We're worried about Madison after 'The Wrong Side of Where We Are Now'
Victor said something to Al in the fourth episode of the fourth season of Fear the Walking Dead: “You think you know what happened. You don’t.”
Each chapter since has pulled back the veil on mysteries that have been bubbling to the surface. Who is John Dorie? He’s a benevolent gunslinger (possibly the only benevolent soul still left) looking for his lost love, Laura. Who’s Laura? She happens to be the mysterious Naomi, who wandered across Madison’s path. How did Alicia, Nick, Victor, and Luciana find themselves once again fighting for their survival, void of Madison and void of a safe haven? The Vultures. How did the Vultures destroy the Stadium? Now we know.
That, however, is not really what I’m worried about. It’s Madison. We already knew going into the penultimate episode that the Stadium would fall and that the Vultures had something to do with it. Now we have a crucial piece of this puzzle.
After the bad guys of this season have seemingly up and left Madison’s once-again-on-the-rise community, Charlie arrives back at their doorstep days later, asking for help. Mel had a disagreement with his brother. They fought, and now Mel is injured and in need of aid.
This girl tricked the group once — and in the worst possible way. Yet after seeing a bloodied and bruised Mel for herself and considering the many objections from Nick, Madison decides to take him back to their base for healing. She’s not a complete idiot; she keeps him handcuffed. It still felt like a wrong move, considering what we know about where these folks are now, but then Victor’s words from earlier remind us: “You think you know what happened. You don’t.”
When Mel comes to, he has a warning that bodes ill for everyone: His brother said that if the Stadium wouldn’t fall on its own, he would make it fall. All this happened off screen, but we understand why this was such a devastating revelation for Mel. He was never really the “evil” of the show. He never wished ill will upon the Stadium, he was just convinced that, because of his own experience, the same devastation would eventually befall Madison. When it did, he wanted to be ready. When they replenished their supplies, he left. This was the internal mantra of the Vultures. They don’t kill, they just scavenge after the fact. Ennis, you could tell, enjoyed the suffering of others far more. It’s in this way that they share similarities with Troy and Jake from the previous season: two brothers, one sadistic and the other righteous. Madison gravitated toward Jake, just as she gravitated towards Mel.
It’s also in this way that we face another recurring question that lingers over the Walking Dead franchise: Why be good when good people are always the ones punished? Mel had good intentions but found himself betrayed, just like Nick with Charlie, and just like John with Alicia’s bullet. John is an interesting character because he seems like a genuinely good person, yet he also has perspective — and whip-quick reflexes with those pistols of his.
Ennis now has the means to bring about the Stadium’s destruction. Throughout the season, we’ve seen flags hanging on tanks and vaults and storage units, noting the number of walkers the Vultures have herded inside. Actually, Ennis has been the one herding, as we saw when the Vultures first introduced themselves in the Stadium’s parking lot. So Ennis plans to lure them all into trucks and deposit them on the Stadium’s doorstep. It may not seem like many, but when Victor and Cole come back from scouting with a bundle of flags — each carrying numbers between 233 and 765 — those numbers add up. (Recap continues on the next page.)
The first sign of Ennis’s arrival, though, is a lonely ice cream truck that spills a line of oil in front of the Stadium, which is then lit on fire. Ennis’ walkers are also covered in oil. Madison instantly recognizes that should the dead catch fire too and attack their wooden barriers, their walls will be compromised.
Adding to Madison’s predicament, Nick and Alicia are out in the thick of it all. Madison, unwilling to let Mel take Charlie outside the safety of the Stadium, let him go off injured on his own. At the behest of the young girl, Alicia and Nick snuck off to get him back. They spotted Ennis’ convoy along the way and took a side road back after retrieving Mel. Now they’re trapped in a car in the middle of the Stadium’s parking lot, surrounded by walkers.
Madison commands a member of their group to get the mulch, presumably in an attempt to smother the flames, while she goes out to save her children. This is why I’m most fearful for Madison: Before she goes out, Victor and Luciana say they’re tagging along. And when we first meet the remaining survivors in the present-day scenes with Morgan, the only one missing from this group is Madison. The others, meanwhile, were wild for revenge. When we saw Naomi again in the present day in episode 6, she had seemingly been riding in the car Madison asked Alicia to prep — and in this episode, we know Madison told Naomi about it.
So is the Rick equivalent of Fear the Walking Dead about to meet her end… just when we learn that Andrew Lincoln himself is departing The Walking Dead in season 9?!
There are still a lot of questions. For one, if Mel isn’t the real villain of this story, why are Alicia, Luciana, and Victor in an all-out gunfight with him and his Vulture allies of the present? The hatred is so real that Alicia bazookas Mel’s vehicle as he attempts to flee the battle. She then goes back and finishes the job with her makeshift blade. Damn!
Morgan, meanwhile, convinces Al to stop being the creepy journalist content to watch everyone around her die — because she “can’t be a part of the story” — and to actually help out. Also, what’s going on there? She’s literally watching people die through her camera and being like, “Eh, I don’t want to get involved.” But I digress.
Morgan and Naomi cart the dying John and healthy Charlie into the armored tank to head to the Stadium. Naomi says the Vultures only scavenged from outside but didn’t dare go inside, so her infirmary is still supposedly intact. Charlie too isn’t really a villain. Yes, she killed Nick, but her guilt over what happens comes out in conversation in the tank with Al. We can also rule out Naomi having known the Vultures beforehand, because Mel almost killed her in the infirmary when he came to — an incident that scared her enough to ask Madison to consider leaving. Why did she then decide to join the Vultures? Why did Mel, in good conscience, return to the Vultures, knowing what Ennis did to the Stadium?
All the characters seem to know is what Al finds when she rides straight back to the Stadium, which is that it’s now swarmed by charred walkers. It then becomes clear that Ennis would rather have watched the Stadium proverbially burn than let them thrive or wait it out so he could scavenge the remains for his people.
“You think you know what happened. You don’t.” After all this, maybe the characters are the ones who don’t know what happened.