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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner takes us inside those Strand flashbacks

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Richard Foreman/AMC

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

We finally got a heaping helping of info about Strand’s past on Sunday’s Fear the Walking Dead courtesy of some flashbacks that revealed the identity of the real Abigail (a man, not a woman), as well as how Strand came across both his fortune and the love of his life.

Back in the present, our survivors’ boat was boarded and taken over by the guy Alicia had been talking to over the radio and his nefarious friends. When all was said and done, the new group’s leader, Connor, arrived and took Travis and Alicia with him. He told his underling Reed to drop the rest off at shore, but once Reed made his true intentions to kill them known, Madison, Chris and the others fought back and regained control of the boat.

We spoke with showrunner Dave Erickson to get the inside intel on the meaning behind the Strand flashbacks, the unwanted visitors on the Abigail, and what to expect coming up next. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview, and for more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A really jarring start to this week’s episode as we see Nick washing up on shore with a balloon tied to him. Not really sure how he got there or what he’s doing there. A little bit similar to last week’s opening in that it takes you a moment to get your bearings. Do you like this situation of the audience being in the dark in a bit and having to sort of solve the puzzle of what is happening?

DAVE ERICKSON: Yeah, hopefully over the course of the episode you piece together how things went down, and actually some of the information doesn’t come until we get to the next episode, episode 5. But yeah, there’s something in that opening — especially visually — that’s a great start. And I also think it’s interesting to start cold and let the audience catch up over the course of the episode and start to piece it together. It’s a little bit disorienting. I think that’s actually a good thing.

We laugh about what a terrible person I am because I always say how I would do exactly what Strand does, but here’s an example of some people coming up on a raft asking for help, Chris keeps asking, “Should I shoot?” He doesn’t shoot. And then they take over the boat. See! This is what I’m talking about! You can’t be nice to anyone anymore, Dave!

I think that’s true, and we go back to episode 2 when Salazar discovered Strand’s stash of maps and information related to Mexico and found his assault rifle. I think Salazar grabbed that clip because he was afraid of what Strand’s intentions might be, and now that comes back and bites Strand on the ass because he doesn’t have the arms he needs in order to protect his ship in that moment.

And so instead of going to try to defend the boat, he takes off in the raft.

On the boat we have a way to learn what conversations he did or didn’t have with Nick before we went to shore. We learn that Nick went off to shore sort of as his agent to execute his plan for Mexico. And then, of course, Reed shows up and everything changes.

Let’s talk about this group that shows up on the boat. It turns out this is the guy that Alicia had been talking to on the radio — this guy Jack, and his buddies — and it’s another example of how you should never be nice to anyone. But the big question that I think a lot of people are going to have is how do these intruders know all of the names of everyone on the boat?

Well, it’s a really good question, and it’s one of the questions that they have for each other, but it’s not something we answer in this episode. There’s more information coming down the pike.

And we see the scene where Alicia is hugging this guy that she’d been talking to on the radio and saying, “Maybe we found each other for a reason.” I assume she’s just pulling an Ofelia there and flirting with the guy to help protect her family like we saw Ofelia do last season, right?

Yeah, she’s in a strange position. I think that she recognizes that Jack has something of an investment in her, and look, she’s putting it on herself. One of the things that this episode is about is Alicia stepping up and putting aside every mistake she’s made before and trying to correct them and trying to adjust for that. So it is a fine line because I think Jack is actually somebody who is not completely down with what his partners, Reed and Connor, are doing, and I think he does have some interest in protecting her. He wants to protect Alicia and she gets that.

And I do think that she’s going to work that to the best of her ability so she can protect Madison and Travis and the rest of the family. So yeah, I think it’s emotionally complicated because she’s by and large not a cruel person, but I think she also realizes that it’s the only avenue she has to protect her group.

What can you say about this guy Connor who leads the group that takes Travis and Alicia?

What you get in Connor’s group with Connor and Reed and Jack, and we talked about it before — I think there are some people who were sort of primed for the apocalypse, and I think Reed is a little bit… there’s an edge and an anger and a manipulative quality, and he is somebody who embraces this new world. And then Connor is kind of walking a line.

Connor is somebody — and Reed speaks to this at the end of the episode, we’ll learn much more about what they came from and what their situation was pre-apocalypse when we get to a later episode — but he’s basically got a group of people that he’s put together, he has a base of operations we’ll come to find, and he’s trying to survive. And one of the things this particular group does, and this is what we set up in the premiere, they try to isolate vessels that are either boats that they can live on or boats that they can steal from, and it’s pretty simple. Connor is somebody who is a good manager, but he’s also someone who hasn’t fully embraced the ugly side of the apocalypse. He leaves that to Reed.

Richard Foreman/AMC

 

And at the end of the episode, Connor leaves and says to take them to shore, but Reed has other ideas. And even though that becomes a kill or be killed situation, this is still a big moment for people like Madison and Chris who are put in the position of having to attack other living human beings here at the end.

It is, and I think it’s a big step in Chris’ story because when Reed comes on board he immediately recognizes Chris as someone that he can bully. And what he knows is that by manipulating Chris, he can manipulate Travis, and he can manipulate the entire family. He’s attuned to that, and Chris is put in a situation that is apocalyptic, but it’s not dissimilar to something he might have gone through when he was a kid. There’s a pressure cooker going on with Chris, and the anger that wells up over the course of that episode leads to his break by the end of it.

And then for Madison, we’ve come to see a woman who is willing to embrace violence and be violent when it is necessary. And I think one of the things we will continue to learn about Madison is that there are darker edges to her personality. She’s able to tap into them when the time comes because yeah, she goes there. In a moment when bullets are starting to fly and this guy follows them on purpose. Reed has already told them, “I’m going to put you guys down and take your boat,” you know, and I do think it turns into a situation of a mother trying to protect her family, and when she has to, she goes where she needs to go.

NEXT: Explaining those Strand flashbacks and previewing what comes next[pagebreak]

Let’s talk about Strand now. He abandons the ship, he takes off in the raft and gets shot at, and then we start to get some flashbacks. So obviously he’s been a mysterious guy, and we’ve got a few clues here about his past but not much. So tell me about the decision now to show us Strand’s backstory.

It’s part of the larger arc for the season. It was important at a certain point. What I like is it’s really a story between Strand and the audience at first. It’s really a story about him in a position where he thinks he’s going to die. His raft is going down, hypothermia is beginning to set in, and it’s him remembering what got him there, and it’s also laying track for what’s to come down the road. But we revealed that Abigail is a man. Abigail is another person in his life that he met and fell in love with and built this relationship with, and then essentially became business partners — partners in life, partners in business — and it’s really setting the stage for the revelations that are going to come later in the season.

I think [Colman Domingo] plays those moments really beautifully and it was just an interesting relationship and an interesting backdrop for an understanding of who he is, because up to this point we’ve introduced a Strand who is somewhat maniacal when he needs to be, and can be incredibly cold when he needs to be, and this is an indication of a more emotional side to this guy.

And seeing that side of him, you begin to better understand his relationship as it develops with Madison moving forward, because we will see a friendship growing between the two of them. Up until this point it’s been more political. It’s been, how do we manage this? How do we maintain this fragile alliance for the betterment of the entire group? And eventually we’re going to see that relationship evolve as well. I think it was important that we began to see him as somebody who had vulnerability, somebody who actually had a person in the world, one person in the world who he cared about. I think it layers in something that in my mind balances off who Strand is.

Because Strand does have the scam artist feel to him, especially with the way he steals Thomas Abigail’s credit cards, there was a little part of me watching this saying, “Is this all a scam? Does he actually love Thomas or is he just using him?” But you’re confirming that yes, he does have legitimate, real, human emotions and feelings for this person.

Yeah, and what’s interesting to me about that dynamic is — and he says it later on — it’s almost as though Abigail and Strand, coming off of their first encounter, had something of an understanding. And when Abigail shows up later and they discuss what Strand has done with the card, I mean, the reality is Abigail never turned the card off. He never called the company and said, “My card has been lifted.” So I think there’s sort of an unspoken agreement between the two of them. And when Strand says in that subsequent scene he’s going to pay it back with interest, I think that was his intention all along. Deep down I think that they both wanted to reconnect at a certain point, and they did.

Well, clearly we haven’t seen the last of that story line. So we have Travis and Alicia separated from the rest of the group now. What can you tell us about what we will see in next week’s episode?

There’s a big shift that goes on between episodes 4 and 5 starting with the fact that Madison — when everything comes to a head and Travis is gone, Alicia is gone — she still stops to rescue Strand. I think there is a practical side to that because she knows the endgame, which is Mexico. She knows that the endgame is this compound, this home that Strand has promised them. So I think we see a redefinition of the relationship between Madison and Strand.

And then we’re going to get some answers to those questions you were asking before about how did Jack and Connor and Reed know so much about the Abigail, and how did they seem to know it as intimately as they do? A lot of that will come into sharp relief when we get to episode 5.

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