Fear the Walking Dead: “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now” (S4, E7 review)

Ruminative stargazing – a popular pasttime until the threat of zombies coming up behind you took the chilled fun out of it (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)



Optimism is a powerful motivator.

It propels people forward in a way that pays no heed to the facts on the ground and achieves great things when everything points to ignominious failure being the only possible outcome.

It’s not so much delusional, although as Madison (Kim Dickens), god bless her bright-side-of life addled heart, demonstrated beautifully in “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now” it certainly has the expansive capacity to be, as disappointing when things don’t play out the way you want.

Of course, when you’re faced with unrelenting oblivion-laden pessimism, which is pretty all that’s showing in the zombie apocalypse, is holding onto a little blue bird of happiness, sunshine-saturated optimism such a bad thing?

Well it is if it’s going to get you killed.

Madison, who tells anyone who will listen that she built the stadium community to provide her kids with as close to a normal life as possible (the rest of you? Lucky you’re here at all and don’t you forget it!) – a lofty aim that is ridiculed by one of the Vultures’ Mel (Kevin Zegers) who dismissively tells Madison that people like her are all extinct; well clearly not all of them now right Mel? Empirical evidence is standing right in front of you – but her quest to build Pleasantville in the apocalypse is dying a slow and certain death as enemies without, with zombie hordes in tow, and doubters within (hello Naomi played by Jenna Elfman), besiege her from all sides.

Still, Madison isn’t giving up without a fight, and though you could agree with Naomi’s position that it’s best to cut and run than be on the wrong side of history (a place she’s been before and not particularly enjoyed; it explains why even though she’s basically a decent good person that she ends up with people like the Vultures), it’s a powerful thing to hang onto a vision and try to see it through.


xxxx (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)


Still admirable though Madison’s position is, the reality is the stadium is doomed.

While we don’t actually see it fall in this episode, it’s all but inevitable despite the wall reinforcements, taken from Naomi’s hut and other wooden dwellings in the sports arena dismantled with ruthless concentration by Madison, and confirmed in a later sequence when Althea (Maggie Grace), safe in her armoured SWAT vehicle with Morgan (Lennie James), a gunshot-ailing John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt), Naomi (who’s after the stadium’s stash of medical goods) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) bashes through the walls of the stadium in which are imprisoned (though being rather undead, they are blissfully unaware of the fact) untold hundreds of charcoaled walkers.

So clearly no longer a bucolic idyll of tended crops, bleating lambs and “normal” life, as endorsed by Madison and disendorsed by Naomi and Mel (who ends up a zombified brickette after the gun battle between Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Luciana (Danay García) and Victor (Colman Domingo) and the Vultures which thankfully doesn’t occupy the whole episode a la The Walking Dead) but then we knew that right?

For all the forewarning and advanced knowledge, it’s still a shocking scene, a terrifying testament to how even the most fervently-believed in and strongly-articulated dreams can come crashing down a fire of loss and brokenness, in this case, quite literally, leaving everyone all the poorer for it.

And dead too? Truth is, we are still left dangling when it comes to Madison’s state of being.

At episode’s end. she’s seen dashing outside into a ring of fire and an advancing zombie horde to rescue Nick (Frank Dillane), Alicia and Mel, who the two Clarks went out to rescue after Madison, angry at the injured Vulture’s corrosive effect on her community (he’d been rescued from a truck accident at Charlie’s urging) and temporarily shorn of her idealism, exiled him from the stadium in less than tip-top, perky good health.

Not exactly in keeping with her “everyone can be rehabilitated” ethos – there’s a Monty Python song in there somewhere, hopefully with well-choreographed dancing zombies – but then everyone has a breaking point and clearly Mel is hers.

Whatever the merits of sending Mel, injured and halfway to zombiedom into the great apocalyptic beyond, it has placed Nick, Alicia and now Madison in mortal peril and while we know Nick and Alicia make it out of the Tokyo rush hour zombie horde pressing in on their car, there’s no way, until the mid-season finale next week I’d wager, to know how Madison fared in the undead fires of hell and gasoline.


Put down the fun Alicia! Put down the freaking gun! Gah, she never listens (image via Spoiler TV (c) AMC)


The fate of John Dorie, Madison and the stadium aside – and to recap that’s (a) not gone yet (b) who knows and (c) gone baby gone! – the great theme of “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now” is of forgiveness and second chances.

It’s repeated with poetic resonance again and again as we see Naomi and John finding each other again in the most searing and life-threatening of circumstances, Charlie scooped up by Morgan who tells her that he saved her, even though she’s Nick’s killer, because the cycle has to end somewhere (amen brother!) and Madison forgiving a multitude of doubters and setbacks to hold tight to her dream.

Clearly Madison’s willingness to forgive and forget hasn’t done the stadium any favours but it did save Victor and Naomi and countless others, testament to the fact that tempting though it is to throw the humanity baby out with the apocalyptic bathwater, that it remains as vital as ever.

While Mel may have believed his Cynical Charlie attitude is bang-on right when it came to the new human normal, in the process bleakly consigning our innate humanity to the dustbin of history, the fact remains that without belief in love, forgiveness, rehabilitation, second chances and all the other good stuff that makes life worth living (and not just surviving), there’s not much point in staying alive.

The Walking Dead made some noise to that effect in its early seasons before it descended into an amoral bloodfest, but this belief in the vital necessity of basic humanity is woven into the very DNA of Fear the Walking Dead, a show that acknowledges that the old days are gone but does not accede for one minute that that means the better angels of our nature are gone with that.

Maybe it’s idealistic but it also matters deeply and greatly and even as we grapple with the imperfect execution of this ideal and its constant locking of horns with willful, deathly self-preservation, “The Wrong Side of Where You Are Now” reminds that hanging onto it, even in some small Charlie-shaped form is far better than giving up on it altogether.

  • Next up on Fear the Walking Dead in “No One’s Gone” … lives on the line, dreams falling into the furnace and the hope that things can yet be salvaged.




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