Who's Behind Those Painted Trees on 'Fear The Walking Dead'? 3 Theories

Emily Hannemann
Van Redin/AMC

After a half-season of trying to save a group of kids, Alicia Clark has a new mission on Fear The Walking Dead: To find the person painting motivational messages on trees throughout the Austin area. So far, it would seem she hasn’t achieved her goal.

But according to EP Andrew Chambliss, the youngest (and only) Clark will get an answer to her question. With just six episodes left this season, that answer is likely arriving sooner rather than later.

Here are three people we think could be behind those artsy trees.

1. Wes

Colby Hollman’s Wes is one of the most interesting survivors Fear has featured in quite some time; he’s selfish but not heartless, and he seems like a realist whose philosophies would contradict most of the main group. Having him be the artist would add some depth and complexity to his character—it could even offer a decent backstory, if Wes is to stick around—as well as bring him into Alicia’s orbit.

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In some ways, if Wes is the painter, he might serve as an interesting parallel to Alicia’s other love interests throughout the show. Matt, her first boyfriend and the artist behind her tattoo, was certainly creative. Jake liked literature and argued that art was worth staying alive for. If Wes has an artsy side, that could put him on track to being Alicia’s next love interest—or even just a good friend.

2. Holly Curran’s mystery character

This character doesn’t yet have a name, or any official photos, but that secrecy could mask her true purpose on the show: tree painter. Chambliss was reluctant to say much about who Holly Curran will be playing, other than that she’s someone who’ll help a member of the group “make a core change in their beliefs.” If Curran was playing someone non-essential to such a main storyline, might the EP have been more willing to discuss her character?

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The show has made a definitive statement about Alicia's strength and her ability to be a leader.

Clearly, there’s something the creative minds behind Fear don't want to reveal about her until the episode airs, and as far as helping someone make a core change in their beliefs? That sounds an awful lot like it might refer to Alicia, who’s been somewhat unmoored since she was all about killing walkers in the first half of the season, then was infected with radiation, then stopped killing walkers completely in 5B. She’s clearly dealing with some pretty serious troubles, even if she’s not showing it. If Curran’s character is painting the trees, she could be someone with whom Alicia forms a connection, and she might help her heal from all the trauma and loss in her past.

3. Madison Clark

This is an out-there theory that might have been disproven by this week’s trailer, but nonetheless… might the mystery artist be Madison Clark? Fans first latched onto the idea that Madison might be showing off her artsy side because of a leaked set image that showed a tree painted with a bird, flames and Madison’s signature saying from Season 4: “No one’s gone until they’re gone.”

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One year after the Clark matriarch threw that fateful flare, many are still calling for her to return.

This week’s episode trailer makes it appear Alicia’s painting that tree, but the others could still be Madison’s handiwork. Granted, it’s hard to believe Madison would be wasting her time decorating some bark. Her first priority would be to get her kids back, and to let them know she made it out of the Dell Diamond. But at this point, it’d just be nice to have her back… in whatever form her return would take.

Fear the Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC