Here’s the one-sentence recap of the finale: Madison kills Troy, Dwight and Sherry go back to rebuild Sanctuary, Strand returns to his German family, June continues teaching medicine to other survivors, Madison lives, Alicia returns, mother and daughter move to Los Angeles with Troy’s orphaned daughter, and Daniel reunites with his cat, Skidmark.
Here’s the more extended version: I have never watched this many seasons of a show as bad as Fear the Walking Dead. In eight seasons, there may have been 12-15 episodes worth watching, and the longer it went on, the worse it got. Making a television series is difficult. Keeping it on for eight seasons is even more challenging, so while I want to honor those challenges, it’s disappointing to see how little care the Fear writers put into the series. I appreciate how taxing it must have been to continue storylines while actors came and went, but that’s also what writers are paid to do. The showrunners did poorly on Fear for the better part of five seasons.
Here’s a very brief recap of eight seasons: Originally set in Los Angeles during the initial outbreak, Fear quickly pivoted once it realized that covering the initial outbreak is not sustainable for a television series. The spin-off got off to a rough start. In the second season, the characters took to the water, which was laughable, and eventually landed in Mexico. There were slight nods toward the immigration debate, but Fear never dug into it.
The second season was mostly a failure, and it was clear that Fear would never measure up to the original series. The show’s original creator, Dave Erickson, produced a third season that remains the best of the series, although he somewhat inexplicably killed off Cliff Curtis’s character, Travis Manawa, in that season. Until then, the show had been mainly about one family surviving the zombie apocalypse together. After that, the family splintered, the cast began to grow, and the show got away from itself.
The fourth season was a hard reset. Morgan (Lennie James) came over from The Walking Dead to breathe some life into the series, along with new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg who seem determined to break from the previous three seasons and make the show their own. It worked for eight episodes. Frank Dillane, who played Nick, was killed off in a shocking episode, and in the midseason finale, the new showrunners killed off Kim Dickens’ Madison Clark. That left only one family member from the show’s original family, Alycia Debnam-Carey’s Alicia. The show would’ve been wise to build the series around her, but they couldn’t let go of Morgan, whose storylines repeated themselves. The back half of season four immediately fell apart despite the addition of Garrett Dillahunt, Jenna Elfman, and Maggie Grace.
Still, Fear couldn’t goose the ratings, so they brought in Austin Amelio’s Dwight from The Walking Dead — like Morgan, he walked from Texas — and built his storyline around finding his TWD girlfriend, Sherry. Seasons five through eight mainly were a mess. Dillahunt provided a few memorable moments, and Colby Minifie (Boys) had a decent arc. Still, the series began to deteriorate, and sometime midway through season six, it felt like the writers had given up.
Instead of creating storylines for multiple characters, the writers built Fear around Morgan, Alicia, Strand, Dwight, and occasionally Daniel (who had been “killed off” the series twice but kept returning). There were many other characters, but they usually only appeared to service the storylines of the main four, and several disappeared from the show without explanation (Mo, Daryl, Rabbi Kessner, all those kids).
The TWD universe’s stock and trade has always been getting the audience to invest in characters and then breaking our hearts by killing them. Fear mostly stopped killing main characters, or if it did, it brought them back. The only characters who died were villains or red shirts, save for John Dorie’s heartbreaking death in what stands as probably the best episode of the series.
Having killed Madison in the fourth season, the showrunners seemed too afraid to incur fans’ backlash by killing anyone else off, so characters just left if the actors decided to leave the series. For half a season, Daniel had dementia. Then, his dementia went away. Grace nearly died of radiation poisoning, but the stillborn baby she birthed absorbed all the radiation and saved her life. Morgan was left for dead at the end of one season but somehow miraculously survived until the following season.
The series, meanwhile, moved from Los Angeles to Mexico to Texas to Georgia in the final season. Alycia Debnam-Carey finally left the series at the end of season seven. She was a goner. She’d been bitten. She’d managed to survive that zombie bite thanks to a lot of antibiotics, but it eventually caught up with her.
Except that it didn’t.
Alicia left the series, but her mom, Madison, immediately rejoined the series despite clearly dying in the fourth season and despite Kim Dickens expressing disappointment with the death of her character. Midway through the final season, Lennie James finally left, and then Fear turned back into the Madison show. For her, this season has been about finding the zombified version of her daughter Alicia and giving her some peace by putting her down. She’s also determined to save PADRE, a nonsense organization that seemed to exist so that characters could yell PADRE 22 times an episode.
Everyone’s motivation by the end was either PADRE or Alicia. In death, Alicia had developed a cult-like following, which included Troy, who also returned after clearly being killed in the third season. It’s one thing for characters like Madison and Troy to come back to life, but how did they find our characters — Madison died in Texas, and Troy died in Mexico, and yet both found their way to Georgia.
That’s enough backstory to bring us to the finale. There’s been this theme of giving people second chances all season long, a theme that is attributed to Alicia. All of these characters romanticized Alicia in their memories. Alicia was never that great of a person, but after living in a fallout shelter for several years and becoming a cult leader, the show decided that Alicia was a deity of some sort.
In the final episodes, Troy is the villain, but everyone still wants to give him a second chance because of Alicia. Madison reluctantly works with Troy but ultimately decides to kill him anyway because, she reasons, giving people second chances didn’t save Alicia’s life. As Troy is dying, he tells Madison that the mother of his daughter, Tracy, is Alicia. The scuttlebutt was that Alicia had somehow survived a zombie bite and was traveling the country helping other people until Troy came along and killed her (after she had his child).
Madison, with this knowledge, suddenly regrets killing Troy. She is determined, however, to protect her granddaughter, Tracy, but Tracy is so mad at Madison for killing her father that she shoots Madison. Again, we are left to believe that Madison has died, only to learn that Alicia’s necklace, which she had in her jacket pocket, had blocked the bullet. Madison survives and saves everyone’s life by drawing a massive horde of zombies away from them and into an underground tunnel that Madison torches. It’s precisely how she died in the fourth season.
She doesn’t die this time, either. She survives the blast in the tunnel. Alicia returns soon thereafter. She is still alive and not only cured herself of a zombie infection (which has never been done before), but she also brings along Daniel’s cat from seven years ago. The reunion of Alicia and Madison is surprisingly low energy.
Alicia tells Madison that Tracy is not her child — Troy only told Madison that so Madison would protect Tracy. The three drive off to Los Angeles to start a new life together. Dwight and Sherry decide to rebuild the Sanctuary and turn it into a sanctuary for kids. June, a nurse, gains an intern, whom she will teach medicine, and Strand returns to live with his German family.
That’s it. While I look forward to watching several of these actors in other projects — Debnam-Carey, Dickens, Domingo — I never want to see these characters again. Please do not include them in your The Walking Dead universe spin-off plans, AMC.