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Sunday, September 16, 2018

[RECAP] Season 4, Episode 8 of Fear The Walking Dead, "No One's Gone"

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Throughout the entire season, thus far, we've bore witness to the benevolent, "No One's Gone Til They're gone" version of Madison Clark. As difficult as it was, at first, to really accept that a tiger (or cougar, as it were? 😉) such as her could change her stripes, we slowly accepted her highly-evolved, care-taking attitude as gospel, as it clearly had tremendous results. As "No One's Gone" opens, not knowing, initially, whether we were witnessing the past or present (as is custom in our timey-jumpy, wibbly-wobbly season, thus far), we recognize a familiar version of our matriarch: Mama-Bear Madison. We know this by the way she looks, the way she attempts to sneak up on Althea from behind, and how she subsequently attempts to steal Althea's MRAP/SWAT van at gun-point.
Who wore desperation better?
When Madison finds out the keys Althea tossed don't work, she begins to riffle through Althea's tapes. Eagle-eyed viewers, very unlike Carol and I (at least at first watch), will notice a tape labelled Abe/Doctor, which means that Althea has run across, at the very least, Abraham Ford and Doctor Eugene Porter in her travels (perhaps pre-Rosita). Insane viewers, like myself, might've noticed other tapes labeled Jamison, Bartlett (where they found Naomi), and Killeen, which coincide with the map John Dorie & Morgan Jones lift off The Vulture whom we called "Pinky", after John shot one of his off in their first encounter. When Althea decides to bust lose, Mama Bear knocks her out (hunh ...L.L. Cool J style) and makes off with the tapes. It becomes clear that Madison is using the tapes in an attempt to find any trace of Strand, Luciana, and her cubs, Nick & Alicia. Madison only gets so far in Althea's interviews before Al finally catches up with her, this time holding Madison hostage with a military-grade assault rifle in order to get her to give her an interview.
In Episode 23 of our Podcast, we muse over when AMC will decide to air the Abraham & Eugene tape
Still unclear on whether this is the past or the present, Althea divines that the people Madison is looking for are her children. From what we - the audience - know of Althea and through the Twisted Round story she proceeds to tell Madison about, we know that Althea has seen horrors both pre and post apocalypse. It's also clear, from the way she doesn't completely abandon or waste Madison for trying to take her out, that there's something that she gets that it's taken Rick Grimes and company 2+ seasons to understand: there has to be more to this world than just killing. Her story of the African Warlord illustrates that the concept of saying the truth, out loud (if only once), still has tremendous value. It's never demonstrated more than in this episode, as Madison begins telling her of the promise she wasn't able to keep, finding a safe place for her children after Broke Jaw Ranch.
Back in what we definitely know is the present, surrounded by the walkers in the stadium, Althea hands her camera off to Charlie and proceeds to use the turrets on her MRAP to cut a path for Morgan & Naomi to run through, in order to get the medical equipment they need to treat the gun-shot wound John received from Alicia at the racetrack in the previous episode (The Vultures' demise). Although they make it, Luciana launches an RPG right after them, hitting the entryway to that part of the stadium, trapping them in at the other end. Gunfire is being exchanged between Althea and Luciana, Strand, and Alicia. While John gets Charlie to help him record a farewell message to Naomi, Alicia attempts to parlay with Althea in order to give up the others. I suppose giving Althea an opportunity to spare her life is the very least she could do, in return for the ride she stole and eventually gave them across several of the initial episodes of Season 4. While John is busy telling Naomi to run towards people, instead of away, Althea tells Alicia that, like an Ogre/Onion, she has "layers" (as she's clearly shown in scenes with Madison) and refuses. And, in spite of Althea's boasts about the sturdiness of her MRAP - built like a tank in a tank in a bank vault - Alicia's RPG proves otherwise and the driver's side door falls off.
"You wanna help me with this door?"
"...[thinking: that was the idea]..."
While Alicia has Charlie at the point of her unusual sword, trying to convince Althea to walkie Naomi & Morgan to come out, John decides to open the channel on his walkie so that Morgan & Naomi can hear the channel and, hopefully, not come out. Alicia discovers this and before she can do anything to Charlie or John (and although Althea doesn't get to "punch her in the cooch"), Al manages to tackle her into the corner (after an almost harrowing scene with Althea dangling out the driver's side, head first, with crispy walkers trying to grab her). It's then that Althea discovers the Kimchi Ramen Noodles in the back: the very noodles Althea was grilled about by her in the second episode of this season (for those who hadn't forgot how odd that scene was). But Alicia is crazed and determined to get an answer from her and the best that Althea can give her is that she traded them for an interview once. And - like mother, like daughter - Alicia rummages frantically through Althea's tapes.
Madison, continuing to admit the truth out loud (if only once) to Althea's camera, admits that she's afraid that finding a safe place for her children might never be possible and that this post-apocalyptic world has a way of grinding down people without it. Madison proceeds to tell her the story about a bird she was convinced couldn't be saved, but her kids refused to give up on. Nick's sensitive heart and Alicia's determination convinced her otherwise as the bird eventually thrived. They called that bird Amina (short for Wilhelmina)
...The same name Alicia found on one of the tapes, which she was now reviewing.
"...but the light's getting fainter ever day that we're out here," Madison says to Althea, in what we now start to realize is the distant past, prior to even the before scenes in Season 4, "I'll do whatever it takes to keep it alive."
As Morgan starts to reenter the stadium via the cleared tunnel, Alicia greets him at the exit. She still wants Naomi, but Morgan refuses to step aside. He knows that this is not who she is or was meant to be. He knows, more than most people, that no one's gone til they're gone, "...You just have to decide that they're going to get better ... I stepped aside for your brother, I will not step aside for you. Whatever you think you've lost, whatever your mother wanted for you, it is still in you and I see it," and just like he took away John's pistols after he shot Pinky's pinky off, so too does he slowly take Alicia's weapon and hold her. Naomi is free to run to the MRAP and treat John.
I'm not crying, you're crying

After Madison is done telling her story, Althea cuts her loose, provides her with plenty of Instant Kimchi Ramen Noodles, and some arms. In this world, you'd think one would be cutting loose ends after you get what you want, not releasing them. Madison immediately realizes that this world doesn't have to be the way that it's become because of Althea's kindness and, even moreso, her struggle to keep to certain principles. This is the impetus of the benevolent, no one's gone til they're gone Madison we eventually see in Before scenes this season. Her renewed hope drives her to eventually find the truck belonging Strand, Luciana, and her kids outside a motel. Eagle-eyed viewers will also recognize the three walkie chirps she used to communicate with them, not only to be sure it was really them, but that it was safe: the same code that was used to alert Alicia & Luciana in her first encounter with Naomi, just as Naomi had pulled a gun on her. After a touching reunion with a post-dam PTSD/Agoraphobe Nick and the rest of the rough looking gang, they head out and eventually head to a clearing behind a stadium, confirming how distant we are in the past. She had found a safe place on the way to finding her family. Madison clearly never told them about Althea because of the way she first encountered her, almost killing her, but took the example of her generosity in order to propel her actions from that point forward, showing others the way, for more than a year later.
While treating John, Naomi/Laura reveals that her true name is June, which so happens to be John's favorite month (if it wasn't really before, it surely is now). Alicia tells Al to pull over in order to tell her how The Stadium fell. With everyone sitting around the campfire, minus John (still recovering), the now-retired blood-thirsty trio give Althea her due.
Strand, Luciana, and Madison furiously clear a path for Nick, Mel, and Alicia. As June mentions, she tried to get Cole and the remaining Stadium-dwellers to stay, but they wouldn't listen, and while June ran further inside to grab whatever medical supplies she could, the very Stadium-dwellers met their demise in the parking lot. As Naomi surely thought The Clarks et al were dead by then, so, too, did they assume that Naomi suffered the same fate as the other stadium-dwellers. I guess no one really is gone til they're gone and Strand decides to interject after Naomi apologizes for eventually joining The Vultures, "You did what you thought you had to do."
While Strand suffered a terrible burn, rescuing Alicia from flame-broiling walkers, and with the Kentucky-frying Dead gathering at the gates, Madison took matters into her own hands and lit a road-flare to guide The Passed into the stadium, sealing them (like Ganon, a la The Legend of Zelda) away from her friends, family, and the outside world.

As Victor wrapped up the permanent reminder of the good he can do in this world, Madison chirps over the walkie-talkie for the last time, "I was afraid to lose this place because I thought you needed it, to stay who you are right now, but you know it. No one's gone until they're gone," and as she lights up the oily walkers a blinding light engulfs the screen.
"So that we could live"

Alicia, "It was never about the stadium."
Victor, "It was about the people."
Luciana, "It was about us."

Alicia, again, "That's why my mom gave up her life."
Strand, " that we could live."
Luciana, " that we could live."
Alicia, " that we could live."

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