The mid-season finale of ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ spends a very long hour setting up and confirming something that most fans surely already picked up on a while ago. As such, it’s a rather disappointing cliffhanger to leave off with for a couple months.
Like other recent episodes, ‘No One’s Gone’ jumps backwards and forwards in time at an annoying frequency. It seems like every line of dialogue switches from flashback to flash-forward or vice versa. I’ll refrain from doing that in this recap.
The full-color flashbacks this week start to fill in the gap of time between last season’s dam explosion and this season’s baseball stadium. At some point before reuniting with her children, Madison comes across Althea (Maggie Grace) camped out in a field and attempts to hijack her S.W.A.T. truck at gunpoint. Althea isn’t overly worried or threatened. This apparently happens to her all the time. She refuses to give up her keys, but offers Madison a ride in exchange for recording her story. Maddie isn’t having any of that. The two women fight, and Maddie knocks Al unconscious. When Al wakes up, the truck is still there, but she panics when discovering that her camera and all her interview tapes are missing.
Maddie stops a few miles away and watches all the tapes, searching for any clues that might lead her to Nick and Alicia. She spends so long doing this that Al has time to follow her trail and catch up. Al takes Maddie prisoner and once again demands that she tell her story on camera. She’s insistent that, “One day someone’s gonna want to know what happened here.”
Eventually, Maddie relents and sits for an interview, but we don’t get to hear any of the good parts about what happened after the dam. Instead, Maddie tells Al about a wounded bird named Amina that Alicia and Nick saved when they were young children. Because Maddie won’t disclose her name, Al labels the tape “Amina.” She then cuts Maddie loose and gives her a peace offering of a few boxes of ramen noodles that she’d picked up a supply of during her travels.
Maddie drives until she finally finds Alicia, Nick, Strand and Luciana holed up at an old motel. She brings them with her to a promising location she found along the way – an abandoned baseball stadium. When Strand asks if perhaps it’s just a little too big for their small group, Maddie says that she’s been inspired by someone she met and believes they can build a community there.
The black-and-white-ish flash-forwards pick up with Althea driving the S.W.A.T. truck into the baseball stadium, now filled with hundreds of zombies. Laura directs her toward the infirmary she set up, and Al clears a path through a bunch of zombies with the truck’s machine guns. Laura and Morgan then make a dash to get the medical supplies she left there. They barely get inside the building when an explosion goes off behind them. A homicidal Alicia, hell-bent on revenge against Laura, tracked the group back to the stadium and fired a rocket launcher at them (completely missing both the truck and anyone still breathing). Now she starts a big shootout against an armored truck, which seems like a waste of bullets.
Doing very poorly, John grabs Althea’s video camera and records a goodbye message to Laura. By the time Laura collects her medical supplies and turns back, Alicia has somehow pulled the door off the truck and taken Althea and the others inside captive. Fortunately, John is able to use a walkie-talkie to warn Laura not to come back.
Althea and Alicia fight inside the truck, but Alicia suddenly stops when she sees boxes of ramen noodles inside. She freaks out about this, recognizing them as the same brand her mother had, which means that Althea must have known her mother. She scours though Al’s interview tapes until finding the one labeled “Amina” and immediately recognizes it.
Alicia still wants to kill Laura, but Morgan puts himself in the way and talks her down. They all have a good cry and Alicia allows Laura to go to John.
They all drive away from the stadium together. John is stabilized. (Some gauze and Band-Aids go a long way toward healing bullet wounds in this show’s logic.) Laura/Naomi reveals that her real name is actually June. As Alicia watches the recording of her mother, Althea insists that she wants to get the rest of Maddie’s story.
Another flashback takes us this time to the Vulture attack on the baseball stadium. Even though Maddie insists that the walls will hold, the people inside panic as flaming zombies approach. They try to flee in a caravan, only to get overrun and massacred in the parking lot. Believing everyone else is dead, Laura runs away, which will eventually lead her to join the Vultures.
In order to save her children and friends, Maddie lights a flare and lures all the zombies in the parking lot away from the car and into the stadium, Pied Piper-style. If the walls could have kept the zombies out, then they can also keep them inside. As the last of the stragglers stumbles past, Maddie closes the gate, locking herself inside with them, and tosses the flare to ignite the oil covering the zombies. Alicia, Nick and the others scream as they watch Maddie sacrifice herself so that they can get away.
Maddie’s death is not nearly as shocking as Nick’s was earlier this season. Her absence from the flash-forwards was a very noticeable clue that something must have happened to her. The details of exactly how she died seem kind of dumb, to be honest.
For one thing, she’s inside a baseball stadium. Baseball stadiums have lots of bleachers and stairs. Zombies cannot walk upstairs (maybe a slow crawl at best). The math here shouldn’t be too difficult to add up. When zombies approach, run up the stairs. I’m sure the place must have other exits she can sneak out of later.
This assumes that Maddie is actually dead, of course. We don’t see her die on camera, which is generally a sign that she’ll return later (as Salazar did after supposedly dying in a fire). On the other hand, actress Kim Dickens reportedly insisted on the ‘Talking Dead’ aftershow (which I didn’t watch) that Maddie is indeed dead, so we’ll see.
It’s also still not terribly clear why Alicia believes Laura is responsible for her mother’s death. Her turn to deranged psycho seems poorly motivated, and the way their conflict suddenly de-escalates is almost as contrived and silly as the “Wait, your mom is named Martha, too?!” climax of ‘Batman v. Superman’.
Although this season started out on a really promising note, recent episodes have slipped back into a familiar rut. Whether the show can pull itself out again is something we’ll have to wait until August to find out.