This season, the narrative is split into two halves: the "before" and the "now."
Both are easily identified by their color tones and the obvious lack of Madison in the present scenes, taking place sometime after the events of The Walking Dead season 8.
The present is currently unfolding with a standoff between two camps: new arrivals Morgan, Althea, and John versus Luciana, Strand, and the Clark siblings.
Madison is missing and presumed dead, marking the biggest difference between the two timelines, as "before" catches up with the Clark clan over a year after the explosive events of the season 3 finale cliffhanger.
Madison's return at the start of episode 4x02, 'Another Day in the Diamond,' is "the happiest we have seen the Clarks since the fall of civilization, for sure. They even seem a little bit happier than then," Dickens says.
As for how long it's been since the dam blast, "I think it's even been a little bit longer than a year," Dickens explains.
"When episode two begins, it's been 365 days at the Diamond, plus there's the travel time to get there, which took quite a while. I can't commit to saying the amount of time, but it's been a good bit of time."
In that time, the Clarks have evolved.
Madison has a little 'Rick Grimes' in her, so to speak, actively welcoming benign newcomers into the fold and attempting to build a community.
"When we find the Clarks and the extended family, they're in a beautiful place," Dickens says.
"They've created a safe haven. There are farm animals. They're growing food. They're working together as a community. Madison is realizing her dream. This is what she wanted to do. She wanted to start over. She didn't just want to survive. She wanted to find a way forward, which I think is human instinct.
"The human spirit is so resilient. It's a great quality to get to portray in this character, especially with how dark she's been. She's a complicated character, and such a fantastic role to play."
On how Madison has changed in-between when we saw her last in season 3 and when we first see her in season 4, Dickens says:
"When we left her in season three, she had narrowly escaped death, and had no idea where her family was. What we gain when we see her again here in season four is that she's vowed to never let it happen again.
"By doing so, she's avoiding all the past mistakes she's made. She's not only avoiding those mistakes, but finding a way to make up for them. It's a very proactive way to live in this apocalyptic society. It's also a necessary path, this attempt to rebuild society. Getting there requires making up for past mistakes, in order to make a better world."
Jumping between the two timelines is "the way we tell the stories," Dickens says with a laugh.
What that means for Madison's fate, Dickens answers, "I can't give away anything about that. I can't tell you to worry or not worry."
"The storytelling is magnificent this season. We're playing with time in a very unique way," she says.1comments
"The characters are changing from what you have seen before. That's all I can tell you for now. You'll have to remain worried and wait to find out, week to week. You can't even stream it, which I like! It gets harder, week to week."
Fear The Walking Dead airs its next episode Sunday, April 29 at 9/8c on AMC.