By Dalton Ross
August 28, 2016 at 12:00 PM EDT
Richard Foreman Jr/AMC
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SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s “Los Muertos” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.

You get bit by a zombie, you die. Those have always been the rules of The Walking Dead world. (Unless, of course, you can quickly cut off a limb to keep the disease from spreading.) But did the rules just dramatically change?

On Sunday’s Fear the Walking Dead, we (along with Nick) were told that Alejandro the pharmacist was bitten by an Infected and did not turn. And he then showed off the bite mark on his shoulder to prove it. Is this guy and this story for real? We spoke to showrunner Dave Erickson to get his answer to that and other burning questions.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We start with this scene of Nick seeing someone from the community hesitantly but voluntarily allowing himself to be consumed by infected, and Luciana later explains to Nick that, “Those near death deliver themselves to death to join the wall and protect them.” How did you all come across this idea?

DAVE ERICKSON: It was an extension really of Celia’s philosophy, which is the dead have always been among us, the only difference now is we can see them. This was a neighborhood that existed, and for the most part, many of the people that we see in this community were already there. What they did was insulate it. What they did was create this dynamic where many of the friends and family who they lost in the immediate wake of the apocalypse were kept in one place.

So it’s this mutual relationship now where the dead protect them because the Colonia, as we’ll come to learn, is elevated. It’s sort of in the hills outside of Tijuana, there’s only one way in, one way out, and their dead protect them. Their dead form this barrier for the folks who may mean them harm; it becomes somewhat difficult for them to get access to the Colonia.

I think the living are also protecting the dead, and it becomes this slightly twisted, darker relationship, and it’s a nice contrast to the end last week. We ended last week in a very happy, joyful place where Nick feels he has arrived in a community that understands this new world, and what he comes to see moving into this week is that these people have embraced the world, but there are elements to it that are a little bit darker than he expected.

Okay, that makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense to me is this pharmacist, Alejandro, who we learn was allegedly bitten and did not turn. So what’s that all about?

One of the things the season is about for Nick is this question of faith and belief in the leader, and the story that surrounds him is what really has created this community. People knew Alejandro before the apocalypse, people believed in Alejandro. He was a pharmacist, he was something of a community leader, and he’s now becoming something of a myth. And I think that the story as it’s developed has made people trust him that much more, and it’s created this insulated community where people feel safe.

So it’s one of the things that Nick is a bit skeptical of when he hears the story for the first time — he’s a little bit dubious, and it’s something that we will continue to explore over the course of the season, but ultimately it’s really a story of trust and faith, and especially faith in the father figure, and for Nick, as somebody who lost his dad and lost his father at a time when he felt a great disconnection from his father, it’s very much about the challenge of him reconnecting with a father figure and seeing if he can find the ability and the strength to believe in this man even though he has his own questions about him.

Luciana, conversely, believes completely, as do the folks in the community, and the truth of Alejandro and the question of faith is something we will play out over the course of the season, and we’ll address it ultimately.

I have no faith or trust in this guy at all. I’m throwing penalty flags on this guy’s story all over the place. In any event, we also see Nick’s street smarts coming into play again here as he negotiates a better haul for the community from a gang leader who needs drugs for a family member. If he can just get his head screwed on right, Nick’s pretty well equipped for this world, isn’t he?

Absolutely, and one of the things we’ll see play out over the course of the season — and it does play into Nick’s backstory — is the question of the Oxy. I mean, they’re trading Oxy for water with this Tijuana gang, and Nick is intuitive and sensitive enough to realize that these sort of nefarious, badass gang members are actually protecting their families.

Much like every community we come across, it’s really about regressing into one’s own and pulling your family together and trying to keep everybody safe. So as dangerous as Marco, who is the leader, and these people are, Marco is trying to keep his sister whole in the apocalypse as best he can, and it’s Nick’s realization of that and his ability to read that situation which allows them to ultimately survive.

So, is that it for the Abigail? Is the boat gone for good?

The Abigail is like a character that sort of disappears. We did not see her run aground, we did not see her sink, so there is always a possibility that she could reappear.

That’s a good point. That’s why I always say, if you don’t see the body on TV then the person is not dead. So Madison, Strand, Alicia, and Ofelia make their way to a hotel. Madison and Strand have also become very adept in dealing with this world and how to navigate it, so why the hell are they making as much noise as possible in that wedding hall with him banging on the piano and her throwing glasses against a wall. Not a super savvy move on their part.

I think we tried to make it clear that they had explored the bulk of the hotel in that area. So that was the safeguard that we had against what was ultimately for us a very human moment. We wanted to create an opportunity for Madison and Strand to bond and connect and sort of deepen that friendship. So we went through the shoe leather of saying that they had explored at least the ground levels of the hotel, and felt that they had achieved some modicum of safety. And of course, unfortunately there were more zombies upstairs, and there were a number of infected across the parking lot in a separate structure.

But what was important for us was the opportunity for these people to drink, practically, and have a moment of release, and what we got from that was it’s the first time we’ve really explored Madison’s backstory in any real sense, and it was important to give us some degree of breathing room for that. Then ultimately by the time they start making all the noise, they are several shots into the tequila, so I don’t think they’re thinking as clearly. They’re allowing themselves a human moment, which of course creates a horribly catastrophic moment with the dead.

We end with Alejandro making this impassioned speech and the others stuck in this hotel of death. What can you tease up for next week?

Nick is on the brink of potentially embracing this belief system. He has crossed a line, his behavior at the market potentially compromised the Colonia, and what we’re going to see eventually is a Nick who wants to make good, a Nick who actually has found a community and he wants to earn his place in it.

As for Madison and for Strand, we’re going to leave them in rather dire circumstances, and the big question is, it’s really more of a mother/daughter story, because at the end of [episode] 9, Alicia has been separated from Madison, and fundamentally one of the lines we want to explore on the back half is will they come together, mother and daughter? Will Alicia rise and become more of an ally to her mom? And I think we’ve created a dynamic going into later episodes where the two of them now have to find a way to get back together, because when Alicia said goodbye to explore the hotel, it didn’t end very well, and I don’t think that mom and daughter are in a very good place. So I’m looking forward to seeing how we can bring those two back together.

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

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