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Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead. You've been warned!
With all the new ingredients thrown into Fear the Walking Dead's formula in Season 5, one might not have expected one of the biggest twists of the first eight episodes to center on the show's longest-running cast member, Alycia Debnam-Carey. As it was revealed in the back half of Episode 7, "Still Standing," Alicia took a load of poisoned walker blood to the face, which audiences quickly assumed meant the character's days were now severely limited.
Of course, there aren't any doctors around to give direct diagnoses concerning Alicia's own level of radiation poisoning after that encounter, only assumptions could be made. So viewers can only rely on the words of showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, who addressed Alicia's Fear the Walking Dead twist after the episode's airing with the following:
All that contaminated blood on Alicia definitely puts her in a lot of risk and danger. That’s not to say that it will put her at the same level of exposure as the people from the plant, or even Grace, but it’s definitely cause for concern. This moment is also significant in regards to Alicia’s emotional journey in the season so far. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Alicia go toe-to-toe with walkers contaminated with nuclear radiation. We saw her do it at the crash site in 502 when she and Morgan were looking for Al.
Somewhat shockingly, the showrunners seemed to be stoking some optimism among fans by saying that Alicia's exposure to that walker's blood may not be as bad as it seems. In fact, it may not even be as bad as the radiation poisoning that Grace or anyone else from the plant had to deal with. Granted, they're not confirming that Alicia's problems give everyone very little to worry about, but they don't seem to be setting up any immediate death sentences.
Unless that's exactly what they want us to think, to lure us into a false sense of security. And then BAM with the immediate death sentences.
Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg also made specific reference to the fact that dealing with the radiation exposure doesn't just have physical ramifications, such as the bubbling skin seen on the dosimeter-wearing walkers. As Karen David has proven in her few appearances as Grace, there are definitely a lot of emotional hurdles to get over as well.
Not that Alicia was partially responsible for setting a whole slew of people up for death. In fact, she spent the episode trying to save Annie and the rest of the treehouse-dwelling children. So her emotional turmoil is coming from a different angle than Grace's is.
Speaking with EW, showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg talked more at length about how the events in "Still Standing" reflect on the character earlier in the season, and how it will weigh on her survival.
Alicia’s story this season has been about being a protector for the group and the lengths she will go to protect the people she loves — even if it puts her own life at risk. The difference in Alicia in 502 and in 507 is she heeded Morgan’s advice. She put herself out there and made herself emotionally available and vulnerable. Which is what she had to do to get the kids to trust her and leave the treehouse. We’ve witnessed how she’s grown and evolved beyond her role as protector. She’s made real human connections with the people around her. It makes the moment when she sees the dosimeter around the neck of the walker all the more devastating. So the question becomes if Alicia survives, how will her role as protector of the group evolve?
Considering Alicia doesn't even tell Morgan and Grace, or anyone else, about her whereabouts, it's not even a sure thing that she'll reconnect with the rest of the characters that are hoping to soon fly out of the endangered area. The photos released for the midseason finale don't show Alicia (or Morgan) at all, adding further worries as the air raid sirens are ringing out.
Indeed, Chambliss and Goldberg want viewers to be very concerned for more characters than just Alicia. They point out that that the group's various members still have a lot of loose ends to tie up before any attempted escape can actually get up into the air. Here's how they put it:
In addition to the ticking clock of the impending plant meltdown, there are also a lot of balls in the air. Dwight and Dorie are still pretty far from the plane. Will they make it back in time? What about Morgan, Alicia, and Grace? Is Alicia contaminated with nuclear radiation? Will the rest of the group be able to finish the plane in time to get it in the air? All we can say is it’s going to be a nail biter of a midseason finale that will put our characters in perhaps the most heightened, dangerous, and emotional situation they’ve faced yet. Buckle up!
The way that sounds, Morgan and Grace may need to make a pit stop to pick up Alicia wherever she's hiding out. What happens if they don't make it back to the group in time, though? Does everyone leave without them? It'd be kind of imperative, since sticking around for longer would put them all in the danger zone for far too long.
Episode 7 took a surprising step with Dwight and Sherry's story, with John already coming clean about having hidden Sherry's letter from him in the previous episode. The showrunners told EW that Dwight "could one day find another clue towards Sherry's whereabouts," but that the damaged plane would need to get up in the air before that could happen. (What if they see a certain helicopter in the air?)
I don't think anyone within the Fear fandom is worried about John and June's situation, though, making it weird that those characters are playing it up like they've been apart for ages. But if there's any big guarantee to walk away from the midseason finale with, it's that John and June will be fine. I hope.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the Season 5 midseason finale airing on July 21.