Tension between Madison and Troy on Fear the Walking Dead has been brewing for quite some time now, and it finally comes to a head in the season 3 midseason premiere 'Minotaur' and 'Diviner'. The first indication of trouble between the two came when Madison stuck a spoon in the sociopath's eye at the start of the season, and has continued as their shaky, strange relationship grew over the course of the first eight episodes. Now, at end of episode 9, the pair get a little alone time as Madison banishes Troy from the ranch as punishment for his failed coup following the arrival of Walker and the rest of the Nation.
It's a big scene, as Madison is clearly given the opportunity to do away with a troublemaker and killer, someone who has proven himself untrustworthy time and again. And in the kill-or-be-killed world of The Walking Dead, when you're a guy like Troy, you either have some semblance of power or you're in the ground. That wasn't the case in 'Minotaur' as Madison lets Troy walk, likely knowing full well he'll return to make her life a living hell.
Before the premiere, Fear the Walking Dead showrunner Dave Erickson spoke with Screen Rant about the biggest scene from the episode. Erickson broke down Madison's fateful decision and offered up some reasons why she would opt not to kill Troy, and even touched on the strange tension that exists between the two. When asked whether Madison was keeping Troy in play in case things don't work out with Walker, Erickson said he doesn't think Madison was necessarily being tactical. Instead, he believes she was atoning for the things she'd done earlier – namely, try to kill Troy's father, Jeremiah:
"I don't think it's so much strategic. I think in telling the story of her father last season, and how he died [Madison] was asking permission and sort of apologizing in advance for what she was about to do to Jeremiah. I wonder if subconsciously she wasn't asking for help. You know? And the truth of the matter is she got that help. She told that story and walked out the door leaving both of her children knowing full well what her intentions probably were. And Nick followed her and the baton was passed. I think that worries her.
She's also developed this strange surrogate mother-son relationship with Troy and by the time we got to the end of the midseason I think she empathizes with him in some strange way. She sees some thread of humanity in him despite the horrors he's committed. Not having pulled the trigger on Jeremiah… [Madison] is in the position where she can take [Troy's] life, and it makes more sense for her to. It makes a lot more sense to. Her concern from a practical standpoint is: to kill Troy would be to upset the balance back at the ranch. Her justification to Walker is that if you kill him, you've martyred him and basically all remaining militia members and all the ranchers are going to reject the peace. She doesn't want that.
From an emotional standpoint [Madison's] trying to see if she can live without the death. And I think she's hoping to some degree that [Troy's] actually going to function as the scapegoat that he now is and not come back. Now, of course, this is Troy and this is the world of the Walking Dead, so I think that decision will come back to haunt her and in some respects it will reaffirm her philosophy in this world. The fact that she doesn't take him out when she has an opportunity to is a lesson for her. The one time she chooses not to commit murder will probably be the one time that really compromises her and her family in a way that she hasn't ever seen."
Erickson also discussed whether or not there was something else going on between Madison and Troy in terms of some unspoken sexual tension. While Erickson agrees "there's absolutely a strange surrogate, incestuous element to that relationship. I think it started in the premiere," he's not so convinced Troy is the kind of guy who is emotionally capable of recognizing it, let alone addressing it. The showrunner even offered up an interesting take on Troy:
"I don't think Troy has had the opportunity to be with anyone. I don't think he really sees himself as a sexual being; that isn't in the foreground of his thought. The interesting thing about his relationship with Madison is there's a strange connection between the two of them. I don't know that it's sexual so much as it's him trying to process emotions he doesn't typically feel. He feels an attraction to her, but he doesn't quite know how to process it. He feels this kinship and connection to Nick that he doesn't feel to his own biological brother and that something that's strange to him also. And what you see with Troy, over the course of the season, there're a number of times where he is hit by something, and there's a little bit of the socio-pathology going on where he's mimicking, he's mirroring what the expected emotion might be because he studies other people and he knows what he's supposed to do.
For him it's really one of the first times in his life that he's actually feeling things on a visceral level and he doesn't know quite how to process them, which is why when Nick confesses to killing Jeremiah it gives him pause. His first instinct is to put the gun on Nick, but then he just gets lost in that moment. And we'll see a few more examples of this over the course of the season. There's definitely an intimacy in that relationship between him and Madison and how the two of them play it. In the end of ['Minotaur'] yes, there's that clinch, that embrace which does feel sexual. So, it was partly by design but also something that came through I think in the course of the performance, and as Kim [Dickens] and Daniel [Sharman] developed those characters."
Fear the Walking Dead continues next Sunday with 'Diviner' @9pm on AMC.