"You don't know what you got 'til it's gone," is a phrase many Fear the Walking Dead fans have learned in Madison Clark's absence.
The leader of the series through its first three seasons appeared in half of the AMC show's fourth season (or, half of the first half, to be more accurate) until the baseball stadium she turned to a sanctuary was turned to ash. Kim Dickens' exit was unexpected by many but appeared to be written on the wall from the beginning of Season Four. With a timeline split in a "BEFORE" an "NOW" set up through the first eight episodes, Dickens' Madison only appeared in the "BEFORE" scenarios, hinting she would be gone in the present.
In the early seasons of Fear the Walking Dead, Madison's story did little to garner the character much praise from fans or critics. A pair of early seasons pit her leadership against that of Cliff Curtis' Travis, creating indecision of who the show's clear-cut leader was. In Season Three, Curtis made a quick exit, handing the reigns over to Dickens in Dave Erickson's final year as the showrunner.
When Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg stepped in as showrunners with Season Four, Dickens appeared to be caught off guard by Madison's exit. She has, several times, expressed a desire to have continued with the role. Fans, at the same time, were left wishing for more of the character who saw thorough development throughout Season Three and her moments in Season Four.
After all, it's entirely plausible Madison is still alive. The character, if dead, was killed off-screen in a fire -- something other characters on the show have survived before her.
Now, the series appears to have handed itself over to The Walking Dead's Morgan Jones. In Episode 4x14 on Sunday night, titled "MM54", the group of survivors (entirely fresh Season Four faces as Alicia Clark and Victor Strand weren't present) simultaneously turned to him in their time of need. While Morgan's character is not necessarily one seeking a leadership mantle, he has inherited it on Fear.
With Morgan and the series embracing an attitude of helping others and avoiding the need to kill, they have taken on Madison's legacy. The return of Madison could be a welcome juxtaposition to Morgan's style and Madison's original vision.
In Fear the Walking Dead's case, Madison Clark could have been both hardened and darkened by the fall of the baseball stadium. Her narrow survival could leave her broken and furious after the effort to build something peaceful and prosperous literally went down in flames.
Meanwhile, Morgan is now in the business of rescuing people both physically and mentally. With characters like Alicia and Strand finding themselves torn between loyalties and morals, an interesting conflict could present itself if Madison were to return to the AMC show in Season Five.
It would be reminiscent of Jack Shephard and John Locke's feuds on the hit series LOST. On the ABC show, one character operated based on science and experiences. The other acted on faith.
Furthermore, Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead could use some positivity in comment sections and Twitter threads regarding the shows. While a portion of the audience was happy to see Madison go, there are constant remarks and entire accounts dedicated to the return of the show's once-leader. Despite a fun and compelling back half of Season Four (arguably one of the best shows on cable, right now) the series is plagued with negativity from corners of its fandom and former actors.
It appears Fear may have banked on Morgan Jones and The Walking Dead's popularity to help its ratings rise up but the crossover came far too late for such a desire. With The Walking Dead trending downwards in its ratings, the crossover's announcement came far too late for the once 17-million fans to dedicate themselves to 16 more weeks of the apocalypse for one character.
Fear the Walking Dead was simultaneously building an identity for itself and producing high-quality narratives in its third and fourth seasons. The ratings were steady over two million viewers per episode. Since Madison's death, the series has not topped two million live viewers in a single week's episode.
While the show has remained a solid product with each passing Sunday, producing stellar performances from Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lennie James, and Garret Dillahunt week in and week out, the ratings are not reflective. The audience is so busy being angry about Dickens' being removed from the show that Jenna Elfman and the other newcomers are not being given their proper praise.
The bottom line is fans truly seem to be jumping ship in the wake of Madison's death. A little positive buzz among fans who were dedicated to Fear the Walking Dead from its earliest days certainly wouldn't hurt.5comments
There is not an hour which passes where "#BringBackMadison" is not active on Twitter, so is it time for the AMC show to listen to its fans and make an offer to Kim Dickens for a return?
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. The Walking Dead returns for its ninth season on Oct. 7, 2018. For more updates and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter!