WARNING: SPOILERS LIE AHEAD
In June, the mid-season finale* of Fear The Walking Dead did something dramatic, shocking and irreversible. Madison, the lead character of the show since its inception, sacrificed herself to save her companions. Played by Kim Dickens, the character had been in every episode, and leaves only one cast member that has been there since the beginning, Alycia Debnam-Carey’s Alicia.
It not only raises interesting questions about when a show becomes a completely different show (the people vs zombies situation is still very present but it’s becoming less of a focal point as the series’ continue), it makes it clear that nobody in the series is safe.
The current season is the first for new executive producers Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, who took over when previous showrunner Dave Erickson wanted to work on other projects. Are they re-tooling it entirely? Did they kill off Madison to begin afresh? Are they going to cast a pal of theirs as a new lead? Or will one of the new characters in series four - John (Garret Dillahunt), Naomi/June (Jenna Elfman), Al (Maggie Grace) or Morgan (Lennie James), who started out on the original Walking Dead, step up to be the new main character?
According to Chambliss, it was a storytelling decision, and the surviving characters will spend the rest of the season dealing with the aftermath of Madison’s heroic fiery death. “The back half of this season has all of our characters asking themselves… ‘What do we do to move forward? Who are we to each other? How can we come back from all these really dark things we did?’” he told Syfy Wire.
“We really view this as an ensemble show, and we’re going to be telling stories throughout the back half of the season that will focus on different characters grappling with those existential questions in different ways. It’s really going to be finding all these characters who, at the end of the midseason finale, were sitting around a campfire, seemingly together, really asking themselves what is it that holds them together now that they’ve put revenge behind them, now that they no longer have Madison as the leader of the stadium.”
The situation - a group losing their leader and trying to go on without her - is sort of being mirrored within the cast, who have got used to saying goodbye to colleagues over the years (as you’d expect on a really violent zombie show) but still get understandably upset when key members of their group are written out. “We’ve been a family, and really involved in each others’ lives,” Debnam-Carey said. Co-star Colman “Strand” Domingo, who has been with the show since seaosn two, said losing Dickens “sucked” and “required intense amounts of grace, and patience, and frustration, and being honest about your feelings.”
It’s a hell of a statement on the part of the show runners, boldly proclaiming that you can’t take any characters’ survival as given - especialyl when the shows earlier successes has been entirely hinged upon the strength of those characters. Usually there are certain things you can just kind of rely upon in a show like Fear The Walking Dead, like that the main character will make it (or at least only die in the last episode), but that has now been thrown straight out of the window. The nervousness on the characters on screen might be even more convincing now that the show has returned - nobody knows how long they’ll be in a job.
*American network telly is weird. They’ll do a 22-or so episode season, but then split it into two parts with a break of a few months in between, for various reasons. It’ll tend to happen over the summer or Christmas, when there’s other stuff going on and ones TV-watching habits are interfered with. Now you know! Every day is a schoolday!
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