Spoiler warning for Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 12, "In Dreams." Grace (Karen David) wakes up to her worst nightmare when she suffers a devastating loss in Sunday's "In Dreams." An unconscious Grace dreams up a future where her daughter — a 16-year-old, stick-wielding warrior named Athena (Sahana Srinivasan) — is raised by her adoptive father Morgan (Lennie James) after Grace, already exposed to high levels of radiation, dies in labor. This pink-flowered possible future is a manifestation of Grace's subconscious, where the teenage Athena and her mother must fight together to wake up an unconscious Grace so Athena can be born.
In her subconscious mind, Grace is relieved when a 16-years-older Morgan assures Athena didn't suffer the effects of her mother's radiation exposure. Grace tells Morgan, "I spent so much time reading about how it could all go wrong because of what happened to me. How the pregnancy wouldn't last, how babies could absorb the radiation from their mothers."
In the real world, it's revealed Grace went into labor and was en route with Morgan to the hospital being built by June Dorie (Jenna Elfman) when they were attacked on the road by Riley (Nick Stahl). Part of the underground group behind spray-painted messages of "the end is the beginning," Riley is sent by cult leader Teddy (John Glover) to retrieve Morgan's key — even if he has to shoot Grace to get it.
Athena helps Grace wake up in time to convince Morgan to surrender the key, telling him: "That key is not the future. She is. She's gonna bring everyone together. She's gonna give everyone something to fight for."
Morgan delivers Grace's baby to the tune of Ray Orbison's "In Dreams," played on cassette tape over her old Walkman recorder. "Everything is alright," Orbison croons, but everything is wrong: the newborn Athena isn't crying. Morgan desperately massages Athena's heart, but he's left cradling the stillborn baby in his arms.
"What I saw... they weren't my last moments," Grace realizes. "They were hers. I thought it was going to be different. But it was just a dream. It was just a dream."
"Roy Orbison sings in the song about ‘in dreams, I walk with you,’ and that's what we've seen her do with Athena. So for Grace to be listening to that, she's manifesting this idea that 'all I have to do is get through this, and then that dream can happen,'" co-showrunner Ian Goldberg explains on Fear the Walking Dead: Episode Insider. "And of course, the devastating part is everything she experiences is ultimately only a dream, and that none of it's going to come to pass in reality."
In reality, Goldberg explains, "Grace knows from her experience working in the power plant that often pregnant moms, the radiation exposure they have will go to the baby. And it was something that she believed based on the dream that maybe it was the opposite, where she absorbed it all and the baby didn't get it. You know, her initial instinct turned out to be right."
Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 premiere Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.