[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for AMC‘s Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, Episode 8, “Padre.”]
No one’s gone ‘til they’re gone, and it turns out that Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) wasn’t gone.
On Sunday night’s episode of Dead‘s aftershow Talking Dead, we learned Madison had not, in fact, perished at the Dell Diamond stadium way back in Season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead. Dickens is set to return to the zombie drama in Season 7 and star as a series regular in Season 8. And co-showrunner Ian Goldberg confirmed she’s alive — we’re not, say, getting a whole season of her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) hallucinating her mom as she super-slowly succumbs to the zombie virus. What a relief!
But as thrilling as it is to have her back, we can’t help but wonder what she’s been up to for the past year or two. If we know one thing about Madison, it’s that she would’ve started searching for her family the moment she was free. Why didn’t she find them earlier?
Here are a few theories we have regarding her return, questions to which we’re anxiously awaiting answers, and ideas as to where we think her story might go when she re-joins Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), Alicia, and their friends.
How Did Madison Get Out of the Stadium?
There are two options here: She either slipped past the sizzling walkers by herself, or someone rescued her. Madison was certainly capable of getting out of there on her own, and there was a fence right behind her that she could’ve climbed. The next question, though, is trickier to answer. If she just climbed the fence and escaped the burning stadium, how did she never run into her family? For that reason, it almost seems more likely that even if she got out on her own, someone took her in or captured her, or she was badly injured and needed time to recover.
Is Madison Leading Padre?
The big mystery this season has been a safe haven called Padre. Padre is rumored to be a perfect utopia that the nuclear apocalypse didn’t touch, and Alicia is determined to find it before she succumbs to a mysterious illness.
Since we know so little about Padre, it’s logical enough for Madison to be there or for someone from there to have saved her. If the place is so isolated that it would take a long time to get back to the Diamond, then it’s totally possible she’s been looking, but she’s stayed two or three steps behind her friends and family this whole time. (Imagine her finding some of Alicia’s tree paintings.) There’s also a possibility that Madison is now the leader of Padre, which would be a pretty cool way to bring her back into the fold. It’s poetic that Alicia’s desperate search for peace and safety could lead her to her mother… we just hope she doesn’t die in Madison’s arms, or in a near-miss situation like Daniel (Ruben Blades) and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) in Season 3.
Was Madison with the Civic Republic Military?
From the moment Madison “died,” theories sprung up about her potential rescue via the Civil Republic Military. Much like The Walking Dead‘s former hero Rick (Andrew Lincoln), she could’ve been airlifted out and saved — and, because she’s definitely a B, she could also have been immediately put into training and risen within the military’s ranks.
This theory both works and doesn’t entirely work. On one hand, perhaps better than Padre, the CRM fits the earlier-seasons version of her character; the Madison who was cunning, ruthless and did whatever she needed in order to ensure her and her family’s survival. This is a woman who once declared that “sides don’t matter.” If she felt the CRM had a winning hand in the survival game, regardless of if they were “the wrong side,” she wouldn’t have hesitated to support them. On the other hand, Madison would’ve known her family was still alive and out there. It’s hard to imagine her being fully devoted to the CRM when the one thing she ever really cared about was outside its walls, unless, like Rick, she was prevented from leaving and has now found a way out.
It’s worth noting that the CRM theory works within the established lore of Fear, too. We know the CRM was active in the area where the Dell Diamond is located. While there weren’t any telltale helicopter sounds in the background of her “death scene,” it’s not like anyone on Dead saw or heard the helicopter that took Rick, either. If all paths in this franchise are destined to lead to the Rick movies and the CRM, bringing Madison back as part of the organization would be a neat twist. And, who knows? Maybe she’d even talk about a certain Officer Grimes, which would certainly interest Rick’s old pal Morgan Jones (Lennie James).
Does Madison Know About Nick?
Aside from Madison’s whereabouts, one of the largest questions surrounding her return is whether or not Madison is aware of her son Nick’s (Frank Dillane) demise and its circumstances. Given how close she was to him, it’s hard to imagine her taking the news of his passing in stride. And the news that Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) — who is now part of the “group” — did it? Yeah, that’s not going to go over well, either.
There’s potential for good storytelling here, though. Madison being enraged with Charlie for shooting Nick would put her in direct conflict with Alicia, who semi-adopted her as a little sister, and Daniel, who has also formed a bond with her. Guessing that Madison might be less willing to forgive Charlie’s dark deed, they might even lie to protect Charlie, which would only make things worse when the truth inevitably comes out. Would Madison kill her for killing her son? It’s hard to say, but she’s taken a hammer to people’s heads for less. Charlie is still quite young, though, so Madison’s wrath might not be fatal (that would be dark, even for this show). But we don’t think she’d nod, smile, and give Charlie a hug if she says she’s sorry.
There’s also the possibility that this goes in a very, very different direction, depending on whether Alicia survives the season. If Alicia doesn’t make it past Season 7, it’s possible that Madison, too, eventually forgives Charlie because she understands how close she and Alicia were. It’s hard to imagine Madison completely letting bygones be bygones when it comes to her the person who shot her son in the chest. But Alicia did forgive her, so Madison might do the same to honor her daughter’s memory.
Is Madison About to Walk into a War?
Currently, Madison’s daughter and her best friend are at each other’s throats. Depending on when she returns in Season 7B, she might either attempt to stop the fighting or be forced to choose a side. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where she picks anyone over her child, but that’s where Charlie could factor into things: If she feels betrayed by Alicia allowing her to remain part of the group or feels strongly that the tower is their best option for survival, she might side with Strand. More likely, she’d be appalled by what her former drinking buddy’s done and how he’s hurt her daughter.
It’s probable, though, that we won’t see Madison factor heavily into the Strand-Alicia conflict; Madison’s return seems destined to happen in a season-finale reveal or a post-credits scene. Then, she could factor more heavily into whatever threat is coming in Season 8. Heck, maybe she is the threat that’s coming in Season 8 — original showrunner Dave Erickson’s vision for her was that she would become a Negan-type villain, so maybe we’ll get a version of that. However she comes back — hero or villain, Padre leader or CRM officer, or none of the above — we’ll be excited to see her on our screens again in the second half of Season 7.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 returns Sunday, April 17, AMC