Fear the Walking Dead Premiere Recap: "Anton"

Fear the Walking Dead season 8 episode 7: "Anton."

No one's gone until they're gone. But in Fear the Walking Dead's final midseason premiere, titled "Anton," Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) is gone. The once cunning conman is now a caring family man named Anton, partner to Frank (Isha Blaaker) and loving father to Frank's son, Klaus (Julian Grey). In the seven years since we last saw him, Strand/Anton has settled into domestic life at the Emissary Suites, a hotel resort converted into a community of German tourists stranded during the global Wildfire Virus outbreak of 2010. Inside the German tour group's Marsh Light Tours bus converted into a walker-proofed barricade, Anton, Frank, and Klaus welcome an elderly man (Kermit Rolison) to what Anton describes as "an oasis for the dispossessed, the desperate, the weary."

"We got a second chance," Klaus says, his father adding that their home is "about making sure other people get one, too." Adds Anton: "Everyone deserves a second chance." That includes Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), found half-conscious, out of oxygen — and alive. It's a surprise for Anton, who thought Madison died when she saved him and her children, Nick and Alicia, when the Dell Diamond baseball stadium was overrun and destroyed. 

She asks questions — What are you doing here? Who are these people calling you Anton? Why are you speaking German? — but the man she knew as Victor Strand has no answers. It's a tearful Victor who embraces his old friend Madison, back from the dead, but it's Anton who pushes the stranger away when Frank and Klaus why she's calling him "Victor." She must be mistaken, he lies. He's never heard of Victor Strand, and he's never seen her before in his life. Before Madison can press "Anton" for answers, she wheezes, inhales sharply, and collapses from lack oxygen. Later, Anton insists to the council — and to his family — that he doesn't know who she is or why she thinks he's Victor Strand, even when the familiar voice of Daniel Salazar (Rubèn Blades) comes over the walkie-talkie looking for Madison.

But "everyone deserves a second chance," so they're not giving up on helping this stranger. As Klaus tends to Madison, a bond forms: he reminds her of her children, who once nursed a bird back to health, and she reminds him of his mother, Frank's ex, who was in Germany when the world changed. Madison wants to know why Victor is lying and pretending to be someone he's not, but before she can get an explanation, unwelcome guests arrive at the hotel: the posse that ambushed Madison. Russell (Randy Bernales) and his motley crew of armed men heard Madison's broadcasts about rebuilding PADRE, and their leader "knows her for who she really is." Frank claims they have no one matching her description, but when Anton has to choose between handing her over or losing the hotel like he lost the Tower... he unilaterally decides to give up Madison. 

Anton and Frank find Madison escaped with Klaus. Anton agrees to accompany Russell's men to track them down, but bails to avoid another reunion: with old "frenemy" Daniel, who is approaching the hotel by boat. With Daniel and his soldiers in pursuit of Russell's men, Anton and Frank split off to find their son. Frank is aware Anton is lying about his past: he knows what it is to "live a lie," referring to the years he was married to Klaus' mother. Anton conveniently finds a raft, and an even-more-convenient sword; for Frank, it's more evidence that there's something Anton hasn't told him. "Are you Victor Strand?"

Frank assures Anton that he could forgive him "if you are Victor Strand," just like Klaus' mother forgave him when he came clean to live his truth. " Whatever you did, I'm sure it's forgivable." And Anton assures him: "I'm not that man." They find Madison and Klaus at the Wymberley Jones De Renne Georgia Library on the appropriately-named Isle of Hope, and Anton just so happens to know where they can find an oxygen tank to save a fading Madison. The washed-up raft, the sword, the oxygen — Frank figures out that they're the missing pieces of a puzzle he's tried to piece together ever since Madison arrived at their door. But there's no time to argue. With Russell's men closing in, Anton wants them to move, but Klaus refuses to abandon Madison.

"I defended you to her. Told her my dad would never hand her over to those people like that," Klaus says. "Maybe you're not who I thought you were." But as Madison told him: You don't know Victor. She was right. No — she was wrong. "I am, Klaus. And I'm going to prove it to you." Anton tells Frank to take their son home. He'll be right behind them... after he helps her. "You took a chance on me when we first met. You both did. You saw the man I could be," Anton tells Frank and Klaus. "Let me prove to you I can still be that man."

Anton and Madison's second reunion goes worse than the first: she's angry at Victor for throwing her to the wolves, but as he reminds her, he's not Victor Strand. He's Anton, and he's here to save her. "I promised my son I would," he tells her. "You can either come with me and live, or stay here and die." Madison goes with Victor, seething that Victor traded her life back at the hotel. She says things like: "You scared sh-tless your little family is gonna find out who you really were? You were ready to let me die just to protect your secret. You gonna cut my throat with that sword, go back and tell your kid those people did it?"

"I'm not who you think," says Victor Anton. "I don't even know who the hell you are anymore!" Madison yells in response. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and hell hath no fury like whoever it is that's after Madison. When Russell's gang tracks them to the isle, he cryptically asks Anton: "You have no idea how far back this goes, do you?" Madison doesn't know these men or what they want with her, and it doesn't matter. "Whoever you think she is," Anton says, "that's not her anymore. Believe me. I know." Russell's response is that they're the same, both "pretending to be something you're not." They want PADRE, and Madison is going to show them where it is.

Anton and Madison manage to escape, but with walkers swarming the isle, they won't make it to the boats. Their only option is to hole up inside the library, but it's breached by the horde. Their makeshift barricade of desks and chairs and everything else not nailed down will only last so long against the wall of walkers flooding into the library. Anton radios Frank and Klaus as the walkers advance. They're trapped.

And then the confession: Victor Strand is dead, killed by Victor Strand. "I had to leave that person behind," Anton tells Madison, explaining that he betrayed Alicia when he was the "ruthless" leader of the Tower. When the Tower fell, the survivors who escaped the radioactive fallout in Texas washed up on the shores of Savannah, Georgia, where they became separated. "Some were taken to PADRE. Others were struggling to survive out here. I tried to help them, but they wouldn't let me. They couldn't forgive me. I tried to help them find food, to make amends. When I came back," he says, facing the undead horde, "they were dead, just like them. I hated being Victor Strand. So I killed him. "As far as I was concerned, he died with everyone else that day."

Madison asks who he became. Who are you now? "The last time I saw Alicia... she told me that she loved me. I didn't think anyone could," Anton tearfully confesses. "I met Frank and Klaus, and it changed everything. I could be the person that Alicia thought I could be. But I could only do it as someone else. As Anton." He takes Madison's hand, and tells her that Alicia had the chance to let him die. "And after everything I did, I deserved it. But she didn't." Why didn't she? "Because her mother taught her that no one is gone until they're gone. That everyone deserves a second chance. No matter what."

Madison has her own amends to make. She tells Anton that she promised the kids she collected for PADRE that she would help them find their parents. She sent messages on long-range radio "just hoping that some parents would hear me," she says, but those same messages drew Russell's men to her. "And now I've put everyone else in danger because of it. That place, what I promised those kids... that's all I have left, Victor." 

Finally, they're rescued... by Russell's soldiers. They gun down the walkers and capture Madison and Anton, along with the Germans. Back at the hotel, Madison, Anton, Klaus, Frank, and the rest of their community are strapped to chairs, guns to their heads. And then their shows himself: Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman), somehow still alive after Madison bludgeoned him with a hammer and left him for dead back at the Gonzalez Dam in Mexico. He didn't escape unscathed: he removes his sunglasses, revealing a dead, discolored eye.

"I'm gonna tell you the truth about who she is," Troy tells the people who took in Madison, blaming her for destroying his family's ranch. "My brother, my father, I lost them all because of her." And Victor Strand helped. Madison is surprised to learn Troy survived, but is less surprised he's after PADRE. "I'm just looking for a home, Madison," he says. "You see, you took mine from me, so I'm gonna take yours from you." Madison is confident Troy will never find PADRE. He's even more confident he will. "'Cause you're gonna tell me," Troy replies, taking a familiar hammer from his belt, "or I'm gonna do to him what you did to me."

Troy takes Anton by the throat, raises the hammer to his head... and Victor Strand dies. But he's not killed by a hammer. Or by Troy. This is a symbolic death: a selfless Anton truly kills the selfish Victor Strand with the truth. "Don't do it, Madison. Hold onto that place," he tells his old friend of PADRE. "It's what Alicia would've wanted." Frank and Klaus beg Madison to tell Troy how to find PADRE to save Anton like he saved her. Anton tells his truth: "My name is Victor Strand. I lied to you about so much. But what I felt for you was real. Ich liebe euch beide." Translation: "I love you both."

Before Troy can bring the hammer down, Daniel arrives with his army: June (Jenna Elfman), Sherry (Christine Evangelista), and enough soldiers to make this a fair fight with Troy's army. "Hate to do to you what I did to your daughter," says Troy, who is immediately recognized by Daniel. "Troy Otto. Next time, I'm gonna make sure you really die." Madison, now having the upper hand, tells Troy that the place she's building is about to expand. The Germans took her in when she needed help — now she's doing the same for them.

"I won't pretend I haven't done things I regret. But the place I'm building, it's not about me," Madison says. "It's about keeping something bigger alive." It's about her kids. Nick and Alicia. "I'm gonna build that place into what it should have always been, for them. For Alicia." Troy warns her she's making a mistake... "'cause that's the same thinking that got her killed in the first place."

Madison, with fury, demands Troy tell her how he knows about Alicia's death. "'Cause I'm the one that killed her," he says nonchalantly, handing over a duffle bag for proof. Inside is what Anton and Daniel recognize as Alicia's arm prosthetic, the bones of her zombie-bitten arm still inside. "I took it off her corpse after I killed her." Madison sobs. Then she gets angry. She roars with a ferocity of a mourning mother and swings at Troy with the hammer — and this time, she's going to KILL HIM. Except Anton holds her back, gently dragging Madison out of the room as Daniel's army holds off Troy's army.

"See, I would've put her down, Madison. After all the wandering around I did in Mexico, I thought it was only right that Alicia should do the same. Maybe one day you'll find her. Or maybe she'll find you, or maybe not, and finish the job. You want a fight, Madison? We'll give you that. We'll give you a fight." As Madison mourns Alicia's death, she has no answer to what Troy asks: "What are you even fighting for?" No one's gone until they're gone... but is Alicia gone? 

New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+.

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