Alicia: “I need something to be good.”
Charlie: “Yeah, I do too.”
Make that three of us.
After the great debate about whether helping others is needed or just something that brings more harm, “MM 54” leaves viewers with hope — something that’s been scarce in a show that still looks like it’s been filtered through the “Slumber” setting on Instagram. Whether the episode answers this debate that the show has been framing all season long is another question.
The first piece of good news is that we don’t have to refer to Tonya Pinkins’ character as the “Filthy Woman” anymore, a name credited to her on the AMC press site. The Broadway star deserves better. Now, she has a name that triggers a bro-down bonding session between Batmen and Supermen… Martha!
She was piloting the driver’s seat when her car crashed into a railing and fatally injured her husband. Martha, a former English teacher, tried to keep his spirits up by repeating “someone will help us, someone will come,” which she continued to utter even through her delirium of grief. Cars wouldn’t stop for them, even as she planted herself in the middle of the road. So Martha was forced to watch her husband turn into a walker. She buried him and lost herself amidst the voices clamoring for attention in her mind. By the time someone actually did stop, a woman by the name of Stevie who was part of Polar Bear’s group of truckers, Martha was already mentally gone.
As Stevie tended to the “take what you need box” she placed on the road, Martha remarked, “I don’t help people,” a sign she blamed herself for the death of her husband. She killed Stevie — swiftly, savagely — who became her first walker companion. Martha went down the line of truckers, killing them with the walkers of her past victims’ bodies, in the hopes of tracking down Polar Bear. When she acquired Pervis, she went on his truck’s walkie to see if she could suss out the leader, but instead, she got Morgan’s voice on the other end — which ties back to where we picked up with Morgan after the storm.
This reveal gives more weight to Martha’s confrontation later with Morgan after she unleashes gunfire on the truck. Nobody dies from that attack; Al surmises Martha ran out of the SWAT van’s bullet supply after the first wave. Wendell’s wheelchair is shattered by the blast, but he still attempts to crawl along the side of the truck. Morgan, Luciana, Al, and June are trying to escape, but Al rushes the van to take it back and is caught off guard. She’s knocked to the ground when the door bursts open, June finds herself wrestling with Martha’s latest walker, and Martha herself keeps the rest at bay at gunpoint.
As Morgan tries to talk her down, Martha mentions that he won’t end up like the rest of his friends because he has “so much more potential.” He then tells her she’s “stuck,” which is the same way Morgan was stuck when he lost his wife and son. Both of them have been scarred by the loss of loved ones, only Morgan pulled himself back out of the psychological pit, whereas Martha, still coated in mud, is wallowing in its darkness.
Remember Wendell, though? He’s able to plant a rifle shot straight into Martha’s chest. She still slips away in the end because the truck catches fire and explodes, forcing Sarah and Jim to leap out for safety and prompting walkers to hobble out of the trees.
As Morgan’s crew, all injured from the encounter, are dragging Wendell along the road, Alicia and Charlie find the remains of the truck. The area is littered with the motionless walkers their friends had to deal with. Now they have to guess a direction of where they might be, though, internally, Alicia isn’t so hopeful they’ll be able to secure a reunion.
Farther down the road, more walkers — or “bogies,” as Sarah calls them, tipping off Al to her background as a marine who “didn’t exactly fulfill [her] services” — are joining the herd that’s slowly stalking them. Morgan eyes a sign for a hospital not too far off their path, but Jim is freaking out. He wants to keep running away from the things that plan on eating them, but the rest of the group trust Morgan’s instincts. They even plan to leave Jim behind if he doesn’t want to go, but the terrified beer brewer with seemingly limited survival capabilities tags along.
(Recap continues on the next page.)