***CAUTION: Spoilers Ahead***

Fear the Walking Dead suffers from only one thing: standing in the shadow of a much longer running, much beloved series. I am a huge Walking Dead fan, and am just as eager as the next viewer to see what happens with Negan in Season 7, but I am also excited for tonight’s season finale of Fear the Walking Dead. And in case you hadn’t heard, it has been renewed for a third season by AMC.

In the first season of FTWD what hooked me in was getting to see how civilization fell. In TWD I was always a bit skeptical, especially in season one, when we see overrun military encampments and tanks sitting in the middle of city streets. This is the US Military we’re talking about. How on earth did they get overrun by walkers? In FTWD we get a better understanding of how quickly the virus spreads and how mass hysteria overcomes common sense. What we didn’t get so much was a strong connection to the characters. In retrospect, perhaps our expectations were too high from TWD, who after five seasons had turned the characters into our fictional friends.

Season two is where FTWD hits its stride, and in my opinion it is due primarily to the characters Madison Clark and Victor Strand. More recently, episode eight is where the series won my heart, and it is all about the mother daughter relationships.

Griselda & Ofelia

In season one we lost Griselda, leaving her daughter Ofelia and her husband Daniel unmoored. When Ofelia looses her father in season two she becomes even more withdrawn; she is a ghost of her former self. It is interesting that neither Ofelia nor Daniel have flashbacks of one another. They are always having flashbacks (or hallucinations of) Griselda. She is clearly the backbone of the family.

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In episode twelve of season two Ofelia draws on the memories of her mother. We learn that Ofelia moved to the United States to get married, and that her parents followed her there. This adds another layer of tragedy to the events that played out in season one. Ofelia had used the bait of a relationship to persuade a US Army guardsman to help her family back in California. We don’t yet know if her husband was alive at that time, or if they were even still married, and it shows the extent she is willing to sacrifice for her family.

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The flashback shows Ofelia asking her mother why she decided to marry her father, who is a hard man to be with. Her mother replies vaguely that god whispered to her, prompting Ofelia to repeat her question and press for a more serious answer. Griselda’s face hardens, and she explains to Ofelia that she is a hard woman and that both of them came from a hard place. The memory of this exchange, and of her parent’s sacrifices in Ecuador, seems to renew Ofelia’s resolve. She continues to journey on her own to the the US/Mexico border. My guess at this point is she is on a journey to find the man she moved to America for, because he is the only family she has left.

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Madison & Alicia

Madison is how I envision Andrea (from TWD) would be if she had ever married and had children. Both characters are not afraid to make hard decisions or get their hands dirty, but they also see the need to negotiate and form alliances, even with those who might be enemies. Madison is also super protective of her family, just as Andrea was of her sister.

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Madison’s life hasn’t been easy. Her husband committed suicide and left her alone with two children. She’s also a high school guidance counselor, which is enough to toughen up anybody. When her drug addict, blood covered son abandons her just days after Travis runs off into the desert Madison forges ahead. Unfortunately, all the time spent worrying about the troubled men in her life has lead her to neglect her daughter, Alicia. Even more unconscionable, Madison puts everyone at risk for a slim chance at getting Nick’s attention by turning on the lights of the hotel during the night.

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Alicia’s character development has been my favorite part of FTWD. I would be lying if I said she was my favorite character from the very beginning though. She is on the outside of their family of three, and even I liked Nick at the beginning of the show. It’s Madison and Nick, followed by Alicia, and oh right, there’s Travis too I guess. Alicia feels this dynamic very keenly, and confesses to Victor Strand that her mother doesn’t see her. All this time she has been raising herself and finding solace in others. Unfortunately, her boyfriend dies early in season one and her radio friend turns out to be part of a gang of pirates. After both trials Madison doesn’t really come through for Alicia. Yes, Madison risks a lot to save her from the pirates, but she doesn’t give Alicia a shoulder to cry on. I feel I need to go back and rewatch the first season now that I understand Alicia better.

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark, Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 2, Episode 13 - Photo Credit: Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

Ever since the vineyard went up in flames Madison and Alicia only have each other. Victor is a close and dear friend, but he isn’t family. While Madison continued to mourn the loss of Nick, and to a lesser extent her husband, Alicia seems to have washed her hands of him. As she tells her mom repeatedly, Nick chose to leave them. Together they rally the hotel guests and get rid of their walker problem. The walkers on the pier is hands down my favorite moment on the show to date.

One good thing that comes of the hotel lights being turned on, and most likely the only good thing, is the return of Travis to the group. When he tells the tearful story of his biological son Chris, Madison finally realizes that she hasn’t told Alicia she loves her. In episode thirteen Madison and Alicia finally have their moment. Madison tells Alicia the truth about her father’s death (that it was suicide versus a car accident) and why she was so afraid for Nick, who took after their father. The two come together and seem to brace themselves for the past and the future.

The Season Finale

In just a few hours we’ll see what becomes of the vulnerable hotel. I’m never comfortable making predictions about such an unpredictable show, but I do predict that Ofelia, Madison, and Alicia will survive the episode. Now that Madison and Alicia are reconciled I think we’ll see the strength of that bond on display. But who knows? The writers of TWD and FTWD are cruel mistresses.

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