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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Keeping Her Alive |8x10| Fear The Walking Dead

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Second Chances, Make it Mean Something, and Something Good Out of Something Bad. Every prior episode's theme is carried over into the next episode and, in this one, the only words that seem to remain present in my mind are Troy Otto's at the end of Episode 7, Anton, "What are you even fighting for?" Perhaps the truth really does lie somewhere in the middle. 
Since we livestreamed this episode, there is no unedited version of this podcast available for streaming, but consider tipping us to support our hard work and/or join a membership tier on either Ko-fi or Patreon! Either will unlock our Pre-SQUAWK Insights: the notes Dave wrote in prep for this episode discussion (read them on Ko-fi or Patreon)!

David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

  • Rockin Round Robin is a benefit for our buddy, The Black and White Guy (AKA Robin Overton), which will be held on Sunday, December 10th at 2:00PM (Eastern/US). In between rounds of Wait, Wait: Don't tell me with some very special guests, we'll be auctioning off prize packs to raise money to help pay for Robin's cancer treatments while playing clips of fans, like you, revealing their TWDU Secret Santa gifts! There's still time to make a video for TWDU Secret Santa, so DM Sherrandy on Instagram! In the meantime, subscribe to our YouTube channel and enable all notifications! Feel free to share the image below to social media!

  • ...and tap here to see what our Secret Santa videos are typically about:

  • Bridget received a birthday card, a while back, from Kendall (AKA @fanart_in_progress) and here's the result: Daniel Salazar!

  • And Dave is wearing The Commonwealth cap he won from the Snap Charity Auction they threw for Takeerah.

  • After a push start, Rachael gives her first impression of this episode: Why and how is Madison Clark still alive? Not only does she think she is she awful, but the series promised us that they would reveal how she escaped the Dell Diamond; however, it doesn't seem to matter much this late in the game. Sherrandy believes that the writers are trolling the audience and that Season 8 is just one big troll (TRoy Otto? TRacy Otto? = TRoll). But Dave offers perspective: our critiques have come in as early as the end of Season 6 - specifically the moment Victor Strand kick-stomps Morgan Jones into the pile of walkers in 6x15, U.S.S. Pennsylvania - despite protests that they really hadn't started slamming the show until the latter half of Season 7. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle? Sherrandy emphasizes that the acting, cinematography, and direction are good, but the writing is the main issue: there are logical inconsistencies in the plot, such as the sudden change in location, and difficulty finding P.A.D.R.E., meanwhile they easily find their friends deep in the woods.

  • Everyone loves Antonella Rose, as well as her depiction of Tracy. Her appearance and clothing remind the speaker of Judith Grimes and even, to our surprise (Rachael agrees with Dave), Alicia Clark: its not hard to see how Tracy could be Alicia's child/Madison's granddaughter. That being said, Tracy and Troy seem to be everyone's favorite characters, at the moment, due to how well they troll Madison.

  • Bridget questions Tracy's relationship with Troy and wonders if her mother was killed by Troy's people. Dave believes that Tracy is proud of her father's philosophy, but is ambivalent about whether Troy is her biological father. But Bridget explains further: Tracy's parents could've been killed by Troy and he just raised her as her own. She doesn't necessarily seem against her father's actions, but also doesn't sound positive about them. There is more to her story, judging by the way she was constantly fidgeting with her St Christopher medallion. Troy probably doesn't even know how to show affection, so it's possible that she accepts and adopts whatever twisted form that takes. Given all those possibilities, there would be a dark mirror between Troy and Madison: he, too, kidnapped a child in order to try and give her a better life. More to the point, Bridget thinks it's a little unclear whether she even wants to go back to Troy: her "wandering off" could've just been her attempt at running away.

  • Sherrandy, overall, hates that Madison for failing to avenge Charlie in amidst the conflict against Troy and, rather, decides to pour her energy into recovering Alicia's body. But Dave reminds Sherrandy that the whole point of the last episode, 8x09 Sanctuary, was to illustrate the similarity between she, Dwight, and June Dorie: she walked away not only because every time she helps she makes things worse, but also to prevent Troy from taking PADRE purely out of spite (if she's no longer a part of the equation, he might at least consider leaving them be).

  • The only time Madison inhales her oxygen, despite blow off steam by killing walkers, seems to have been purely for dramatic effect: right before she and Daniel decide to kill Tracy to protect PADRE. Dave argues that there might be something to that, but it will probably go unappreciated given how little everyone else (besides him) hated this episode and Madison, along with it. But since we're here: Editor's Note: her need for oxygen might be more than just physiological - it could be a physical manifestation of the weight of her grief.

  • Another frustration was the way June, Sherry, and Dwight not only fail to heed Strand's warning to protect Tracy by keeping her at PADRE, but wish to remit both he and Tracy to try to appease Troy. Like Strand, Daniel also knows what Troy is capable of and seems to be the only one who is also opposed giving Tracy back; however his motivations end up being far more malicious (and perhaps mirrors Troy's). Throughout the episode, one couldn't be faulted for thinking Victor was trying to protect Tracy to save his own skin - or at least keep Frank and Klaus safe or free from having to grieve him - but by the end of the episode, you realize that Victor was just trying to give her a better life in the same manner as PADRE: kidnapping her from her evil father.

  • Jason Cone, who spent this season as a background actor, mentioned that The Lighthouse depicted in the show as a reference point to find PADRE is a real-life location that isn't very far from the location where PADRE's grounds are filmed.

  • Some viewers were a little baffled with the introduction of Alicia's disciples, whom we will henceforth call The Alicia Cosplayers. Sherrandy offered hefty criticism over the manner in which Alicia obtained and fueled the MRAP: rushing into the burning tower and syphoning the gas from the generators. It also didn't track, for some, that Alicia would abandon Morgan et al  (on the rafts) and start her own movement, but it's not out of her character to pick up and move on in an attempt to make it (her life) mean something. Besides, at the time, the rafts where the only known way clear out of the nuclear fallout zone from where they were and Alicia might've viewed her second chance at life as a way to improve the lives of others who deserved a second chance, too. As silly as it was that Madison was so rude to The Alicia Cosplayers, at least it was a little funny to see them fangirl over her as though they were trying to get her autograph. Even funnier still was how Madison stole the MRAP from them.

  • What's even more interesting is how they saw, for themselves, that Madison was about to kill a child and still saw redemption in Madison. But that turns us over to Daniel, whom many see is undergoing massive character assassination for participating in the attempted murder-by-walker of Tracy. Considering his evolution and adoption of both Luciana Galvez and Charlie as his own and his last words to his biological daughter, Ofelia Salazar, about trying to be a better man, why would he kill a kid? Dave argues that Daniel is conditioned to kill while having experienced severe childhood trauma and PTSD: watching him backslide into oblivion just to make Troy suffer for being responsible for the death of his daughter is completely realistic, despite his evolution. Victor's suspicions about the group trying to kill Tracy, rather than turn around and bring her back to PADRE were right, but where he went wrong was that it was the very people he though might keep her safe: Daniel and Madison.

  • And on the note of that group, where Dave saw the dialogue between Strand and June super compelling (rifling off callbacks, galore), Bridget was super frustrated by the fact, yet again, the writers saw fit to depict Strand as the bad guy. What's even more frustrating for her is how, given his knowledge and experience with Troy, they dismiss him; however, even Sherrandy swoops in and acknowledges that this is attributed to the hell that everyone underwent in his Season 7 tower - especially June, who had to sit idly by while Charlie got sicker and bodies continued to fly past the tower's windows on the way down to their demise.

  • While June's line about second chances pisses Bridget off even more (while Victor's response about him just having issues gave everyone a chuckle), it happens to highlight the theme of the episode: the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Everyone has done something questionable or wrong, good intentions or bad, including June, Victor, Sherry, Dwight, Alicia, Daniel, and Madison. The question will eventually arise as to whether Troy deserves a second chance, but in the meantime, Victor is adamant that he not receive one - not only for his past, but what he's done in the present. But, still, what if what we're seeing, right now, is Troy's backslide? Though we've only seen glimpses of it, he might have changed over the course of the last decade, having nurtured a child all these years. One thing we know for sure is that he's doing whatever he has to, however questionably, do to keep his daughter safe: and in what way does that make him any different than Madison? ...or even Victor, now that he has loved ones to fight for - though he is taking it one step further and trying to be a better man?

  • And what about redemption? Bridget still wants it for both Victor and Madison, but suspects that the only way Madison might receive it is in death. And, even further, Madison thus far has only inspired to harness the capacity of everyone around her to be terrible and do terrible things, not unlike the zombie virus. Just like Dave said in the last episode, as much as he would like Madison to be redeemed, he's more interested in exploring what Madison becomes when she has no one left to disappoint: who is she without doing everything she can for her children, now dead? To echo Troy's words at the end of 8x07, Anton, "What are you even fighting for?"

  • GWilsons, in the chat, compares the drama between Strand & June/Dwight/Sherry to that of Maggie Rhee and Negan on The Walking Dead / The Walking Dead: Dead City. Having not seen him again, they put it all behind them, but his sudden reappearance after seven years - let alone him trying to lead, again - opened the floodgates and all their trauma resurfaced: they weren't willing to allow what happened at the tower happen here, in PADRE. Dave, in particular, praised this writing decision because, contrary to Bridget's consternations, it would've been even more hokey had they listened to, forgiven him, or given him a second chance: that maybe some people don't deserve a second chance.

  • Taking it back to The Alicia Cosplayers, Dave would have preferred Alicia's fate have been more nebulous, considering the events that unfolded in 7x15, Amina. Failing that, he would've rather had the series show us, rather than tell is, the way it's been revealing most of it's plot points: via almost throw-away dialogue. Alicia's story could have even been gleaned through one of Althea Szewczyk-Przygocki's tapes instead of being spoken about in this episode. As frustrated as we are, we're not convinced that Troy is even telling the truth, considering the lengths that he went to drive Madison mad by cutting off the limbs of every female walker in the region.

  • Diego Ramos asks us what we, as hosts, want out of the final two episodes. Rachael makes a heartfelt plea that we at least find out, on screen, what really happened to Alicia. Sherrandy predicts/hopes that Madison will die, so that she, Alicia, and Nick Clark will be reunited in the end. Rachael and Bridget jokingly suggests that Tobias will make a return and is revealed to be an alien who subsequently beams everyone up to safety.

  • Everyone praises for Colman Domingo's acting, this season, and it's worth noting that he is, for the first time ever, a lead actor in a new movie called Rustin: available for streaming on Netflix.

  • We point our attention to the herd Troy has apparantly been leading, all this time, to Madison/PADRE. Sherrandy mentions that, wherever they are in Georgia, the weather in the south isn't cold for long enough so that walkers would be stuck in the frozen mud. Thomas brings up the fact that Daniel has anger/memory issues, too, and maybe he doesn't remember everything Ofelia said (and no amount of Yerba Mate is going to fix it). The audience in the chat is also a little suspicious of The Alicia Cosplayers, too, and that maybe they're not telling the (whole) truth. And besides, other than Tobias' alien ship, called Iron Tiger (the only "iron" it's made of is "irony"), where's Skidmark (we were promised we'd see him)?

  • One of Dave's only critiques was that the episode did seem all over the place, with too many (newly introduced) characters and storyline threads to follow. The season might've been better off with more episodes to flesh out the story properly (and show us rather than telling us, to fill in the gaps). This brings us to a central question: would the series have been better off not listening to the demands from many fans and sticking to their guns? Whether bringing back Madison was a part of that vision or not, it feels like precarious balancing act is being performed by satisfying fans and telling a good story. As much as we've loved seeing them gradually include more characters in each episode, this one was a little much!
  • And has though everyone's enjoyed Troy's character development, we wonder whether he has truly changed after watching this episode. It seems as though his actions are less about vengeance and more about finding a safe place for his daughter and whoever remains of his people after Luciana's trucker gang and PADRE residents were done with them.

  • Out of everyone in this episode, Strand is seen as the only one with a sensible plan in the dire situation they are in. Though there was initial confusion over Strand's motivations, whether he was using Tracy as leverage or genuinely wanted to give her a better life, the only thing that's clear is that, just as he says to Madison, the truth lies somewhere in between. Victor's actions were to protect his family, the people at PADRE (including the German residents who lived with him at the hotel, but especially Tracy.
    Editor's Note: After much reflection on this episode, the reason why Victor removes Tracy's blindfold was to merely get June, Dwight, and Sherry to turn the boat around and head back to PADRE to think of something else. Victor knows these three, forever grieving parents wouldn't dare kill a child. What rapidly shifted the situation was Tracy jumping ship, which forced Victor to follow suit.
  • In response to possible major character deaths and what we want out of this episode, however we feel about Madison, Bridget expresses disappointment in the lack of redemption for Madison, whom she admired in Seasons 1-3. All of us are anxious, based on the trajectory of these last few episodes, how the final two episodes will play out. We're already frustrated about not being able to watch the final two episodes together, like we planned, due to AMC moving up the date of the Season Finale. Even entertainment media are refusing to post their (spoiler free) episode reviews for the remaining episodes: which is ultimately fine, because we do not like spoilers, but it's a telltale sign that Fear The Walking Dead will, more than likely, disappoint the fans. Dave takes this a little further: people have this tendency to jump on bandwagons and dogpile on something when an authority plants a seed in the mind of their followers. In the case in this episode, he believes the level of negative feedback is directly correlated to the manner in which critics panned it.

  • Assuming Alicia is actually alive, there are doubts that Alycia Debnam-Carey will return to reprise her role. However things go down, we just hope all the deaths and reveals take form on screen rather than via shoddy dialogue. We even want to know what Tracy means when she says Madison's philosophy of No One's Gone Until They're Gone killed her (biological?) mother. Bridget recalls the times when Nick was taking up more of Alicia's attention and how sad and even frustrating it is to see her only be consumed with her after it was already too late: something that, sadly, Madison mentioned to the walker she assumed was previously Alicia (only to discover that it was, previously, Tracy's mother).

  • Dave tries to bring up the tragic irony of Madison's presence in this story: she was working so hard to protect and regain the trust of the children (and parents) of PADRE, knowing that she had killed her own biological father for committing unspeakable acts on her and her mother. PADRE's mission, under Shrike and Crane, was to give children a better life than their parents ever could on their own. Madison is whacking away at walkers while Motley Crue's Livewire is playing which, itself, is anathema of Nikki Sixx's own story of how he dealt with his abusive step-dad. Ultimately, Madison is doomed to repeat her cyclical melodrama with the episode ending in her feeling like she has nobody left to disappoint. Along for the ride is Daniel Salazar, even though he still has Luciana, with he and Madison both sliding further into darkness in a similar manner that Victor did during Season 7, which Victor tried so hard to get her to avoid.

  • Dave takes a moment to answer Diego's question about what he wants to see in the final episodes. Along with agreeing with Rachael in finding out Alicia's fate, on screen: more than anything else, he wants to be surprised. Much like in previous seasons of FearTWD, even when the plotlines seemed iffy, they always managed to steer the ship to the harbor and guide it to port in such a way that was still entertaining and unpredictable. The fact that June doesn't forget what Victor did may have been uncomfortable and depressing, but it was authentic and promising. Even the prospect of a major character death should be shocking, authentic, and may not even contain meaning: as long as it's not a death for the sake of killing off a character.

  • One thing that bothers us is how Strand attributes the St. Christopher Medallion that Tracy bears as something unique to Alicia. We as well as he, as a result, are forced to assume that Troy killed Alicia and gave the necklace to his daughter as a psychopath's trophy. But perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between and, just like the one-armed walkers meant to drive Madison insane, this necklace was also meant to misdirect Victor and Madison (but especially the audience).

  • Mitchell, in the chat, asks who might be featured in the title sequence for the last two episodes. All this serves up are more jokes about how Tobias will return and feature in one or both of the title cards, to which Dave makes a bet that if his name is even mentioned, he will not be appearing in the podcast's final discussion on FearTWD. Diego suggests the show kill-off Sherry. which prompts Dwight go jump onto TWD: Dead City for a perfect ending.

  • It was interesting to see Luciana stick to her guns and refuse to be involved with Padre's mess, focusing more on the trucker network and the good that they can do. But, like Dave said, we're all infected by Madison's backsliding virus and most of the people she was trying to protect ended up dying. After singing a bar of Madison got run over by an MRAP (in the tune of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer), as much as Troy tries to get in Luci's head by telling her that Nick stayed behind after she was forced to leave the TEOTWAWKI for her safety, Luciana has moved on with her life and isn't allowing her pride or her past to dictate her actions.

  • AJ Abbott suggests the season ends with Strand taking over PADRE and producing a theatrical presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show featuring his husband Frank (as Doctor Frank-N-Furter). This was prompted by how many of us are Frank lovers and how Dave is a Frank Fighter, which devolves into wanting Frank to form a cover band called The Frank Fighters, where all the songs are sung in German. Meanwhile, up on the rooftop, reindeers pause, out jumps coal-bearing Santa Klaus.

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