This split timeline storytelling approach on "Fear the Walking Dead" continues to bear fruit, as well as teasing infinite possibilities for the future.
We feel confident we know the major players in the big conflict to come, but we could be wrong about that. Honestly, having no idea what's going to happen on a "Dead" show is something so refreshing and exciting, we hadn't realized how long it had been.
After spending the entirety of last week's episode exploring the meet-cute between John (Garret Dillahunt) and Naomi (Jenna Elfman), it was time to once and for all find out what her deal was. Or at least come closer to understanding the underlying sadness that has been weighing on her.
When it finally came out, it was a doozy, too. And that might have been enough to satisfy us for this one episode, but this episode was packed with big moments like that. Not only did we get a major turning point in the BEFORE timeline at the stadium, but the NOW timeline came full circle by depositing all of our major players back there for an epic stadium that left us with even more questions.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE DAM
Before we even get into all of that, we gained a better appreciation for Madison (Kim Dickens) in the BEFORE timeline as she and Victor (Colman Domingo) shared a drink and she wondered why in the hell he saved her after he basically betrayed her and her family again back at the dam. He even went so far as to admit he'd stocked that car last week for his own getaway strategy. Once a coward, always a coward. But Madison refuses to see things so simply.
Through a somewhat stilted and awkward exposition, Victor revealed that Madison pulled him out of the water and then stayed by his side, along with Alicia (Alycia-Debnam-Carey) and Nick (Frank Dilllane), until he'd recovered enough to walk. "'Cause I know who you are, Victor," she told him as explanation for why she did what he wouldn't have. "That and I really like drinking with you."
It turns out, she knew Victor better than he knows himself, and somehow just her being so sure that he was more than even he believed is slowly turning him into a better version of himself; the version she sees inside of him. And that is what Madison does, as destructive as the results can sometimes be. She sees the best possible version of a person inside them and tries to facilitate bringing it forth.
She didn't stop with Victor this week, either. Madison was determined to figure out Naomi, why she was always trying to run, and what it was she was so broken about. She's not the only one, either. We've been dying to know what personal tragedy turned her into such a dark presence.
As it turns out, it is a crippling sense of guilt, and one that is both unfair to herself and completely understandable. Naomi tried again to leave the stadium, but this time she said she was going to a FEMA relief facility where she knew there were the kinds of supplies the stadium needed, including seeds and fertilizer.
When Madison and Victor insisted on joining her, she first said she had intended to run, but when she ditched them again she didn't do that. Instead, she went alone to the FEMA facility, and that is where we learned the depths of her guilt in a sequence brilliantly portrayed by Jenna Elfman.
With no words spoken, she told almost the entirety of the story there. Somehow, not only was this the place where Naomi lost her child -- as she'd told John last week -- but she bears the responsibility of every walker in that facility. She knew them as people. "I'm so sorry," she tells them, looking down on the horde from atop a scaffolding within the building.
It was there that Victor and Madison found her and ultimately helped her make a somewhat reluctant escape. She was so wrecked with guilt, she seemed ready to die there among her people. Later, once they walkers were again safely locked inside, Naomi explained how this was all her fault.
She and her daughter Rose were among the survivors there, only Rose developed pneumonia. Naomi secretly left to find medicine without telling the others Rose was sick for fear they'd be cast out. Only while she was gone, Rose perished and then turned the rest of the survivors before she could come back, including an unknown number of other children.
But she came through for the stadium and through the compassion and tenacity of Madison's smotherly love, Naomi admitted she might finally be ready to find a way to live with the guilt. It was something that happened, and she did the best she could at the moment. It just didn't work out.
But thanks to her knowledge of this place, they were able to bring back all the supplies they would need to really make a go of things at the stadium. Upon hearing this, the Vultures made the decision to head out, though not without a final warning.
"Be careful, Madison. In my experience. The really bad stuff. You never see it coming," Mel (Kevin Zegers) told a triumphant Madison, just before he and his people headed off.
Which brings us right to the present and almost the exact same spot. While Madison and Naomi and Victor were hunting down supplies BEFORE, everyone in the NOW was converging on a meet location they'd uncovered from the Vultures after Nick killed Mel's brother Ennis (Evan Gamble) earlier this season. That meet location turned out to be the stadium, now looking dilapidated and long-abandoned.
John and Morgan (Lennie James) had tried to warn the Vultures to stay away from the meet because Alicia, Victor and Luciana were looking for blood there, but their warnings fell on deaf ears. Instead, Mel saw it as an opportunity.
And so, while Morgan and John arrived to try and tell their allies the Vultures weren't coming, the entire Vulture crew showed up shortly after. And suddenly, we had an epic standoff, with the massive Vulture crew aiming their arsenal at three defiant former stadium survivors.
"I'm sorry about your brother," Mel told Alicia, but she shot back, "Really, I'm not sorry about yours."
Morgan stepped between their guns to try and bring a stop to this before it started, but the show had one more surprise in store. "Where is everyone?" came a familiar voice. A few second later, Naomi showed up in the same Land Rover Madison had earlier asked Alicia to stock "just in case." She was working with the Vultures!
As a shocked John made his way to her, Alicia turned in a rage and shot at Naomi, only John managed to get in the way, collapsing to the ground with a bullet in his ribs, and we have so many questions!