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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner answers midseason finale questions

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Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s Fear the Walking Dead midseason finale, “Shiva.”]

To call the Fear the Walking Dead midseason finale explosive would be accurate in many ways. Chris took a young boy hostage with a gun in his attempt to escape his father. Travis then refused to return, opting to stay out in the wild with Chris. Madison murdered their host Celia by locking her in a room with zombies because she did not like the connection the woman had made with her son. Daniel continued having crazy visions, including ones with his dead wife Griselda, which led him to burn the entire compound to the ground. And then Nick refused to flee with his family, opting to walk amongst the dead instead.

We spoke with showrunner Dave Erickson to get the scoop on all the burning questions from tonight’s midseason finale. Like, is Daniel Salazar — last seen surrounded by flames that he himself set — dead? Erickson’s answer may surprise you. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview, and for more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, let’s start with Daniel, who lights the whole place on fire, and the last time we see him is surrounded by flames. Safe to assume he is dead, or not?

DAVE ERICKSON: We don’t see Daniel burn, and that’s intentional. I think what’s important at the end of the midseason is that it’s the impact on Ofelia and the rest of the characters that Daniel’s gone. That’s going to spin Ofelia specifically in a new direction for the back half. From my perspective, in terms of the arc of the show, this is not the last we see of Daniel Salazar. He will be done for the season. We won’t be seeing Daniel in the back half, but my hope is we will see the return of Daniel in season 3.

Wow, big news there, then. It’s interesting because when I watched that scene, I was like, “Well, this guy’s a goner.” But you know the adage: If you don’t see someone actually die on a show, there’s always that question mark still out there.

Absolutely. Liza’s a very good example. That obviously was a death and it was concrete, and we saw her body at the end of last season, and again at the top of this season, and it was very much about the impact that was going to have on Chris and Travis and the rest of the group. In the instance of Daniel, his story’s not done. And what’s great about this is it gives some degree of closure for the first half of the season. It gives the story of Daniel reconciling and trying to find some kind of redemption for the crimes he’s committed — that’s really the end point for that, and he finds that through the ghost of Griselda, essentially.

I think there’s another chapter to be told in that story. What we’ll focus on going into the back half of this season is the impact it has on specifically his daughter, because Ofelia is somebody who really was kind of trapped in her life. She’s someone who gave up a great deal in order to take care of her parents, and what she’s come to realize now is they didn’t need that much taking care of. And now, at the moment where she should become whatever she wanted to become, she’s trapped in the apocalypse. So it’ll be interesting to see how that manifests and what Ofelia is able to do to reconcile the loss of her parents now that she’s orphaned.  So there’s more story to tell, and it will involve Ofelia ultimately, but it will not be something we see in season 2. It’s something I think we can hopefully look forward to in season 3.

And before we move off Daniel, what is it that broke him here?

If you watch the trajectory of the first half of the season, there were clues. There were moments where you heard voices. There were moments where he seemed to be focusing on things that weren’t there. I think Ofelia started to see this relatively early on. The thing that broke him, if you go back to it, is the loss of Griselda. He’s a man who’s committed a great number of sins. He’s a man who has killed, who’s tortured, who’s committed war crimes, and he always had his wife, who knew his secrets.

And when he loses her at the end of last season, he really loses his rock. He loses the one thing that’s protecting him from these memories and from these crimes and sins, and in the place of Griselda, he now finds his daughter at the beginning of the season, who looks at him with a degree of judgment. And without the love of Griselda, the things he did and the guilt that he’s been keeping at bay starts to come back, and it eats at him over the course of the season.

The first big hit of it, in terms of a vision, is in episode 6, when he has flashbacks and you believe that Daniel had actually killed a child. And what we reveal in episode 7 is that it in fact was him, and this original sin committed was something he was forced to do as a little boy, and that’s what he really has to come to terms with. Any monster starts from an innocent place, and that’s what we wanted to dig into and get to the heart of: who he was and how he became the man he is now.

Speaking of people going a bit crazy, let’s move over to Chris, who has also lost it, is running away from his dad, he takes a poor kid hostage, and tries to slice his dad with a knife. Is he taking off because he’s lashing out or does he see himself as the problem so is trying to solve the problem by removing himself?

It’s the latter. I think what you see in Chris when he goes into Madison and Alicia’s room at the end of last week, it isn’t with the intention of hurting anyone. But when he sees the knife there, I think his feeling is that’s for me, these people are afraid of me. And I when he picks it up, it’s not necessarily with the intention of burying it in Alicia or Madison. I think he’s angry, he’s confused, and he’s frightened.

He’s a kid at this point and feels overwhelmed and broken, and can’t quite see straight, and he’s fearful. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do from moment to moment. We’ve taken this really alienated, angry kid — which is who he was before the apocalypse even hit — and layered on the pressure of his dead mother, layered on the pressure of the fact that his father was the one to put down Liza, and never mind the fact that he’s now living in this what has become sort of a hell on Earth, and he’s adjusted to killing the dead. It’s all coming to a head.

So I think your second point is absolutely true. His attitude at this moment is, something’s wrong with me, and I need to remove myself from this place where the people who supposedly should love me don’t. And the only way he can resolve that is to get as far away from them as he possibly can, and fortunately for him, Travis is unwilling to let him go. But Travis has been struggling with, How do I reach out to my son? How do I fix this? How do I make it better? And what he comes to realize is his son is not going to get better if he’s with a blended family that looks at him with hate, so he makes a pretty significant sacrifice, because he’s giving up on his family as well, at least in the short term, in order to heal his kid.

Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

Yeah, that’s a huge choice that Travis makes there, because this isn’t like our society today where you’re like, “Well, I’m going to spend some time with my kid now.” When you say, “I’m not coming back,” as Travis does here, that could be a permanent choice. So, he’s really making a significant decision here, isn’t he?

I would say, in Travis’s defense, when he leaves Abigail’s compound, he doesn’t know that everyone’s going to be exiled. He obviously doesn’t know that the place is going to be burnt down. So, I think from his perspective, he’s leaving Alicia, Madison, and Nick, in a safe place, if that makes sense. And even when Nick goes out and tries to bring him back, everything to Nick is relatively sound, meaning he’s already gone out and found Luis and secured the sanctuary for his family.

So from Travis’s perspective, it’s an opportunity for me to tend to my kid, something that I haven’t been able to do yet in the rush of the apocalypse in the past few episodes. But he also thinks that Madison is safe. If if he knew that they were burned out and he realized what had gone down, the narrative might have changed slightly.

NEXT: Madison’s turn to the dark side and what to expect next[pagebreak]

Madison really makes a move to the dark side here, as she walks with Celia into that cell, where all the infected are, and then she backs up and locks her in, basically murdering her in her own home. Take me through Madison’s decision here.

From pretty early in the story, we’ve defined a woman who does have a darker side, is willing to go there if necessary, and is also very good about compartmentalizing the things that she’s done and the things that she’s seen. In the first half of the season, we see a woman who starts to become very apprehensive about Nick and the direction he’s going in, and his seeming fascination, if not addiction, to the apocalypse and to the dead. And when she meets Celia and realizes that this woman is embracing the dead in the way that her son is, and he’s basically risking his life, and what she equates his interest in the dead with is his heroin addiction.

And she sees Celia as essentially a pusher, as a woman who is going to lead her son down a path that she’s fearful of. And there’s that scene in this episode where Nick sounds as though he has kind of gone to a place which is somewhat disconnected from reality. He honestly believes he can’t die. He honestly believes that he can walk among them and he will not be touched, and I think the concern that she has is if that continues, he is going to die, and that’s been her concern for him since he was 14, 15 years old, when she feels that she started to lose him. So, what she sees in Celia is a woman who is going to compromise the safety of her son. And ostensibly killing Celia is a way of protecting Nick and saving his life.

Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

Celia has a really interesting reaction to this. She doesn’t seem angry or even scared when she sees what Madison has done.

I think she has a half a second of alarm, but she’s a believer, and I think the thing for Celia ultimately is, it’s a little bit disconcerting initially, and this is not the road she thought she was going to go on, at least not this soon. But she quickly recovers. I mean, look, she’s somebody who believes the dead are not dead. She believes it’s just the continued evolution, and she believes it’s natural. So if she truly believes these things, and she does, then she’s better equipped at embracing her own death and her own resurrection as the infected. So it only fazes her for a second, and then she settles into it quite nicely.

And then what happens to her when that camera cuts away, Dave?

I think it became very unpleasant for her, right when we left the room.

All right, so let’s get to the end then. Daniel lays out all the gasoline, the place goes up in flames, everyone takes off. But Nick does not go with them. He says Celia was right about them, they destroy everything, and he stays there with the zombies walking all around him. What’s Nick’s plan here, or does he even have a plan?

That’s actually something that will be answered when we come back in the back half of the season. But in that moment, no. I think in that moment there’s a level of confusion and a level of despair for him because he finally felt like they’d found a safe haven. And in Celia, he found somebody who he thought understood him and understood his connection to the dead.

Also, if you look at the track record for the Clark-Manawa family for the past few episodes, what Nick says is true. A lot of what has visited them, they have also visited upon others, and a lot of the violence and the damage that the apocalypse has caused, our family has been part and parcel of that. Everyone’s struggling to find their place in this world, and I think Nick finally did, or felt like he’d began to, and that’s been lost, and that’s been compromised. And this is behavior consistent with what Nick would have done in the old world, let’s put it that way. There is a certain degree of selfishness in his behavior and his addiction, and that always takes precedence over everything else.

So, in that moment, he’s crestfallen. He is despairing over what has happened at the compound, and he assumes the worst. He looks at the devastation, he looks at the fire, and for him, he’s now looking at his own family as having become the monsters, and that is something he’s going to have to process and deal with. And in the time being, he just can’t stomach the idea of being with his family, and he’s got to return to his place with the dead. I do think that he gets a certain degree of a rush from walking among them. I do think that, it’s a very magnetic draw to him, and one of the things we’ll see and explore as we get into the back half is continue to explore his connection to the dead, and trying to figure out how he’s going to function in this world. But there is going to be something of a fracture in the back half of season two, where we’re going to be tracking different storylines, and the family is going to have to find its way back to each other.

Richard Foreman Jr/AMC

And we now have a break till we come back with the group is separated in three different places. What can you say about what’s going to happen when things pick back up?

The resolution is going to take some time, and bringing our family back together is going to be something we need to earn over time. But you essentially got three storylines — potentially four — where we scatter to the winds, and try to find a way to survive. The interesting thing for the back half of the season is initially we had sanctuary, relatively speaking, for the first half. We had the boat until that was compromised. We had a place where we could get food, we could get water, and then we had the compound, and I think that again was a safe place. And this is the first time we’re going to see Travis and Madison, Alicia, and Nick, and Chris in a position where they’re going to have to learn to survive in a way that they haven’t yet, and that’s going to be one of the big challenges for them.

And is that going to be on land, on water, or both?

That remains to be seen. We will try to return to the Abigail on the back half of the season, and we’ll see what has happened to our boat. 

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