This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 14
After being sidelined for most of the season, Fear the Walking Dead finally throws one of its best characters into the fray. I’m talking about Alicia, of course, who hasn’t gotten nearly enough screen time lately. So it’s interesting (and refreshing) that “Mother” should lean so heavily into what it means to be Madison Clark’s daughter. The episode continues season 6’s trend of unexpected reunions, and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. But more on that chance encounter in a bit.
In the meantime, let’s talk about Teddy Maddox (John Glover). We already knew he was a bit unhinged, what with being a cult leader and embalming dissenters and wanting to usher in a nuclear Armageddon. Taken individually, any one of those things is a red flag, to be sure. Taken together, though, and you have a dangerous lunatic who makes the likes of recent antagonists like Virginia, Logan, and Martha seem like dilettantes by comparison. Which is a good thing, really. While the undead have become more of an existential threat to our heroes, the living always prove to be the biggest and most immediate threat to survival. Remember Jeremiah and Troy Otto from season 3? They were good villains! What made them so dangerous was that they mistakenly believed they had the moral high ground.
Teddy is no different. Like the Ottos, he truly believes that humans are nothing more than bottom-feeders who deserve to be wiped out. While his views are a bit extreme, what transpires in “Mother” certainly seems to bear out this grim hypothesis. Indeed, this episode offers compelling insights into Teddy’s convoluted thought process. He sums it all up when he tells Alicia, “I could preserve everything I loved, and destroy everything I didn’t.” This black-and-white worldview is calcified after he murders someone, and marvels at the flowers growing over her backyard grave. That and 30 years on death row gave him plenty of time to reinforce his twisted beliefs. When the world ended, his second chance began in earnest. Now this wasteland prophet finally has the means to bring his vision to full fruition. To do that, he needs Alicia’s help.
All the way back in season 3, in my review of “Brother’s Keeper,” I suggested that Fear could possibly benefit from killing off Alicia. This was back when the entire Clark family was still alive and seemingly unkillable. Three seasons later, though, Alicia is the last Clark standing. To lose her now would cut Fear off from an important part of its history. Whether you like them or hate them, for better or worse, this Walking Dead spin-off was built upon the Clark family’s misadventures during the earliest days of the zombie apocalypse. Were they always role models? Definitely not. But week after week, their flaws made for more compelling drama. And as we know, over the years, Alicia has tried more than once to leave all the bloodshed behind. Unfortunately for her, Alicia is usually at her best when she’s forced to do her worst. And “Mother” is certainly no exception.
Tapped by Teddy to run a special errand (with new cult recruit Dakota tagging along for good measure), Alicia unwittingly becomes part of a grand thought experiment. It should be said that Alycia Debnam-Carey delivers a great performance, as does Glover. They prove to be excellent foils for one another, playing two sides of the same coin. Throwing them together provides plenty of friction as Teddy continues to woo her to his way of thinking. And if that means revisiting the ghosts of the past, so be it. For Alicia, that means confronting her mother’s legacy.
For Teddy, though, that means liberating his mother’s corpse from its crypt.
It’s amazing that this scene can be so unsettling, given how the Walking Dead universe has spent nearly eleven years “normalizing” reanimated corpses. Maybe it’s because Teddy is obviously unwell. Or maybe it’s because he cherishes his mother’s corpse, rather than fearing it. In this world, any interactions with the dead are assiduously avoided. (That this turns out to be a random corpse is even more disturbing.)
The way Teddy and Dakota casually compare notes on the people they’ve killed and why is likewise unsettling. Killing before the apocalypse landed you on death row. Killing now? Well, it’s just the way of the world. The more we learn about Dakota, the more it seems like Virginia may have been trying to protect people from her daughter.
As for this episode’s surprise reunion, it was great to see a familiar face—until it isn’t. Cole (Sebastian Sozzi) harkens all the way back to headier days, when Madison forged a settlement inside an abandoned stadium. That settlement went up in flames, as they tend to do in the Walking Dead universe. If you’ll recall, Madison gave her life so that her fellow survivors could live to fight another day. Which is why it’s so painful for Alicia to see her mother’s sacrifice squandered by Cole, Doug, and Viv. Since the stadium fell, they’ve become ruthless marauders.
To Teddy, Cole and his ilk are walking justifications for why he wants to rid the world of loathsome, unsavory types. But that’s all a matter of perspective, what passes for loathsome in this world. Dakota thinks Alicia killing Cole puts the two of them on equal footing, but their moral ground isn’t the same—or is it? Killing doesn’t come easily for Alicia. At least, not like it does for the Teddys or the Dakotas of the world. Each person Alicia has killed, even in self-defense, exacts a tremendous toll.
In the end, taking out Cole proves to Teddy that Alicia is exactly who he needs to bring hope to his coming version of the world. He even goes so far as to lock her away in a secure bunker, to ensure her survival after the beached submarine’s missiles rein down destruction on the guilty.
Kudos to Fear for playing the long game this season. It’s great to finally get more answers (about that sub, about the graffiti, about those keys), even as they create more problems for our survivors. Kudos, too, for putting Alicia front and center this week. Debnam-Carey is a force to be reckoned with; when given the chance, she elevates every episode she’s in.
A final thought: Fear seems to be going out of its way this season to remind everyone what a terrible person Strand used to be. After this episode, I’m convinced Strand will ultimately save the world from destruction.