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Fear the Walking Dead showrunner on latest shocker

Dave Erickson shares behind-the-scenes intel on the latest big move and the ramifications that will play out in season finale

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[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s “El Matadero” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.]

So much for the happy reunion. On the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead, Ofelia was en route to see the father she had thought was already dead. But before Daniel and daughter could be reunited, Ofelia succumbed to an infected bite — making her the latest original Fear character to meet an untimely demise.

Why kill Ofelia now? We posed that and a host of other questions (What’s up with Alicia’s new companion? Why is Nick off the wagon?) to showrunner David Erickson. He also gave us a few clues as to what to expect in next week’s two-hour finale.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the big one. Here you go again, killing off characters. Why kill poor Ofelia here?
DAVE ERICKSON: It’s always about the ripple effect that it causes. We’ve spent the bulk of the season knowing that Daniel was desperate to find his daughter and waiting for that moment to come. It’s not dissimilar from Chris and Travis, to a certain degree, because once again we have a situation where someone dies and he arrives too late. It’s incredibly traumatic and depressing and horrible for a parent to not be there when their child needs them, and that’s definitely something that’s going to haunt Daniel moving forward. And we can look forward to a compounding of that tragedy for Daniel as we move toward the end of the season.

Mercedes [Mason, who plays Ofelia] is wonderful, and Ofelia had grown a lot from when we first met her back in season 1. But she needed to have something of a redemptive arc in the back half of the season coming off of her association with the Nation and the poisoning of the ranchers, so she definitely go that. She got that, and then just when we think she’s reunited with Alicia and things are moving forward, the zombies come and bite us on the ass.

What was it like having to make that call and inform Mercedes Mason of her character’s fate?
I hate making those calls. It’s like having to call Cliff [Curtis] earlier in the season and having to talk to Lorenzo [Henrie] last year. It’s upsetting because in some respects you’re ending a run. You build a relationship with somebody, and you can’t not personalize it. So, I think it’s always something of a blow. As soon as I know it’s going to happen and we’ve broken the story and I don’t see another avenue to take, that’s when I usually send a text first to see if somebody’s available and then we get on the phone — or if we’re in the same city, we get together and we talk about it.

But for me it’s more of a story directive, and I think what that impact will be on Daniel is important and ultimately feeds into the larger theme of violence we’ve been exploring over the course of the season. What happens to a father who feels he’s failed his daughter? That’s something that Travis was dealing with going into the beginning of the season, and we saw how the loss of his son changed him. What will be interesting is to see how the loss of Ofelia changes Daniel and changes the dynamic in the group as a whole.

Any thoughts or discussion about having her turn into a zombie before killing her? Because sometimes we see that and sometimes we don’t.
Not really. We did it with Jake, and that was specific because we began the season with Troy observing how people turn and timing it and trying to find some false scientific reasoning as to how that happened. So it felt right that when Jake was bitten and Jake died that we saw his turn. It seemed like that was closing that story, and going back to the idea of punishment, it was right that Troy had to see his brother turn and right that Troy had to put his brother down.

In this instance, I think it would’ve cheapened the moment somewhat. For Daniel to show up, I think it was actually the one mercy he was able to offer was the thing that Madison promised Ofelia she would do, but didn’t, which is put her down. It was important that Daniel had that moment with Ofelia after she died but before she turned. For me, I just think it would’ve cheapened that moment if we’d done that.

Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC

What can you say about Alicia and her new friend with the pickax (although they take great pains to say they are not friends)?
Alicia’s in an interesting place right now. She’s independent now. She doesn’t need to build bonds and have friendships with folks, but I think there’s something about Diana that’s attractive to her in that this is another woman who’s been out there flying solo, surviving. Had she not bumped into Diana, she would’ve probably made her way to the hunting cabin of Jake’s that we talked about and she’d be living on her own monk-style trying to figure out what her next move was going to be. This is going to shake her up a little bit, and it’s going to take her, in a roundabout way, back toward Madison and Nick.

For me, almost as sad as seeing Ofelia go was watching Nick turn back to drink and drugs. What causes him to go back down that road?
I think the pressure, ultimately. When Madison leaves to search for water, Nick and Alicia start to rise in their leadership capacities on the ranch, and I think there’s a certain pressure. There’s a certain pressure and a weight that’s been on Nick all season, and it started with the death of Travis because he does feel responsible for that. He does feel as though had I not run away the first time, then they wouldn’t have been searching for me, they wouldn’t have come to find me, and Travis would be alive.

So he is in a place now where he is the good son, and it’s always been Alicia. Going back to pre-apocalypse, Nick could screw up and disappear for weeks, but he always had a home to go back to, and Alicia was always there to be the rock in the family. And she’s not there anymore. I think what he feels in that moment is he’s been trying to be something that he’s actually not, and I think he just surrenders to it. It’s not as though he was planning it. He had that scene with Madison and realized, S—, I’m the good child now, and I don’t know how to process that. And then he sees poor Ofelia who is about to die, and he sees the pills. It’s a moment of opportunity, and at the end of the day, he is an addict. He needs that outlet, and it’s suddenly there for him.

What does this mean for Madison, who I believe is without both of her children now for the first time?
I mean it’s sort of a natural progression, isn’t it? Ultimately, apocalypse or not, it’s what your kids do. Look, you have a woman who has gone to great lengths and has committed great acts of violence in the name of her children, ostensibly to protect them. And one of the questions that is looming, and it’s something we’re going to get into in the finale is: Who is Madison in this world? Part of the reason to have them break from her and go their own way was to isolate her, and in the short time we have, explore the idea of a woman who’s lost her children, and if she doesn’t have them, what is it exactly she’s doing? What’s she fighting for?

They’re separated right now, but that’s not going to last terribly long. What the kids, and specifically Nick, are going to force her to do, is to really face who she is and why she’s willing to kill. It’s a conversation she’s going to have with Strand. At the end of the day, the season is going to come down to her reconciling the choices she’s made, the costs of those choices, and ultimately, what it does to her children. Has she done more damage to her kids in the name of protecting them? So, to do that, it was important to get to a place where she was on her own.

What else can you tease about the finale?
Everything is going to come to an end. We’re going to see some acts of violence and some confrontations that have been a long time coming, and we’re going some very bloody and explosive reversals that I don’t think anyone’s going to see coming.

Will it be a cliffhanger situation or more of a close-ended chapter?
It’s going to feel a little bit more open-ended. There are a number of reasons for that, and some of them have to do with the direction that Ian, Andy, and Scott are going to take the show in season 4, but I think we’ll have a healthy conversation when those episodes air.

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