Major spoilers for the "Fear the Walking Dead" finale lie ahead!
It seems slightly insane, but after six intense and gratifying weeks, it's already time to say goodbye -- for now -- to Madison (Kim Dickens), Travis (Cliff Curtis), and the rest of the gang from "Fear the Walking Dead." Though of course, not everyone lived to see the final moments of the series finale, "A Good Man," as Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) was shockingly put to rest by the good man in question after obtaining a bite during the group's first real battle with the zombies.
There is a silver lining, however, in that the episode ended with the group looking to the sea -- and finding an enormous yacht that would even turn P. Diddy a shade of envious green. So, with the gang rattled to their core and adventure on the high seas on the horizon, MTV News caught up with "FTWD" executive producer Dave Erickson to discuss what's to come... and of course, The New Daryl.
MTV: How did the decision come about to kill off Liza? Is there pressure, with every finale and midseason finale, to kill off a main character?
Dave Erickson: When Robert [Kirkman] and I first sat down and started talking about the show, he had certain people in mind he thought would go away, I had certain people in mind whom I thought would go away. Liza was always someone who -- in terms of what that death would do to the cast at large -- was always a narrative piece we thought would happen. Initially, it was not going to be that late in the season -- once the [writers'] room was up and running and we were breaking story, that’s just how it developed.
But yeah, there’s an expectation -- and they handle it very well on the original show -- that you need to have some big death at the end of... the midseason break or season finale. It’s tricky, because it’s not an organic way to write. You don’t want to sit down in the writers' room on day one and say, “Who are we going to kill at the end of episode seven, who are we going to kill in episode 15?”...
And look, it’s “The Walking Dead.” People are going to get bit, people are going to die, and people are going to turn. It’s part of the show. But it’s not as if there’s a handbook that AMC delivers and says, “You’ve got to kill this many people per season.”
MTV: Was part of the intention to kill the only person with useable apocalypse survival skills?
Erickson: Yes. One of the things we talked about was the fact that we don’t have two cops who know how to use firearms, and have some leadership skills already. We’ve got a guidance counselor and an English teacher. So, yeah, absolutely. The one person who could actually help them in this new world is now gone, so they’ve got to get back to basics. There’s a certain apocalyptic survival learning curve that they’re going to have to accelerate on next season, because there’s nobody else to get them. Salazar has some skills from his time as a solider; some skills are more malevolent. But I think there’s some assets, some skills he can bring as well.
MTV: Will we start to see more of these skills come out with all of the characters, now that they've actually fought real zombies?
Erickson: I think we’ll come to realize when season two starts, we were not the only people with the bright idea to take to the sea. There’s a lot of boats, thousands of boats up the coast of California, so what’s going to be interesting is A, getting to the boat, and B, protecting the boat. And Strand is a guy who does have a lot of money. This is not a fishing vessel, or something you could use for a day cruise. This is something you can actually [use as] somewhat of a fortress on the sea, so it’s going to be attractive to other people who might not have the same fortunes that we have. I think you’re going to see a dynamic where, much in tune thematically to the original show, other people are just as much or more dangerous than the dead.
That scene with Ofelia in the kitchen at the military compound where she takes out that walker, it was somewhat of a revelation for me -- that was one of the most badass kills we had all season long. Everyone came into their own to a certain degree, in terms of accepting what this reality is. They’re all in a much different place... For Travis, specifically, he took the longest to get there, and that was by design. It didn’t seem unreasonable for one of our characters to hold fast, stubbornly so, to humanity, and try not to surrender it. It’s only at the end, when he’s offered this one kindness -- he’s released Adams at his own risk -- when that comes back to bite him in the ass. It means his instincts have been wrong, and he’s confronted with that in a very real way. That’s going to be jarring; it’s going to be something he carries with him into the next season.
MTV: There's also Strand, whose skills are still a giant question mark... which is part of why fans are freaking out over him. Is there pressure to keep the air of mystery about him, while keeping him around and pulling back his layers?
Erickson: That’s the challenge. We really wanted to introduce a character of affluence. It’s not something you see often -- if at all -- on the original series; and we’ve been very blue collar much in the way “Walking Dead” is. [We wanted to] have someone who has... built his own empire; to watch a guy who has a certain con-man charm which is consistent to how he’s built that empire and how he’s operated throughout much of his career. But the cool thing is about Strand is I think he’s a guy who recognizes shifting currencies. What he has to figure out going into season two, is what is the new currency of his time? It’s definitely not shiny things, which is why he gives his Rolex away, and the only reason why he wants his cuff links back is they have a certain emotional value. But he definitely has an agenda, he definitely has a plan, and I think it will be interesting to see how his plan conflates with Madison and Travis and the rest of the family.
MTV: What about Daniel, who has also revealed a fair share of secrets? Will the events of the finale mean more Badass Military Daniel, or will he tow the line for Ofelia?
Erickson: I think his biggest challenge going into next season -- he’s not going to lose his badass; he’s not going to stop being the guy that we introduced in season one. What complicates things is he’s now been essentially outed. His daughter, whom he dotes on and adores, now realizes that the stories of his life and Griselda’s life, everything she’s been told, is false. He’s in a position now where he needs to protect Ofelia, but he also needs to redeem himself to a certain degree in her eyes. I think that will be part of his approach going into season two, and the challenge for Ofelia will be to realize that maybe, even though her father is now a stranger to her, this person might be the stranger she needs to survive in this new world.
As far as Travis and Salazar, at the end of the day, Travis’ last gesture almost got Ofelia killed. That’s something that Salazar is not going to be able to dismiss very quickly going into the next season. But he also realizes what Travis had to do in terms of Liza... their relationship is going to head in an interesting direction.
MTV: Who do you consider to be the leader of the group? On "Walking Dead" it's clearly been Rick since day one, but here, you can make arguments for Travis, Madison, and even Daniel Salazar.
Erickson: That’s actually one of the interesting trajectories for season two. Madison, clearly, is quicker to make decisions. Madison is quicker to reconcile the ugliness of this world with the old world... in episode five, when Ofelia discovers her father and what he’s done to Adams and runs away crying, Madison goes to the kitchen and Salazar breaks down. He’s devastated by the fact that his daughter has now seen him for who he is, and he wonders if she’s going to see that it’s necessary.
Madison doesn’t coddle; Madison doesn’t say anything about Ofelia. She says, “did he tell us what we need to know?” Rather than offer a maternal gesture, or a gesture of understanding or compassion, she goes right to business... and that Madison is going to come to the fore over the course of season two. Ultimately, if I had to pick right now, it definitely feels like Madison is our leader. But that'll be part of, when you’re dealing with Madison and Strand and Salazar and Travis, that’ll be part of the arc for the next season, defining who that person is.
MTV: It seems like most apocalypse shows eventually have a badass, larger-than-life figure emerge, like Daryl. Do you look at your characters and think, "this is my Daryl?" Who is the Daryl?
Erickson: A couple of characters who have emerged in different ways are Daniel and Strand -- but you’re seeing different sides of Ofelia as well, and you’re definitely seeing a different side of Nick... I don’t know who our Daryl is, necessarily. We’ve actually had something of an insulated season. Things broke out, we ended up back home, and by episode four we had a fence built up around us. We haven’t had to confront the hell that’s out beyond those walls. We start in the finale, but there’s a whole world of definition that will come from the characters as we get into the next few episodes.
MTV: So theoretically, it could still be Chris or Alicia?
Erickson: You have to watch to see. I think that, for me, if we’re leaning into the season and looking at the characters and which leader is going to rise, I would put money on Madison.
MTV: Madison also has some uncomfortable knowledge to live with -- she knows from Liza that everyone who dies comes back. Will that knowledge come into play in season two, like it did on the other "Walking Dead?"
Erickson: Yeah... once you know that, it’s difficult to maintain any semblance of hope. It’s the balance between hope and despair. Once you take that away from your core group, then it becomes reduced to survival and hopefully rebuilding, and the understanding that when anybody passes from any cause, you’re going to have to cap them just to make sure they don’t come back. It just becomes part of the world.
MTV: Finally... what's the number one challenge you're looking forward to next year, now that you have a fan base and established characters that fans have grown to love?
Erickson: There was a lot of discussion on this, but [in season one] we definitely had -- tonally, in terms of our pace -- it was distinctive to the other show. Now that we’ve built up to this climactic moment in the finale, it’s really a question of maintaining that balance. With the education that our characters have had, with the education of what the world is, I think you can expect a little bit more of acceleration. But I also want to maintain this filter of the family drama, and all of the elements that go through that. So I think what’s exciting is to be able to walk that line, to find the balance where you’re continuing to maintain the mythology of the original show and the comic book, but also maintain this distinctive slow burn quality. The challenge will be how slow can the burn be once we’ve crossed this threshold. It will be a challenge, but will ultimately be rewarding.