Fear the Walking Dead Final Season Review: No Show's Gone Until It's Gone

Spoiler-free Fear the Walking Dead Season 8 review.

In 2015, Fear the Walking Dead co-creator Dave Erickson described AMC's original companion series to The Walking Dead as an "apocalyptic journey, dramatizing the horrific disintegration of society through the lens of a dysfunctional family": matriarch Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), her drug addict son Nick (Frank Dillane), and her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). The earliest seasons of Fear followed the Clark clan on their journey across Infected-infested Los Angeles, Mexico, and Texas — adding Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades), Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), Luciana Galvez (Danay García), and others to their band of zombie apocalypse survivors along the way — but worlds collided when Morgan Jones (Lennie James) crossed over from The Walking Dead.

By the semi-rebooted Season 4 — which saw showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg replace Erickson, with creative input from AMC's Walking Dead Universe overseer Scott M. Gimple — much of the show's original cast was either written off or killed off, including Nick and Madison. What started as a domestic drama against the backdrop of societal collapse suffered an identity crisis, focusing less on the Clark family as Chambliss and Goldberg reinvented Fear each season since: first as a Western, then as a genre-mashing mini-movie anthology, and then The Walking Dead in the nuclear zombie apocalypse.

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(Photo: Lauren "Lo" Smith/AMC)

There was Madison's Fear and Morgan's Fear, and there was a sense among fans of a clear demarcation point where the original spinoff died with Madison. (Dickens is reinstated as a series regular after the Season 7 finale revealed Madison survived her apparent death in a zombie-swarmed stadium fire in Season 4.) Fear the Walking Dead's eighth and final season (premiering May 11th on AMC+ and May 14th on AMC) is yet another reinvention: an amalgamation. Based on the three episodes made available for review, Chambliss and Goldberg reconciled the two halves to craft a merger that's likely to satisfy fans of both Fear eras.

After a seven-year time jump, Madison, Morgan, and the rest of the group that set off to find PADRE are living under PADRE's cynical rule. A lot has happened in those seven years, and AMC asks that spoilers be kept under wraps until the episodes air. (The post-jump timeline has no shortage of twists and surprise reveals.)

Since we last saw them, Morgan has spent the past seven years as a [SPOILER], and Madison as a [SPOILER] who goes by the name "Lark." Daniel is the [SPOILER] of a [SPOILER]. Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista) want to [SPOILER] from [SPOILER]. Shockingly, June (Jenna Elfman) has spent years [SPOILER] because [SPOILER]. Some characters are MIA — their fates as much a mystery to the characters as they are to the viewer — while others are revealed to be [SPOILER], and others are [SPOILER] for [SPOILER].

Less secret is that Morgan and Grace's (Karen David) now eight-year-old adopted daughter, Mo (Zoey Merchant), is among the children collected and indoctrinated by PADRE, which has the vibe of Hunger Games dystopia and which has subjugated the same people who already rebelled against oppressive regimes under Virginia (Colby Minifie) and a villainous Victor Strand. The thematic through-line connecting all the characters to PADRE is parenthood, inevitably raising questions about legacy and what these characters are living for and not just surviving.

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(Photo: Lauren 'Lo' Smith/AMC)

It's dark — but without the Negan-bashing-brains-in sadism that killed off millions of viewers from the flagship show — and bleak, but without being a miserable slog. Season 8 hits the ground running at a breakneck pace, in part because the shortened season consists of just 12 episodes — half the 24 episodes that The Walking Dead had to wrap up its 11-season run over an extended three-part stretch. 

Fear the Walking Dead's final season will naturally draw comparisons to the final season of The Walking Dead, which concluded on a well-earned note of hopefulness and nostalgic sentimentality. But in the end, The Walking Dead's bite diminished — even if fans somehow didn't know that Daryl, Carol, Maggie, and Negan would live to see spin-off shows, gone was the fear that no one was safe, or that (almost) anyone could go at any time. Even a breed of brainy variant walkers not seen since the days of Atlanta couldn't bring back the sense of suspense or danger from earlier seasons, and in the end, almost everyone made it out alive

While characters from Fear could conceivably live on and cross over into the wider TWD Universe, AMC has not announced any off-shoots stemming from its original spinoff. And unlike the flagship, which adapted creator Robert Kirkman's comic book that ended after 193 issues in 2019, there's no source material to pull from.

There's an edge to this grippingly dark and dramatic final season that suggests some gut-wrenching goodbyes ahead — and there's an excitement in that unpredictability.

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(Photo: Lauren 'Lo' Smith/AMC)

The Season 8 premiere, "Remember What They Took From You," services Dickens and James especially well: Madison and Morgan's at-times antagonistic dynamic means they can go from allies to enemies — sometimes in the same scene. Whether it's a suspenseful sequence set on a waterlogged and walker-logged houseboat in a zombie-infested swamp, or watching Madison and Morgan scuffling in a figurative tug-o-war, it's a solid start to a season that gets better with each episode. With the 12-episode season rolling out in two six-episode parts, there's an obvious momentum by the midway point of Season 8A that suggests it's only going to get bigger — and better — from here.

Fear's final season is pure Walking Dead, and as AMC's TWD Universe moves into the next phase of spinoffs, these first episodes of Season 8 prove there's a lot of life left in the original. To quote Madison Clark: "No one's gone until they're gone."

Rating: 4 out of 5

Fear the Walking Dead season 8 premieres Sunday, May 14th at 9 p.m. ET on AMC and AMC+.