This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 8
Fear the Walking Dead has been a tale of two series this season. On one hand, it does kind of seem like a light version of The Walking Dead, what with a discount take on Negan and the Saviors in the Vultures and a brand addition in the arrival of that show’s Morgan.
On the other hand, sometimes the narratives have reached levels of near-perfection with the episode “Laura” and the melancholy, porch side dime western via Romero story of John Dorie. Dorie’s origin tale was an unforgettable example of how awesome The Walking Dead world could be and stands as a high water mark of TWD 2018.
Yet the playing fast and loose with linear narrative and the relegation to the sidelines of certain classic key Fear characters has made the fourth season a mixed bag of wonderful newness morphed with the same old same old.
One of the key elements of this season of Fear the Walking Dead has been the patchwork narrative. The story is being told out of order so viewers are left to piece together the key points. The big unknown is what has happened to Madison? Is she alive in the present day storyline, the one in which Nick is killed?
We know that something terrible happened at the stadium, something that Nick, Alicia, Strand, and company survived, but where is Madison and why was Nick so uncharacteristically murderous in the aftermath? All these questions are finally answered this week as our two groups merge and the fate of Madison is revealed.
I’m very happy that the Vultures were more of a story point than a true threat. They were the cause of the fall of the stadium, but they were a minor blip in the story of the Fear survivors. While I appreciated the carnie aesthetic of the group, there was never much substance there and they exited as quietly as they arrived. The real story here is not with Madison but with the world of The Walking Dead. Madison dared to dream that she could create a better world. She founded the stadium in order to build a community and find a purpose.
This week we learn that Madison is inspired to build the stadium community by a chance meeting with the Lois Lane of the Walking Dead world, Althea. There are so many stories to be told with Althea and her truth-under-any-circumstances belief system. We get a glimpse of her past this week in a story about her time spent in Africa that she shares with Madison. It is a wonderful tale where the truth brings down a violent warlord and it inspires Madison to do more than just survive. Althea inspires Madison to build something, but sadly, this also leads to Madison’s doom.
Yes, we must say farewell to Madison in this mid-season finale. When Nick was killed, it seemed like Madison’s tale would parallel the story of one Rick Grimes. Like Rick, Madison lost her spouse and now her son and was only left with a daughter. The only consolation in Madison’s death is that she never has to feel the pain of losing Nick. You know she would have continued on for Alicia but Madison had always been defined by her love and almost inhuman determination to make sure Nick lived. With Nick gone, would Madison have a purpose?
We’ll never know because Madison dies saving her friends and family from the Vulture created walker horde that sieges the stadium. Madison lures the horde inside the stadium to allow her family to escape, but it’s only Nick, Alicia, Strand, and Luciana who escape. All the stadium denizens also perish because they do not believe Madison’s dream is real. They doubt the stadium will hold against the horde and foolishly make a break. Madison dies with the stadium burning around her while her people die outside. Or does she? After all, the episode is titled “No One’s Gone,” so does Madison have a backdoor escape plan? In truth, it’s doubtful, so we must say farewell to the heart and soul of Fear the Walking Dead.
And it hurts, it really does. The show is now different. Instead of a family trying to survive, Fear the Walking Dead is now focused on another group of zombieacolypse survivors. We have some fascinating additions in John Dorie and Althea and some tabula rasa members like Naomi (real name June as revealed this week) and young Charlie. And thank goodness John Dorie survives because after losing Madison, I don’t think I could have dealt with this series if we were robbed of future gunslinger action because Dorie kicked off.
Thankfully, the war between the two groups is ended by some wise words from the Zen master of the apocalypse Morgan, and Alicia backs down from her hateful vendetta against June and company. In recent episodes, we were kind of robbed of some drama because we had no idea why Alicia was pursuing June with such a murderous intent. For that matter, we didn’t know why Charlie killed Nick and why Nick killed Charlie’s protector. It was all because Nick and Alicia had to watch their mom sacrifice herself because of the Vultures. Really, the whole thing is a bunch of broken people lashing out at each other until Morgan soothes them all with the wisdom he learned as part of Rick’s survivors.
And that’s the dynamic we are left with. Fear the Walking Dead will no longer be focused on Madison and her family but by people Madison inspired. I look forward to a future of John Dorie slapping leather and Althea finding the truth in a world that is broken. I feel like Fear the Walking Dead suffered a bit this season because things got too experimental, as if someone binged Westworld and said, “Hey, that timey wimey thing, let’s do that!” but didn’t execute all that well. But as this week’s episode preaches, it’s the future that matters and with the same type of character work executed through Dorie, June, and Althea, the future of Fear could be very bright indeed.