Fear the Walking Dead showrunners on major character death
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Good Out Here” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Fear the Walking Dead took out its first regular character of the season on Sunday’s episode, “Good Out Here,” and it was a big one. Frank Dillane’s Nick Clark killed his Vulture nemesis Ennis, and then paid the price as young Charlie shot him in the chest, ending him as well. (Violence begets violence.)
But it won’t necessarily be the end of Nick — at least not immediately. That’s because of the show’s two timelines currently taking place. Nick may be gone in the present, but he is still around in the past, at the baseball stadium fighting for survival while the Vultures hover just outside.
Why kill Nick? And what will his death due to sister Alicia? And girlfriend Luciana? And the man who tried to stop him and show him a new way, Morgan? We asked all that and more to showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss. Read through both pages to get the full scoop.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you all morphed into the grim reaper over the weekend and took out your first big victim. The episode ends with Nick being shot and killed by cute little Charlie. Why do that to poor Nick? Hasn’t that guy been through enough already?
IAN GOLDBERG: Well, one of the hardest things for Andrew and me, when we came on as showrunners, is that Frank had asked, even prior to us coming on to lead the show, to pursue other opportunities. So it was really, for us, crafting an emotional exit for an incredible character that he played. That was something that was just really important to us, was how to tell an emotional story for Nick and to send off his character in a fitting way. But with the way that we are playing with time in these first eight episodes, we will be seeing Nick again, as we do have multiple timelines.
That’s the interesting thing because usually when people get killed off on a show, that’s it, but as you’re saying, there still is more story with him to tell with him, isn’t there?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Yeah, there definitely is. We found ourselves in an interesting position, as well. Without giving away too much of what’s to come, it will, I think, provide really interesting emotional context for the characters going forward, as they grieve someone who’s been such a part of their lives for the run of the show, when at the same time, we’re also seeing that story continue in the other timeline.
Ian, you mentioned that Frank wanted to be freed up to do some other work and what have you, so did that present any logistical hurdles in terms of stuff maybe that we haven’t seen yet, in terms of, “Okay, we’ve got to condense and shoot all this stuff at one time to spread out over episodes,” which sometimes has to happen on TV?
GOLDBERG: No, there were really no logistical hurdles for us. It was just, as we said, crafting an emotional story for Nick. We should also say that we love working with Frank. We think he’s brought tremendous talent and life to this character over the course of the first three seasons, now into the fourth. We were really kind of honored that we were able to tell this story with him. One of the things that was important to him, when we first sat down with him and started talking about it, was that he really wanted to honor Nick and send him off in a way that would be emotional, and memorable, and really mean something. I think what people will see as they continue watching — Nick’s death is going to have ripples going forward because he did have so many connections to so many different characters.
And we see him lying in the field of bluebonnets as part of that death scene going back and forth. Man, flowers have a pretty deadly history in this franchise!
CHAMBLISS: For us, when we set out to find the flashback story that would accompany the story where he dies, for us, the flowers were really all about him finding peace and finding the thing that Madison taught him to find in the episode, just that little bit of good out in this very difficult world. That’s where that genesis came from. But then, as we were shooting it and really starting to think about it, we realized that, “Oh, wait. There is some history with flowers in The Walking Dead,” in particular, with “The Grove”. It’s funny because “The Grove” is one of our favorite episodes. Michael Satrazemis is our producing director on Fear, and we think that was maybe in our subconscious when we were cooking up this story. Yeah, it’s probably not a good idea to look at bluebonnets when you’re in Texas now.
What is it that makes Nick so determined to kill Ennis from the El Camino? Is there something specific we haven’t seen yet that does it, that triggers that switch, or is it just general Vulture douchiness that has Nick all up in arms?
GOLDBERG: I think you see in the episode that Ennis pushes a couple of really hot buttons for Nick. The biggest one for us is Charlie. Charlie has a complicated history. With Nick and Charlie, there was a closeness, almost a brotherly relationship there. There was tremendous betrayal when he realized that she was a Vulture and had come in to scout the stadium for the Vultures. It felt, to Nick, like in the battle for Charlie’s soul, between whom she was going to pick. He lost her to the Vultures. That’s really difficult for him, to see her back on the other side of the stadium wall with Ennis and Mel. That’s one component of it.
The other is that we’ve seen that Nick has found meaning in working the crop field and growing food for everyone inside. When the crops fail, Nick feels like he’s failed everyone, so when he encounters Ennis outside the church and Ennis said, “At least I keep my family fed,” I think he really knows how to provoke Nick. Those are two big reasons why Nick is so driven and why he’s so violent toward him. Then, as you said, there is more story to tell, so viewers will get some more emotional context going forward.
Let’s play “What If?” and say Charlie doesn’t shoot Nick. How do you think he responds to this book that Morgan has just handed him and this philosophy of all life is precious, because we’ve seen him be receptive to other teachings before, like with Celia in season 2?
CHAMBLISS: I think you make a very good point. I think we see a little bit of the glimmer of it in that moment when he’s sitting down with the book and starts to look at it. Nick, very much in the episode when he was with Morgan, even though he is chasing down Ennis, there still is a part of him that almost wants Morgan to step in and stop him, and not just stop him, but really provide some answers for him. That’s really what all of Nick’s questioning about, “You’ve killed before. What do you mean when you say you lose people, you lose yourself?” There’s really a yearning for Nick about finding a new way to live, so I think if Charlie had not shot him, there’s a very good chance that Nick may have become someone else that Morgan took under his wing and starts to teach his ways too.
NEXT PAGE: What Nick’s death means for Alicia, Luciana, and Morgan
I’ve got to say, you guys got me. You got me because Morgan hands Nick that book, we see him sit down, and I’m thinking, “He’s going to take this in and we’re going to have this whole storyline of Morgan teaching Nick, and changing Nick. This is going to be a season-long arc.” And then … BLAM! He’s gone a minute later.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, we wanted to surprise the audience, but do it in a way that felt emotional and still got Nick to a place where he was, at least, receptive to a more peaceful way of life. We didn’t want to send Nick off in a place where he was not at peace. That is very much what we think we accomplished in those final moments, even though he died in a very violent way. The cut to the memory he has of Madison showing him that field and Nick lying down in it — we like to think, at least, give him a momentary bit of peace as he died.
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, the title of the episode is “Good Out Here.” We think that what is ultimately so heartbreaking and tragic about Nick’s death is that he’s at the point where he has discovered good out here. Morgan has shown it to him by way of Art of Peace. It’s right at that moment when he’s found that peace and that good that he loses his life.
You guys mentioned earlier how this obviously is now going to be about what it does to the other characters, so let’s talk a little bit about that now. What is this going to do to Alicia and Luciana?
CHAMBLISS: They are on a very dark mission. We don’t know 100% what’s driving it, but they’ve now paid the price for what they’re doing. Nick died because they’re taking steps down this dark path, so they’re going to be faced with a very difficult question. It’s really, “Do we learn from what happened to Nick and perhaps change our ways? Do we perhaps turn to Morgan and open ourselves up to what Nick started to open himself up to, or do we do the opposite and do we double down?”
That’s really going to be the question that Alicia, Luciana, and Strand all struggle with, but you know, it’s particularly hard for Luciana, who loves Nick, and also for Alicia, who, as much push and pull as there has been in their relationship, Nick was still her brother, and holding her brother whilst he died is something that’s going to stick with Alicia for a very long time.
GOLDBERG: I think the other character that you’re going to see really impacted by Nick’s death is Morgan, because we know that Morgan, when we found him in episode 401, he ran away from the people closest to him. When Al interviewed him, he talked about, “I lose people and I lose myself.” That was what was keeping him away from people, was wanting to avoid that cycle repeating. Now we’ve seen that come to fruition again. He’s lost Nick. What is that going to mean for him going forward? I think you’re going to see it’s going to impact Morgan in a really significant way.
You mentioned Althea there. Let’s talk about her a bit because she’s got some interesting beats in this story that we just saw in this last episode. We know she’s all obsessed with everyone’s backstories. We see her freaking out a bit to make sure her tapes are still there in that SWAT van, but when are we going to get more of her backstory? When are we going to learn a little bit about how she became so proficient in this world?
GOLDBERG: Oh, a very good question. You know, Al is exceptionally good at getting the truth out of people, asking questions and getting people to talk about their stories, but she, as you see in this episode, is pretty reticent to talk about her own. I would say you should keep watching because we will slowly learn about it, but she doesn’t give out information about herself easily.
We see she has eight tapes marked “The Bog.” What happened in the bog? Is that significant, or am I reading too much into a tiny detail?
CHAMBLISS: I will say that is probably something that is important. I’m not going to say any more than that because people are just going to have to wait to find out.
Okay, well what can you say about what’s coming up next?
CHAMBLISS: I think people should definitely tune in next week because although Nick died in 403, the next episode is really going to be what Nick’s life meant to everyone on a very deep personal, emotional level.
GOLDBERG: I would say, to go to your earlier question about Al, we’re going to see a bit more of Al coming up in the next episode, and a little bit more about how she collects stories. We’re going to see new details of our character’s stories through Al’s perspective that we have not yet revealed.
CHAMBLISS: Oh, and there may be a water park.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.