The first season of Fear the Walking Dead ended with the survivors hatching a plan to get out in the water to Strand’s boat, Abigail, to flee the zombie apocalypse that had broken out on land. But as the newly released poster for season 2 ominously points out, there will be “no safe harbor.”
Showrunner Dave Erickson underscored that when he spoke to EW about what to expect out on the high seas. “There’s nothing scarier to me than being stuck in the middle of the ocean and with no clear idea of where you can possibly land,” says Erickson. What else can we expect when the drama returns on April 10? Read on for more. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview, and for more zombie scoop, follow me on Twitter: @DaltonRoss.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So where and when are we picking up in season 2?
DAVE ERICKSON: When we ended last season, we saw the Abigail out past the break by Strand’s house. We can anticipate picking up pretty close to that moment. One of the things that I think is interesting about this season is that last season, we were relatively insulated. We had three episodes, then we had two episodes in lockdown behind the wall with the National Guard taking care of us, and the information was not free-flowing. We didn’t really know what was going on beyond what the Guard was telling us. It wasn’t till the finale when for the first time our characters got a perspective on how bad things had become.
And what’s interesting now is that they are still going through that process — meaning L.A. is clearly in a very bad way. But what’s it like throughout the rest of the world? We heard some snippets of that on the radio last season, but I think there’s still an a bit of an apocalyptic education that the family gets to go through as we go through these first few episodes, so it was important to a certain degree to keep it a little bit closer in terms of the time frame. No radical jumps.
And obviously the big event we are coming right off of is Liza’s death. So what happens to the family dynamic of Travis and Chris, and even Madison, in the wake of Liza’s death and the way she died, with Travis pulling the trigger?
Both Madison and Liza said at different times that Travis had to do what he ultimately did. They both said it would break him. And one of the challenges for Travis this season is to see how he can hold it together — how can he hold on to that moral compass that he clutched so strongly in season 1. It’s interesting because every one of our characters as we move into season 2 has been touched by some very specific tragedy, be it the death of Griselda, or the death of Chris’ mom. And then, in the larger sense, you also have the loss of the city.
The big challenge and the big question as this family lands on this boat going into the season is: Are they going to be able to hold it together as a family? Also, bear in mind, there are still a number of people in this makeshift family who don’t know each other very well. Strand is a new entity for all of our characters. I think Daniel and Ofelia have become part of the family, but there is still a bit of a distance between Salazar and the rest of the clan. One of themes and questions that will be prevalent this season is what Exner aid last season, which is: What is family? Is it blood or bond? And that is going to be something that is tested on the boat as we get into the first few episodes, and throughout the entire season, frankly.
Any flashbacks we might be seeing this season?
I don’t know. Let me put it this way: We have a number of characters who have incredibly rich and layered backstories, so the ability to get a window into that would not be a bad thing. It can be used as a really good narrative tool to bounce off the current thing rather than doing a huge exposition download. So there’s a possibility, yeah.
Last time we spoke, after the season 1 finale, you mentioned that the pacing would feel different in season 2 because we would not have the slow burn of season 1. Now that you are deep into filming, has that held true?
I lied to you last time. [Laughs.] No, what’s interesting is one of the tonal distinctions of the show last season in comparison to The Walking Dead — which is now working its way through a very explosive and awesome season 6 — is we did a bit more of a slow burn, at least through the first six episodes, and then we hit a crescendo. We downshifted in episodes 4 and 5 and were in that space for a while, and then ended strong with our first major zombie gag at the end of the season.
What’s interesting is that there’s definitely going to be adventure on the high seas. There’s definitely going to be infected to deal with and then other people that we will have to confront as we move forward. But tonally with the pacing, we get some amps here and there, but I still feel it’s somewhat consistent, to be honest. There’s anxiety on that boat with the danger of, where the hell do we go? Which is a big question that we open up in the first few episodes.
And the challenges of the open sea, which will seem to be a sanctuary, a big wide-open sanctuary, when we first start, but dangers abound. And what we’ll quickly realize is the sea is no safer than land. The energy and the tension and the anxiety and the apprehension that we played with last season is very prevalent in this season, so there’s definitely a tonal consistency. But yeah, we are going to amp things up in comparison to the pilot last season and the first couple of episodes.
When you talk about this danger on the seas, does that mean we’ll be seeing more of the human threat than the zombie threat in season 2?
Ultimately, we need safe harbor. There will be dangers we find that we didn’t expect on the ocean. And then when we try to find land and when we try to find a place to land, we will realize that the problems will be compounded. The great thing for me is that you’ve got the tension that already exists in our family, and then you put those people on a boat — and it’s a good sized vessel — but they’re still in each other’s faces. And then you complicate that with this search for home, and this search for hope. There’s nothing scarier to me than being stuck in the middle of the ocean and with no clear idea of where you can possibly land.
But to answer your question, it will be a balance. And it always is. Our characters are going though an adaptation and an evolution as to who are they going to be as they slowly realize the extent of this, and they realize there is probably no safe place to go, so how do we change our own attitudes and what are we willing to do?
We saw a number of instances last season where our characters did things that that they never would have imagined when we started in the pilot. Travis reached his breaking point with Adams, and he lost control of himself, but he didn’t kill Adams. Madison had her first real encounter with something she has actually kept to herself since then. But they haven’t had a real conflict with other people, and I think that’s a really interesting arena for us to explore and create more tension between the others. And those others will not always be infected.
What can you say about new characters in season 2?
There will be some. [Laughs.] One of the things we have to do as we move forward is that we’ve got our core group and our core family. It’s not just about finding the next villain that we’re going to deal with. One of the things that I love about the first few episodes of this season is that the people that we encounter in many respects are sea-bound or land-bound refuges to a certain degree. They are people who have been displaced.
We’re not the only people who had the bright idea to get off land. There’s a huge coast, and there are a lot of other vessels that have gone to the sea. So we will encounter people that have different agendas than we do out on the water. And then when we try to escape those dangers and go to land, we’re going to encounter people who are interested in trying to get to sea as well. And the great thing about our yacht the Abigail — we’ll come to learn in the first episode that there are a lot of great elements to this boat that would make it attractive to people. And that’s going to become a problem as we move forward as well.
What sort of logistical hurdles does filming on water in that tank in Mexico present?
It’s been fun. We had to build a boat, and we didn’t build the entire 40-meter vessel, but we built a very significant part of it, which is in the Horizon tank, which is the larger tank, the exterior tank. As a studio and a facility, it is the studio that James Cameron built, so it has worked very well, and any consideration that needed to be thought before building it was thought of. It’s been kind of fantastic, to be honest. The boat build was a challenge because there was a lot do, and it was a bit of an endeavor.
It’s a lot of VFX and a lot of management of elements, and when it all comes together, it’s actually quite extraordinary. I think it’s a version of our show that obviously has not been seen before. And I think it’s also going to be something that you don’t see on television very often, so it’s been fantastic. And the truth is, doing the tank work and living in that environment, we haven’t had to do a lot of open sea work, which is great, because we saved a ton on Dramamine — so that’s been nice.