After Travis’ death, Madison finally proves she will go to any lengths to protect Nick and Alicia and Fear the Walking Dead is much improved because of it…

When season one began, I was excited to see what Kim Dickens would do but as the writers didn’t know where the hell to take the sister spin-off series, and as Travis lurched between hero and useless extra, Madison hummed and harred… As a result, one of my favorite actresses was powerless to show off the fearsome acting prowess we know she possesses.

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But, since stabbing a spoon into Troy’s eye and now at the Otto Ranch, she has finally taken control and her and her kids story arcs have diverted off in seperate, intriguing (and one wholly unexpected) branches.

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It was a dialogue heavy episode but Red Dirt continued what last week started; splitting the three remaining members of the Clark family up and assigning them with unexpected members of the Otto Clan.

Surprisingly Kim wasn’t paired off with her fellow Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy alum Dayton Callie, but instead the role of gaining Jeremiah’s trust was given to Nick.

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Second most ambiguous is the relationship ‘twixt Alicia and Jake. Obvious, yes, but given much more depth when asked by her mom if she really likes him or is just using Jake as a means to an ends, Alicia replies a bit of both.

I think Madison’s actions may have been swayed by Jake’s assertations that they beat their confusingly named, new native American threat “Walker” in court so this must mean he will listen to reason, which of course, after killing eight ranch members ain’t gonna happen…

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But the most interesting of the three pairings has to be the fact that Madison has thrown her cards in with genuinely disturbed (in a torturing animals as a kid way) Troy.

Interesting because last week he had was big bad boss to her rookie and held a knife to her throat. By the end of the episode they were as good as partners.

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Whether this is part of the kind of long-con Kim Dickens and Sawyer may have pulled off in Lost, I’m not sure but it seems, for the meantime, that she believes Troy’s leadership is the best way to protect the ranch and her family.

The goddamned psychopath does, after all, know how to assemble his militia and get them to do his bidding, even if some of them are Oompah Lumpahs.

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Red Dirt’s worst moment was Jeremiah’s drinking relapse but its best play was in letting founding member Mike Trimbol and his family, including Alicia’s ‘Bible study’ friend Gretchen leave the camp, only to be butchered by Troy in a false flag attack.

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Yet the rug was pulled from under us when, as Madison pulled back the tarp to reveal the dead families bodies, instead of exposing Troy’s lie, she covered up his massacre and used it as a play to back Troy as group leader, thus keeping the other families within the camp. It was all very M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, which was in turn a commentary on 9/11.

Adding this Iago-like web of lies, manipulation and power-plays is almost as a bold move from Madison as it was from the writers. This season three writers’ room should be applauded for not only adding these layers but also for pushing the boundaries waaay passed what The Walking Dead has tried for several seasons, blood, guts and action sequences notwithstanding.

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I’m not sure if I like Madison as a person and I’m not sure her son Nick does, but I love her as a character and that Kim Dickens finally has a duplicitous role to get her teeth into, zombie pun intended.

Fear the Walking Dead continues Sunday 9th July on AMC.