[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Fear The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 12, “The Road Ahead.”]
Who said joy can’t be found in the rotted depths of the end of the world?
All post-apocalyptic pessimism is banished in the final scenes of Fear The Walking Dead’s finale, “The Road Ahead.” The alive, then dead, then alive, then dead, then alive again (long story) Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) was at last able to pull her daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), in for a tearful embrace. And as a bonus, Daniel (Ruben Blades) even gets his long-missing orange tabby cat back. Yep—Skidmark lives!
We chatted with showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg about how long that emotional reunion was in the making, whether or not they considered resurrecting other fan favorites in the finale, and whether there’s a chance certain Fear characters might appear in future The Walking Dead projects.
When Alycia Debnam-Carey departed last season, did you know she would return for the final episode? Were those plans already in place? And if not, how did that happen?
Goldberg: We knew that we wanted it to happen, and we talked to Alycia about it as early as Season 7. Our dream was that we wanted to have a reunion between Madison and Alicia because this has been a series all about Madison fighting for her family, and it felt right to us that the show should end with her getting her family back. We kept in touch with Alycia Debnam-Carey as we were building the story, making sure that we could make it align with her schedule and the various projects she was associated with, and there was a certain amount of logistical work that went into it since the stars had to align. We were keeping in touch with Alycia all the time about what we wanted the story to be, and she was always excited about it, as was Kim. We were very fortunate that everything did work out because we couldn’t imagine ending the series any other way.
Were there ever any discussions about Nick or Frank Dillane? Obviously, his character is dead, but—dream sequences?
Chambliss: We did have some conversations and even had some conversations with Kim about it. Ultimately, it felt to us like having something that came before Alicia’s reveal might dilute that moment, and ultimately, it felt like having that story wrap up with Charlie gave that closure, and then it allowed us to focus Madison’s story on Alicia as we went toward the last three episodes.
Speaking of Madison, when this episode airs, I’m sure fans are going to freak out about those fake-out deaths. Why is there so much messing around with her survival status in this episode, specifically?
Goldberg: Well, we had to keep you on the edge of your seat for the finale! [laughs] I think what it all centered around for us was her emotional revelation over the course of the episode. It was seeing how Madison being in a place of despair when we come into the episode, believing that “no one’s gone until they’re gone” got her kids killed and that she needs to be more pragmatic and practical, and that’s why she killed Troy, and that’s what’s going to protect the family she has left, which this episode is Tracy, and seeing how that philosophy and her actions against Troy have a ripple effect on Tracy when Tracy tries to kill Madison, and we believe that she does kill her—I think it was less of it being a fake-out for us, but it was Madison being hit by a sign from the universe of, “Oh my God, what have I wrought?”
And when Tracy shoots her, she believes Tracy is going to survive because she understands how you have to be. You can’t give people second chances. Only to then realize that’s not the message she wanted to leave Tracy with, and that’s why she makes her sacrifice at PADRE. There are things worth fighting for, even if it’s risky or it might get you killed. That’s what legacy is, and that’s what hope is, and that’s what Madison chooses to fight for.
I have to ask about Strand and Alicia. He sees her in the mirror, but there are no words exchanged. What went into the decision to have Madison and Strand’s split be less than friendly and then for Strand and Alicia not to reunite?
Chambliss: This is a moment we talked a lot about, and we talked to Kim and Colman about, and we actually wrote a version where Strand interacted with Madison and Alicia after they had been reunited. Ultimately, it felt the power of that moment was more poetic if—earlier in the episode, Strand talks about what he wants for Madison, and he says he wishes Madison could be with her kids. It felt more powerful that he had that confirmation that Madison was going to be okay. Alicia was going to be okay. He knew he was going to be okay, because he’s found his family. It felt so much more emotional when it was that grace note, as opposed to a scene where all of that would be explicated through dialogue. Colman and Kim felt really strongly that the moment was more powerful that way, that Madison’s legacy lived on with Strand through her actions at PADRE and the sacrifice she was willing to make there.
As the show ends, many of these characters go in completely different directions and even to different areas of the country. Can you share, even vaguely, whether there’s been any discussion of any of them showing up in different spin-offs?
Goldberg: That’s really a question for Scott Gimple and AMC. As you’ve seen, we left the story open, and these characters are going in different directions. Madison, Alicia, and Tracy are going back to LA, but beyond that, the rest of the characters are carrying on Madison and Alicia’s legacy, and they’re going to go rebuild and forge new connections and potentially circle back with each other on the road at some point. Whether or not we’ll get to see that at some point, or if this is the end of those journeys in the Fear finale, I think that question is beyond us.
Do you guys have a personal favorite moment from the finale? Something you were very proud of, or that stood out to you?
Chambliss: I really love that final image of Madison, Alicia, and Tracy getting into the car and driving down the empty road for LA. That was an image we knew we wanted to work toward early in Season 8, and what I love about it is that it speaks to the potential and the opportunity of what this new life could be for them.
Goldberg: I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve seen the finale at this point if you count all the hours we’ve spent working on it in post, but I don’t think there’s been a single time I’ve watched the Madison-Alicia reunion hug that I haven’t cried. I have to put that one up there for my favorite moment.