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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner on how Flight 462 made it on the show

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Richard Foreman/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s “Ouroboros” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.]

Flight 462 has finally landed. Crash landed, that is. AMC had told us that one of the people from the webisodes that also aired during commercial breaks on The Walking Dead would make his or her way to Fear the Walking Dead, but what we didn’t know is that there would be an entire episode based around the wreckage.

Our group on the boat spotted the downed plane on shore and went to investigate and gather supplies. But trouble lurked as Chris got more than he bargained for when he went off on his own, while Nick made the timely discovery that zombie blood acts as camouflage when in the presence of infected. The episode then ended with Strand drawing a proverbial line in the sand with the others by cutting a lifeline to two Flight 462 survivors that Travis had promised would be towed to San Diego.

We spoke to showrunner Dave Erickson to get the inside scoop on all that and more. (Click through both pages for read the entire interview, and for more Fear scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start by talking about the Flight 462 connection. Flight 462 was shown in these very short installments online and during ad breaks and we were told someone from there was going to end up here. But it was more than that as we have an entire episode geared around the Flight 462 plane crash and the kids investigating that. How did this come about? Was the Flight 462 idea brought to you and you decided how to integrate it, or had you had the idea for the plane crash and then the Flight 462 installments came out of that?

DAVE ERICKSON: It really started with AMC. I think the desire was, since we only had a six-episode order for season 1, it was to do a narrative that would carry us through season 6 of The Walking Dead so that people would stay engaged in Fear throughout our long hiatus. So it started from that, and then it was actually Lauren Signorino and Mike Zunic, who are my assistant and our writer’s assistant on the show — they were the ones that wrote the interstitials. They were supervised by David Wiener, who is our co-EP.

And then they developed the story. They developed the idea, and then the goal was to find a way to integrate that with the show at large. One of the cool things right now is you can do multi-platform storytelling. Whether it’s a webisode that links to the main show or a video —  all of that stuff is really intriguing to me. So it really started as a means by which we could keep Fear alive over the hiatus and then develop it into something we could integrate into the heart of the show.

Let’s backtrack to the beginning of the episode. We have not seen much romance if at all on this show, but we do see Travis and Madison attempting to have an intimate moment before the boat stops when the zombie got stuck in the motor. What made you want to put in what ended up being an almost-sex scene?

Well, it was a couple of things. It’s taking place in the wake of the tragedy of episode 2 and the death of the Geary family, and I think it’s one of those moments where there’s nothing to say, you know? There’s nothing to communicate. There’s no way to gloss over what just happened. They can’t find the words, and because of that they try to meet in a different way. They try to connect in a different way, and then, of course, it’s interrupted by, you know, the arrival of Michael, the half zombie.

We see that Ofelia needs medicine and says they can ask Madison, and Daniel says, “No, we can take care of ourselves.” He says it is a family matter and “this stays with us.” Is this stubborn pride, or Daniel’s untrustworthy manner? What’s going on here?

I think Daniel’s a realist, first and foremost. Look, he bonded with Madison last season. I think he respects Madison. He sees definite value in that relationship, but he also knows that if push comes to shove and Madison has to choose between Ofelia and Alicia, Madison will choose Alicia. So, for him, he remembers what happened to Griselda. He worries, and he’s a bit of the overprotective father in that moment, but he’s concerned. What he doesn’t want anyone else in the boat to know is that they have a weakness, that there’s something that makes them vulnerable.

So, for the time being, he’d rather keep his cards close to his vest, and when the idea comes up to go to shore and go through the luggage, he offers to accompany the kids because they’re desperate to do something and to be active and to have some kind of occupation, but he also sees that as an opportunity for himself to go and rifle through the luggage and see if he can’t find something for her. He has seen a lot in his life, and, you know, trust is not big in his résumé.

We have a kids revolt at one point as they want to go check out the plane supplies. The parents say no, but then the younger generation says that they’re not asking permission with Alicia telling them, “Stop putting us at the kids’ table.” I guess it’s important to remember that while they are “the kids,” they’re older than Carl Grimes was in the other Walking Dead show. They can be capable, right?

They absolutely can. One of the things that’s interesting to me about Alicia, and Chris, and Nick specifically, is that we’re trying to tell a coming of age story in a world where no one really comes of age anymore. And the great thing about this episode is that you get to see the beginnings of that for each of them. For Nick, he ultimately has a close encounter with the dead, and it starts to change his perspective on the infected.

Chris has a traumatic experience — not just with the dead, but with the living once they go to land. And then for Alicia, it’s the first time she kills. It’s the first time she’s confronted with the dead, and has to defend herself and defend her family, and she’s not terrible at it for her first go-around. But I think for all three of them this is really a catalyst for what’s to come over the rest of the season.

Well, let’s talk about a few of those a little more in depth, and let’s start with Chris, who is being such a teenager here, as he goes off on his own and starts talking smack to zombies on the plane. But then things get pretty real and he has to kill someone who is begging Chris to put him out of his misery. What is this event going to do to Chris going forward?

It’s going to change him. I think what we wanted to do in that scene was have an attempt at mercy. Chris knows the rules, and now he knows this guy is not going to survive, and he knows what’ll happen to him when he dies, and he’s already dealt with killing the dead. That’s cathartic. That’s something that gives him some kind of a release.

And now, in attempting to put this guy down and do a service for this man, he gets into a situation where the level of violence, it doesn’t work very well. He hits him twice, and the guy’s still alive, and now he’s sort of on the hook. Now he has to go to a much darker, much more violent place. I think it traumatized him, and it’s a big piece for Chris in the long arc of the season, because he’s still trying to reconcile what his father did to Liza last season and how that could possibly be okay.

And now he’s in a situation where he has put down somebody, put down the living in order to prevent them from becoming the dead, and I think it’s something that’s going to elevate his investment in the apocalypse. It’s something that’s going to really define his philosophy on what is the distinction between living and dead? When is it all right to kill? So it’s something that’ll pay off as we proceed.

NEXT: Nick’s big discovery and Strand’s big power play[pagebreak]

Let’s move on to Nick, because Nick may have picked up some very valuable information here. First off, bravo on the crab zombie. I mean, let’s stop right there for a second because the crab zombie was truly inspired.

The crab zombie was a marriage of practical makeup effects courtesy of KNB and Greg Nicotero and his team, and then visual effects with the crabs themselves, obviously. It’s interesting because what it represents for Nick as he’s watching this thing that’s been dragged into the earth over the past few weeks with erosion and the tides coming in and taking away the sand and then replacing it, and all he can do is continue to eat the crabs that are eating him. I think Nick sees that, and he recognizes the hunger — this incessant need that these things have, he can relate to it, which is the strange thing in terms of this connection with them.

And then Nick gets some information here where we see him covered in zombie blood and not being approached or attacked and realizing that it serves as camouflage. So what is he going to do with this knowledge?

That’s what you’re going to find out later on in the season. Nick has had a couple close encounters with the dead in the premiere, and we’ve established him as someone whose opinion and view of the infected is evolving. And now in escaping from crab zombie and the other infected that come, he ends up covered in blood and viscera, and as he goes to save his sister, as they’re being attacked, he realizes, I can walk with the dead, and they don’t know that I’m here.

I think what that’s going to become for him is… it’s a tool. I mean, the way he approaches and the way he understands the dead is far different than anybody else on the show, and what this allows him is an opportunity to get up close and personal. One of the things we’ve talked about it before is this idea that once an addict, always an addict. He’s not shooting heroin anymore, but he is going to channel that addictive personality into something else.

So I think when you are that close to death, it does give you something of a rush. It does give an adrenaline boost, and so I think he’s feeling that, and that’s what we see in that moment when he does this face-off with the walker on the beach. He’s never been that close to death before. As many times as he has used, as many times as he was close to death over the past several years, it’s the first time he was actually face to face with it in that way, and I think that changes him.

Richard Foreman/AMC

 

But here’s the other thing that I have to guess you all have spoken about, and I know it’s something that Robert Kirkman, your co-creator, has dealt with in The Walking Dead comic book and the other show, is that once you introduce that knowledge to the characters that they can camouflage themselves by putting zombie guts on them, the question becomes: Well, why don’t they do that all the time?

It’s a really good question. I think the reason that they don’t is because it’s not the easiest task to perform. I mean, you got to find an infected. You got to take down the infected. I mean, it’s begging trouble in order to avoid trouble, if that makes sense. So I think it’s something as a tool that they’ve used a few times in the comic and on the original show, and it’s tool that I think we’ll see our characters, specifically Nick, use again now that he’s knows that it’s sort of a zombie-free pass.

I think it’s the circumstances that define and create the need to gore up, as we call it, on Fear. It won’t be a daily rite of passage. You won’t get up and brush your teeth and then lather yourself in zombie blood, but I think we might see it used again as we move forward.

We end the episode with this big argument on the boat and what to do with the two Flight 462 passengers. Travis makes this executive decision to tow them to San Diego, but then Strand, after pacing back and forth, walks down and cuts the raft loose. God, I love that moment so much because I am such a horrible person, but what is that going to do to Strand’s relationship with the others?

Oh, it’s going to strain it. Here’s the thing: Strand, you know, it’s his boat, and I think that at the end of last week when Madison and Travis brought Harry back to the boat and wanted to save that little boy, Strand said, “No, we’re not going to do this. Children are the definition of dead weight.”

But the truth of the matter is, if Harry’s brother had not shown up with his rifle and demanded the return of his brother, Strand would’ve lost that argument. He was outnumbered. Madison, Travis, Alicia, Nick — they all would’ve backed the idea of bringing this boy on board, and he knows that, and I think he missed that conflict by the skin of his teeth. So, this week, when he sees them trying to play that card again — he’s adamant. You can’t do it.

It puts Madison in an interesting position because Travis has to step up. First of all, he has to let everybody know that Mexico is where they’re going, and he’s backing Madison’s play. And then when he sees her backed into a position that she doesn’t like to be in, her instinct is to take care of Alex and take care of Jake, but she knows that she’s brokered this peace and this deal with Strand, and she doesn’t want to compromise that either.

So it puts Travis in a position where he has to do half measure, which he hates, and he puts them on the raft. But for Strand, what he realizes is this half measure, this compromise, is one step closer to him losing control, and at that point, he’s pacing upstairs because he’s fearful that it’s going to be this today, it’ll be something else tomorrow, and suddenly, you know, it becomes mutiny.

So when he goes down there, that’s his statement. That’s him saying, you know, we’ve given them some water. We’ve given them food. I’m not bringing them any further. It’s my boat, and in the future, you’ll remember this. You’ll remember the lengths that I’m willing to go to. But it absolutely puts everybody in a very frayed, challenged position going into the next episode, but then something else rears its head, and it takes that off the agenda for a while.

Before we finish up, give a little tease about what to expect coming up next week.

Next week we’re the tension on the boat is heightened now because of what Strand just did. Madison and Travis are desperately trying to figure out what’s the best play, and just as they’re about to make that decision, they’re interrupted by something tragic, and horrible, and violent. So there’s going to be a big shift next episode, which is going to redirect everyone’s attention. It’s going to be good. 

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