Depending on where Fear the Walking Dead ends up going, Madison is either being exceptionally strategic or exceptionally dumb. Despite having nearly gouged out his right eye with a spoon, she's allied herself with Troy, easily the most unstable member of the Otto Ranch. But that could also mean he's the most easily manipulated, which Madison may be taking full advantage of.
As several people on the ranch -- including one of its original founders, Vernon -- begins to leave in the wake of the threats from Qalteqa Walker and his tribe, Troy begins to panic. He's afraid that lesser numbers means reduced strength, and in typical Troy fashion, he takes several confrontational steps to make sure no one else leaves.
The surprising part is, Madison encourages his behavior. As she tells Troy and Jeremiah, the ranch has become extremely important to her and her family. After a short time there, she believes in what it stands for and recognizes it as a potential long-term safe haven. But even if that's true, it's somewhat shocking to see her support Troy's intimidation tactics, which may include butchering Vernon and his entire family, then blaming it on Walker's people as a means of scaring others into staying.
From what Madison tells Nick in an ambiguous final scene, that may very well be the case. And if so, what does it say about Madison? On one hand, it's amoral. If it was Troy and not Walker who killed Vernon's clan, and Madison went along with it, that means she's complicit in the murder of a half-dozen or so innocent people. But it also means she's playing Troy until she solidifies her place at the ranch with her family or no longer needs him.
As cold as that last strategy may seem, perhaps Madison is slowly realizing the rules of this new world. Does she want an entire family to die? Of course not. But if it means keeping her own family safe in the long run -- a family who's already seen several members die, it's worth noting -- then maybe that's the sacrifice she has to make.
Whatever the case, "Red Dirt" adds true complexity to her character, her den-mother strength being tainted (or perhaps bolstered) by a newfound moral flexibility. I'm hard-pressed to think of a more compelling and possibly toxic relationship in the Walking Dead universe than the one developing between her and Troy. And that's to say nothing of Troy's own plotting. As unhinged as he may be, he's no dummy. Maybe he knows Madison's manipulating him and he's manipulating her in return. Either way, I hope they keep their uneasy alliance through the rest of the season. It adds an element of surprise that simply doesn't exist right now in Fear the Walking Dead's parent show.
Another bonus for this week: No Strand and Daniel! I'm assuming they'll have to come back into the fold at some point, but for now, Fear the Walking Dead is at its strongest when we don't know what's going to come next.