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Sunday, November 12, 2023

Sanctuary |8x09| Fear The Walking Dead

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Everything gets a return -- Every character in this episode is connected and violently confronted by the same trauma that's plagued them from the beginning of their arduous journey; but it takes the next generation who crystalizes any possible hope for the future to finally push them over that seemingly insurmountable hump.
Since this recording is based off of a livestream, there is no unedited version available for streaming; however, support our hard work by tipping us and/or joining a membership tier on either Ko-fi or Patreon!

David Cameo:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

  • First thing's first: watch, listen to, or read about our interview with Phil McLaughlin, who Directed this episode. He's been Editor on Fear The Walking Dead for several seasons and this interview gives you a heaping spoonful of the production process! You can also get a sense of his love and appreciation for the material and all who are involved in making it. He also has a short film ambling it's way through the globe called Toad Boy, which we asked a few questions about, as well.

  • And, of course, we can't forgot to mention (yet again, because we had to in our interview) how Phil donated a signed 12-pack of 3 Floyds Zombie Dust (minus the actual beer) for our TWDU Trivia Charity Battle, which Sherrandy ended up winning. It may have taken a while to make it to her, but Phil made it worth her while by signing it, himself, and getting the signatures of all the main actors in this episode, whom he directed: Christine Evangelista, Austin Amelio, Jayla Walton, and Jenna Elfman.

  • You still have an opportunity to participate in our TWDU Secret Santa, which will be included as a segment in our upcoming benefit we're holding for Robin Overton (fan artist most commonly called The Black and White Guy), who is battling stomach cancer and could really use financial assistance. Essentially, characters will be assigned to participants at random and they have to personalize a "gift" they've selected on their behalf. You don't need to buy anything and you can be as creative as you like, even if it's just explaining what you got for them and the reason why. Just DM Sherrandy on Instagram. Here's the one we did just a few years ago, as an example:

    The date for the benefit will be Sunday, December 10th at 2:00pm (Eastern/US -- barring any unforeseen circumstances) and we're planning on having some very special guests in attendance who you don't want to miss!

  • Walking Dead Eternal really likes the SQUAWKING DEAD / FearTWD logo (representing our discussions on the latter half of the final season), which allows us to mention that it (and a variant) is available in our merch store: on shirts, mugs, stickers, and more!

  • On the note of GWilsons comment about comparing this episode to 8x02, Blue Jay, but falling a little short, Sherrandy says that they had the same storyline setup, but a different outcome (making good come out of something bad) and June wasn't as savage (whacking off them fingers).

  • We dive right into some of the criticism towards Odessa "Dove" Sanderson, mainly from Mitchell Shoemaker, calling her annoying and whiny. We immediately defend her behavior: she is reacting like any human would in a similar situation after having their world turned upside down, being let down by very folks who did it and, now, she's supposed to trust. Bridget acknowledges that Dove can be seen as a typical angsty teenager, but emphasizes that she is still a kid dealing with trauma and instability. Dave highlights the contrast between Dove's capabilities at the start of the season, comparing her to Judith Grimes, and now that she is in such a vulnerable position,the lack of stability exhibited in the people who are supposed to be her role models around her disappoints and even angers her. It also prompts us to mention how similar her character was to Wes who, when we first met him, acted like (what Phil referred to in our interview) an audience surrogate: on the one hand, they are also yelling at their screens for our characters to get over their issues, and on the other, they are an opportunity to take us out of how locked in we are to the drama in order to reframe it.

  • On the note of first impressions, we felt deeply about this episode. Even when many of the scenes were almost 4th-wall-breaking in the way they were pointing out callbacks, it was well executed and attention to very important details (in order to remain faithful to The Walking Dead, as well). On top of being well-received, this episode had characters that hadn't been seen in a while: and having so much of Dwight & Sherry's grander storyline coming full circle, with The Sanctuary completely collapsing, was tremendously appreciated.

  • On the note of actually rebuilding The Sanctuary, we give so much kudos to all the set pieces and construction that made us feel like we were back there, again. We do get into the return of the metal headed walkers, which received a lot of criticism: though, considering that they had a working foundry and a bullet making facility, it wasn't a giant leap. More than just that, in the realm of some plot points being too on the nose, the purpose of all that was to immerse Dwight & Sherry in their original trauma in order to get a true second chance to get things right, again. The furnace and even the iron that burned the left side of Dwight's face - the very thing that subjugated him to Negan and The Saviors - become salvation.

  • June's character arc involves confronting a litany of past trauma and letting go of all the guilt she had associated with them, to which we couldn't not compare hers to Carol Peletier: even trying to tally who technically lost more children throughout their journey. But June was able to make something good come out of her trauma by letting go of it enough to heal Dove and come out of the other side with an even larger family. She and everyone else in this episode, as Dwight says in the furnace, were necessary for all of them to see what they were doing to harm themselves and find their way through a better future:
    • Dwight and Sherry were devastated by the death of their son and feeling like they couldn't keep anyone safe. They had to acknowledge their mutual pain was something they could share in order to face the world's tremendous challenges.

    • June and Dwight both had to snap out of feeling as though they are cursed to only hurt the people they love. Jay's statements - about helping people being the reason why we're even here and how a week of life is better than being dead immediately (even when you lose everything) - is the seed that grows within Dwight in order to see it. And, after all, Dwight still has his wife, Sherry, and an entire found-family of children who still need and love him.

  • Sure, there were some 4-th-wall-breaking and cheesy, on-the-nose moments in this episode, but having meaningful moments and fan-service embedded in some of those instances (and beyond) - in the form of callbacks and easter eggs - meant it really didn't bother us all that much. Some of those moments contained levity, which offset some of the heavier themes and performances throughout the episode. Even the most obvious moment of seeing the finch land on the furnace, in the aftermath of The Sanctuary's collapse, touched some of us who've lost loved ones: Bridget using a personal example of seeing a cardinal, which reminds her of her grandfather. Going back to execution, though: in light of the continued presence of  some shaky writing, the execution and obvious attention to detail served as a massive counterweight.

  • Dave wonders whether it would have been interesting to have them hint that the people living at The Sanctuary might've been (at least affiliated) with the The Croat, from The Walking Dead: Dead City. Immediately, Bridget says that Dwight would have been questioned about Negan if that were the case. Speaking of their leader, Marty, his demeanor and line-delivery were similar to Negan's and Phil, the guy Dwight throws in the furnace (immediately evoking memories of when Negan did this with the first Dr. Carson) was not only a stand-in for Dwight but also issues similar lines to Negan, evoking consequences. Oh, uh, and the way Marty was making his last stand with Dwight almost looked as though he was about to kiss him.

  • Jay's insulin is a callback to how Dwight & Sherry ended up involved with The Saviors to begin with, by way of them doing so in order to get Sherry's sister, Tina, the insulin she needed for her Type 2 Diabetes. It was also really interesting to see how Dwight was calling out for Daryl Dixon to finally end his life when you consider that Daryl is often seen as a sort shadow of Dwight from the comic book. The way Dwight passes out, as Sherry arrives, right on the Home Sweet Home welcome mat is great, but Bridget couldn't help but focus on the fact that one can purchase it from Target for only $13.99. On first watch, though, Sherry's arrival is a little suspicious when you consider the comic book storyline and how she was supposed to take over as leader of The Saviors. The sudden thought that she might be involved with Mary and co at The Sanctuary definitely occurred to some of us.

  • One of the first notable sequences was the opening shot with Dwight's figure reflected by flashing lightning in the puddle. Dave mentions, considering puddles and lightning, that it's somewhat similar to the way 8x06 King County starts out, with Morgan Jones face down in water on the railroad tracks. For some odd reason, it reminded Sherrandy of the moment when Dwight & Sherry found and protected the cellar they used to escape the nuclear blast in 6x16 The Beginning.

  • It looks like we solved the mystery of where zombie Alicia Clark is located because a walker wearing a St Christopher medallion had it dangling off its neck: seen both prior to and when the fence collapsed on top of Sherry. You get a better look at it as it basically hits Sherry right in the face through the fence.

  • In the beginning, Dwight is seen grabbing and whittling away at the king chess piece in order to shape it into a prosthetic finger for June, which might even symbolize her importance to him. It also brings up a grander theme that, for once, isn't actually spoken out loud even once throughout this episode, but is felt: no one's gone until they're gone. Dwight just couldn't help himself from, well, helping where he could, even though he invites death.

  • Madison Clark is seen, by many, as a terrible person who made a mess and left everyone else to clean it up. Dave even suggests that maybe Madison is already the villain that Dave Erikson (the original show-runner) actually promised, though probably not in the same manner. Still, Dave is a fan of what they are doing with her character.
  • When Tracy Otto is revealed on screen for the first time, Dave had an emotional reaction because, even though he doesn't think she is Alicia's daughter, he couldn't help his mind from wandering in that direction (and what the implications would be for both himself and, especially so, for Victor Strand). Antonella Rose's face is very expressive and the screaming she provided amidst the otherwise calm and pleasant environment Strand was attempting to create for her was a very excellent scene choice. But it also adds to the mystery of whether Strand is Stranding and, if he his, whether he's doing so on behalf of himself or the common good, this time. If Victor even suspected she was Alicia's daughter, there is no telling the lengths he would go to preserve her last remnants. We almost forgot, the room that Strand is using to house Tracy is the same one Madison was locked up in for several years.

  • Sherrandy signs-off for the evening because she has a headache, leaving just Bridget and Dave.
  • The importance of fall of The Sanctuary and the finality it brings, not just to the majority of Dwight and Sherry's overarching struggle, but to The Walking Dead Universe, overall, was very well handled. Dave still can't help but think about what happened to The Saviors after Negan's fall and, again, whether The Croat is in any way further tangled up in The Sanctuary's history. Bridget advises that the encounter between The Croat and Jerome (The Savior who told him what happened during All Out War) might not have even occurred at The Sanctuary. Examining some of the more narrative callbacks, Marty behaves a lot like Negan: the way he puts away his gun while speaking to them, then proceeds to bargain away Dwight's life to save Dove's life is a scary do-over. When Sherry hears this, you immediately see her body language completely change: she is determined to not allow history repeat to repeat itself, at all costs.

  • Adding June's turmoil as a sleeper component to this storyline, then Dove's dramatic obstinance, mutually elevated not only everyone else's performance, but the entire episode's story, on the whole. It was a much-needed reprieve amidst a smattering of lackluster episodes in the final season. This allowed us to remark on how, in stark contrast to the anthology-style episodes in Seasons 6 and 7, at least Season 8 had a healthy balance of characters on screen. The return of Dwight, Sherry, and June - and allowing them to come together to overcome their demons - was a lovely canon to when we saw them last in 8x02, Blue Jay, when they were in the depths of despair.

  • Madison's return was initially met with hesitation, but the Bridget had always appreciated her character in previous seasons. Though the writing in previous episodes felt somewhat ham-fisted and disappointing, this episode (on the whole) gave it relevance; however, we all want more show, don't tell, especially in the remaining episodes, since most of the audience isn't dumb and shouldn't need the writers to spell out key story elements for them (especially by way of throw-away dialogue).
  • But there are even more redeeming qualities than the embedded message of No One's Gone Until Their Gone throughout this episode: The high protagonists in the universe, which include Madison, Rick Grimes, and Morgan, have always shown the extreme lengths they are willing to go for their loved ones: but even more extreme when their loved ones are gone. This season has, thus far, been flirting with exploring what Madison looks like and even becomes without her children, similar to Rick and Morgan's respective journeys. Madison is rudderless and trying to prove herself to the children she stole over the years. At the end of the last episode, she -  just like Dwight in this one - realizes she is the problem and decides to leave, proclaiming that the help they always seems to provide always makes things much worse.

  • Bridget had always hoped for the same redemption story for Madison that she wants for Strand and wished part of that would be in the form of prioritizing others with the same ferocity as she had her children, minus the risk-seeking behavior that leads her to some of the more questionable decisions she's made over the last decade. Bridget proclaims that a lot of her actions are driven by an unhealthy codependency with her children, but Dave had always admired the way she allowed Nick Clark and Alicia to leave her when conditions became too unbearable for them to stay with her (though Bridget sees this as another possible manipulation on Madison's part).

  • But more than redemption, Dave is more interested in seeing what TWDU allows Madison to become, now that she is officially a part of it. The first few seasons of FearTWD were The Clark family - a dysfunctional family that finds out they are more functional in the zombie apocalypse - attempting to navigate a mad world. Because of this, you only saw hints of them becoming who they were meant to be. Season 4 provided a dramatic shift towards that end and only now, without her children, are we starting to see what Madison finally becomes in Season 8, which might not be a great thing (as we've seen from those whom we might consider villains).

  • Speaking specifically about the dramatic scene between Dove and June, we wanted to highlight the importance of how a young person's optimism and a belief in their own future guides their actions. Young people can't comprehend their mortality as much as adults, especially in this episode, which makes it so much easier for Dove to mistrust their ability to protect and guide them as their guardians. Case in point, even when Dove notes everyone's reconciliation in the furnace, she resigns herself to June's ability to heal her with the simple line of, Ask me [if I trust you] after you take the bullet out, which doesn't necessarily mean she trusts her: she's only acknowledging that she is her best shot.

  • After Fear The Walking Dead completes its run, SQUAWKING DEAD will be on break between then and February 24th, which is purportedly the release date of the Michonne and Rick spin-off The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live; however, we will continue to release content, like the benefit for Robin Overton.

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