people on her tapes to help also. The season wraps up with Morgan and the others continuing what Polar Bear started and creating a network to distribute supplies. There’s hope in the air. That being said, this is a pretty weak ending especially considering how heavily the trip to Virginia was teased. It appears that Morgan’s return to “The Walking Dead” will not be happening, as least not for a LONG time as the original series is about to undergo a massive time jump, effectively closing the window for any more crossovers. Sure, this might be the right call to preserve “Fear the Walking Dead” as it’s own show and to keep the characters in a positive place headed into Season 5, but where is the tease for the future? What will entice viewers to keep watching? It’s easy to see the intent of this ending, but it doesn’t really hit its emotional point like it should have.
Season 4 of “Fear the Walking Dead” had a lot going for it. The crossover of Morgan had the opportunity to breathe new life into the series and connect the worlds forever. That did happen, but the potential was ultimately squashed in the second half when the wheels of the story began spinning and very little ended up happening. The season killed off two major players and altered what the series started off as. This is basically now Morgan’s show, and while that is not inherently a bad thing, it is definitely unfair to the foundation of this series, including Alicia Clark, who is swept under the rug. This episode is the amalgamation of how choppy and flat this season has been. Sure, there are plenty of great episodes sprinkled throughout and the new characters have done wonders for the story, but the heart is really missing. This episode is one of the weakest of Season 4 and of the entire run, and quite frankly, the fans and the characters deserve better. If “Fear the Walking Dead” wants to retain it’s audience, it will have to do better with Season 5. The previous two episode, plus the fantastic “Close Your Eyes,” show that there is still so much talent and potential with this series, but it may not be in the best hands. Still, the performances across the board and the great character moments of this episode are worthy of praise. “Fear the Walking Dead” has had a bumpy road, but there is still hope that things can improve. Season 5 can be yet another blank slate and hopefully the showrunners will take the time to come up with a story that these characters deserve. The focus needs to be on balance. Without balance, we end up with Season 4B…and that just isn’t something that needs to be repeated.
“Fear the Walking Dead” will return for Season 5 in 2019. Until then, be sure to stay tuned to Niner Times for continuing coverage of the “TWD” franchise, including the return of “The Walking Dead” on Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. on AMC. Weekly reviews of the main series will continue all throughout Season 9.