Fear the Walking Dead: Showrunner Dave Erickson Breaks Down Epic Finale
Fear the Walking Dead is setting sail for uncharted waters in Season 2.
The AMC drama concluded its six-episode first season on Sunday night with a heartbreaking tragedy coupled with a newfound glimmer of hope. After Madison (Kim Dickens), Travis (Cliff Curtis) and the Salazars unleashed a herd of infected walkers onto the government compound, they were successfully reunited with Nick (Frank Dillane) and Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez). The group then headed west thanks to Nick’s new friend, the mysterious Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), who opened up his beachside mansion for sanctuary before informing Nick of his plan: fleeing aboard his luxury yacht.
However, not everyone survived the battle unscathed. Liza discovered she had been bitten during the melee, and asked Madison to pull the trigger before the disease could take effect. In the end, it was Travis who ultimately killed his ex-wife, crushing him and the rest of the family.
We spoke to showrunner Dave Erickson about the decision to kill Liza, where the family goes from here and what to expect with the new Fear the Walking Dead web companion series Flight 642.
Back in our preseason chat, you said “the ocean is important.” It now appears that it is the group’s escape route. Have we seen the last of Los Angeles?
Yeah, that’s fair to say. We’ll discover going into Season 2 what destination it’s going to be—whether we go north or south or head to the islands—which is very pleasing for Cliff because I think he’d love to get back to New Zealand. We saw the Pacific in one scene in the pilot and then it was always something that was there and beckoning. The benefit of shooting on the coast is you have the option of going to the water, and as the season developed in the room, I always wanted to hug the coastline. And then we had the idea of “what would happen if there was a boat?” One of the things we’ll come to realize is we aren’t the only ones who are going to have that bright idea. So the seascape will become something interesting and fun to explore.
We still don’t know much about Strand. Is this somebody that the group can trust?
Nick trusts him. Strand saved him, but Nick doesn’t quite know why he did that. He knows that Strand has some plan for him, but that has yet to manifest. Nick is one of the more street savvy characters. He’s somebody who has had to survive on the streets for lengthy periods of time. So he’s still trying to figure out Strand. And I think that he’s probably in his own way as smart as Strand is, so it will be interesting to see how that relationship develops. But the thing that Strand excels at is finding the currency and figuring out what and who has value. Ultimately, he needed a ride. So if you look at what he needed, he got it with the family. He was able to suggest the escape route and they bought into that, and now he has something to offer. And with that mode of transportation, there’s a certain degree of power that comes with that. So he’s really well positioned. We’ll learn about his past, and we’ll also learn what his real intentions are and what his agenda is.
The body count for the finale was relatively low among our main characters, with Liza being the exception. Why was it important for her to go, and why didn’t you kill anyone else?
When [co-creator] Robert [Kirkman] and I first sat down, there were certain people that we thought would go, and have not—and will not for some time. But we always talked about Liza’s death because we felt from a story perspective, if Travis had to a make a choice between his ex-wife and his current love, what would that do? And it evolved beyond that. And as the season continued to expand and develop, she didn’t die in the way we originally intended, but it was always with an eye towards what will that do to the larger family? What’s that going to do to the story as a whole? And the rift that it creates between Travis and Chris is quite profound. It’s going to have a huge impact on Chris, obviously, and Travis as well. We first started this season with Travis and Madison as a very solid couple that really, genuinely love each other. I was very curious to see what would happen when Travis comes to realize that his love is somebody who would condone torture, and Madison comes to realize that Travis is a good man who does the right thing in the old world, but maybe is not somebody who can function in the new world. It was an intent to fracture, and what the death of Liza strangely did was bring our two principle characters together in a really unsettling and tragic way. The loss of Liza was hard. Elizabeth is an amazing actor and there were moments when I tried to think about walking it back, but ultimately it just felt right for the story. That was the turning point that this family needed moving into next season. We also don’t have anybody who is going to be able to mend wounds. One of the things we now have to explore going into the next season is this question of survival. The way we structured Season 1, we were behind a fence for the bulk of Episodes 4, 5 and going into Episode 6. We had MREs being brought to us and we’d been relatively well protected. Now we have to learn how to survive on our own. It’s another element of this apocalyptic education that they haven’t had to experience yet.
The Flight 462 web series also debuted last night. As viewers, what should we be paying attention to in those episodes?
I’m very interested in multi-platform storytelling. There’s something interesting about webisodes. You create a narrative that runs parallel to your core story and see if there are ways for that story to conflate with the larger. You can expect to have some connective tissue between that flight and our core group as we move forward, and then it’s just a question of how deeply entangled those two stories become.
What lessons did you learn from the first season that you’re hoping to carry over or improve upon in Season 2?
We obviously set out to tell a story that was paced in a certain way. We wanted to start with our family and let the apocalypse lead into that, rather than jump right into the apocalypse and let the family dynamic catch up with it. And there were some people who liked that and there were some people who didn’t. What was important for me personally was to have one character, Travis, who continued to hold onto his humanity and continued to believe that there was going to be a better way. None of our characters have watched The Walking Dead, so their default setting was never going to be that those people are zombies and we need to kill them as quickly as possible. We also built purposely to a big climax in the finale. It was our first horde [of zombies] and really the biggest action sequence we had done over the course of the entire season. All of our characters at this point are in a different place now, and they have a better understanding of what the apocalypse is and what it means. They know it’s not going to get better anytime soon. I don’t think that they yet realize that the world is completely gone, so there’s still something for them to learn. But they’re definitely wiser. If you look at the way they handle themselves, they’re getting it and they’re actually preparing themselves to defend in a way that they weren’t before. So going into the next season, I still want to always have the family drama be the filter through which we do everything, but I also think there’s now a reality that they do understand. It’s no longer going to be the standard process of them trying to figure out what’s up with these people with the weird eyes. They’re going to be in a much more vigilant and sometimes violent state. The aggression that comes from that is going to drive the story in a bit of a different way than we did in the first few episodes of Season 1.