[Spoiler alert for the Fear the Walking Dead series finale.] No one's gone until they're gone. "The Road Ahead" series finale of Fear the Walking Dead ended by bringing the series full circle: with Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and her daughter Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) alive and headed home to Los Angeles for the first time since the outbreak of 2010. The Clark family matriarch already returned from the grave after seemingly being killed off during season 4 of Fear — and it's a fate Dickens didn't want repeated as she resumed her role for the eighth and final season of the AMC Walking Dead spinoff.
"I was very happy to make it out alive. I didn't want to have to die again, and all the speculation that goes with that," Dickens told ComicBook in a post-finale interview.
In the penultimate episode, Madison stabbed and killed Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman), believing she was avenging Alicia and protecting PADRE. "I'm done with second chances," Madison said, driving the skeletal remains of Alicia's arm into the guts of the man who supposedly killed her daughter. "Troy was right. That's what got Alicia killed." Disillusioned with PADRE, Madison deserted Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) as the island was overrun by a walker herd and abandoned the belief she instilled in Nick and Alicia when she sacrificed herself at the stadium: "No one's gone until they're gone."
"This is what happens when you try to build something better. You end up giving people hope. End up putting them in danger. You end up getting them killed," Madison said after Tracy (Antonella Rose), who she thought was Alicia's daughter, drew a gun and pulled the trigger. But Madison survived and then saved everyone on the island the same way she did at the stadium: by leading the walkers into PADRE, setting it aflame, and locking herself inside so the others could escape. And Madison Clark was gone.
"It was very important to me and Andrew [Chambliss] as we came into this final season that we were not only bringing stories to a conclusion, but also having this feeling that things were coming full circle for our characters," showrunner Ian Goldberg told ComicBook. "When Madison made her heroic sacrifice in season 4, 'no one's gone until they're gone' was her mantra. It was the thing that she instilled in her kids and was her legacy when they believed that she was dead back then. And her return in season 7 into season 8 is a test of that because the world is, in many different ways, pushing against that for Madison. And I think it's a struggle for all characters in Fear and across the apocalypse of pragmatism, and what's safe, and how do you just stay alive versus what's worth staying alive for and fighting for beyond just survival?"
"And that question drives Madison, ultimately, to a place of deep despair and darkness before she finally realizes that there are things worth fighting for and that there are things that can outlive you if you fight for them," Goldberg explained. "And that legacy survives in her and Alicia and Tracy and all of the characters. So our real goal was to end the series in a place of hope."
Madison's death in the finale is a metaphorical one, but her apparent death and the fall of PADRE inspires the survivors to mobilize as MADRE in Madison's name.
"In addition to that, we want to — without getting too meta — comment on the power of storytelling and how your actions can live on beyond you," added showrunner Andrew Chambliss. "We see that back in season 4, the first time Madison made the sacrifice, how it had this negative impact. But by the time we finally got the story of what happened at the stadium through Al's [Maggie Grace] interviews, we saw how that was starting to turn around. And here we see something very similar, where we see Strand telling the story of what happened at PADRE to Tracy. And ultimately we see how that kind of reignites that small flame of hope in Tracy."
Chambliss continued, "And, ultimately, that pays dividends by reconnecting Madison and Alicia. And I think in maybe some ways, maybe subconsciously, we were just commenting on how stories can bring people hope. And I think that's what we were always kind of setting out to do with Fear: telling stories about people finding hope in a very dark world."
COMICBOOK: After coming back to Fear the Walking Dead and having Madison be alive at the end of the series, how are you feeling about how Madison's story wrapped up here after eight years?
KIM DICKENS: I quite liked it. I spoke to Ian and Andrew during the pandemic when they were sort of pitching me the idea of bringing Madison back and how they would do it. And I got on the Zoom with them and I had no idea what they were going to pitch to me. I had zero idea, and they pitched that story of being a prisoner of PADRE and owned by PADRE, and then how I was going to come full circle in the end and start making our way back home. And I just thought it was brilliant. I got very excited about it, so I'm pleased with the way we tied it up.
When I spoke to Ian and Andrew, they told me they built the final season around the ending with Madison and Alicia reuniting. When they mapped out season 8 for you and made their pitch, what was your reaction when you found that A) Madison was making it out alive and B) Alycia was coming back?
I was very happy to make it out alive. I didn't want to have to die again, and all the speculation that goes that. It felt like Alicia coming back had to happen. I think I would've been really disappointed if she didn't. But given that, when we were first discussing it in 2020, Alycia had left the show. She'd done the show since . I believe she started when she was 21 and was finishing at 29, basically. So that's a lot. A lot happens in your 20s and it's a lot of growing. We've all grown in this show, personally and professionally and everything, but I think for her growth and her next step, I think she needed to go do other things. And I respected that and we talked about it and everything.
And so when I talked to Ian and Andrew, they were like, "Alycia left, but we put it in her head that we might ask her back for something doable." And I think she was like, "Give me a minute and chat to me later." So we really didn't know ... Honestly, who knows how much I could say, but Colman and I were asked to make a phone call. It was in the script and they're like, "If you guys could make the phone call," and we're family — we are. And so the truth is that I don't think we needed to make the phone call, because Alycia wanted to do it. It felt really good to her to come back and finish it, too. She's loved the show. She wanted to do it right, too. It just feels good in our heart. It's like we put so much into these characters and these shows and some of them really hurt when they're ended prematurely or what have you. We're artists and sometimes it feels really good to see it through. So I think Alycia wanted to come back. I know she did.
On the theme of second chances, Ian and Andrew said Madison sacrificing herself for PADRE the same way she did at the stadium was about ending Fear with hope. I wanted to get your take on Madison's metaphorical "death," and Madison's legacy ultimately being MADRE.
I thought that was really clever. I feel like Madison had to sort of learn from Alicia and step out of the way in order for her legacy to continue to make a difference and be sort of noble, because I think Madison was going to continue to get in her own way. But yeah, I thought it was more hopeful. Leading into that, Madison was like, "Look, nobody else can get their hands dirty. I can get my hands dirty, because they're so dirty right now." So I think she does genuinely sacrifice herself. And then in the end when she's left with like, "Oh, well, maybe I did do something good and now I can just let that be." I think it does allow for some hope. I think they would probably go on together and try to help in different ways.
Madison starts as a counselor. She cares about kids. She caress about people from bad homes, and tries to help them, sort them out at school. But even the most noblest are really called to the carpet and challenged. I think what works about the show is that an audience member can say, "What would I do? What would I do in that moment?" And that's fine. That's what we're there for. The characters are there to sort of serve that and flesh that out. That's interesting to watch. That's life.
The series finale brings closure with Madison and Alicia, but it's also open-ended enough for a spinoff — or for these characters to return down the road. "No one's gone until they're gone," so is Madison gone for you?
It felt to me, during this season 8 finale, it did feel like closure. That said, I love this character. I've played it for so many years. I love it. I love the job. I love the crew that comes together. I love the cast that comes together, that's able to do shows like this, because they're tough shows, and I love it and I love the franchise as a whole. So never say never. Absolutely, I would always consider it if somebody said, "Hey, would you consider it?" Of course I would. I've loved this show. I love the franchise, I love all the actors that I've worked with, the entire crew and showrunners and writers and everything. And I still have my leather jacket, too. So I've got that.
But that crew — and it is not easy — that crew especially, it's almost like a creative church. It's like it's a completely harmonizing experience ... that thing, when you create that, when you're in collaboration like that, it is magic and it is something to miss, there. And I just came across pictures of season 3 and I was in a tank in Mexico and I was doing underwater stuff and there's a picture of James Armstrong, our stunt coordinator, right there with me in scuba gear, just right there, talking to me. And we're laughing as if I wasn't going to have to go underwater for 45 seconds. But yeah, it's fortunate to have had it. If that's all it is, my God, we've been fortunate.