Spoilers below for the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead*_.*_
With the midseason premiere of its hope-driven fifth season, Fear the Walking Dead took a wild swing in changing its visual storytelling approach, but I dare say fans will be more concerned with clues pointing to the potential return of Kim Dickens' Madison Clark. Other more negatively ominous moments be damned, I'm hoping for Madison to reunite with Alicia, Strand and others again in Season 5.
The chances of Madison still being alive and making a full-fledged return to Fear the Walking Dead aren't exactly overwhelmingly high, but showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (and their writing team) know exactly what they're doing by laying out such specific breadcrumbs for audience members to pick up on. Especially when those breadcrumbs were made most prominent in both a midseason finale and its subsequent premiere return.
The biggest breadcrumbs, of course, are far larger than the allegorical metaphor. We're talking about those trees that Fear's characters have come across. John and Dwight came across that one ladder-adorned tree in "Is There Anybody Out There?" and then Alicia found a larger and more elaborate version of the same optimistic message painted on it in "Channel 4." The message: "If you're reading this, you're still here."
Through its first-person perspective via Al's cameras, the episode captured just how taken aback Alicia is by discovering that particular tree, with its painted words and other markings spread across the branches and trunk. It's all quite whimsical, and Alicia knows that it's just the kind of thing that Madison would have enjoyed. Alicia might very well have died against that tree had Strand not been there to stab that one walker through the head, too.
Had that scene come and gone without further consideration, the Madison argument might have been stalled. However, as everyone is settling down for a big group meal later that evening, the episode steps back for more of Alicia's comments earlier in the day about the tree's original artist. Comments that hit harder when one considers Alicia's current radiation situation.
She wants to find him or her, or even "them," perhaps. (I assume if it was an artificially intelligent android painting those messages, Alicia and others would also want confirmation about that.) I can't imagine the showrunners setting up that goal and then having it go unfulfilled for the rest of Season 5. Especially when it's already known that Episode 11 is called "You're Still Here," which implies the tree elements will get explained a bit, if not in full.
The other big clue, though not exactly official, was a set photo taken that showed another tree boasting a similar message, with flame visuals shown on the tree. As viewers are well aware, Kim Dickens' Madison Clark was supposedly killed off in a raging fire that she'd set to draw a massive herd of walkers away from the vehicle that her children were trapped in. Madison's exit from the show, fatal or not, has been one of the more contentious twists of Fear the Walking Dead's run, so having it get reversed a season later would be...both something to smile about and something to be wary of.
More acting from Kim Dickens is never going to be considered a bad thing, especially in this universe. Delivering scenes with Dickens paired up with former Deadwood co-star Garret Dillahunt would be as cool as anything Fear the Walking Dead has done yet. Or to see her get all up in the face of Matt Frewer's burgeoning villain Logan. Plus, it's been kind of a bummer to have only Alycia Debnam-Carey representing the original pilot episode's cast. (No complaints about having Rubén Blades back in the full rotation, though.)
On the flip side, the fate of Rubén Blades' Daniel Salazar was a legitimate question mark after the dam explosion that ended Season 3, and so his return in Season 5 didn't buck logic or emotional trust in the narrative. But if Madison suddenly reemerges while Alicia & Co. are out on a rescue mission, it would severely undercut a lot of the fan reaction to the perceived death in Season 4, as well as Alicia's grief and acceptance after the fact. It's like Glenn's fake-out dumpster death on The Walking Dead in Season 6, which many fans felt cheated by.
Naturally, Fear the Walking Dead could very well introduce a brand new character as being responsible for the tree-focused optimism, who would presumably be a real Bob Ross of a human being. But even that might cause something of an uproar within a fanbase who has been led into believing that there's hope for Madison's return.
What do you guys think will happen? Let us know in the poll below.
While waiting to see whether or not Kim Dickens will get to make a return in Fear the Walking Dead, keep tuning into episodes each Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, with The Walking Dead's flagship drama kicking off its tenth season on Sunday, October 6, at 9:00 p.m. ET.