Morality in the world of Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead is a funny and fluid thing. In fact, defining morality is kind of the whole point of both series. It’s all about what is justified and right in a world that is far from normal. Yet, we assume that the main characters are essentially good people. Rick Grimes is not a nice guy, most of the time, but he’s still viewed as a hero. A conflicted and complicated one, but still a hero. It would be easy to view Fear the Walking Dead through the same lens but what if that’s the intention at all. What if we aren’t seeing the birth of a hardened heroic apocalypse survivor in the prequel AMC series but the rise of a Machiavellian selfish villain?
Madison Is the Prime Suspect
On Fear the Walking Dead, the characters of Madison and Travis split the burden of being the lead character. Yet halfway through the first season, it’s clear that Madison has had the most growth. Travis is still annoyingly naive, at least outwardly. He seems to be under the impression if he wishes hard enough everything will go back to normal. As if zombies are some reverse Tinkerbell where hope and applause actually kills them rather than brings them back to life. Madison is the one who is accepting the new world and the harsh realities that come with it.
This makes Madison an easy character to root for because she wants to kill zombies, not have reasoned conversations with them thinking they are sick people. Yet Madison’s aggressive nature doesn’t speak well to her future mental status or her classification of a “good” person. As episode four, “Not Fade Away,” of Fear the Walking Dead showed it’s been established that it’s been roughly over a week since LA was hit with the brunt of the zombie virus. The world as the characters knew it basically fell in the span of a few days. A few days is a short time to get adjusted to anything new, let alone something as life-changing as the literal end of the world. Madison has had no problem, if anything she’s embraced this world with no rules.
5 Reasons You Need to Be Watching Fear the Walking Dead>>>
Madison’s Growing Zombie Kills
As dramatically dissatisfying as Travis’ reactions to things have been, he’s the normal one. Madison was initially confused but that quickly changed. Madison is the only character, besides the no-nonsense Daniel, we’ve seen kill a zombie. Daniel just killed a stranger, a stranger who was coming after him and his family. Madison killed her friend and boss, or the body of her friend and boss, in a brutal fashion. She literally bashed in his brains with a fire extinguisher. Sure, there weren’t a lot of other weapons lying around, but still, in terms of zombie kills that’s pretty vicious.
Madison was also willing to kill her zombified neighbor and family friend, Susan. She had to think about it awhile but if Travis hadn’t stopped her, she would have done it. It’s also illuminating to talk about Madison’s choice of weapon when she went to kill Susan. Madison had a hammer in hand. This wasn’t like when she killed the principal in self-defense. This was a premeditated attack and we know for a fact that Madison had a gun in her possession. Killing a zombie with a hammer is incredibly violent and messy. It’s also similar to killing one with a fire extinguisher. This suggests that Madison found some type of pleasure in killing the principal in such a way and wanted to commit the act again.
Don’t Cross Madison or Her Family
The important thing to factor as well is Madison’s priorities. She refused to leave LA without Travis when he went to get his ex-wife and child but he’s a member of her family. Madison’s primary concern is her family and protecting them at all costs. It’s not a terrible policy for the end of the world. It’s Madison’s attitude to people who are not her family that is troubling.
Madison has some measure of patience for Chris because he is Travis’ son. She couldn’t be more hostile or resentful of Chris’ mother, Liza, though. When Liza came to Madison to talk about how they were going to parent their children, Madison didn’t even look at her. Instead she wanted Liza’s assurance that the woman would kill Madison if she ever became a zombie. Madison was businesslike, devoid of emotion and matter-of-fact. There’s no humanity or empathy when Madison talks to Liza. Then when Madison’s son, Nick, was taken by the government, Madison laid the blame directly at Liza’s feet. Liza is at best only tangentially connected to Nick’s abduction and certainly never intended for it to happen.
Madison’s Mystery Drink
Lastly, while it’s yet to be explicitly stated, I think it’s safe to assume that Madison has some kind of substance abuse in her history. She is very savvy at dealing with Nick’s addiction as if she has first-hand knowledge. It’s true that could be because she’s his mother and she has a long history of caring for him but Madison’s knowledge seems to go behind caring mother. She knew almost immediately that Nick was stealing morphine from their ailing neighbor. She just overheard the slightest mention about the neighbor and his morphine and made the connection to Nick. Madison is very involved in her son’s addiction and it would be very easy to assume that amount of caring comes from some guilt on Madison’s part. She used to be an addict herself and she feels she has passed that habit onto her son.
There’s also the fact that Madison has rarely been seen without a mug in her hand since the zombie crap really hit the undead fan. We can rule out coffee because electric is spotty at best on Fear the Walking Dead. The characters have said several times they’ve gone days without power. So what is this mystery liquid? Well, if we go back to the episode where Madison discovers Nick is stealing morphine we see a bottle of alcohol on top of the car. Madison is sitting inside that car with the mug, hand shaking and guzzling her drink down. Again not one hundred percent certain but that appears to say that Madison is turning to alcohol in an effort to cope with the drastic situation. If she really does have addiction in past, this choice can’t lead to anything good.
Quiz: Which Walking Dead Character Are You?>>>
Madison Should be the Next Great Big Bad
So Madison enjoys killing zombies in violent ways, has an obsessive desire to protect her family and a possible addictive personality. That sounds eerily similar to The Walking Dead‘s famous bad guy, The Governor. Madison is a couple years, one eyepatch and an unconvincing Southern accent away from being the female version of The Governor. Fear the Walking Dead should make sure she gets all the way there. It’s the perfect direction to take with their female lead.
The Walking Dead has a great history in building its villains. Shane and The Governor were two of The Walking Dead‘s most interesting characters because of how the world corrupted them. That journey into madness is just ripe with possibles and great storytelling. The Walking Dead capitalized on most of it but Fear the Walking Dead could succeed them.
When Shane and The Governor were introduced on The Walking Dead, they were already a bit unstable. We never got a sense of their normal life or truly understand how they spiraled out of control. We would definitely see this with Madison. If Madison does become a villain of sorts it would be incredibly effective to see her in such a role because of the juxtaposition to where she started. Madison could end up killing someone to save herself or her family. This hypothetical scene would be great to compare to Madison playing monopoly with her children in the third episode, “The Dog.” There’s a rich dichotomy and complicated psychology to mine with a character like that and a darker Madison could be the key to fully separating Fear the Walking Dead from it’s big brother.
But what do you think? Do you think Madison should be become the next Governor? What should her government ruler based name be? I’m pulling for Baroness.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.
(Images courtesy of AMC)