7:05pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Fear the Walking Dead' Finally Answers Kim Dickens' Fate
[This story contains spoilers for the season 4A finale of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead, "No One's Gone."]
Pour out a cup of manufactured ramen noodles: The original star of Fear the Walking Dead is no longer.
Throughout the first half of its creatively retooled fourth season, Fear the Walking Dead found itself wrapped in countless questions. Why were Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Strand (Colman Domingo), Luciana (Danay García) and Nick (Frank Dillane) so destitute and desperate to kill the Vultures? What happened to the Diamond, the place they once called their home? How did Jenna Elfman's Naomi manage to survive the attack, despite Alicia's testimony to the contrary? Was there any hope that Madison, the Clark family matriarch played by Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy veteran Kim Dickens, somehow survived as well?
Consider that final question answered, once and for all: Madison, like her son Nick and her late not-quite husband Travis (Cliff Curtis) before her, is dead. The closest thing Fear the Walking Dead ever had to its very own Rick Grimes — someone whom co-creator and original showrunner Dave Erickson once described as a Governor in the making — did not survive the attack on the Diamond, as revealed in the midseason finale episode, "No One's Gone," leaving Alicia and Strand as the only two characters from the first season of the AMC zombie drama still active and alive on the show.
The episode dealt with two conflicts across time, set in the same setting: the Diamond. At first, viewers were led to believe that Madison may have escaped the zombie assault on her baseball stadium safe haven, given how the episode began with Madison encountering Althea (Maggie Grace) in what appeared to be a scene that took place after the attack. Instead, it was a scene set before the founding of the Diamond community. Indeed, it turns out Madison's encounter with Althea was a source of inspiration for bringing the Diamond dwellers together, as she once told her family on the outskirts of the outpost: "Someone helped me when she didn't have to. I think it's time for us to do the same."
After it is revealed that these scenes between Madison and Althea took place before the Diamond's founding, a series of events occur in which Al, Morgan (Lennie James), John (Garret Dillahunt) and Jenna Elfman's Naomi (aka "Laura," whose real name is apparently "June") finally forge a peace treaty with Alicia, Strand and Luciana. They all manage to come together, thanks to Morgan's pacifism and his belief that Alicia can be more than the vengeance seeker she's become.
"I stepped aside for your brother. I will not step aside for you," Morgan tells a sobbing Alicia. "Whatever you've think you lost, whatever your mother wanted for you, is still in you. I see it."
All together, Alicia proceeds to tell the story about what actually happened to her mother. When the Diamond came under attack, Madison lured an army of enflamed walkers into the baseball stadium, as a means of protecting her family. Despite her best attempts to escape, she found herself impossibly surrounded. In her final moments, Madison radioed her family with one last message: "No one's gone until they're gone."
In the present, Alicia, Strand and Luciana come together to unify the message they received from the late Madison, loud and clear: "It was never about the stadium. It was about the people. It was about us. That's why my mom gave up her life. So they could live. So we could live. So I could live."
Dickens was the original star of Fear the Walking Dead, and the highest-profile casualty of the show to date. She is the second original castmember to leave the series this season, following Dillane's departure earlier in the year, whrn his character was killed unexpectedly in the third episode. Original showrunner and co-creator Dave Erickson once said his plan was to chart a path for Madison where she would become a villain of sorts, not unlike David Morrissey's The Governor in the flagship Walking Dead series.
"The thing that's interesting to me, and one of the questions I asked myself and asked Robert Kirkman very on was of the people in our group, who do you see becoming the Governor? Of our group, who could become a Negan? That's interesting to me, to watch an evolution of a character and start with them as a hero, and bleed that into antihero, and bleed that into full-on villain," Erickson told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2017 interview. "It would have been interesting. In terms of the final conflict within the family, it would have been key. For me, there's a lot left for Madison specifically."
There may be a lot left for Madison yet, given the flexible timeline in Fear the Walking Dead season four; further flashback appearances are always a possibility. In fairness, Ruben Blades' Daniel Salazar appeared to die in the midseason two finale, only to re-emerge in season three. The continued survival of Madison remains a possibility, until further word from cast and crew. (In that regard, THR will be posting interviews and Talking Dead coverage imminently.) For now, such an outcome would be as miraculous as finding a SWAT vehicle filled with Cup O' Noodles in the midst of a zombie apocalypse — not impossible, but certainly improbable.
For her part, Dickens has seemingly confirmed Madison's fate in an Instagram post, thanking her fans and saying it was her "honor to play such a strong, badass, empowered, fierce leader."
What do you make of Madison's death? Sound off in the comments below with your take.