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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner talks character death

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Peter Iovino/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Do not read unless you have already watched Sunday’s season 2 finale of Fear the Walking Dead.]

Fear the Walking Dead ended its second season with a two-hour double dose of danger, and not everyone made it out alive. Travis got the news out of those two bad-news Americans about what happened to Chris, and the news was not good. Turns out they killed his son after a car crash left him injured and a liability — so Travis killed them.

Problem is, in the melee, he also killed one of the hotel guests, which, in turn, caused even more death when the hotel guest’s brother went on a revenge-fueled rampage. One thing leads to another, I guess. So Travis, Madison, and Alicia were forced to flee, while Strand chose to stay behind.

Meanwhile, Ofelia was captured by a mystery man just over the border, whose compatriots may be the ones who shot at Nick and Luciana on their way to what they believe to be a refugee camp in the distance. We spoke to showrunner Dave Erickson to get the scoop on the death of Chris as well as answers to all our other burning questions.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, let me just make sure on this, because we only saw it as those two Americans telling the story — and you never know with this show — but Chris is dead, correct?

DAVE ERICKSON: Chris is dead. That is correct.

How and when did you let Lorenzo Henrie know that his character was being killed off?

It was several weeks before. I think Lorenzo did really, really strong work throughout the show and it’s never an easy conversation to have, but it’s really about, to a certain degree — and we see it over the course of these last two hours —  what happens to Travis. How does that turn him as we move into season 3? What does that do to him — as a person, and as a character? So, there was enough lead-time, and Lorenzo was very gracious and understanding and realized that it was really ultimately about the story. So, never an easy conversation to have.

You guys really don’t kill main characters lightly. It doesn’t happen that often. So it’s a big move for you all when something like this happens.

Yeah, and it’s usually planned well in advance. And sometimes it shifts and changes as we’re breaking the story, but the rule has to be, if we kill a member of our family, it has to feel like we’ve built up to it as best we can, and then ideally, we see repercussions that come from it that feed the next several episodes, if not the next few seasons.

Peter Iovino/AMC

So Travis kills the two Americans, and this is maybe the biggest turn yet — no pun intended — because he was the ultimate can’t-we-all-get-along good guy. He just looks completely broken at this point. What does this mean for him going forward into season 3?

It was a long time coming. Travis was the moral compass of the show to a large degree — and frustratingly so, at times, for the audience. But it was always with an eye toward this moment. The one thing he promised Liza was that he would protect Chris, and he’s failed to do that. The apocalypse has taken his son, and it’s about to take him as well. So, he’s absolutely broken, and we’ve seen a level of violence with him that we have not witnessed before. And it’s not something that he’s going to bounce back from. We took our time getting there with Travis, but he will be fully apocalyptic now, as we move forward.

Madison and Travis have now both straight up killed people, and not as self-defense. Whose actions are more questionable: Madison for taking the preemptive strike in killing Celia, or Travis for taking the revenge route in killing Derek and Brandon?

I think they were both justified in their own way. Travis just snapped. He’s been holding back on any violent intent for quite some time. He had one moment at the end of Season 1 where he broke, and that didn’t quite push him over the edge completely. But this is not a rational action — this is pure rage and pure violence. And it shifts something in him, fundamentally.

For Madison, what we’ve learned of her — and what we’ll come to learn as far as season 3 — is that she can be colder when she needs to be. And she can be far more calculating. She’s actually, I think, one of the deadliest characters on the show. And we’ve seen evidence of that before, and we will certainly see it again as we move forward.

Alicia and Madison decide to leave the hotel with Travis, but Strand says, “I had a chance to kill myself. I chose not to. I’m not dying for him. And I’m not dying for any of you.” I kind of love this because we saw Strand softening his rough exterior for a while, but now badass looking-out-for-number-1 Strand is back, even if he does help them escape.

I think he’s gone through his mourning period. Part of what we’ll see happen — and this is the beginning of it — but as we move into season 3, we’ll see more of the old Strand. We’ll see more that old con artist coming through. It’s someone who’s going to establish what the currency for the apocalypse is and how you survive.

He’s definitely emotionally connected to Madison, but he’s not a huge fan of Travis, nor is Travis a huge fan of him. And so the idea that they would risk themselves, and reform the original family and leave — it just seems insane to him. It’s also complicated by the fact that he’s still recovering from his knife wound. Let’s put it this way: Strand has a plan. So, even though he lets her leave at the end, I think he already has an eye on what his next steps are going to be.

I’ve been watching zombie stuff and horror material for a long, long time. It’s hard to gross me out. So congratulations to you, because you have one of my favorite zombie kills here where Nick kills a zombie by poking his fingers through the infected’s eye sockets. That was so gnarly. How’d you guys come up with that one?

I’m so glad you liked that because that was a massive combination of practical effects and then VFX. We’ve seen so many weapons used to kill the dead, and I think what occurred to us was, what if you couldn’t find anything? And there’s a subtle reference to it in episode 208, where Nick’s playing thumb-war with Gloria. And it’s, you know, how would you kill the dead if you didn’t have a knife, or a gun or something to bludgeon them with? So that was where the idea came from, and it was just in making use of what he had in that moment. And it’s disturbing. I’ve watched that now probably 87 times, and it always makes me cringe. But that’s my favorite as well.

Great disturbed minds think alike, Dave. And I was watching Alejandro take out all those gangsters in the Colonia and I was sort of thinking about it, because there’s nothing really to be gained by doing that. Everybody’s already left. He’s not protecting anyone, or anything anymore, but he’s just like, eh, I’ll just take these guys out anyway.

I think that’s exactly what it was. I think it was two things for Alejandro. One obviously was protecting the people, but the other side of it was protecting that place. And I think the pressure of Marco and his men arriving, he’s not happy about it. And that tells you something about going down with the ship, and for Alejandro, not only did he want to be there when everything fell apart, but it’s an act of vengeance. He had a score to settle in that.

A lot of scores being settled in these two hours, and a lot of vengeance happening in this world. So let’s get into how the season ends, because Nick and Luciana get to the border and all of a sudden people are shooting at them, and taking them. Are these the same people that have Ofelia?

That is a question to be answered. I mean, we see that Ofelia’s captured by a new character, who we’ll spend some time with in season 3.

Yeah, Unser captured her!

Yeah, it is Unser — Dayton Callie [from Sons of Anarchy], who I’ve worked with before and love. He’s made up in much the same way the gentlemen at the border crossing are, so, yeah, there’s a world in which those two lines are going to come together when we get to season 3.

I guess the natural question that is connected to that is that Nick saw a chopper and he saw what he thinks is a refugee camp. Are we going to be visiting that place next season?

There is a very good chance we’ll visit that place. We may not stay there very long. In terms of narrative direction in season 3, we are putting our characters on a collision course, ultimately. And I think a lot of those threads will start to come together. And we will hopefully have a Madison/Nick reunion at some point, and we’ll actually start to thread these things back into some family dynamic. But it’s safe to say we’ll be spending a little bit of time north of the border, as well as south of the border, in season 3.

And one last loose end here is Daniel. We last saw him surrounded by flames, and that was a while ago. Is he going to reemerge in some fashion in season 3?

For us, Daniel is still in the world, and it’s important that the characters think he’s gone, but there’s always a chance that he might reemerge.

For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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