“What’s your story?” This was the first question asked by gunslinger cowboy John Dorie in the premiere episode of Fear the Walking Dead season 4, and now it appears we have the answer we’ve been waiting for — though it’s not the one we necessarily wanted.
What’s the story of Madison and the Stadium? Like Al, looking at subjects through a camera lens, viewers have been watching and waiting patiently, slowly trying to coax the story out of those who were there. We know what happened to the Stadium: Mel’s brother Ennis delivered hundreds of walkers to the Stadium’s doorsteps, though there were a few more details to glean from the midseason finale. But now we also know what became of Madison.
The prime protagonist since the very beginning of the Walking Dead spinoff sacrificed herself so that her children could live.
When Madison, Luciana, and Victor rushed into the parking lot to save Alicia and Nick, the people inside the Stadium panicked. Even though Madison assured them the walls would hold, they opened the gates and fled, but the horde proved too much for them. They were consumed. Mel, meanwhile, took a car to save Charlie and they were able to flee the scene. Naomi, it seems, tried to convince everyone the Stadium would hold but she too had to leave when the walkers become too much. Alicia, Nick, Luciana, and Victor presumed her dead, and Naomi presumed them dead.
To ensure her children’s safety, Madison sparked a flare and drew all of the dead in the lot inside the Stadium; she figured if the walls were sturdy enough to keep the dead out, they’d be sturdy enough to keep them inside. They were. She planned to escape through the tunnels and backtrack outside but found herself blocked by more walkers. With the dead already greased up in oil by Ennis, she threw her flare at their feet, sparking a blaze that illuminated the sky.
Her last words, uttered to her children over a walkie, were, “I was afraid to lose this place because I thought you needed it to stay who you are right now, but you know it: no one’s gone until they’re gone.”
There’s always going to be that spidey sense suggesting if you didn’t see physical evidence of a character’s demise, then don’t assume anything. But Madison’s journey has always been about her children — grappling with Nick’s drug addiction, trying to create some semblance of a normal life for them, trying to create a better world for them than the one she lived through. Her kids didn’t always want this help, but it was a like a familial unit except in an apocalyptic world: teens rebelled against their parents, but with zombies roaming around. It’s fitting, in a sense, that she would die to help her kids live.
In another sense, it’s just plain frustrating.
The Walking Dead has always used major deaths as its wow factor, but it’s gotten to the point where there’s rarely a glimmer of optimism. The vast majority of characters who exhibit decent human behavior — a shred of decency, as it’s called — are often punished in the long run. Madison had finally realized she wanted to bring in other people and create a community for themselves. What does she get? Killed off. Morgan, another figure who became benevolent in the Walking Dead series, was eventually damned into mental instability. And now he’s here, watching the needless suffering of others. Characters are always asking themselves, can one even be good anymore in this world? The discussion isn’t as nuanced as the show tries to make it because, again, anyone who tries to be good is quite often killed. So there’s your answer, it seems.
Nevertheless, “No One’s Gone” is the last sign that a new phase of the Walking Dead universe is about to commence. The first was Lennie James leaving the main series to join the spinoff. The second was the death of Frank Dillane’s Nick. The third was news of Andrew Lincoln, the protagonist of The Walking Dead, departing the show with season 9. The fourth is now the face of the Walking Dead spin-off (seemingly) bowing out. Things are changing and, for a show that ends up repeating itself a lot, perhaps this is all a good thing…?
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This leg of the story came with more revelations. For one, it turns out Naomi is another fake name Jenna Elfman’s character gave up when she first met Madison. After saving John, she reveals her name to be June. For another, Al and Madison had a surprising connection nobody knew about.
The episode began with what appeared to be a flash-forward but was really a flashback. Madison, having been separated from her children, sneaks up on Al as she’s eating instant kimchi by a campfire and attempts to steal her SWAT car. It’s a moment that mimics the first scene of the first episode of the current season: John is sitting by a campfire when Morgan stumbles upon the site. Madison ends up zip-tying up Naomi… sorry, June, who tries busting out but is quickly incapacitated by Madison. When Al comes to, Madison has absconded with the camera and stash of tape recordings she had stumbled upon earlier.
These scenes keep cutting to the present, where we find Morgan and June fighting through the Stadium to get to the infirmary, while Al and Charlie watch over the still-bleeding-out John. Alicia, Luciana, and Victor arrive to complicate matters — and they have an RPG! It’s still an odd moment. Al is someone who has always refused to be a part of the story she’s filming, even when people have been killed before her eyes. She only intervenes if it directly affects her own safety. Yet, she’s decided this is the moment she’ll now actually help pick a side, and that side is Morgan & Co.
In the end, her vehicle isn’t as sturdy as she thinks it is and, in a comedic moment, a blast from Luciana’s RPG knocks off the passenger door so that Alicia can come up alongside with a gun… which marks another odd moment. First of all, there seemed to be far more walkers surrounding the SWAT car in the middle of the Stadium than what Ennis and his crew dropped off last episode. But then, most of them were cleared out, presumably by Alicia, Victor, and Luciana. When Al could only clear out a short path through the horde with a single round from her massive automated guns, it seems unrealistic to suggest these three bystanders could have done enough damage to clear a path from the Stadium’s seats to Al’s location. For a show that thinks about specifics like, we can’t just drive through the walkers or they’ll get “jammed up in the wheel,” it seems weird that other specifics are just tweaked or forgotten about entirely.
Forgetting all that, Alicia finds herself in the SWAT car threatening Charlie’s life and commanding Al to radio for Morgan and Naomi to return to the car. John, however, is still lucid enough to discreetly grab and turn on the walkie to let the others hear Alicia’s conversation. This revelation causes another tussle between Alicia and Al that results in Alicia stumbling on her stash of kimchi. She then scrambles to look through her library of recordings and finds one marked Amina.
Amina was the name Alicia and Nick gave to an injured bird they helped nurse back to health when they were kids — a name only their mother would know.
It turns out, Al had caught up with Madison previously to retrieve her tapes and, in doing so, tied her up and coaxed her into giving up at least part of her story. Alicia turns on the camera and watches footage of her mother telling the bird story to Al and hearing Madison hoping to find a safe haven to ensure her children wouldn’t have to be corrupted by this apocalyptic world. Even after all this, Alicia still goes to kill Naomi, but Morgan throws himself between them and talks her down. We then see more footage of the now-revealed flashback of Madison, who was sent off with supplies by Al, finding Alicia, Nick, Luciana, and Victor at a motel and then leading them to the Stadium.
Later, as they are all sitting by the fire — Alicia, Victor, Luciana, Al, Morgan, June, Charlie, and a newly IV-ed John — the story of Madison’s fate comes out.
As they all share cups of instant kimchi, the reality sets in: Alicia is now the last remaining member of the Clark family. As anyone who’s felt personally victimized by the events of The CW’s The 100, it’s a happy day when Alycia Debnam-Carey emerges as what we presume to be the new lead of Fear the Walking Dead.