By Dalton Ross
July 09, 2017 at 11:10 PM EDT
Richard Foreman, Jr/AMC
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[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

Let’s talk about some other things, how they played out, and what those mean moving forward. We see at the end there that Madison gives Walker Jeremiah’s head. Does that mean they’re square, even though he killed Travis and she’s still on his land?
That you’ll find out in the back half of the season. Walker has seen Madison in her effort to protect her daughter, in her efforts to protect her son. There’s something about her that he admires, and I think there’s a certain warrior quality to her that he does respect in a way that he doesn’t respect the Ottos. There’s something about Madison that he’s drawn to, and everyone shares that to some degree. So what we should take away from that moment is that she’s clearly worked out a bargain with Walker, and the danger of them attacking has been deflected. So how that manifests in the second half of the season, we’ll see.

I think, to a certain degree, any sense of vengeance that she might’ve had over the death of Travis, she’s been able to target that at Otto rather than at Walker. It’s not that she’s going to become his best friend, but I do think she’s going to work with him from a practical and a pragmatic standpoint, and I don’t think she’s going into the back half of the season saying, you’re the man that killed Travis. In some respects, she feels like the person that’s ultimately responsible has been put down and dispatched.

At the ranch now you’ve got Troy, you’ve got Jake, and you’ve got Madison. So, moving forward, who’s running that place?
That’s something we’ll get to find out when we get to the back half, but as we play out the final montage in episode 8, you see the Clark family on that balcony looking out over the ranch as Jake and Troy take their dad to the barn, and the sense for me is that they have effectively taken over. The sense for me is that Madison has Troy in a place where he’s willing to do her bidding, at least right now. Jake has developed a relationship with Alicia and entrusts her, and Nick is in this strange relationship that’s been developing with Troy as well. So there’s a shadow government to the ranch next season. It is very much the Clarks. I think the challenge for them is that there’s a cover-up. I mean, Otto has been murdered.

And obviously, they’re going to sell that as suicide, and they’re going to sell that as Otto did the right thing for his people and for his sons. But there’s the danger, of course, that that might be revealed as we move forward. And Madison is smart enough to know that if it seems like she’s the clear leader of the ranch at this point and that she’s benefitting by Otto’s death, it may cast her in a bad light. So for all intents and purposes, I think Madison will be in control, but she’s going to have to handle it in sort of a back-channel manner.

Where is Strand’s head at now after talking to the Russian astronaut and burning his boat to smithereens?
There are a number of characters we’ve met and have sort of moved off into the distance, and they’re functioning as satellites. And in a strange way, the Abigail was that. To a certain degree, it was because of cost, but we moved away from the boat last season, and then the boat disappeared. So it was important that we circled back and had Strand essentially complete his mourning.

I think it’s what it really comes down to. Having lost Thomas, he’s been betwixt and between. He’s got a target, which is the dam and the water that it holds, and it’s been sort of a mixed bag for him. He really hasn’t had any success. So I think the goal in terms of the boat was to give him an opportunity to put the past to bed. And I think the boat obviously represents a good part of his life. It represents his relationship with Thomas, and then with the cosmonaut, it was really tying to give at least one of our characters an understanding that this is a global catastrophe. We didn’t have a version of the CDC episode, so it was an opportunity for at least one of our characters to understand that this was the entire planet, and that there’s really not much by way of hope.

And I think the burning of the boat is symbolic. It’s him burying his old self and it’s sort of a reboot for him. And it doesn’t mean when we find him in the back half of the season that he’s going to be suddenly on top of the world again. He’s not, and he’s actually going to suffer through some things, as will the rest of the characters. But it’s a moving on, I suppose.

What about Salazar? We did not see him, except for a little flashback vision of him there in the desert with Ofelia. What about Daniel and where he might be when we come back?
We will find that Daniel is in control more so than Strand. He has a relationship with Lola. He has a relationship at the dam. So he’s at the dam, and he has secured the dam, and I think he still very much wants to find his daughter. And now that Ofelia’s been reunited under strange circumstances with Madison and company, we’re one step closer to them maybe getting back together.

Anything else you can tease about the back half of the season?
We’ve been doing sort of a slow crawl toward reuniting our dysfunctional blended family, so what we can look forward to is hopefully reconnecting more of our characters, and what I always hoped to do was to get to a place by the end of this season, by the end of episode 16, where we’d kind of brought this motley band back together.

So we can look forward to some reunions under strange and sometimes violent circumstances, and I also think it’s going to be interesting to see, to your earlier point, how Madison manages the ranch now that she’s really bonded with her children and they have to deal with the aftermath of the murder of Otto. And that it puts them in a very precarious and very dangerous situation as we move through the back half of the season. It’s going to be a struggle to control the ranch and manage that, and ultimately circumstances are going to force this ranch environment together with the dam environment. So the two stories on either side of the border are eventually going to collide.

Fear the Walking Dead returns Sunday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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