Spoiler Warning for the Season 4, Episode 7 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” as well as all previous episodes of the series. Spoilers from “The Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
The timelines are converging as “Fear the Walking Dead” builds up to what should be an explosive Mid-Season Finale. This season has played with time quite a lot, and while it does help to make the plot twists and reveals especially shocking, it is starting to take away from the story a bit. That being said, the developments made in this episode are huge and serve to push the characters to some truly dark places. So what really went down in those hours before the collapse of the Diamond?
This episode jumps between the timelines, but for the purposes of recapping, events will be discussed in chronological order.
In the “BEFORE” timeline, Madison and the residents of the Stadium work hard to plant crops and organize the garden. There’s a genuine sense of hope in the air as everyone works together without the immediate threat of the Vultures hanging in the air. There’s a great moment that highlights how important this community is to the characters as Nick asks Madison why she worked so hard to build what they have now; she states that her desire to be away from the horrors of the world motivates her to keep the Diamond going. This is crucial for her arc this episode, providing an explanation for her actions. Things become rather complicated when Charlie shows up at the gate asking for help. She brings Madison, Naomi, Nick and Alicia to a point in the road nearby where an accident involving an Infected has occurred. Mel and Charlie split from the rest of the Vultures after an argument arose with Ennis; Mel was severely injured in the accident and Naomi explains that he needs to be treated or else he won’t make it. Madison declares that he will be brought back to the Stadium, even as Nick and the others question whether this is the right move. Nick points out that Charlie and the Vultures have lied before and they may be playing them again, but Madison is determined to help Mel. Seeing Charlie with Nick is unsettling after seeing what happens later down the line, but it serves to humanize her a bit more, complicating the situation in the “NOW” timeline.
Back at the Stadium, Naomi treats Mel who regains consciousness and panics after realizing where he is. Speaking with Madison and Naomi, Mel reveals that his brother Ennis is on a warpath and plans to attack the Diamond with a herd of Infected that the Vultures have been collecting. This is essentially confirmed to Madison when she meets up with Strand and Cole who have been out visiting the locations with the numbered flags; each of these location are now devoid of the Infected and according to the flags that Strand brought back, there are thousands, possibly more, of the Dead that are in the possession of the Vultures. Madison makes it clear that they are not fleeing the community, but rather they will fortify and defend their home. Back at the infirmary, Mel makes an escape attempt by breaking free from his restraints and pulling a knife on Naomi. This doesn’t do much as Naomi takes advantage of Mel’s injury by placing pressure on his cracked ribs to regain control of the situation, quite the badass move. The desperation on Mel’s face, as well as his desire to get Charlie away from the Stadium conveys the gravity of what Ennis is planning. If anyone knows Ennis, it is Mel and Naomi takes note of this, clearly knowing to watch for the signs of collapse after witnessing the downfall of her old community.
A major plot point of this episode is Madison’s decision to remain at the Stadium even as a massive attack is imminent. There is a powerful bit of symbolism as Madison tears down the dugout room she built for Charlie (now occupied by Naomi) to use the wood to reinforce the walls; the life Madison built for her people is slowly crumbling before her eyes. Naomi confronts Madison about the decision to stay and urges her to evacuate to save everyone’s lives. Madison refuses, stating that her kids are finally safe and that she worked way too hard to build the community just for it all to be thrown away. Without directly mentioning it, Naomi refers to the destruction of the FEMA shelter as proof that a strong community can fall and those that stay behind will die. This conversation sparks something in Madison and she collects Mel and forces him out of the Stadium, much to the dismay of Strand, Alicia and Nick; Strand specifically mentions the fact that Madison gave him another chance and uses this as reason to let Mel stay. Part of this decision on Madison’s part seems to come from her desire to protect Charlie, but also to do away with the negative energy Mel has brought to the Diamond, especially in regards to him sparking a panic with the plans of Ennis. Later, Nick checks in with Madison and expresses his disappointment in her decision, citing the group’s need to be better. In an emotional beat, Nick also states that he feels safe with Madison and points out that they also find each other when separated; unfortunately, there are no more reunions to be had between these two.
Charlie has been brought back into the community, not to be lambasted and yelled at, but in an attempt to get her as far away as possible from the Vultures. Nick and the others let her know that Mel has been forced to leave, causing her to worry that he won’t make it on his own. They contact him via radio and Charlie is able to speak to him, but he sounds weak and hoarse. Charlie pleads for them to help him and Nick and Alicia both realize that he needs to be retrieved before he dies. They ask Strand to open the gate and he complies, noting that they are making the right call. While driving away from the Stadium, Alicia wonders if they should be doing this, but Nick explains that everything will work out in the end. They eventually locate Mel’s vehicle pulled over on the side of the road (how exactly they managed to find him isn’t explained) and find him unconscious at the wheel. The sound of trucks nearby prompts Nick to turn off the car’s headlights as a caravan, led by Ennis, drives by. Alicia warns Strand that the Vultures are headed straight for the Diamond, deciding to drive a different way back to return quicker. From a lookout point, Strand and Cole bring Madison up to speed as the army arrives. Things are extremely eerie as a single truck drives parallel to the main gate, spilling oil onto the pavement in the process. Nick and Alicia arrive in the parking lot and watch as the scene unfolds, frozen in place as the rest of the caravan arrives and lines up. This is it. The mysterious event that caused the downfall of the Diamond is about to play out…and it is chilling to watch it all come together.
The entire sequence of events is eerily reminiscent to what happens in “The Walking Dead’s” Season 5 Finale when Daryl and Aaron stumble into a trap set by the Wolves and find themselves surrounded by walkers, only to be saved by Morgan. A similar situation occurs here as the car contained Nick, Alicia and Mel is surrounded by the Infected that are released from the Vulture trucks. Hundreds upon hundreds of Infected overtake the parking lot as the oil line is set ablaze, drawing the herd to the main gate of the Diamond. Madison arms herself and locates a vehicle, desperate to go out and save her children; both Strand and Luciana volunteer to assist her as Alicia radios into Madison to solemnly explain why she and Nick needed to go out and collect Mel. It is unsettling to hear Alicia speak to Madison in this scene as she knows that it wasn’t the best move strategically, yet it was something they needed to do to preserve their own humanity. Shots of the Stadium are shown as the fire ignites outside…this is the end of the community that Madison and the others worked so hard to built and protect. This is the night that it all falls apart and people are about to die.
There’s a lot going on in both timelines, but in the “NOW” arc, there is absolute carnage. Last episode ended with Alicia taking a shot at Naomi, but instead hitting John, prompting a massive gunfight between the two camps. A brief montage of the events of “Laura” are mixed in with a scene showing John lying on the ground as a stunned Naomi tries to save his life. Morgan rushes over and assists as Naomi runs off to find medical supplies. Meanwhile, Mel drives off in an ambulance that is blown up with a grenade by Alicia (this badass moment is similar to Daryl’s big RPG explosion in “No Way Out“). Alicia has Naomi in her sights, screaming at her for betraying the very people that saved her life and took her in; a struggle erupts and Naomi is able to get away from Alicia, making her way back to John’s side. Elsewhere, Strand and Luciana get a few kills in before the tone takes a drastic shift as Luciana finds Charlie and holds her at gunpoint. This franchise loves to tackle moral quandaries and what darker situation is there than the prospect of gunning down a child? Luciana is forced to shift her attention when another Vulture closes in on her, allowing Charlie to slip away. “Fear the Walking Dead” hasn’t had all that many massive battle pieces, but this one really stands out as each character is utilized and gets to play a crucial role.
In all of the chaos taking place on the battlefield, Althea takes a neutral approach, filming from a hidden vantage point. Morgan confronts her and urges her to assist in getting John away from the scene to be treated. Althea is hesitant, but ultimately complies after Morgan states that a good man will die without their help. While it may seem odd that Althea isn’t fighting, it makes perfect sense considering she is a journalist who is hellbent on documenting the end of the world; it hasn’t been stated, but it seems as though she may have been a war journalist, giving her experience in this type of scenario. Alicia once again has Naomi at gunpoint, but Althea arrives in the SWAT truck and pulls the machine gun lever, forcing Alicia to stand down. As John is loaded into the truck, Morgan stops for a moment after noticing Charlie nearby and pleads for her to come with him, stating that Alicia and the others will kill her if she stays behind. Althea drives away from the racetrack as Alicia, Strand and Luciana shoot at the SWAT truck in a last ditch effort to take down every last person that wronged them. Althea questions Naomi about that fact that she is alive and wonders what she did to make Alicia and the others so angry, but Charlie posits that it was her own fault that everything is so shitty. Naomi tells Althea to set the course for the Diamond, which Strand quickly figures out is the destination they are headed to. In a final fatal blow, a badly burned Mel crawls away from the ambulance and pleads for help, but Alicia refuses and plunges her weapon into his head. Just like that the Vultures are gone…and Alicia’s humanity might just have been taken with them.
The episode wraps up as Althea and the others arrive at the Stadium, which looks like a shell of its former self. Aside from the “NOW” coloring that points to destruction, it is clear that there is no life left in the once vibrant community. Naomi explains that the infirmary should still be intact considering Ennis and the rest of the Vultures were to afraid to enter the community once it fell. Morgan tells Althea that he has finally figured out who she is, but she contests this and states that she is a “layered chick.” Rather than taking things slow and scouting to see if the Stadium is safe, Althea speeds through a gate right onto the field of the Stadium. Smoke begins to clear, revealing hundreds of scorched Infected stumbling around and surrounding the truck. A terrible situation has just become even worse as the likelihood of getting John to the infirmary has just decreased. It still hasn’t been fully revealed, but it seems as though the Infected breached the main gate and set parts of the Diamond ablaze. What exactly happened to the many residents is still unknown, but it is likely that all will be revealed in the Mid-Season Finale. Did Cole and Madison get torn apart in all of the chaos or are they hiding out somewhere? Is anyone left alive? Will Althea be able to get the group out of this situation?
This episode really places a heavy focus on the events leading up to the collapse of the Diamond. There is a lot of build up to what should be a wild Mid-Season Finale, assuming the full events of the fateful night are shown. The split timelines can get rather irritating at times, especially when certain characters’ fates are teased; Madison’s ultimate fate is still a complete mystery and very few clues have been dropped about her in the present timeline all season. This episode does an excellent job at establishing the stakes and showing the many sides of the Vultures, specifically in that Mel isn’t a wholly terrible person and that he was just looking out for himself and Charlie. The developments made for Madison, Nick and Alicia really serve as markers of their growth since the start of the season. Alycia Debnam-Carey delivers yet another strong performance as the fractured Alicia in the “NOW” timeline, clearly showing the mental strain that the apocalypse has placed on her. There is a lot happening in both timelines, and hopefully the Mid-Season Finale serves to wrap up certain storylines and merge the arcs to push the story into some interesting places for the second half of the season.
Be sure to tune into the Mid-Season Finale of “Fear the Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.