TV

How Will ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Continue After Another ‘Heartbreaking’ Exit?

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Spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead through the midseason finale
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Let’s just get this out of the way first: Madison Clark is dead. This is not going to be a Glenn-like incident, where Madison finds a dumpster, nor is it going to be a Daniel Salazar situation where she somehow escapes a massive fire and hundreds of walkers. The Walking Dead might do that to us, but this new Fear the Walking Dead wouldn’t dare troll us like that. It’s over. Kim Dickens has confirmed it.

(Dickens also confirmed her death on The Talking Dead).

Granted, it took some work for the show to get there, and after keeping viewers guessing all season long, showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss — who also wrote the episode — didn’t make it easy for us to figure out Madison’s fate within the episode by jumping back and forth through multiple timelines. We find at the beginning of the episode that Althea and Madison interacted at some point — in fact, Madison gave Althea her “story.” But we did not know if those events happened after Althea and Co. escaped from the baseball stadium; after Alicia and Nick escaped from the baseball stadium but before they ambushed Althea; or before anyone had even found the baseball stadium yet.

Ultimately, we learn that Althea and Madison exchanged Ramen Noodles way back before they discovered the Dell Diamond baseball stadium. In fact, it was Althea who inspired Madison to find their new (temporary) home. But, as Strand noted — in an echo to The Little Prince — it was never about the stadium, it was about the people.

Althea’s interview, however, ultimately saved lives. Once Alicia found it — and Madison’s story about that bird (which had echoes a similar though more twisted story on The Leftovers) in Althea’s SWAT vehicle, she cooled to the idea of killing Charlie and Althea. However, it was Morgan — in what I considered the episode’s best moment — who talked Alicia out of killing Naomi (who we later learn is actually “June”) in a speech that brought his character full circle.

“I tried to get away, from people, from everything, from everybody,” he tells Alicia. “Because I thought I had to. Somebody told me that I would end up with people again, but I didn’t believe him. I didn’t want to believe him. So I ran, halfway across the country to prove him wrong. And here I am, standing between your gun and someone I just met. Boy, things can change. They did for me. They can for you. [Things] can change, because look here: I’m not dead. I stepped aside for your brother. I will step aside for you.”

That’s the kind of poignant, well-written speech that Lennie James never got on The Walking Dead, and it changed everything in this episode. It saved Naomi, and it brought these two warring sides back together as a unit. As a family. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry would be proud.

The weird irony, however, is that Alicia really didn’t have that much reason to kill Naomi/June. June didn’t do anything except run, and only after she thought everyone else had died. She didn’t abandon anyone. She didn’t kill Madison. Alicia had a lot of misplaced anger toward June, and to Mel (of the Vultures) for that matter. He didn’t send the zombies into the stadium — that was Ennis. I suspect, however, that it still may take some time before Alicia can warm up to Charlie; she did kill her brother, after all.

Nevertheless, it was a nice touch to have Morgan — the guy running away from everybody and everything — to be the glue to hold together this new family.

As for the future of Fear the Walking Dead without Nick, and now without Madison? There’s another interesting irony to that, too. By the end of last season, viewers of Fear the Walking Dead had largely grown weary of Madison. All she seemed to do was trample on her kids’ progress. She made bad decisions; she killed unnecessarily; and she’d become a fairly static, uninteresting character. Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss rehabilitated that character, but then they cruelly took her away from us.

But to be honest, it made sense for the show. Madison is a vestige of the old series. She helped to transform Alicia into who she is now, the second best character on the show (behind John Dorie, of course). Alicia can now be the leader of Fear the Walking Dead without her mother impeding her role. Moreover, Chambliss and Goldberg should have no problem building the future of the series around Alicia, Morgan, and John, and I daresay that Fear is in a better position going into the back half of season four than The Walking Dead will be after Rick and Maggie leave that show.

Overall, I also found the first eight episodes of this season a welcome return to the best of what The Walking Dead universe can offer. While The Walking Dead may be on the decline, Fear has never been better, finding the proper balance between character, story, and zombies. It’s a good show now, but there’s still plenty of room to get better. Without Madison, some of those newer characters will need to step up.

Additional Notes

— The song at the end of the episode is “Love Love Love,” by The Mountain Goats. The Mountain Goats were also featured in season four of The Walking Dead in that scene where Beth and Daryl drunkenly burn down a house. Someone in The Walking Dead universe is clearly a fan.

— We got a better idea of why Althea records people now, and I like the explanation contained in the Twisted Round story: It’s to expose the truth, because even in the post-apocalyptic world, facts can sometimes be our best weapons.

— My major complaint with this episode, however, was the ending. Not that Madison died, but that her death was relayed largely in an interview format, with snatches of images from the sequence of events. It was almost impossible to tell how it actually went down, with Madison and Strand saving Alicia and Nick and Madison leading thousands of zombies into a baseball stadium with a single flare. It would have been much more effective (and less cheesy) just to show that sequence.

— We learned on The Talking Dead that it was not Kim Dickens decision to leave the show; it was the showrunners’ decision, and she was “heartbroken.” There are a lot of Madison fans online who are not pleased. However, I will reiterate that many of these same fans wanted Madison killed off in season three, and it’s only by virtue of her character’s rehabilitation that this is as painful as it was.

— As we learned on The Talking Dead, there was also a tape among Althea’s tapes labeled “Abe/Doctor,” a likely references to Abraham and Eugene, who were in the area before traveling to Virginia.

— Interesting: The back half of the season looks like it will begin with an episode inspired by The Shining?

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