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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner on airing a Spanish language episode

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Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “100.”

Having scenes in different languages with subtitles is becoming more commonplace on television — but they are usually just that: individual scenes. However, for Sunday night’s “100” episode of Fear the Walking Dead, AMC went even further, airing an almost completely Spanish-language episode.

With the exception of one scene between Daniel Salazar and Victor Strand, the rest of the episode — which told the backstory of what happened to Daniel after he set fire to the Mexican compound back in season 2 — was entirely in Spanish. We asked Fear showrunner Dave Erickson about that decision, as well as mapping out Daniel’s backstory and his moment-of-truth choice at the very end.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We haven’t seen Daniel since the season 2 midseason finale, so it’s been a while. When did you come up with his story in terms of what had happened to him? Did you know all the way back when he set the compound on fire, or did it come together later?
DAVE ERICKSON: There are a lot of circumstances creatively and practically that went into the decision for this supposed death back in episode 207, and then here’s Daniel’s resurrection. But the story itself in terms of how he got out and where he was going didn’t really manifest until we got to the [writers’ room] this season. Since we hadn’t seen him for so long, we wanted to make sure that we had a good, surprising return for him, which I think we got at the end of last week.

But then we really wanted to afford Daniel a full episode just to sort of catch up with where he was at, what his headspace was, how he had recovered from the fire and from that chapter of madness, and then sort of put him back on track. I knew he was coming back, and we started talking about that last season. It was really just a question of when we wanted to drop him in and how we wanted to integrate him into the story again.

Then as far as the actual escape, there were a number of different options. There was a shoot that we included, which would have been a grave shoot back in the day, and that was one possible version of escape. There was also a point where he did walk in with the key. He did actually unlock it. He knows how to get in and out, but that didn’t seem terribly dramatic, so we landed on this sort of quality about Daniel that’s interesting — and it’s actually something that carries out through the season — is this sense that he’s death-proof. This sense that for a man who has committed such atrocities and killed so many people, his burden and what he suffers for is he does not seem able to die. I mean, he’ll be up against a number of things going into this season as well that will test him. It’s really sort of a… it’s almost the trials of Job for this guy over the course of season 3.

The thing that really struck me about the episode is that almost the entire episode is in Spanish with subtitles, which is no small thing. We’ve seen a lot of shows have sections and scenes in different languages, yet this is a 95 percent non-English episode. Tell me about that decision and any discussions you guys had along those lines about doing that.
I wanted to do it. One of the great upsides of the show last season and this season is because we are in Mexico, it has become something of a bilingual show, which I like. I knew I wanted Daniel to have his own episode, and since that episode took place in Mexico and obviously he was coming into contact with Mexican characters, there was no reason for him to speak English.

I hope that people don’t get frustrated by the subtitles, but creatively, it just made sense. That was not something that I was concerned with and it’s not something that the network ever expressed any worry over either, so it’s just what it is. I mean, if you’re telling a story that’s set in Mexico and the characters are all Spanish-speaking characters, there’s no reason to play it in English. If we had thrown in a character who was English-speaking just to make sure we had some balance between the languages, that would have felt a little bit cheesy, a little bit forced.

Here’s the thing: Daniel is an important character and I just love the way Ruben plays him, and I do think with all the trauma and drama from his death last season it was important just to give him a very soulful, spiritual episode where he sort of reconnects with himself and you also get a sense of what his great burden now is as he articulates it to Efrain. He doesn’t know if he killed his own daughter. Je’s a very haunted man, but I think the survival and the question, which I know a lot of people have, which is, where is Ofelia? It’s something that really clarifies for him. It clarifies him emotionally and mentally. Which has nothing to do with the Spanish. [Laughs]

Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

It seems Daniel is just trying to limit the damage as much as possible during the episode. He does bad things for Dante in the hopes that it will ward off worse things. But he’s faced with that choice there at the end to throw Lola off the dam and he doesn’t. Is that just because he found a line he would not cross, or because he saw an opportunity to use the weapon to take out Dante and his men, or a little bit of both?
Alan Page wrote the episode and I thought he did a brilliant job. This is a man who’s worried and suspecting that he might have been responsible for his own daughter’s death. He seeks forgiveness and he doesn’t get it. He tries to find some salvation, and he gets into the lightening zombie scene. He’s prepared to die. He’s ready to cash in, and when he survives for him, he finds himself in this new scenario.

I think it’s two things. There’s a moment in the episode, a stretch of time where he’s kind of saying, “F— it. I am who I am.” He does his best to protect them. There’s still a moral direction as he tries to cover for Efrain and then he tries to cover for Lola, but he puts himself in something of an unwinnable position because he says essentially when he’s torturing Efrain, “If you confess, they’re going to kill you both, and if you don’t confess, I’m going to kill you.” He’s in a position where he has the skill set, which Dante has recognized. He has the tools that he needs to do this, and it’s pushing him to the point where he’s forced to confront Lola. It is final.

I think that’s the straw that will break the camel’s back and he can’t go there because there’s something about Lola that reminds him of Ofelia, and she saved his life. She has this sort of saintly quality and in her he sees a surrogate, which is a theme we’ve played a number of times. I mean, it’s when you’re doing a show that centers around a blended family. That was really Travis’ big goal in the beginning of the season: I’ve lost my son, how do I protect the surrogate? I think Daniel’s in that same boat right now where he’s lacking any idea of whether Ofelia is dead or alive, wondering if he’s responsible.

What he latches on to at the very end is the promise and the innocence of this woman and this refusal to become the man that he used to be, and he sort of walks that fine line up until the very end. Then after he turns on Dante and after he saves Lola and Strand, he seeks from her what he’s been seeking the entire episode, which is her forgiveness. In that moment, he gets a modicum of absolution. The fact that she doesn’t reject him is enough for him in that moment. He doesn’t quite have her forgiveness but that’s something he continues to work towards as we go forward.

I was wondering whether he wanted to live at that point still too. He gets down on his knees, gives her the gun. He doesn’t know if Ofelia is alive or not. Does he want her to sort of put him out of his misery? Does he think for a minute, I don’t deserve to live? What’s going on there?
I think he’s giving himself to her. He’s offering himself up. He wants her to forgive him of his sins and he wants her to accept him. I think the only thing he has left in him, and we’ll see this as it moves forward at least for the time being, is the possibility of serving this woman and in some respects if she accepts him. And ultimately, he becomes her soldier and that is going to be one of our big themes this season when it comes to violence and its use and at what point does it corrupt you morally. That’s something that’ll be sort of a tug of war between Daniel and Lola as we continue.

But I think he wants absolution. At that point the guy is just exhausted. He’s had a very intense several days and he commits a violent act which he knows will not be his last but he does it in a righteous cause. What he wants from Lola is recognition of that and that’s the lesson he asks for. He wants her forgiveness. So he’s not asking to be put out of his misery. He’s asking for some connection and some understanding. That’s the only thing, really, that gives him any hope.

As we move forward, he doesn’t know what happened to Ofelia. He suspects. I think he’s horrified by the possibility of what could have happened and that he might have been responsible for it but that gives him a need even more so as the season progresses to atone. It gives him more reason to do right by Lola and then ultimately he’s also always keeping an eye out for the possibility that she might be alive. We go into that a bit deeper when we get into the next episode, obviously, because Strand has made some suggestions, made some claims as to her whereabouts, and Strand’s working a con to a certain degree and is trying to get himself out of jail and protect his own interests, but that’s something we continue to hit as we move into episode 5.

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