“No one’s gone until they’re gone.”
And with that, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) — quite literally — went up in flames.
“No One’s Gone,” the eighth episode in a fourth season that saw Dave Erickson’s departure as showrunner and Morgan’s crossover, is likely to go down as the most controversial in Fear the Walking Dead’s run. Though some fans had been lukewarm on Madison’s character, it was hard to see the series’ tough-as-nails leader swallowed by fire and walkers in a season that had already featured the demise of fan-favorite Nick Clark.
One year after the Clark matriarch threw that fateful flare, many are still calling for her to return — go to the comments of any Fear-related article or the replies on any official tweet and you’re almost guaranteed to see at least one “#BringBackMadison.” How likely is it that she’ll return? Let’s investigate.
Her Death Was Extremely Open-Ended
There wasn’t much of a movement to resurrect Nick for several reasons, not the least of which being that his ending was undoubtedly final. There was no surviving a gunshot wound to the chest. Madison, on the other hand, had a death that didn’t seem like a death at all. There wasn’t a body. There wasn’t a stab to the brain to keep her from turning into a walker. There wasn’t even a Madison-walker shuffling around the decimated Dell Diamond.
Madison’s supposed demise has more in common with Daniel Salazar’s fakeout death in Season 2 than it does with any of the other last moments on the show. Furthermore, the fact that Daniel escaped an on-fire cellar with walkers all around him seems to make it even more likely Madison could have made it: She could’ve climbed the walls, or covered herself with walker guts. The open-endedness of her death makes her return possible, in theory.
…But Was That Really Madison?
Yes, it was — it was, and it wasn’t. The character who died was Madison Clark, but she had gone leaps and bounds astray from the “Miss C” fans knew in earlier seasons. One of the things that made Madison unique was her cunning ruthlessness and willingness to sacrifice just about anyone to keep her family alive and together.
Season 4’s Madison was an entirely different woman. The Madison of seasons past would’ve cringed at the idea of “No one’s gone until they’re gone.” She had a protective side, sure — she did try to help the people at Brokejaw Ranch — but her kids came first, always. Sometime during the time jump that Madison got lost, and she never found her way back. If Madison were resurrected, fans would likely still be frustrated if she isn’t the calculating, manipulative survivor they’d once known.
Kim Dickens Would Be Open to a Return
Whether or not a Madison return is in the cards, Kim Dickens has said Madison’s demise wasn’t a result of any decision on her part to leave, and she would be open to returning to Fear. While the context of the question was about returning in a cameo role, Dickens said in March that she’d “Never say no without at least knowing what they were talking about,” and emphasized that she loves the fans and is proud of the show.
To that end, a Madison return would be possible. It seems Dickens greatly enjoyed playing the character, and given how highly she spoke of the show, there’s at least a chance she’d put that leather jacket back on and pick up that iconic hammer if the role was well-written.
Would AMC Do It?
The hang-up isn’t on Dickens’ side, but with AMC. Since Erickson’s departure, Fear has taken a noticeably different turn. Opinions are wide-ranging on whether or not the quasi-reboot has been successful, but one unfortunate fact seems obvious: Madison Clark belongs to a version of the show that no longer exists.
Madison belongs to a time when the protagonists weren’t always (or even usually?) the good guys. She belongs to a time when characters covered themselves in walker guts just for the thrill of it. She belongs to a time when there was no “We’re here to help!” If AMC is firm that the Morgan-centric Fear is about being helpful and saving people, trying to write the version of Madison that fans love back into the show would be trying to fit a circular peg into a square hole. It’d probably kind of fit, if you jammed it hard enough. It wouldn’t really work.
Madison’s Last Best Hope
If the fan outcry has been loud enough to pull Madison Clark from the grave, her best chance of appearing could very well be in the Rick movies. We now know the people who took Rick operate in the Austin area, and, as fans have speculated, she could’ve been airlifted from the stadium by helicopter. In this franchise, characters have survived worse odds by hiding under dumpsters. It could happen.
A partnership between Madison and Rick would be interesting because though they’re very different people who utilize very different survival methods, they’re stuck in the same situation. Both Madison and Rick would be trying to get back to their families — except Madison has no clue one of her children is dead, while Rick has no clue he has another child — and with the other person’s help, they might just have a fighting chance. Plus, this theoretical storyline would see Dickens acting alongside Andrew Lincoln, which would be a fantastic pairing.
Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC