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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Iron Tiger |8x08| Fear The Walking Dead

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Fear The Walking Dead pushes the envelope, continuing the theme of second chances from the previous episode, by giving us yet another long awaited - yet unanticipated - reunion between Madison Clark and Charlie. An expression we haven't used in a while, with respect to Fear The Walking Dead, bears repeating: you may not get what you want, but you'll like what you get.
Since this episode was livestreamed, there's no unedited episode recording, so please support our work by tipping us and/or joining a membership tier on either Ko-fi or Patreon!

David Cameo:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

  • In case you missed the Snap Charity Auction we held on Sunday for their friend Takeerah, we raised just under $1,000 on her behalf thanks to the generosity of our incredible audience! We still need your help since we didn't meet our goal of $1,400 and every little bit you can give is one more step away from she and her family living on the street. Head to her own Ko-fi page and giving from your heart:

  • There's a lot more to celebrate, though:
    • Happy Halloween!
    • It's the 13th anniversary of the first episode of The Walking Dead!
    • We're also celebrating 6 years of SQUAWKING DEAD!
  • You definitely missed our weekend merch store sale, but support our podcast while sporting some really cool designs, especially the two Fear of The Walking Dead logo designs we created that represent our discussions on the remaining episodes.

  • In a surprising twist, Sherrandy enjoyed the episode overall, but still dislikes Madison Clark. She mentions the walker in the opening shot with a starfish on its face (played by friend, Jeff Wagoner), complimenting the visual effects makeup department. She also missed and love seeing Luciana Galvez and Charlie.
  • Emily, in the audience chat, says Kim Dickens' acting makes it feel as though she's disinterested in being part of the show. Bridget attributes this, at least partially, to having difficulty getting back into the character of Madison, after being away from it while. However, many feel as though this episode showcased more of the Madison they remember. Dave suggests that there may be intentionality in Madison's acting/behavior: they want you to dislike her as much as the rest of the characters do by the end of this episode. Dave also compares Madison to Daryl Dixon: they're not prone to soliloquies and it's hard to gauge what they are truly thinking and what they might do next.

  • Speaking of poor dialogue that lacks an economy of words, this episode features more of the same redundant, throw-away lines we've seen in prior episodes of Season 8, with a distinct lack of show, don't tell. That being said, like in previous episodes this season, there were cool nods to past events and references to prior seasons: tying up loose ends and bringing things full circle is important in a final season.
  • There is a theory floating around that Tracy Otto is the offspring of Troy Otto and Alicia Clark. Sherrandy tweaks this theory and proposes that the reason why Alicia was sick throughout Season 7 was not the bite, the botched amputation of her arm, and/or radiation sickness, but being pregnant in the zombie apocalypse with Will's baby. Dave felt that it was important to reiterate that Tracy's mother was the same woman who gave him a second chance by saved him post the dam explosion at the end of Season 3. The rest of our conversation on this subject is spent shoe-horning in the possibility that Tracy's mother is still Alicia, only when it could've possibly occurred; however, in one last bid to make sense of what Troy says, Sherrandy suggests the mere notion of revenge is enough of a motivating factor that might've saved Troy.

    Editor's note: What we didn't cover was the fact that Tracy is named after Troy's mother.

  • Dave expresses his frustration over spoilers (to upcoming episodes) that he received from an entertainment journalist (that weren't provided, this time around, by background actor Jason Cone, who was in the audience).
  • Overall, Dave enjoyed the storytelling in this episode and likes where it's headed, which is also indicative of the consistent, alternating pattern of good and not-so-good episodes throughout Season 8. Going off a comment he made earlier in our season discussions, the show is really starting to take bigger chances, while embracing the harshness of The Walking Dead Universe. Just like the last episode, we continue to appreciate that another new character wasn't immediately killed off in the same episode that they were introduced (which was the case throughout Season 7 and most of Season 8).
  • The reappearance of Charlie, whom we long wrote off as dead, was unexpected and welcome; however, Bridget expresses massive frustration with people who managed to see this episode in advance on AMC+ and couldn't wait to spoil her reveal on social media ahead of the public airing. Setting that aside, there's nothing but love towards Charlie and at least there was a definitive conclusion to Charlie's storyline, though there was some debate on whether her sacrifice had meaning. Rightfully, many blame Madison for Charlie's death and were frustrated over Charlie's desire to make things right over killing Nick Clark, since Alicia had already forgiven her years ago. Many attribute this to Charlie's lack of life experience or at least partial arrested development; however, Bridget does agree with Madison over calling Charlie out on her bad timing when prematurely attempting to confront her, which Dave says is the weaponization of her pre-apocalypse role as a high school guidance counselor.

  • No matter which way you slice it, everyone was disappointed in Madison when she impulsively requested Charlie kill Troy to make up for killing Nick, but some even criticize Charlie for not refusing. It's important to remember that Charlie was only11 years old when she met her and Madison was the first person to show her that things could be different than the life she lived with The Vultures: Madison's return from the grave probably brought back overwhelming feelings of self-loathing she just couldn't shake.

  • That aside, Charlie is now a 20-year-old woman and her growth has show, too. This has never been more reflected than her quest to give Nick a proper burial among those who love her. What we further determined was that this was something she and Luci accomplished over the years, while establishing the trucker network, rather than upon hearing of Madison's return through Morgan Jones or over the radio (just after PADRE's transfer of power). Bridget complains that it would be extremely difficult to reach the appropriate temperature, with their present technology, to cremate Nick's remains. Suspending our disbelief, the circumstances of Nick's demise and subsequent reburial allows us to recap the events of Season 4, for those who forgot: it also reminded Sherrandy of how President Abraham Lincoln's body was lying in state and travelled throughout the United States for a year until it was finally buried and, also, how the embalmed corpse of Eva Perรณn lay in state in Argentina for decades.

  • Marcus Carrillo, in the audience, predicts that Fear TWD will end with PADRE being taken over by the Civic Republic (Military). This opens the door for Sherrandy to theorize that the gas refinement, post PADRE's fall, might not just be to fuel humanity's relief, but to primarily supply the CRM. To begin with, it's a little confusing from what stores Luciana is even able to stock the Take what you need, leave what you don't waystations, since the containers at PADRE were still guarded by the undead until just before PADRE's transition of power.

  • To Dave's earlier point about Charlie being an adult now: Charlie's sacrifice was not to make up for taking away Nick from Madison or the world, but to make it count for Alicia. Her primary goal was protecting PADRE at all costs, considering that being captured was her plan from the beginning according to Daniel Salazar, so she'd be far away from the semi-truck explosion she rigged as possible. As far as Charlie taking her life, at the end, some folks express that Alicia would not have wanted Charlie to sacrifice herself for any reason, whether it was killing Nick or saving PADRE from Troy. Bridget brings up Daryl to illustrate how both he and Charlie might be in a perpetual state of paying penance for past mistakes and choosing to live their life in service of others, rather than themselves, because of it.

  • Dave highlights another positive in this episode: mostly because it's been so long since we've seen Luciana, it was the first time it he didn't have to remind himself of the seven-year time jump. Other indicators of the passage of time include Charlie's more mature decisions and watching Daniel reunite with his girls.

  • Focusing more on the title, it was nice to see Luciana take on Clayton's call-sign as Polar Bear, but Charlie's call-sign of Iron Tiger - rather than the more fitting Iron Butterfly - is a little baffling. The closest we could come to any significance was a book by Jack Higgins called The Iron Tiger, but we couldn't link it to this episode or to Charlie specifically. And what about Charlie's look? It's a bit of a mix of Sarah Rabinowitz, with the handkerchiefs hanging out of her cargo pants and those boots, and Alicia, with the jacket and straight black hair. It's really easy to imagine that Sarah and Wendell are still alive and part of the trucker network. Bridget finds somewhat of a reference in The Little Prince about tigers not eating weeds/flowers. And is Charlie wearing Sarah's belt buckle? We eventually decided that Charlie's callsign references Daniel's cat, Skidmark, who has gone missing since Season 6.

  • Daniel being reunited with Lucy and Charlie, is everything. But like every happy moment, we immediately think of who eventually upset him: Madison. Sherrandy says she's more Toxic than the Britney Spears song. Dave probably likes her because of her flaws and propensity towards risk-taking. Repercussions for them came in the form Daniel refusing to help her, at the end, along with the overwhelming majority of her friends turning their backs on her. Dave thinks that Madison is intentionally being framed in an ugly way to make viewers dislike her, especially going off her behavior in the episode prior.

  • How can you not appreciate the tension and complexity of Madison and Charlie's reckoning and their subsequent rocky interactions? As resolute as Charlie was about her committment to keep PADRE safe, we thought Alexa Nisenson could've embraced some of the negative personal interactions from the fan base and brought them into her performance, especially during the final scenes between she and Daniel Sharman. However we felt about Charlie's reckoning with Madison and her final stand, she stood her ground and we appreciate that the show didn't pull punches, which was a great example of fan-service.

  • The audience wonders how Alicia would feel about Madison asking Charlie to kill Troy to make up for killing Nick. Owen, in the chat, makes a point about Charlie suddenly resurfacing guilt overwhelmed her decision-making, to which Bridget adds that Charlie had spent the last seven years thinking everything was alright until Madison reappeared. It's clear, by way of Alexa's performance and her actions both on and off screen, that she has not only grown up but it truly feels like time has passed; however, we noticed that - throughout the series - Charlie has clearly spent a majority of her life, much like Daryl, paying penance and being in service to the ones she loves, rather than for herself. Alicia's last words, Make It Count, probably only served to exacerbate this. Despite how well the actions leading to Charlie's death - and her demise, itself - works narratively, Dave acknowledges the feelings of anger and confusion towards them from his hostmates and even the audience, because it doesn't feel like they are coming from Charlie we remember. After ridding herself of cancer, which must've been quite the miracle, her death feels like such a waste.

  • ...and, really, why did Charlie kill herself for PADRE to begin with? To protect PADRE? Bridget has an issue with that because, from our outside perspective and TWDU knowledge/experience, all settlements eventually fall. But Dave interjects: these characters haven't watched The Walking Dead; besides, how do you tell people who are so desperate to find a a safe place to live - for both themselves, their children, and even for a questionable future - to stop working so hard because it's not worth it? Ostensibly, PADRE could be seen to be on the level of the one place that hasn't fallen yet: The Commonwealth. People fought and died to protect PADRE, already. Everyone character on this show has a stake in its future.

  • This brings us to Victor, this episode. Even he, at one point, paused to consider a frontal assault on Troy's army, because losing that battle might put Klaus and Frank at risk. It's also why Victor is afraid of being in charge of operations at PADRE: not just because he doesn't trust himself, given the last time he was in control of a safe place, but because he has people he loves on a whole other level to protect and doesn't want to lose himself in the process (and them, too, as a result of having to transform).

  • Going back to the subject of reunions, though Daniel's was on point, this episode, reunions throughout this season have been lackluster, especially after not seeing each other for several years. Bridget compares this to a recent reunion she just had with an old friend from Wisconsin and how overly enthusiastic she was when seeing him again: for these characters to not be over the moon about even knowing that their friends are still breathing after all these years amidst a zombie apocalypse is patently absurd. Dave does give Luci a pass, since seeing Madison again definitely must've immediately made her think of what Madison might do if she knew Charlie was alive (and she was totally right to be concerned, especially in the aftermath).

  • Going back to the desperate need to maintain control and obscure PADRE's whereabouts - and even with the Luci's ambition to expand her trucker network and increase the amount of waystations - considering that this is FearTWD's final season, it feels like this part of TWDU is also moving into a phase two of the zombie apocalypse, where some semblance of pre-apocalypse normality is being established. This is also evident in the reason for Troy's desperation to find a place like Padre: not only for his daughter, but so many people in his charge who are just as desperate (and knowing that their children were snatched up by Madison, you can easily see why). This allowed Dave to reexamine his own suppositions towards Troy (that he made in the last episode) - about him being a psychopath - which is ironic, considering that Troy has the very same suppositions towards Madison. For a moment, near the very end of this episode, you almost get a sense of both Madison & Troy starting to finally understand each other's motivations: maybe they really are the same person, willing to risk everything for the ones they love (right or wrong, foolish or brave).

  • Owen, with another insight, praises the new Strand for being complicated and embracing love in order to fight for Padre's protection, rather than the way he felt he had to reject love in order to protect his tower. Speaking of callbacks, Dave highlights that one of Daniel's crew is Hawk: one of PADRE's prefects. But Dave also likes to think that the older, ginger gentleman astride him is none other than Hawk's father: the tender thought is completely lost on everyone. Regardless, it's great that the show hasn't forgot about some kids (referring to Annie, Max, and Dylan), this go around, and they're even appearing in subsequent episodes, too!

  • Dave doesn't want to episode to proceed further without mentioning how Bridget's theory about Troy having a daughter was correct, especially in light of the fact that (again) this was spoiled for him before the prior podcast episode discussion and had to keep quiet about it. Jokes about the entertainment journalist, who shall not be named, being Voldemort and Bridget's odd pronunciation of the name Voldemort are made. Speaking of the airing of grievances, it was cool to see how ridiculously low the cigarette prices were, but not cool that we couldn't find Low Country Landing on a map, when researching this episode. And it should be said that it was interesting to hear that familiar country muzak playing at Luci's waystation as Daniel, Madison, and Strand were entering - a callback to when Morgan first stepped into one, which was established by Clayton and his trucker network (before they were were all murdered by Martha).

  • Still at the waystation, some of us were not impressed at Madison's reaction to seeing a one-armed walker in the horde: Alicia would not be anywhere near them (having left her a few whole states west) and the walker's appearance would most likely be different. We pause to appreciate more of Troy's cheeky lines this episode and continued the funny by suggesting the walkers and/or prior characters who's arms have been amputated form a club called the Ren and Stumpy Club featuring Sarah and Alicia. But Dave relates to Madison's reaction: in a busy, highly-populated hub city like New York, it's easy to be triggered by seeing someone who resembles an ex-girlfriend or a friend you haven't seen in decades, then subsequently seeing them everywhere you look.

  • Speaking of the way things look, the cinematography was exceptional this episode, especially the very subtle dolly zoom effect on Madison just after Charlie divulges that she had murdered Nick (which only enhanced the emotional impact of that moment). This technique - zooming in while pulling the camera back - was famously used in the move Jaws and abused in the movie Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead. Other camera angles and shots in the episode are well-executed, like capturing Charlie's first-person perspective as she was coming to (after being knocked out) and even the way the camera was looking at Troy and shaking a bit enhanced the tension. Even the wide angle shot of the truck pulling-in, at the end of the episode, is filmed in such a way that it fits entirely in the shot without taking up the entire viewport.

  • The use of flashbacks in the episode reminded us of episode 4x10, Close Your Eyes: specifically the moment where Alicia finally forgave Charlie amidst the flooding the basement. The flashbacks in this episode included memories of Charlie's feet in the sand, the water lapping her feet, which was the Alicia attempting to get Charlie to remember one of the last pleasant moments with her parents. She also cycled through memories with Madison, Alicia, Daniel, Nick, and Luciana. The last image Charlie sees before deciding to end her life is Alicia near the rafts in 7x15 Amina, showing her mouth the words Make It Count.

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