[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched the two-hour midseason premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.]
Madison and Nick thought they had avoided war when they brought Walker the head of Jeremiah Otto in Fear the Walking Dead’s season 3 midseason finale, but when the members of the Black Hat Reservation showed up to live on the ranch in Sunday’s midseason premiere, the fighting was back on.
Tensions were high and the water level was low, leading to fist and fire fights between the two groups. When it was all over, Troy had been exiled, Alicia was going against her mom and asserting some authority, while Madison was reunited with an old friend while on the search for water. We spoke to showrunner Dave Erickson to get the scoop on everything that went down, as well as what’s coming up next. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview, and make sure to also check out our Q&A with Alycia Debnam-Carey,)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: These first two episodes were really about the merging of these two communities as they try to find common ground. There are attacks and power plays on both sides. But do they finally find that common ground of working together here at the end as they start digging with Alicia for water?
DAVE ERICKSON: The short answer is yes. We’re in a situation where you’ve got two groups, neither of whom — with a couple of outliers — really want to go to war. And you’re dealing with two groups who know that the danger outside of the fence is far worse than anything inside. It’s time for peace. I think Jake has embraced this truce, but Madison is ultimately the real power player behind the scenes. But in her absence, it really falls on Nick and Alicia, and it speaks to what I think is going to become something of a growing divide between Mom and the kids because Madison nine times out of 10 is the one that will go to the gun, go to the knife, go do what she has to do and kill who she has to kill in order to protect herself and her kids.
And you’re now seeing her children coming into their own and trying to find a way to protect the peace and save everyone. But also really to find themselves and to find who they are as people as well. So it’s really the beginnings of what’s going to be a really interesting journey for both Nick and Alicia as the brother and sister move forward.
I’ll ask you to expand on that a little bit because I was really fascinated by what was happening with Alicia here. She calls Madison out for backchanneling with Walker and undermining Jake’s leadership, and then not only does she do that, but she goes to Walker and tells him not to talk to her mother, and instead deal with Jake. What’s that all about?
It’s definitely not just her siding with her boyfriend. There’s a much more practical side to it in that she knows, even though she wasn’t there, this story of Otto’s suicide is not true. And Madison’s trying to keep her cards close to her vest. She doesn’t say a ton in the opening of episode nine because this is supposed to be a deal brokered between Jake and Walker. It is supposed to be Jake’s deal, and the danger for her and for her family is that people start to realize that she is benefiting by this — that people start to realize that she actually has an investment in this relationship with Walker beyond what Jake has done.
It’s dangerous for the ranch as a whole to know that Nick put a bullet in Jeremiah Otto, and that it wasn’t suicide, because most of the militia/prepper folks believe that Otto took a bullet to save them all, and they believe that he did that as a sacrifice — because Walker could’ve taken the ranch by force had he chosen to. That’s the reason why Madison goes to the desperate measures that she does, and it’s also the reason, in that moment, that Nick is willing to pull the trigger. Not just to protect the ranch, but also to take that burden from Madison, in that last moment. So I think it’s really Alicia being smart. She also wants to protect mom from the reveal of who’s really responsible for the death of Jeremiah Otto.
I find it interesting that you talk about Nick there, and the danger of this information getting out that Nick pulled the trigger and killed Jeremiah, because he does tell Troy the truth about that. So what’s Nick’s thinking there in terms of telling Troy the truth about killing his father?
See, Nick’s kind of on his own trip there. One of the things we’ve always tried to do as best we can is not to minimize the deaths. When we have to lose a pivotal character, I’d like to see what the repercussions are, and I’d like to see how that sits with people, and especially in this season where violence is such a heavy theme. Nick is not somebody that can kill and then put it to bed, and I think that despite the person Otto was, and despite the person Troy is, Nick does have this burden now. He feels as though he took the guy’s father away and it’s not easy to kill. I know in the genre we’re in, the expectation is that you get to a place where everybody becomes battle-hardened and they’re soldiers, and it doesn’t hurt — and that’s one of the things we’re trying to explore in the first two episodes. It’s definitely something that carries through the rest of the season.
In that moment, Nick has done everything he can to talk Troy down. He’s killed a man to preserve the peace. He’s killed a man to protect his mother, and what Troy’s doing effectively is sabotaging that. By going to the guns, he’s created a dynamic where the war they tried to avert could erupt again. It’s only in those last moments when Nick feels that there’s no way out, they’re trapped, and it’s a short while before the nation is going to break in. He sees that as the only thing he can do to disarm Troy.
And there’s a certain self-destructive quality in the gesture. There’s a certain suicidal quality in the gesture because Troy does turn the gun on him, and it’s entirely possible that he would’ve pulled the trigger. So Nick is really taking a leap of faith and the interesting thing for me with Troy — and I love the way Daniel Sharman played this — it’s one of the rare times where he actually feels something. And it’s the last thing he expected, and it does give him pause. He needs the time to process that, and I think in some strange way he’s actually devastated. He’s actually broken by the fact that this guy who he thought was on his side is the reason that his father is dead. So it’s really a last ditch effort for Nick in trying to avert further violence, and if he had been killed, I don’t think he would have minded.
NEXT PAGE: Have we seen the last of Troy?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Madison thought she could control this wild card in Troy, but clearly she was mistaken, right?
DAVE ERICKSON: I think she definitely had a hold on him up until the death of Otto, and then this alliance with the nation. Troy’s now kind of reached his breaking point, and the final straw is when they come and try to take his weapons, because as long as he has that resource he knows there’s an opportunity to fight back. So Madison is now scapegoating Troy. She’s exiling Troy and her rationale is sound, which is: If he’s executed for what he did, you’re going to end up with half the ranch who still want the nation gone, and it’s not going to get them anywhere. Whereas if they exile him, hopefully that’s some semblance of mercy and it’ll hopefully preserve the peace. And I think the old Madison, when confronted with Troy in that final scene, probably would have put him down. But I think she’s in something of a weakened state. She makes a choice, which is un-Madison like, which is to spare him, and the question for the rest of the season is, will that come back to bite her and everybody else in the ass?
Yeah, he gets exiled. he kills one more person in the truck and then walks away. But I’m imagining that we have not seen the last of Troy.
He didn’t kill him, so the dude in the truck actually was knocked unconscious, not dead, and we’ll see him again — but you’ve got two characters in Madison and Nick who are really quite haunted by Troy. I mean Nick is literally haunted by Troy, and he hallucinates. He imagines him and I think that in that hallucination you’re getting the crux of Nick’s guilt and his strange surreal sense of obligation to Troy, who is not a nice person. This is not somebody you would normally want to associate with, and God knows it is not someone you would normally feel empathy toward. But I think Nick does and it has a lot to do with Nick’s embrace of self-destruction and Nick’s embrace of death and darkness. That’s something he sees and shares with Troy, and it’s also something we’ll discuss as we move on. But yes, we’ve not seen the last of Troy.
Let’s shift gears a little bit. How nice is it to get Madison and Strand back together at this bazaar because those two just seem to have a spark?
It’s fantastic, and I missed it. There’s something about the way that Colman [Domingo] and Kim [Dickens] play together which is special. Obviously they’re friends and they get along really well behind the camera, but there’s a connection when they’re in front of it. It’s a go-to relationship, and there’s something of a love affair between the two of them, and a friendship which may or may not be compromised as we move forward. But that was long overdue and I’m glad we were able to reconnect them.
So we have Madison, Strand, and Walker now heading to the dam. I’ve got to imagine a reunion with Daniel might be waiting for them there. What can you say about what’s coming up?
The back half really is a season about reuniting. Having scattered everyone to the four corners, it’s really about bringing them all back together, and giving them something of a common cause. By the end of the season, the band will be back together. We’ll bring the family back together. Everyone will reconnect.
What’s interesting to me is how much everyone has changed in the interim, and how different they now are, because just because we’re bringing the family back doesn’t mean it’s going to be harmonious. So we can look forward to a lot more blood and a lot more zombies.