[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 7 Finale, “An Earlier Heaven.”]
After an overzealous pressure cooker’s worth of building anticipation — like, six long months of it, and far longer if you count all the years fans fervently speculated she wasn’t dead — Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) made her triumphant return to Fear The Walking Dead. And dang, whatever your thoughts on Season 7 as a whole, it’s good to see her again.
The story here isn’t just “look, Madison!”, it’s also “how, Madison?” Maddie’s part of Fear’s next group of baddies, though she’s not so villainous herself (if anything, she’s wracked with guilt over the things she’s done). As part of PADRE, Madison’s been taking children from their parents and loading them onto boats, where they’re brought to a mysterious base. What PADRE’s actually doing with the kids is unclear, but it seems likely to be similar to what CRM did with Hope (Alexa Mansour) in World Beyond in training the kids to be “the future.” For that matter, PADRE could be affiliated with CRM. These shows are going to start crossing over at some point, right?
Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC
The whole “stealing kids” thing puts her on a collision course with Morgan (Lennie James), as she takes baby Mo after Morgan has an unfortunate run-in with some people who think he’s part of PADRE. Madison does manage to get baby Mo onto a boat, and by the time Morgan’s able to track Madison down, Mo’s gone. A panicked and angry Morgan demands Madison get her back, but that won’t be possible without a kid to trade. Morgan also realizes, based on tattoos on Madison’s wrists, that she’s Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) mom. They make a deal: If Madison can get Mo back, he’ll tell her what happened to her kids.
James and Dickens have great chemistry, and they make the Morgan-Madison partnership fun even when they’re about to do something horrible. Early in the episode, Morgan met a pregnant woman who refused his help. Madison thinks PADRE would be interested in an expecting mother — even though they’d separate the child from its mom after birth — so Morgan decides to trade her to get Mo back. They return to the house where Morgan found her only to get attacked by the parents who attacked him earlier, and they all have to flee to the house’s mausoleum.
There, the truth flies free like the bird Alicia let out of the tower. Truth #1: The woman, Ava, isn’t really pregnant. She was only pretending to be so that she could get to PADRE and try to free her daughter, who Madison took months ago.
Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that Madison’s relationship to her kids has changed significantly from the Erickson seasons and Chambliss and Goldberg’s Season 4. Where Season 2 Madison once put a hotel full of people in danger for a chance at finding her son, Season 7 Madison told Morgan she had no interest in finding her kids. Your mileage on the explanation may vary. Madison’s fearful that PADRE would recruit them just as they recruited her, and PADRE would force them to turn over children the way she once volunteered to for information on Nick and Alicia’s whereabouts. Now, having become who she’s become, she doesn’t want them to find her.
With nothing left to trade, Morgan reveals Truth #2 to Madison as they’re all trapped in the mausoleum: Nick’s dead, and Alicia’s maybe, probably, dead too. Madison points out that Morgan doesn’t know for sure, lending credence to the theory that there’ll be a Clark reunion someday. But for now, Madison’s kids are gone, and while she didn’t want them to find her, that still breaks her heart.
After Ava opens the door and lets the murderous parents in, they decide to go to the docks to find PADRE. As they bury Madison in the sand like they did to Morgan at the episode start, Morgan warns Ava not to go. She doesn’t listen, and that’s why she ends up as a walker at the end of the episode along with the rest of her group. That’s a bummer because she was actually a kind of cool character.
Once she’s free from the sand, Madison tells Morgan the only way he’s getting to PADRE is if he brings them another child. Morgan begs to differ. He and Madison go back to the docks, and Morgan tells them about his people in the rafts on the river. “I can tell you more,” he says, “But you have to take me with you.” He and Madison speed off toward PADRE in a raft, and he asks her where it is. “I’ve been meaning to tell you, Morgan,” Madison says, “I don’t know.” Then they’re both blindfolded and taken toward a larger ship, and that’s where things stand heading into Season 8.
Lauren “Lo” Smith/AMC
- It’s great to have Madison back, and it’s even better that she’s some shade of morally gray. Madison was always most interesting — in this recapper’s opinion — when she was making unpleasant, ill-advised, or straight-up bad choices to serve her family’s or her own interests. She was never particularly concerned with right and wrong. Having her agree to turn over children in order to find her own feels in character as well as suitably ironic, since one of her major character cornerstones is being a mother.
- However reluctantly, I do also buy Madison not wanting to find Alicia. She wants to leave her now-adult daughter with the shining image of who she once was, rather than who she became. And like, Alicia wasn’t okay with Madison lying to the Broke Jaw Ranch about Troy killing the Trimbols. Child theft is on a whole new planet of worse.
- Are we ever going to see Madison get out of the Dell Diamond, or was that comment about her being “full of surprises” the most we’re getting? I was hyped for an extended slow-mo flashback sequence of her surviving the fire, but… yeah, probably not.
- Any chance we can get Garret Dillahunt back as a totally new character, a la Deadwood? It was cool to see Kim Dickens and Lennie James sharing scenes in this episode (I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Madison-Morgan partnership), but dang, it would’ve been awesome for Dillahunt and Dickens to reunite.
- Madison’s partially-buried-alive walker kills at the end of this episode were awesome and just might land in my Top 10 favorite walker kills of the franchise.
- Also: Shout-out to Madison’s leather jacket, which has survived a dam explosion, an on-fire baseball stadium and whatever the heck happened at PADRE. (If you look closely, it’s the exact same one.) Other than Daryl’s vest or Rick’s hat, has there been a single article of clothing on these shows that’s endured more?
- Rating: 4/5. Between the PADRE mystery and Madison’s appearance with all the lingering questions therein (how will she react to Strand, upon learning what he put Alicia through? To Charlie, upon learning she killed Nick? Is Madison heading for a “redemption arc” of some sort?), the ingredients for a compelling Season 8 are here. Now, it’s all about the story Fear The Walking Dead cooks up.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 8, Returns 2022, AMC