TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead - Season 4, Episode 8

Season 4, Episode 8: No One's Gone

PLOT: Madison Clark's fate is revealed while the new characters face zombies to save John Dorie.

REVIEW: AMC's Fear the Walking Dead pulled a switcheroo on me. With the previous episode having ended with the group of people known as The Vultures unleashing an army of zombies on the baseball stadium where the main characters had been living, I thought this midseason finale would be cutting back and forth between the fall of the stadium in the past and the modern day storyline, in which Althea (Maggie Grace), Naomi/Laura (Jenna Elfman), and The Walking Dead crossover character Morgan Jones (Lennie James) have infiltrated the zombie-infested stadium on a search for medical supplies to save the life of the gut-shot John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt). Maybe I was overestimating the budget of this show, expecting zombie-filled action to be intercut with zombie-filled action, because that's certainly not what No One's Gone delivered. What it did deliver was a surprising opening that set up a predictable resolution to a conflict, which then led into a heartbreaking ending.

Throughout its previous seasons, viewers and myself would say that Fear the Walking Dead actually followed the villains of the story, because the Clark family and their pals caused a lot of trouble on their way through Mexico and back into the states. But never have the original characters of this show been so openly portrayed as the villains as they are for the majority of this episode, as Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), and Luciana Galvez (Danay Garcia) were targeting Naomi/Laura and the Vulture child Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) on their continuing, nearly completed mission of vengeance against the Vultures, and as part of their cold-blooded pursuit they displayed a perfect willingness to fire bullets and RPGs at the other characters we've come to care about. If John Dorie were to die because of them, I would never forgive them!

While returning characters fight new characters with John Dorie's life hanging in the balance, the episode also flashes back not to scenes showing the fall of the stadium, but - here's the surprise - to Clark family matriarch Madison (Kim Dickens) encountering Althea on the road sometime before the season began. I wasn't expecting those characters to have crossed paths, and it was especially intriguing to watch the start of their interaction because it wasn't clear at what point in the past their scenes together were set. Madison says she has been separated from her children after running into some trouble, but was she talking about the trouble at the stadium? The trouble at the dam at the end of season 3? Was the show finally going to start filling in that gap?

Well, it wasn't either of those times. The show is in no hurry to show us what happened after the dam explosion in the season 3 finale, if it ever will, and at this point in the past Madison and her friends and family were reeling from bad times we'll almost certainly never see. As I watched Althea and Madison continue to talk, Althea conducting an interview for her documentary project, I became certain that I knew how the modern day confrontation was going to end. Somehow it was going to be revealed to Alicia that Althea had met Madison, and that would make her calm down and decide not to kill people. That is what happened, although it wasn't the interview tape Alicia saw right away - her first hint that Althea and Madison knew each other was the sight of some ramen noodles, as if only two people in America ever had access to that particular brand. As far as fight-ending questions go, "Where did you get these noodles?" ranks up there with "Why did you say Martha?"

But while that interview made me predict the end of the fight between characters old and new, it also stirred up a feeling of dread. Kim Dickens was getting to deliver a dramatic monologue about some random but plot-pertinent memory of Madison's. That didn't bode well. That was the sort of thing an actor/character would be given to do on their final episode. Then when things calmed down in the present, Alicia finally said it - her mother is dead. Not just missing like I've been hoping all along. And when she said Madison was dead, I hoped she was wrong.

In the final moments of the episode, we did get to see the fall of the stadium; not in an epic action sequence, but in an artful and economical presentation of the Cliff's Notes version of what went down. As this went on, I hoped we'd see that Alicia was jumping to conclusions, that she hadn't seen for sure what happened to Madison. Well, she may not have seen it directly, but the episode did its best to make sure we'd buy the idea that Madison is dead and gone. I still want to doubt it, I don't want it to be true. But Kim Dickens has confirmed that her days as Madison are over, and said that she was heartbroken and devastated when she heard the character was being killed off. So this was the way Madison made her exit, and her final moment was a rather touching and beautiful one.

Although, Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) did the exact same thing back in the season 2 midseason finale, and he ended up coming back in the next season. So if the showrunners ever decide they want to bring Madison back, I'd be glad to see her again. And where the hell is Daniel anyway? Why does this show keep sidelining such an awesome character?

If there were two characters I thought would never leave Fear the Walking Dead, they were Madison and Nick Clark (Frank Dillane). Nick died earlier in the season, and now Madison is gone as well, despite the title of this episode. I'm not sure what this show is without them. I never would have predicted that someday the main group of characters would be whittled down to Alicia, Strand, and Luciana, with new additions threatening to overshadow them. Yet I'm still on board to see where this is all going, and I'm still feeling positive about the show. That's the trick of season 4 - it's entertaining and interesting enough that I'm still hooked even while being baffled by creative decisions.

No One's Gone wasn't a highlight of this half of the season for me. It had strong moments, it had predictable and/or laughable moments. The information it gave about past events wasn't entirely satisfying, but it gave us most of what we needed to know about the end of times at the baseball stadium. Not a great midseason finale, but decent.

Without Nick and Madison, Fear the Walking Dead will be descending into the unknown in the second half of this season. When it returns to AMC in August, I'll be tuning in to see what the showrunners have in store for us next.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Having knocked off the door of Althea's SWAT truck to infiltrate the vehicle, Alicia then tries to shove Althea out the doorway during the ensuing fight, allowing the many decomposing, burnt zombies outside to reach for her, pawing at her face.

GORY GLORY: The gore has been pretty lackluster this season. Usually the best things you can point out are mostly goreless moments of zombies being dispatched. That's the case again here, but Morgan and Naomi/Laura(/June?!) fighting their way through a baseball stadium packed with zombies made for a very cool sequence, and the zombies looked pretty gross.

FAVORITE SCENE: Althea saying she was going to punch Alicia in the cooch. Because she said "cooch".


Extra Tidbit: What did you think of No One's Gone?



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