Warning: this story contains spoilers for Season 7 Episode 1, "The Beacon." Fear the Walking Dead returns without Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who we last saw trapped in a basement bunker when Teddy (John Glover) detonated nuclear warheads to bring about his vision for "the end." But Teddy, the leader of the underground cult behind "the end is the beginning," saw Alicia as a "beginning" and locked her inside a fallout shelter beneath The Franklin Hotel so she would survive and "rebuild the world." When Will (Gus Halper) meets Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) months into the fallout of the nuclear zombie apocalypse, the stranger reveals an unexpected connection to the missing Alicia.
Will hands Strand the Saint Christopher medallion he gave Alicia in Season 6 Episode 2, "Welcome to the Club," sparking a search for their mutual friend. Strand insists he has everything he needs in The Tower, his community in a high-rise building that survived away from the fallout, but ventures out in dangerous conditions to show Alicia she was wrong about him and his selfish motivations.
Until 50 days ago, Will was part of a settlement that protected him and his group from the blasts. He's no longer welcome there, and he's been trying to find a way to make it up to those people ever since. When Will admits he knows Alicia, he reveals he pretended to be a stranger to see if Strand was worth saving. Strand is determined to prove Alicia wrong by showing her the thriving community at The Tower.
Alicia is thriving, too, despite being locked away to lead Teddy's followers. She knows "you cannot lead alone," Will tells Strand. "If you want people to believe in you, you have to believe in them." Will won't say why Alicia cast him out, only giving up that she asked him to do something he couldn't do.
"It would have protected everyone there, except for her," Will tells him. He thought bringing Strand to Alicia would be his way back inside. It's only after Will and Strand fight walkers Will recognizes from the bunker do they know something bad has happened.
The bunker had enough food to last 10 years with filtered air and water. "That place was built to outlast all of us," Will says of the self-sustaining bunker beneath The Franklin Hotel. 128 survivors lived there until Teddy's scouts found it and killed everyone inside, claiming it for The End is the Beginners cult.
The Franklin Hotel exterior is rubble. Underground, the bunker is untouched but abandoned. No signs of life — or Alicia — anywhere. Will and Strand's search turns up a wall painted with a mural of Alicia and a note left behind on a podium. Addressed to Will, the note contains only one word: PADRE.
Whatever Padre is, it's "probably gonna get her killed," Will says. Nobody knows if it's a person or a place, and the fabled Padre might not exist at all. Padre is "something better," he explains. "At least the possibility of it." Will searched for Padre in the hopes Alicia wouldn't have to.
Strand realizes: "You loved her."
Alicia and Debnam-Carey will return later in Fear Season 7. And Alicia isn't the only survivor on the search for Padre.
After her final appearance of Season 6 in Episode 14, "Mother," Debnam-Carey told ComicBook that Alicia would evolve into a "pragmatic" leader like her mother Madison Clark (Kim Dickens).
"It's this new evolution of Alicia that is becoming quite pragmatic and ruthless in the way that I think, actually, Madison was. I think we have this idea of Madison that could be quite optimistic and would do anything to protect her family, but she was also incredibly pragmatic and ruthless and would do things at a heavy cost," Debnam-Carey said. "And so I think Alicia's gotten that kind of clarity of how to balance her own hope and optimism, but also with a very, very logical ruthlessness in a way."
New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 premiere Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD and stay tuned to ComicBook for coverage all season long.