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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

RECAP: Season 4, Episode 10 of Fear The Walking Dead, "Close Your Eyes"

Hand-drawn by SQUAWKING DEAD host
Carol Gallardo
We open the episode with a sharp contrast of dark and light: the near pitch blackness of a hallway leading to the bright cubes of light framing the front door window of what was once a family's home. There is no background music: only the slightly muffled sounds of 40 Mph winds and debris hitting the house. As the camera pulls ever-so-slowly away from the door and further into the shadow-engulfed hallway (assisted by the visual direction of Michael Satrazemis), we see Alicia slowly do the same, ambling towards the door from the outside in a way most resembling a walker. She's taking refuge far away from where she left Morgan, wanting to be alone in the middle of an extremely severe hurricane. Between the lack of the usual mood-establishing score (take 5, Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans), the ever-present danger of mother nature, the cinematically deliberate high contrast of the light on the outside and darkness on the inside (courtesy of Adam Suschitzky), and the distinct sound the door makes when Alicia uses her sword to pry the door from its lockset, there's a sense of creepy, pre-heated suspense already baking into this episode.
As she carefully makes her way through the home, she quickly puts down an infected in the kitchen. Carefully moving through the living room entry, she deftly puts down two more: the one to her right, using the sword in her right hand, and the other, to her left, with a souvenir of The Washington Monument she quickly grabs with her left. It was an impressive sequence that easily makes it into the Top-10 walker-kills in The Walking Dead universe.
Again, we have to ask, Who wore it better?
As she lays out the bodies of the formerly undead on the lawn - side-by-side, on display, and exposed to the elements - it's clear that these are the long dead remnants of the family that must've lived in this house as the screen quickly flickers from an overhead view of their bodies to a similarly depicted photo of them when they were alive, on the mantle. Just as we, the viewers, and Alicia both start to feel a human connection to these poor souls, she quickly takes it upon herself to dispose of these feelings by removing all the photographic reminders, placing them in a laundry basket, and frantically tosses them next to the still-exposed bodies. As if the irony wasn't thick enough - the reminders of the family members she's lost along the way, her inability to save them or even the man trapped in the office of AGL Lumber Company - she is forced to nail the front door of the house shut after ruining the lockset; opening a door - or a wound - that can never properly close. As she descends the basement stairs to get a hammer and nails, she's startled by the rapid flooding that is occurring in the basement.
Alicia then hears a noise upstairs and moves to investigate. As the semi-visible, silhouette of her profile moves into the foreground of the camera's view - framing the walls behind her in such a way that makes it feel as though the walls of the house are closing in on her - she enters a bedroom and spies, through its far window, a walker impaled onto a thick tree limb, gingerly swaying around in the intense winds of the hurricane. After hearing another sound, she calls out, threateningly, to whomever is out there that she will kill them if they are found. As if out of a horror film, the blurred image of a small figure scurries past Alicia across the floor - triggering every suspenseful Child's Play/Hitchcockian/The Twilight Zonesque memory in the span of milliseconds - making its way to another bedroom. We, after wiping up the water we just knocked over, and Alicia barely recognize that figure to be Charlie, and Alicia, with flecks of futility in her voice (yet another brick in the the heavy bag of painful memory bricks), but in an attempt to assert herself (nearly unsuccessfully) pleads, "Why are you here?"
No answer.
She faux-rallies and tells her that she can't be here.
Charlie breaks free and makes it to the other bedroom, locking the door behind her. Charlie remains silent. She hasn't spoken a word to anyone since she was discovered with June and The Vultures.
Wanting no part of this house-of-constantly-emerging-painful-reminders, Alicia rushes to the kitchen, quickly  grabs some provisions and a set of car keys, pries open the front door she had only just nailed shut, and makes a bee-line to the car outside. With the storm raging, she frantically attempts to pull the stuck driver's side door that just won't give. As she finally frees the door, simultaneously, a violent gust of wind wildly flings the door wide open, knocking Alicia off her feet and rendering her unconscious.
Suspending our disbelief over Charlie, a 12-year-old, being able to drag around an adult twice her age, Alicia wakes up in the living room of the house. Alicia sprints up the stairs, figuring out what Charlie has done, and confronts Charlie behind the very same door she left her, earlier...
If you were to sum up the one element that flows through all the episodes of this season, the main recurring theme would be admitting the truth, out loud (if only once): Althea's touchstone. As characters on this show own up to their fears, admit their faults and failures, and openly reveal their vulnerabilities, it creates enough of a gap in the universe for healing to rush in or send a message out to the universe that finds its way to the right person in the right moment.
...Alicia's voice/words to Charlie go from almost trembling and being afraid of killing her if she stays to sneering and calling her garbage for taking the life of her brother - someone Charlie knew cared for her. She resolves to split the difference in her tone - almost appearing to solve this dilemma in her head and trying it out - telling her that she hopes she lives to a ripe old age with the ever-present knowledge of how much of an awful garbage person she is and will always be. As Charlie cries, she reaches into her bag and brandishes a handgun - perhaps the very weapon Charlie used to kill Nick after he ended Ennis' life. We're left wondering whether she plans on using it against Alicia, herself, or both.
Alicia attempts to start a fire by breaking some furniture for firewood. In the process, she hears a banging shutter and attempts, but fails, to nail it closed. She looks away in frustration towards the front lawn where she notices the bodies she dragged out, earlier, are now covered with a sheet: undoubtedly by Charlie, while she was knocked out. As she pulls back the sheet covering one of the bodies, revealing a close-up of the face of a girl most likely around her age, the scene cuts to a photo of the same girl, alive, being wiped down by Charlie. Alicia pops in and asks why she bothered covering the bodies and wiping-down the photos.
Charlie, again, doesn't say a word.
Feeling stupid for even expecting an answer, Alicia quickly shifts subject to asking her for help nailing the shutters shut and Charlie agrees to help by way of nodding. I guess resolving to keep Charlie alive - if only to live a full life of guilt over Nick's death and accessory murder of all the stadium dwellers - has its perks. Besides, it's an excellent team-building exercise but, also, in an unsuspecting way, it's a little like a Trojan Horse from beyond the grave, unsuspectingly allowing her to try things out the Madison way.
While trying to nail the shutters closed, successfully nailing down one set, they notice that the sound of their banging is quickly attracting walkers and they decide to head inside and, again, nail the front door shut. Alicia notices the way Charlie's jacket is hanging suspiciously, especially from the pockets, and offers to dry her soaked jacket by the fire, once she has the fire going.
Charlie is frozen.
Alicia bellows, "GIVE ME YOUR JACKET!"
Charlie sees no choice but to slowly peel off her jacket and start to hand it over when Alicia snatches it. Alicia's justifiable anger over her discovery melts into horror over the realization that this might very well be the same gun that was used to kill Nick. Aiming the pistol at Charlie's head, she asks her if she was planning to kill her.
Charlie shakes her head.
Resisting the urge to end her, she puts the gun down and tells her to go, and Charlie races upstairs and locks the door to her room behind her.
"I'm sorry... I'm trying"
Cold, wet, and with her nerves frayed, Alicia attempts to open the flue to finally get a fire going in the house. Struggling with the flue, she notices the incredible amount of soot on the mantle and realizes that it's blocked. Knocking the chimney obstruction loose by poking around, a large bird carcass and debris lands on the firewood. All at once, she understands how this family perished - smoke inhalation - and the symbolism of the what the bird represents: the one she saved as a child - the good Madison saw in her. She can no longer bear the struggle against feeling something for this family, her inability to escape this house house that forces her to confront Charlie and all these painful memories, or her failure in living up to her mother's vision of her best self. Still staring at the bird, she weeps and says to it/her, "I'm sorry... I'm trying."
Charlie is sorting through the photos, now dry, and spots the same walker stuck on the tree limb that Alicia had, earlier. With the chimney unblocked, Alicia attempts to start a fire. As Charlie walks out onto the balcony, in the intense rain and wind, the starter fire Alicia attempts to use to get the fire going goes out in a wild gust of wind. Concerned, she runs upstairs to find the source of the wind to find Charlie's neck nearly in the maw of the impaled walker. Just as the walker grabs Charlie, Alicia is able to pull Charlie back before anything bad can happen to her.
At the dinner table, Alicia explains how she finally understands what Charlie meant to do with her brother's murder weapon. With it confiscated, she had no choice but use the dead to end her life and Alicia refuses to let her get away with taking the easy way out.
In that moment, between Alicia saving her life from a brutal demise and knowing - full well - the kind of garbage person she is for being responsible for so many deaths, including her brother's, Charlie utters her first words in months and it's a question. It's the same question June asks of Strand at the FEMA center and Strand asks Madison at The Stadium (bonus: it's the same question Rick asks of Morgan, after killing the refugee Saviors attempting to flee The Hilltop), "Why did you save me?"
Alicia, hesitating at first, explains that it's not because she forgives her or that she's anything special or worth saving. It's because everyone has to live with the things they've done because, at the end of the day, tallying the sum total of your existence, you still end up as one of the infected when it's over. Living has more value.
As they finally sit down to a hot meal, provided by the fire, Charlie breaks the silence and asks Alicia about her life in California. Alicia gives her a curt response. Charlie, pressing her lightly, asks her specifically about what the beaches in California are like, since she really never got to go. Alicia finds this unusual. Charlie explains that she and her parents had always meant to go the beach in Galveston and, after so long, the day finally arrived. As it happens, it was the same day people started turning. Alicia, not completely reacting to this, clears the table and tells Charlie to get some sleep.
Alicia wakes up to find Charlie isn't on the couch nearby, where she left her, sleeping. She runs upstairs to find her scrambling to gather all the photos she's sorted and tries to stop her by telling her that anyone that ever cared about this family is now dead. Not giving Charlie a chance to actually respond, Alicia tells her to do what she wants, "it won't make you feel better," and storms off downstairs.
Charlie bounds after her, Alicia already trying to start another fire, and asks, "Why do you care," but before Alicia can even respond, a powerful gust of wind puts out what little fire she managed to start while walkers are already stumbling through a nearby window, assisted by the gale-forces outside.
Thinking quickly, Alicia grabs Charlie and takes her to the basement only to realize, far too late, that the ankle deep flood from yesterday was now a deep pool of high water. Before they both can even properly register their predicament, the ceiling near the basement entrance collapses, taking out the stairs beneath them, forcing them into the pool of water, and blocking the door behind them. Failing to find an exit, with the water around them continuing to rise, they rush to find something to stand on. Even if they could manage it, they can no longer break through the ceiling, as the dead have spilled into the house and continue to roam above them. Charlie lets Alicia know that, faced with the present situation and even knowing that she will forever be garbage, she doesn't want to die anymore but, now trapped and succumbing to her fate, begs Alicia to kill her. Seeing that Alicia isn't even able to process Charlie's request, she proceeds to explain that the only image of her parents she's been able to conjure, no matter how many books she's read, is the one of them changing and she doesn't want to end up like "one of them". It's why she was gathering up the photos of the people that used to live in this house: the slimmest chance that someone they love makes it means they won't be robbed of the way they remembered and loved them while they were alive. Alicia resists, but Charlie is desperate and tells her to try and think of all the ways that she hurt her. Alicia, not knowing what to do and the water continuing to rise, slowly raises the gun to meet Charlie's forehead. Charlie closes her eyes. As Alicia closes hers, she immediately flashes to the memory of Nick dying in her arms, his chest and mouth so full of blood, he could barely breathe let alone say goodbye; Strand, burning himself attempting to save Alicia from the flaming walkers outside The Stadium walls; the march of oily walkers descending on the the stadium, it's dwellers already dead attempting to flee the chaos; Good memories of Nick and her, making a life for themselves in the stadium; Madison, waving a flare and saying goodbye while guiding the undead armada into the stadium walls and locking them in with her, sacrificing her life to save her and the others.
All of these memories - but especially Madison's sacrifice - helps Alicia realize why she's still alive and refuses to waste that sacrifice. She lowers her gun and tells Charlie that she won't do it (because, and this isn't necessarily spoken, no one's gone til they're gone).
Just as Alicia grabs Charlie's hands, they hear a loud crash on the cellar door and discover that it no longer shut. As they emerge, they quickly spot the walker nearby, now free of the limb it was dangling from, near the balcony. Alicia quickly ends the infected by shooting it in the head. The very things that Charlie planned to use in order to end her life - the handgun and the walker - were the very things that, in the end, saved her.
It's only now that the sound of the background score starts up, again, as we see Alicia finish burying the deceased family and placing the jar of photos Charlie collected on one of their graves. Charlie arrives behind her as Alicia finishes up. Alicia tells her that she buried them for the people that could come back. This, in some ways, is kind of a double entendre: earlier, Alicia smashes through the front door with little thought to being able to close it again - a door/wound that can no longer be closed - but now she realizes that every moment is a chance to do right and work at healing. Charlie presents Alicia with the sword she had lost when the wind knocked her off her feet, earlier. Holding it only for a moment, she gives it back to Charlie: she's going to continue trying to live up to her mother's vision of her highest ideal.
As they drive back, Alicia says to Charlie, "Close Your Eyes"
Charlie hesitates, but does so. Alicia begins to describe the smell of the salty air as they near the beach in her mind's eye. We start to see what Charlie sees and the dull, blue-grey cinematic backdrop colors we've grown accustomed to has been replaced with vibrant yellows and blues as we see Charlie imaging her toes in sand, sparkling ocean water lapping at her feet. Back in the car, Charlie lets out a whimper. Through closed eyes, tears flowing between them and down her cheeks, she is able to see her parents.
Charlie calls out "Luci"(ana's) name as she and Alicia search hers and Strand's mansion for signs of life but come up empty. Arriving at what used to be Morgan's covered wagon, the cover has completely torn off. Their final attempt at rejoining their friends at John & June's school bus, on the bridge, is the most devastating: the storm has flipped it over on its side with no one responding to their calls. Instead of finding either of them, a walker with a mangled arm squeezes through a space between the flipped over bus and the bridge. Before Alicia gently takes her sword back to dispose of it, knowing who she needs to be in the here and now, she shows Charlie her cards, "...things don't get better, and they're not going to. They're only going to get worse til we're not around to see how bad they can get."
As the two stare off in the same direction, one can easily draw a comparison to another pair in The Walking Dead universe: Alicia, much like Rick, takes on the mantle of protector-at-all-costs, while Charlie embodies the no-one's-gone-til-they're-gone, there-has-to-be-something-after mentality we  recognize in Carl, especially in the final days of his life.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

RECAP: Season 4, Episode 9 of Fear The Walking Dead, "People Like Us"

By Carolina Gallardo (@carolgallardo)

The mid-season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead "People Like Us" comes after the dust has settled regarding the aftermath of the death of Madison, the series protagonist since the first episode.  As we watch it, we can definitely get a sense that this episode is a "reset" of some sort for our characters, as they recenter themselves for...well, whatever is meant to happen next.

We start off the episode with a quick glimpse into the future: We see Althea's tank stationary in the middle of what appears to be an intense, rainy storm that we can assume is a hurricane.  The tank is stationary but the rain and wind is so strong that various walkers are picked up and flung through the air with the greatest of ease.

Which leads me to wonder....what are the aerodynamics behind all this?  How hollow are these walkers that the hurricane winds can just fling them around?  Or should we assume this was like a category 4 storm?  Just some food for thought...

In any case, we soon revert back to present day where we see Morgan assessing his items in the back of a truck.  Among some of the items he's reviewing, they include (wait for it), peanut butter protein bars.  God, I love those little callbacks to old Walking Dead episodes.  But the true surprise comes with the news that Morgan delivers to Althea: That he will be returning to his friends and would like her to drive him there.  When Althea protests he convinces her by telling her that this will provide her with the opportunity to see for herself everything that he has been telling her about Alexandria and then some.  Althea agrees.

Morgan then goes to another vehicle, a school bus, where John Dorie, June and Charlie have been stationed as their temporary outpost.  Charlie seems to spend much of her time reading, while June seems to be tending to John as he recovers from his wounds.  Morgan explains to John his intention to return east to Alexandria and how they should all come with him.  John expresses his reservation with that idea since his plan is to return to his cabin and live there comfortably with June and Charlie (his new family, clearly).  Morgan questions whether the cabin is even still standing but John has his mind set and his only request for Morgan to say a final goodbye before he goes on his way.  Morgan understands.




We then see Morgan approach, quite frankly, a mansion of an estate which considering we're in the state of Texas, is not all THAT shocking (anybody watch Fixer Upper on HGTV?).  As a walker begins to approach Morgan, a shot comes from an upper window and we see that the shot came from a HEAVILY inebriated Strand.  When the massively ornate door finally opens, we see that Strand, Luciana and Alicia have set up camp in this mansion and while Alicia spends most of her time outside, Strand spends most of his time indoors drinking and Luciana with headphones plugged in, losing herself to the record collection she immerse herself in.  All of them have found their own form of escape and their own way of dealing with their grief that they are comfortable with.  

Personally, I can't really fault Strand or Luciana for their approach because if it were me and I hit the jackpot of a mansion with a wine cellar, an extensive record collection and potentially (*gasp*) running water??  Yeah, I'd be staying put too.  I would definitely be Luciana with my headphones plugged in and swaying to some vintage records.  Hell I WAS Luciana through most of high school...wait, I'm doing that right now!  

Also, side note: Strand's take down of a random walker that stumbled into the mansion before it could attack a clueless Luciana as she's deep in a musical zone is a big reason why it's never a good idea to blare that music too loud.  Just saying.

In any case, Morgan's suggestion falls on deaf ears (Ha! See what I did there?) and he attempts to approach Alicia, as a last resort.  She is by a fence killing all the walkers that approach, in an effort to get closer or more information regarding someone who potentially needs help.  Morgan tries to tell her that this a futile attempt but eventually they notice the notes pinned to the walkers with the use of some sort of mechanical equipment.  Morgan eventually obliges Alicia and they approach an abandoned lumber yard where she believes the notes are coming from.  After a very efficient group walker kill (smart thinking Morgan), they eventually enter the room where they believe someone is hiding...only to find that the person that had been sending the notes has already died and has turned.  This devastates Alicia who feels that she will never compare to all her mother was able to accomplish.  She then runs off, shrugging off Morgan's calls to her, particularly as he starts to notice the weather starting to seriously deteriorate.  Regardless, Alicia rebuffs Morgan's aid and leaves him to fend for himself in this inclement weather.

Meanwhile, back at the school bus, Charlie is almost attacked by a river walker had it not been for some quick moves by Althea (she's quickly becoming a favorite of mine among this crew, that's for sure).  After this altercation, they begin to notice how more and more walkers are turning up in the river and therefore Althea and June decide that they will take the tank drive up some to investigate.  John is concerned about June going off but June assures him that she'll be fine and she'll be back.  With that assurance, he lets her go.  However reluctantly.

In her absence, he tries to engage with Charlie with a makeshift Scrabble game but to no avail.  Instead, Charlie packs up her belongings and runs off.  We end up seeing that her destination was the mansion and before she can get a word in with anyone, Luciana sees her and chases her angrily out of the house into the storm.  She then notices that Charlie had delivered to her "The Little Prince" book that Luciana had originally given to her and had been rejected.  At this realization, Luciana runs into the storm herself, in an attempt to catch up to Charlie.  John himself realizing that Charlie has run off has convinced Strand to join him in joining the search for her.

Meanwhile, June and Alicia have their own heart to heart in the tank on their way to investigating the river.  June expresses to Alicia her concerns about John loving "Laura" and maybe not necessarily "June".  Althea very succinctly explains that John loves the woman that has been taking care of his wounds for the past how many days (or weeks).  Good point Althea.  Eventually, June realizes that the walkers coming down the stream are coming because of a serious storm pushing them their way.  June tells Althea that they need to get back immediately to hunker down and prepare.

This brings us back to the scene at the beginning of the episode with June and Althea stuck in the tank, amidst the hurricane storm winds and rain, with walkers flying all about.

So there you have it, you have all our characters fractured and split apart in the midst of a hurricane.  Talk about gimme shelter.

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD AIRS ON SUNDAYS AT 9:00PM EST ON AMC.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

RECAP: Season 4, Episode 8 of Fear The Walking Dead, "No One's Gone"

Throughout the entire season, thus far, we've bore witness to the benevolent, "No One's Gone Til They're gone" version of Madison Clark. As difficult as it was, at first, to really accept that a tiger (or cougar, as it were? 😉) such as her could change her stripes, we slowly accepted her highly-evolved, care-taking attitude as gospel, as it clearly had tremendous results. As "No One's Gone" opens, not knowing, initially, whether we were witnessing the past or present (as is custom in our timey-jumpy, wibbly-wobbly season, thus far), we recognize a familiar version of our matriarch: Mama-Bear Madison. We know this by the way she looks, the way she attempts to sneak up on Althea from behind, and how she subsequently attempts to steal Althea's MRAP/SWAT van at gun-point.
Who wore desperation better?
When Madison finds out the keys Althea tossed don't work, she begins to riffle through Althea's tapes. Eagle-eyed viewers, very unlike Carol and I (at least at first watch), will notice a tape labelled Abe/Doctor, which means that Althea has run across, at the very least, Abraham Ford and Doctor Eugene Porter in her travels (perhaps pre-Rosita). Insane viewers, like myself, might've noticed other tapes labeled Jamison, Bartlett (where they found Naomi), and Killeen, which coincide with the map John Dorie & Morgan Jones lift off The Vulture whom we called "Pinky", after John shot one of his off in their first encounter. When Althea decides to bust lose, Mama Bear knocks her out (hunh ...L.L. Cool J style) and makes off with the tapes. It becomes clear that Madison is using the tapes in an attempt to find any trace of Strand, Luciana, and her cubs, Nick & Alicia. Madison only gets so far in Althea's interviews before Al finally catches up with her, this time holding Madison hostage with a military-grade assault rifle in order to get her to give her an interview.
In Episode 23 of our Podcast, we muse over when AMC will decide to air the Abraham & Eugene tape
Still unclear on whether this is the past or the present, Althea divines that the people Madison is looking for are her children. From what we - the audience - know of Althea and through the Twisted Round story she proceeds to tell Madison about, we know that Althea has seen horrors both pre and post apocalypse. It's also clear, from the way she doesn't completely abandon or waste Madison for trying to take her out, that there's something that she gets that it's taken Rick Grimes and company 2+ seasons to understand: there has to be more to this world than just killing. Her story of the African Warlord illustrates that the concept of saying the truth, out loud (if only once), still has tremendous value. It's never demonstrated more than in this episode, as Madison begins telling her of the promise she wasn't able to keep, finding a safe place for her children after Broke Jaw Ranch.
Back in what we definitely know is the present, surrounded by the walkers in the stadium, Althea hands her camera off to Charlie and proceeds to use the turrets on her MRAP to cut a path for Morgan & Naomi to run through, in order to get the medical equipment they need to treat the gun-shot wound John received from Alicia at the racetrack in the previous episode (The Vultures' demise). Although they make it, Luciana launches an RPG right after them, hitting the entryway to that part of the stadium, trapping them in at the other end. Gunfire is being exchanged between Althea and Luciana, Strand, and Alicia. While John gets Charlie to help him record a farewell message to Naomi, Alicia attempts to parlay with Althea in order to give up the others. I suppose giving Althea an opportunity to spare her life is the very least she could do, in return for the ride she stole and eventually gave them across several of the initial episodes of Season 4. While John is busy telling Naomi to run towards people, instead of away, Althea tells Alicia that, like an Ogre/Onion, she has "layers" (as she's clearly shown in scenes with Madison) and refuses. And, in spite of Althea's boasts about the sturdiness of her MRAP - built like a tank in a tank in a bank vault - Alicia's RPG proves otherwise and the driver's side door falls off.
"You wanna help me with this door?"
"...[thinking: that was the idea]..."
While Alicia has Charlie at the point of her unusual sword, trying to convince Althea to walkie Naomi & Morgan to come out, John decides to open the channel on his walkie so that Morgan & Naomi can hear the channel and, hopefully, not come out. Alicia discovers this and before she can do anything to Charlie or John (and although Althea doesn't get to "punch her in the cooch"), Al manages to tackle her into the corner (after an almost harrowing scene with Althea dangling out the driver's side, head first, with crispy walkers trying to grab her). It's then that Althea discovers the Kimchi Ramen Noodles in the back: the very noodles Althea was grilled about by her in the second episode of this season (for those who hadn't forgot how odd that scene was). But Alicia is crazed and determined to get an answer from her and the best that Althea can give her is that she traded them for an interview once. And - like mother, like daughter - Alicia rummages frantically through Althea's tapes.
Madison, continuing to admit the truth out loud (if only once) to Althea's camera, admits that she's afraid that finding a safe place for her children might never be possible and that this post-apocalyptic world has a way of grinding down people without it. Madison proceeds to tell her the story about a bird she was convinced couldn't be saved, but her kids refused to give up on. Nick's sensitive heart and Alicia's determination convinced her otherwise as the bird eventually thrived. They called that bird Amina (short for Wilhelmina)
...The same name Alicia found on one of the tapes, which she was now reviewing.
"...but the light's getting fainter ever day that we're out here," Madison says to Althea, in what we now start to realize is the distant past, prior to even the before scenes in Season 4, "I'll do whatever it takes to keep it alive."
As Morgan starts to reenter the stadium via the cleared tunnel, Alicia greets him at the exit. She still wants Naomi, but Morgan refuses to step aside. He knows that this is not who she is or was meant to be. He knows, more than most people, that no one's gone til they're gone, "...You just have to decide that they're going to get better ... I stepped aside for your brother, I will not step aside for you. Whatever you think you've lost, whatever your mother wanted for you, it is still in you and I see it," and just like he took away John's pistols after he shot Pinky's pinky off, so too does he slowly take Alicia's weapon and hold her. Naomi is free to run to the MRAP and treat John.
I'm not crying, you're crying

After Madison is done telling her story, Althea cuts her loose, provides her with plenty of Instant Kimchi Ramen Noodles, and some arms. In this world, you'd think one would be cutting loose ends after you get what you want, not releasing them. Madison immediately realizes that this world doesn't have to be the way that it's become because of Althea's kindness and, even moreso, her struggle to keep to certain principles. This is the impetus of the benevolent, no one's gone til they're gone Madison we eventually see in Before scenes this season. Her renewed hope drives her to eventually find the truck belonging Strand, Luciana, and her kids outside a motel. Eagle-eyed viewers will also recognize the three walkie chirps she used to communicate with them, not only to be sure it was really them, but that it was safe: the same code that was used to alert Alicia & Luciana in her first encounter with Naomi, just as Naomi had pulled a gun on her. After a touching reunion with a post-dam PTSD/Agoraphobe Nick and the rest of the rough looking gang, they head out and eventually head to a clearing behind a stadium, confirming how distant we are in the past. She had found a safe place on the way to finding her family. Madison clearly never told them about Althea because of the way she first encountered her, almost killing her, but took the example of her generosity in order to propel her actions from that point forward, showing others the way, for more than a year later.
While treating John, Naomi/Laura reveals that her true name is June, which so happens to be John's favorite month (if it wasn't really before, it surely is now). Alicia tells Al to pull over in order to tell her how The Stadium fell. With everyone sitting around the campfire, minus John (still recovering), the now-retired blood-thirsty trio give Althea her due.
Strand, Luciana, and Madison furiously clear a path for Nick, Mel, and Alicia. As June mentions, she tried to get Cole and the remaining Stadium-dwellers to stay, but they wouldn't listen, and while June ran further inside to grab whatever medical supplies she could, the very Stadium-dwellers met their demise in the parking lot. As Naomi surely thought The Clarks et al were dead by then, so, too, did they assume that Naomi suffered the same fate as the other stadium-dwellers. I guess no one really is gone til they're gone and Strand decides to interject after Naomi apologizes for eventually joining The Vultures, "You did what you thought you had to do."
While Strand suffered a terrible burn, rescuing Alicia from flame-broiling walkers, and with the Kentucky-frying Dead gathering at the gates, Madison took matters into her own hands and lit a road-flare to guide The Passed into the stadium, sealing them (like Ganon, a la The Legend of Zelda) away from her friends, family, and the outside world.

As Victor wrapped up the permanent reminder of the good he can do in this world, Madison chirps over the walkie-talkie for the last time, "I was afraid to lose this place because I thought you needed it, to stay who you are right now, but you know it. No one's gone until they're gone," and as she lights up the oily walkers a blinding light engulfs the screen.
"So that we could live"

Alicia, "It was never about the stadium."
Victor, "It was about the people."
Luciana, "It was about us."

Alicia, again, "That's why my mom gave up her life."
Strand, "...so that we could live."
Luciana, "...so that we could live."
Alicia, "...so that we could live."