The latest Fear The Walking Dead delved into the origins of season 4B’s big bad, English teacher-turned-serial killer the Filthy Woman (Tonya Pinkins).
The Filthy Woman is revealed as Martha, a grammar-correcting former teacher who crashed her car when fleeing the early apocalypse — leaving her husband irreparably wounded and in desperate need of help. Despite Martha’s begging and pleading for passersby to stop and lend a hand, one never came, causing her husband to bleed out and die in the wreck.
Driven mad by the trauma, a crazed Martha began her killing spree when truck driver Stevie — stopped roadside to leave behind a cardboard box packed with supplies meant to assist strangers in need — was caught off guard and murdered by Martha, who said plainly and coldly, “I don’t help.”
“It felt to us that it was time to understand where her philosophy came from,” showrunner Andrew Chambliss told EW of the origin story-slash-murder montage that saw Martha kill truck driver after truck driver, all belonging to the Polar Bear network of drivers distributing the care package boxes at various mile markers.
“This is the episode where we see it kind of come to a head. She has this standoff with Morgan and the rest of the crew and Morgan hits the nail pretty squarely on the head when he says to her, ‘You’re stuck.’ We felt like that kind of confrontation would have a lot more meaning if we knew exactly what it was that Martha had been through that got her to this place.
“So it was the opportunity for us to do one of our favorite things, which is an origin story, and to do it in a contained way. We just had this idea that the fact that she thinks helping people makes those people weak came from her own kind of tragic experience, and we just wanted to see those moments where that formation happened early on in the apocalypse when she was trying to escape the city and found herself on the side of the road and her husband was near death and everyone just kept driving off.”
The Filthy Woman — who has since made it her mission to viciously attack the ‘weak’ and treat “help” like a dirty word — is driven by not being strong enough to help her husband.
“Really, that’s the root cause of it. But I think what we found interesting is that Martha isn’t in a place where she’s blaming other people for not helping, she’s blaming herself for not being strong enough to help her husband. And it’s kind of that insight to her that we think makes it a little more interesting than if it had just been the fact that she’s out killing everyone because they didn’t help her,” Chambliss said.
“No, she’s killing everyone because she thinks helping people makes them weak and it’s her way of preventing people from going down the same path she did.”
Added showrunner Ian Goldberg, “We see in the opening minutes of the episode that Martha went through a trauma, and we see that she’s sort of stuck in a loop of replaying that trauma over and over again. It hasn’t left her.”
She has since emerged as a dark shadow of Morgan (Lennie James), who once similarly fell into a crazed and bloodthirsty state following personal losses of his own.0comments
“I think the thing that really resonated with us is that we’ve seen that from Morgan before, someone who went though tremendous trauma and lost so many people in his life, stemming back to his wife and his son, and it sent him down a very dark path as well,” Goldberg said.
“So you see in the episode when he says to her there at the SWAT van, ‘You’re stuck. I was too.’ It’s really kind of like a reflection of each other, which is why Martha really hits home for Morgan, because he understands what it’s like to be stuck in that emotional trauma and what it can do to you as a person.”