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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner answers midseason finale burning questions

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Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have watched Sunday’s two-part midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead.]

Fear the Walking Dead wrapped up its stellar first half of season 3 with a reckoning at the ranch. With Walker poisoning the camp and then threatening to overrun it, and Jeremiah Otto refusing to capitulate, Madison decided to kill Jeremiah to prevent further bloodshed if he would not off himself for the greater good. But before she could pull the trigger, Nick showed up and did it for her, murdering the compound founder (which mom Madison then staged as a suicide).

The ploy worked — for now, at least — as Walker called off the attack while sons Troy and Jake bought the fake story. In other news, we learned how Ofelia became part of the Black Hat crew through flashbacks, and that her ultimate allegiance now appears to be to the man who saved her in the desert. And Strand found his believed Abigail, which he then proceeded to burn to a crisp.

So what does it all mean? And, more importantly, what does it all mean for when the show returns after a break? We got all the intel from showrunner Dave Erickson, who reveals that “the two stories on either side of the border are eventually going to collide.” (Click through both pages to read the entire interview.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Ofelia. Tell me about how you all came up with this plan to have her on the other side at the Black Hat, which we saw in some flashbacks?
DAVE ERICKSON: We had various incarnations with different characters who we wanted to end up on different sides of the equation, and it just ended up being somewhat organic and logical for that to be Ofelia. The other thing that it helped us do from a narrative perspective in the first half was it really defines the type of person that Otto specifically was in opposition to Walker.

By the time we get to the opening of episode 8 and we reveal where she first met Otto, and how that led to her finding Walker — it was really to draw in sharper relief as we got to the midseason finale that for all of the avuncular qualities that Otto might have that we might’ve seen in the very beginning of the season, he is actually the greater evil. It was a narrative vein by which we could explain that and create this distinction between the two sides, essentially.

And even though Walker can be quite brutal — and we’ve seen evidence of that — ultimately if there is a villain in the first half of the season, it is very much Jeremiah Otto. So that was the payoff. Ofelia carried a lot of story, and she really pushed not just her own story and the question of when and how much she’d be reunited with her dad, but it also really helped define the major confrontations for the first half of the season.

When Madison goes to kill Jeremiah, how much is she doing that because she feels like they’re on the wrong side with the wrong people and how much is it just to find a solution and protect her family?
It’s really more the latter. And we talked about it earlier in the season. It’s the choices you make and the people you’re willing to align yourself with in order to survive and to protect the people you hold most dear. She’s had sort of an off-camera conversation. We don’t see her completed conversation with Walker in the previous scene, but essentially, what she took away from that was there is a way to avoid bloodshed.

Walker’s attitude is, there were certain people at the ranch whom he could not abide by, certain people who had to go away, and Jeremiah’s the last of them. So she’s like, if you take care of yourself, Jeremiah, then everything’s going to be okay. And we speak to this a little bit in the premiere of the back half of the season — he could have thrown the gun on himself. He could’ve laughed. He could’ve done something. There were options that he had that would’ve preserved the ranch, and preserved the peace, and preserved his sons. And the fact that he was unwilling to do that is the thing that was going to push her to taking him out.

But the truth is, it is very much about self-preservation, and there is an attitude by that moment, the realization that this guy is evil to a certain extent. He’s human, but he definitely skews far more toward the villainous side than Walker does. I think her attitude is, this is a solution. It’s an immediate solution, and what we see in Madison this season is a willingness to sort of move back and forth and figure out, pick and choose who she’s going to side with in order to protect Nick, and protect Alicia, protect herself. So, yeah, it’s a long-winded way of saying it was the latter.

What about for Nick? Or is he just pulling that trigger to take that burden off his mother, especially after the story she just told him?
For me, it’s that. We’ve been waiting to reveal Madison’s backstory for a long time, and I think that the story of Jeremiah and the ranch gave us an opportunity for her to finally unload and explain to her children who she is and why she’s the woman she’s become. And I do think he went up there with an expectation that his mother was going to confront Otto and a need to protect her, to a certain degree.

One of the things we develop over the course of the back half of the season is this question of violence, and when it’s used, and how far you’re willing to go in order to preserve yourself, and I think that we’re going to see Alicia and Nick really sort of develop a different understanding and definition of violence and its use, and it’ll be in opposition, to a certain degree, to Madison, and a lot of that will stem from this action.

So Nick does this in the immediate need to protect his mother. He takes out Otto, but he’s going to suffer for that subsequently. One of the things we’ve always tried to do when it comes to murder is make sure that if you commit that act, that you do feel it and suffer for it subsequently. As far as the world goes, I think Otto did deserve what he got, and I think by this point we’ve seen ample evidence of the type of person he is.

But that’s something Nick is going to have to bear moving forward, and I think the fact that he ostensibly did it for his mother is going to complicate their relationship as we move forward. It’s also going to complicate his relationship with Troy, because as ugly a person as Troy can be, Nick now has essentially stolen his father from him. And Nick being the sort of sensitive soul that he is, he’s going to wrestle with that as well.

NEXT PAGE: Looking ahead to what’s next on Fear the Walking Dead