The above picture is of Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) in her first episode since she fake-died back during the Season 4 midseason finale.
Of course, she did die in the baseball diamond. But with struggling ratings and a fan movement to bring back Madison, AMC and Fear The Walking Dead’s showrunners decided to retcon everything, raise her from the dead, and roll the dice.
Can Madison’s return save this terrible show? Or will Madison—like literally every other character—simply get dragged down by the awful scripts, preposterous scenarios and terrible overall production?
Well, judging by the Season 7 finale, I’m going to have to go with the latter. Madison may be back, but I’m not at all convinced this is the Madison we knew from before. And I say this as someone who never really liked her character all that much, but still appreciated her character as a fundamental part of the show. Killing her off in Season 4 was a dirty move. Bringing her back now is a cheap trick.
Let’s look at that picture up top again. It’s sweet, right? Madison has little baby Mo. Maybe she’s watching her for a second while Morgan takes a leak or something.
But no, actually Madison is kidnapping baby Mo to take the little tyke to PADRE, the secret base that Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) has been looking for in her fever state for half the season. Naturally, Alicia “died” in the penultimate episode this season, so Madison didn’t have a chance to reunite. The showrunners played this trick once before, when they killed off John Dorie Jr. (Garret Dillahunt) one episode before June (Jenna Elfman) came across his dad, John Dorie Sr. (Keith Carradine) who was also killed off in Season 7.
(Fun trivia: Dickens, Dillahunt and Carradine were all on HBO’s Western drama Deadwood back in the day, as was Dayton Callie, who played one of Season 3’s antagonists, Jeremiah Otto Sr. These are all terrific actors!)
So let me just rattle off the problems with the Season 7 finale:
- Morgan (Lennie James) and Mo have gotten ahead of the rest of the group on their raft and, as coincidence would have it, directly into an area where someone (Madison) has been kidnapping children. Morgan finds the one place in Texas where this is happening and is quickly apprehended by local citizens who mistake him for the kidnapper and go to bury him up to his head in sand, something they’ve done to what appears to be dozens of other people they mistakenly thought were the kidnappers. His abductors all wear bags over their heads, too, just because. There is no discernible reason for this, nor any I can conjure.
- Madison shows up in the nick of time and easily kills half a dozen men with her gun without hitting Mo. Then she kidnaps Mo despite not knowing anything about Morgan because she’ll be “better off” where she’s taking her.
- This just happens to be PADRE, the very place her now-dead daughter has been searching for fruitlessly.
- Somehow, in the years since Madison and her children were separated, they didn’t ever encounter one another even though literally everyone in Texas is just a walkie-talkie call away. Madison is kidnapping kids for PADRE because at first they offered to help her find her kids, and she can’t stop because she thinks they’ll hurt her kids. But I dunno, maybe she should have just looked for her kids herself instead of wasting all this time screwing up other peoples’ families (which makes no sense for Madison!)
- Madison at this point doesn’t want to see her kids for some reason. She’s just “over it” or something. But she’s bummed out enough when she discovers that they’re dead to have a total change of heart and decide to help Morgan get Mo back.
- Oh, that’s right, Madison also leaves Mo in a playpen by herself two feet from the water on a dock to go looking for a woman who needs help (just wait until Madison starts helping people to make up for all the bad things she’s done!) Yes, she leaves a toddler who might be capable of climbing out of a playpen and drowning to death alone in a zombie apocalypse. But the baby has been taken to PADRE by the time she and Morgan show up (or she fell into the water and drowned to death . . . )
- There’s a whole subplot where this woman tells Morgan she’s pregnant in order to trick him into bringing Madison back to her house, but it’s so convoluted because she has no way of knowing that Morgan knows the person who’s taking all the kids. Anyways, Madison took her daughter a year ago and she’s trying to trick her into taking her as well so she can rescue her daughter. By the end of the episode this character is dead, of course, along with the rest of the bag-over-head men who somehow, miraculously, track Madison down. And then apparently all die trying to track down the PADRE people or something.
- Madison is captured and this time she’s buried in the sand and, surprise, Morgan shows up to save her instead which is when the bag-over-head-men and the mom show back up as even more zombies and Madison uses her sledgehammer to take out three at once, just short of the four she took out earlier in the episode with a sledgehammer roundhouse for the story books. Madison takes Morgan to the dock where he convinces them to take him back to PADRE as well because he has information on some people on rafts he can share with them.
So this wasn’t worse than last week, and it was probably one of the better episodes of the season, but it wasn’t by any means good. It started out okay with Morgan scavenging and talking with Mo and trying—and failing!—to get Grace (Karen David) on the walkie. The introduction of the sack-people was unfortunate, and lots of the actors behind the sacks were quite bad, however.
On the other hand, the zombie heads in the sand, covered with crabs (food, Morgan! Crabs are food!) were really grotesque and cool. Once again, if these shows could write stories as good as the SFX make zombies we’d have some great shows on our hand.
I’m not happy to see Madison back, however. Sure, Dickens and James are good actors, but both their characters rub me wrong. Madison was supposed to be an integral part of the Clark family story but now both Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia are dead, little more than tattoos on her wrists (which is how Morgan knows she’s who she is). It’s kind of like killing off Rick from The Walking Dead, and Carl and just carrying on like the story wasn’t supposed to be about them from the get-go and until the bitter end.
The Clark family story was squandered and tossed aside like so much trash and here we are, with the garish, muddled mess we have. I’m shocked Dickens agreed to come back, honestly. Oh well.
According to Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss, two showrunners who manage to keep their jobs no matter how bad ratings, reviews or the show itself get, Season 8 is yet another total overhaul of this show and will now take place largely on the water, just like season 2A. That didn’t work out all that well but then again, back then they didn’t have nuclear submarines, beer balloons and all the other gimmicks this show has employed. If PADRE isn’t basically the bad guys from Waterworld I’m going to be so angry.
I do not know if I will review next season. It’s really a chore to watch. Then again, I don’t want the bad guys to win. I don’t want to be chased away. I will not go gently into the night! Or something. We’ll see.
Thank god that for now at least, this dumpster fire is over.