(WARNING: Huge spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead's Season 4 midseason finale below!)
Fear the Walking Dead's Season 4 reboot reached its endgame in the midseason finale with the death of the series' protagonist Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), a high school guidance counselor turned survivor by any means necessary turned open-hearted leader of an optimistic community. She died sacrificing herself to save her family from a walker horde. As walkers released by the Vultures surrounded the car where her kids Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) were taking shelter, Madison lit a flare and drew the walkers away from the car and into the stadium. She dropped the flare and set the whole place ablaze, allowing her family to escape.
Some fans are in denial, saying that since they didn't see her body, Madison might still be alive. But no, she's really dead, and her death closes the book on creator Dave Erickson's version of Fear the Walking Dead. The show has transformed from a moody family drama (with zombies) into a plot-driven western (with zombies). It hasn't felt like the show it used to be for eight episodes, but there were still lingering threads from the first three seasons that had to be tied up before it truly became a new show. Now that this transitional eight-episode run is complete, Fear the Walking Dead is set up for an entirely new story. There are now only two main cast members remaining from Season 1, Alicia and Strand (Colman Domingo), though Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) is still alive and will probably return at some point, just not in Season 4.
Fear gives time to a lot of different characters, but we experienced the story primarily through Madison's perspective, like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) on The Walking Dead. With her death, that means the perspective will have to shift to someone else. There are two likely options for what will happen to Fear's version of the lead role. One is that the primary POV will be shared between Morgan (Lennie James) and Alicia, depending on what the episode calls for. The other is that it will be solely from Alicia's POV. In both cases, the thematic conflict would be about Alicia's internal struggle between keeping up the hard shell that's allowed her to survive this long and accepting Morgan's "all life is precious" philosophy.
Showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss deferred when TV Guide asked who the new protagonist might be — "It's an ensemble show," Goldberg pointed out — but they did give some sense of the next threat the survivors will face.
"We don't want to give away too much about the antagonist, but we will say a big part of what our characters are going to be up against is Mother Nature herself," said Chambliss. "We've seen walkers be a threat, we've seen humans be a threat, and now we're going to see our characters facing both threats that we've seen before, but now they're going to be doing it under even more dire circumstances than we've seen in the past." As we saw in the in the teaser for the second half of the season, there's going to be a storm that sends walkers flying through the air.
As for the story itself, it could follow the merged group of survivors as they search for a new place to rebuild a community in Madison and Nick's image. Thematically, the showrunners say that the philosophy Madison sacrificed herself to preserve will be as present as ever as the people she left behind to try figure out how to honor her legacy. And it's not going to be easy for Alicia and Strand and Luciana (Danay Garcia) to move forward.
"They were united by one thing, and that was revenge, and they're all suffering from the loss of Madison and Nick," said Chambliss. "So going forward they're going to be asking themselves questions about what is next."
Questions, Chambliss continued, like "'What is connecting us now that the people we had in common aren't with us anymore?'" These three survivors were close to Madison and Nick, but not really to each other. "And how can we keep [Madison and Nick's] memory, their story, as we heard it told to Al (Maggie Grace) last night, how can we keep that alive?'"
Goldberg and Chambliss did confirm that the show will continue on a single timeline since Madison's death ended the BEFORE story.
We won't know for sure what else is in store until we see it, so we'll just have to stay tuned.
Fear the Walking Dead returns for Season 4B Sunday, Aug. 12 at 9/8c on AMC.