Fear the Walking Dead Season 3 incorporates four baffling and disturbing dream sequences which frame Madison Clark’s near-death experience during the conflict over the Gonzalez Dam. They occur at the beginning, middle and end of the episode, culminating in her survival having nearly drowned in the flood waters following the dam’s breaching. My interest is in the fact that only in this dreamworld are we presented with a coherent cemetery fashioned in the post-apocalyptic world: in the real world of the undead and competing factions, no such thing exists. A cemetery is therefore seen as a destination and an absence in the fractured world of the walking dead. It constitutes Madison’s deeds and acquaintences, her failings and conflicts, but also (seemingly) her future demise. Yet there is a twist.
First, Madison Clark seems to dream of preparing a Christmas meal in an isolated farmstead. We learn from drinking with Victor Strand how much she loved preparing a traditional Christmas dinner with turkey. Yet she walks outside and past the gravestones of Jeremiah, Jake and Troy Otto to a fourth and final grave in the row. There, she joins her son Nick and his girlfriend Luciana who is holding a baby which is swaddled and thus concealed from view. They stnad in front of her daughter Alicia’s gravestone, like the Ottos it is of comparable grey stone. The dream ends with Nick, Luciana and the baby driving off after Madison seems to suspect the baby is undead. The wind drowns Madison’s words and she is unable to communicate with them and prevent them leaving.
Mid-episode, she is back in the kitchen of a farmstead and greets all of her dead and living friends to Christmas dinner. Removing the cloche, Jeremiah Otto’s head is revealed and his body is decapitated by Walker who now appears in his usual clothes. Strand walks away from the bloodbath and she follows him outside and finds herself in a cemetery: Madison looks around for a specific gravestone.
Near the end of the episode, Madison is back in a dream sequence for a third time. She walks through the same cemetery where we left her before. She is alone. She finds Jeremiah Otto’s grave, now in the midst of a larger burial ground of people she has known but whom are now dead. She kneels on his grave and hands rise up and try to drag her down.
In the fourth and final scene, she is pulled into the grave. She finds herself drowning in the real world she is dragged back into the dreamworld since Travis Manawa is pulling her away from death, upwards out of the grave. However, she loses grip of Travis and falls, but not into death, but back to life. So the dreamworld is not a world in which she is a live, but the world of the dead, or at least some limbo between worlds. By being dragged into the grave, she isn’t dying, she is entering back into our world – an inversion of what one is led to suspect.
In this succession of scenes, the cemetery represents a fated and deserved death and Madison looks set to join a community. Travis is not her salvation, but her doom, yet Madison escapes the flood water to live on, neither joining the walking dead nor at peace.
I’m not pretending to fully understand the dream sequence and its significance in the programme, if any. Still, it does tackle the sense of a cemetery as a cumulative catalogue of lives and a place of intercession between worlds: a halfway house. It is a liminal zone, but we are left unclear on which side of the divide Madison is on.
In these regards, it is a troubling and fascinating sequence for Madison, who for the entire series has desperately struggled to keep her family alive and together. The season ends without us knowing whether she has succeeded or not. And thus ends the most dark and disturbing series of Fear the Walking Dead franchise.