We expected the action to pick up right where we left things in the penultimate episode of "Fear the Walking Dead" last week. We expected Althea's armored vehicle to be surrounded by walkers. But that's not what happened. Instead we got another time jump and a surprising character connection.
All season long, there has been one question lingering behind the scenes as we waited not-so-patiently for answers. Finally, as all timelines converged this week, we got the answer to that question. What the hell happened to Madison Clark?
It turns out the clues were in front of us all along, though we're still holding out hope for a miracle. When Althea (Maggie Grace) arrived at the stadium in the NOW timeline, she had to bust through the gates to find the interior complete overwhelmed by burned walkers.
When last we'd seen our intrepid survives in the BEFORE timeline, the walkers were outside the stadium and just starting to go aflame. And so it was that Madison (Kim Dickens) concocted a mad plan that no one would have approved of. She always said she'd do anything for her kids.
In fact, it turns out she'd told that story sometime before the events of the season even began.
"Someone Might Be Interested in Yours One Day"
The opener brought Madison and Althea together, with Madison proving every bit as aggressive and brutal as her daughter was in the season premiere. Madison tried to take Al's armored vehicle by force, but instead opted to take her video tapes. Slowly it was revealed that these events occurred in the time before the stadium when Madison had lost her kids and everyone after the dam explosion. She was lost and desperate.
Ironically, while she did not find the stories of her family in Al's tapes, she ultimately did make one of her own. And it was this story that would bring Alicia back from the brink and perhaps start turning her into someone worth rooting for again.
Madison found her family and brought them to the baseball stadium, and we finally learned how that came to be. It was the result of Madison finally deciding to build what she'd always dreamed for her children. Inspired by Al's kindness despite everything Madison had tried to do to her, Madison decided to let people in and try to find a better way to live in this world. Not just survive it, but live in it.
It's kind of a nice touch to think that Al is the inspiration for everything that Madison built, and clearly that was enough to change Alicia's stance about her, as well as Victor and Luciana. Madison was bringing people together, even without her there.
"You Knew Her?"
This is the equivalent of the "Batman v Superman" "Martha" moment. Batman and Superman went from beating the crap out of each other to besties over the names of their mothers. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who had gone full villain by this point, went from trying to kill Althea to her ally and friend after seeing that Al had met Madison prior to the stadium. Granted, there's a lot more weight to that encounter, as it was Al's kindness that helped create the stadium, but the abrupt personality shift for Alicia was jarring.
At least she still tried to kill Naomi (Jenna Elfman) when she got into the innards of the stadium. It took Morgan doing that speech thing he does so well to stop her. Apparently, hearing a similar speech from her mother on a tape wasn't the same. "The light's getting fainter every day we're out here. And I can't imagine that part of them dying. I'll do whatever it takes to keep it alive," Madison said. But apparently those words rang hollow now because Madison was't with Alicia anymore.
Here was Morgan (Lennie James), standing with her gun pressed to his chest and ready to die for a woman he'd just met. "Things can change. They did for me and they can for you. They have, 'cause look. I'm not dead. I stepped aside for your brother. I will not step aside for you. Whatever it is you've lost, whatever your mother wanted for you. It is still in you, and I see it."
Maybe it was the combination of the two messages, but it was enough to reduce Alicia to tears, and as Morgan held her, he sent Naomi out to save John's life.
Finally, it was time for the rest of the story. Victor (Colman Domingo) and Luciana (Danay Garcia) told how they'd tried to slash their way to the car Nick, Alicia and Mel were trapped in, surrounded by walkers. While they were there, Naomi tried to convince the rest of the stadium survivors to stay put, but the sight of flaming walkers was enough to cause a panic. They opened the gates and it was a slaughter.
Mel stole the car, and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) revealed that he saved her at that point. Naomi thought everyone was dead, fleeing and ultimately finding her way to Mel and the Vultures, who she joined. The Clarks thought Naomi was dead, which doesn't completely explain why Alicia would be so determined to kill her.
Perhaps because Naomi was in the escape vehicle Madison had set up, dashing any hopes Alicia had that Madison had escaped the stadium after implementing her madcap plan of pied pipering the walkers inside with a flare. If the walls could hold them out, she figured, they could just as well hold them in.
The bottom line, apparently, is that there were a whole lot of misunderstandings as to who was where and why and what when the stadium fell, and rather than talk about it, Alicia wanted to growl and look all crazy-eyed and kill everyone. Her character arc has been almost schizophrenic this season. Maybe it's the grief.
Naomi revealed to John that June is her real name, so she never told the Clarks her real name, either. Okay? Is this supposed to be more meaningful, now? We don't get it. Why did this happen.
So everyone is just cool now and it was all a big misunderstanding. That's quite a reversal, and particularly for Alicia who tried to brutally murder Al and then still wanted to kill Naomi even after hearing Madison's tape where she wished Alicia woudn't turn into ... this. But now, it's all cup-o-noodles and kumbaya around the fire. These people have a lot of issues but one fireside chat resolved everything. It was all a bit too convenient.
John's dying speech was very sweet, but we knew he wasn't going to die, so it was ultimately unnecessary: "I used up my nine lives a long time ago. If I don't make it, that's okay with me, as long as you do, you here me? And when this is all over, stop running from people, alright? And Morgan, you help him do the same. Or not do it. I mean-- I think you know what I mean." Unless, he's going to die later and then it will matter?
After Morgan's speech reduced Alicia to blubbering, he sent Naomi out, but Victor and Luciana were still waiting to kill her the moment they saw her. They wouldn't have known that Alicia had this sudden change of heart. For all they knew, Morgan and Naomi had killed Alicia. We think they would have probably opened fire and asked no questions later. They were all pretty deep into their villain phase still.
Madison disappeared in a flash of white light, which is a bit ham-fisted. She wasn't the second coming or anything. Plus, we never saw a body, and since "The Walking Dead" is based on a comic series, we're gonna use superhero logic and say that no body equals no death. Madison will return ... in another flash of white light. Maybe she's Gandalf!