Spoiler alert: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Buried” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Another week, another Fear the Walking Dead shocker. The latest episode, “Buried,” had Alicia, Strand, and Luciana telling three different stories from the same day in the past that they said ultimately led to Nick’s death. In all those stories, the characters considered giving up on the stadium but ultimately did what they felt was the right thing and went back to Madison. However those right things seemed to ultimately lead to the wrong result.
But the biggest shocker was saved for the very end, when we learned that the Laura who John Dorie has been searching for is none other than the Naomi who had linked up with the Clarks at the baseball stadium. There was no happy reunion, as John found his matching pistol but was told that Naomi/Laura had not made it out of the stadium alive.
What are we to make of this latest twist? Is Naomi really dead? And what exactly is lead Vulture Mel trying to accomplish by cutting off the Clarks at the stadium? We asked showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss all that and more — including what’s coming up next. (Read through both pages for the entire interview.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell me how you all came up with this idea to basically show the events of this one day in the past that, in the words of Alicia, Luciana, and Strand, ultimately led to Nick’s death?
IAN GOLDBERG: Where it really started for us was we wanted to tell a story about hope, and, ultimately, take it to a place where it was not what one would expect hope to be in the episode. Hope and the way that these characters view it is actually the thing that they should not have had. And we were really interested in exploring more how Al captures stories and seeing it literally through her lens. The other aspect of it too was just wanting to see how this group processed their grief in the aftermath of Nick’s death. It’s a moment for them where they could walk away from this dark mission that they’ve been on. They could see Nick’s death as a moment to step back and re-evaluate what they’ve been doing, but instead they double-down and continue on this dark mission.
What I found interesting about the three different stories from the past we follow is that everyone seemingly makes the right decision at the time in terms of doing the right thing to try and stay strong together. Strand, Naomi, Nick, Luciana — none of them take off. They all come back, but in retrospect maybe that wasn’t the right call.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: This is a world that is very hard to live in, and we just want to tell a story that shows there is a cost both to doing the right thing, but also to doing the wrong thing. Last week, with Nick’s death, we saw the cost to the dark path that they’re all on. But we also want to show that, in the same regard, doing the right thing doesn’t always mean things are gonna work out for you. And I think it sheds a little bit more light just on the very pessimistic place that Alicia, Strand, and Luciana find themselves in. I think it’s understandable why, in the aftermath of Nick’s death, they’re actually choosing to double-down on that darkness, that hopelessness, instead of looking to it as an opportunity to change. And I think it’s something that is unexpected, not just for the audience, but for Al.
I mean, when she had that moment where we’re cutting between the three different talking heads, from Strand, Alicia, and Luciana, and they’re all essentially saying, because we did the right thing, that’s why my friend, that’s why the person I loved, that’s why my brother, that’s why he’s gone. That also really hits Al. Al’s someone who we haven’t necessarily seen emotionally affected by the stories, but I think it’s really kind of a gut punch to her, even. Because, as someone who’s so used to interviewing people, she is actually caught off guard by what they’re all saying.
One of the challenges of both Walking Dead shows is to find unique new settings for walker battles, so talk to me about this zombie waterpark scene: where this idea came from and finding the perfect place to execute it.
CHAMBLISS: Like you said, it’s very hard to come up with new takes on places to be overrun with walkers or new ways to fight them. It’s always a huge challenge. Between both shows we’ve now got 11 seasons of television, and we’re always like, “Oh, wait. That’s been done.” Or something similar’s been done. One of the things we’ve embraced in going to Texas is just really using what is on offer there. The waterpark is actually something that we drove by when we were scouting the stadium. So it actually is a waterpark that’s just like a mile from the baseball stadium. And that’s where we got the idea for a waterpark.
At the end of the day, shooting at that waterpark wasn’t feasible, but we ended up finding a waterpark that actually was abandoned and had been built, I think, in the ’70s. It was already in disrepair, so that made our production team a lot happier. They still did a fantastic job dressing it, but a little bit of the work was done for them.
Originally when we had scripted it, it was just a pool that the slide came out into. But then when we were talking with our director and our production designer and they were sending us pictures of that bowl at the very end where Naomi and Alicia end up, they said, “We gotta find some way to use this crazy bowl that dumps into this pool.” That’s how we ended up with that final bit of the set piece.
GOLDBERG: The other thing that was important to us with the waterpark was using it as a mirror for the stadium. When Alicia and Naomi come across it, they see that this was a place where people were living that had borders around it and people were surviving inside, and it fell. This is seeing, in action, what the Vultures have warned about, which is that places like this don’t last — and seeing how that weighed on both Naomi and Alicia.
NEXT PAGE: Scoop from the showrunners on that big twist at the end
We learn some more about Mel from the Vultures and his past, that basically in his eyes, he used to be like Madison, and that he used to live in a settlement and he thought they could stick it out and be safe, and it ended up going horribly wrong. If that’s the case, why isn’t he using that experience to help Madison and the others instead of choking them off from supplies — or does he think he is helping them by doing that and facing the reality of their situation as he failed to do before?
GOLDBERG: I think that you’ve said it. Mel, from the moment he shows up with the rest of the Vultures in the parking lot, these are not typical villains. They’re unlike any adversaries that the Clarks have come up against before. And it’s because they don’t see themselves as villains. Mel, from his own experiences, with his family, with Ennis, he truly believes what he’s telling Madison is the equivalent of a doctor giving bad news. It’s not something he relishes in telling her, it’s just sort of a sad reality of the world that they live in. He sees his way as the best way to survive, and he’s trying to do Madison and her family and her greater family at the stadium a favor in telling this story.
Let’s get into the big revelation at the end that Naomi is Laura, this woman who John Dorie has been searching for. Talk a little bit about choosing this as the time and place to reveal that?
CHAMBLISS: The reason we chose this episode to reveal that Naomi is in fact Laura was because it just seemed, schematically, to fit in with the stories that we were telling with Strand, with Luciana, with Alicia. Those are all stories about people having hope and then seeing that hope dashed. And the dangers of having hope. After we’ve heard all these stories about how they really blame the fact that they had hope on their downfall, we wanted to put that on its feet and show that with a character who we have seen have more hope than anyone else on the show, and that’s John Dorie.
It just seemed like that was the right time to reveal the truth about the John Dorie connection to Laura, who’s really Naomi. I think, for us, it was a very heartbreaking moment when he hears that news in regard to that little bit of a flash in the dugout where we see that Naomi actually had something with her that’s quite personal.
It’s not just a reveal on John Dorie’s side, but it’s also a reveal on Naomi’s side. We see her very guarded, but taking that gun out means that she does have a history with John Dorie, and she wouldn’t be holding onto it if it didn’t mean something to her. So it really is kind of all about hope and how you keep that alive. And then when we come back and Alicia, Lucia, and Strand break the news to him that Naomi didn’t survive the stadium, we see just how crushing that news is for John.
Alicia says Naomi is dead. So I’ll ask you guys point blank: Is Naomi dead?
GOLDBERG: You know, they were “at the stadium,” and they said she didn’t make it out. But there’s still more of the story to be told.
What about answers as to Madison’s current whereabouts or condition? Can we expect those soon?
CHAMBLISS: Yes. There will be more of Madison’s story un-spun just as we get more of Naomi’s story at the stadium. And, like Ian said, people are just gonna have to wait and see it unfold as we tell it.
You get this whole group together in the present, and now you separate them again with John and Morgan staying behind. What’s that about?
GOLDBERG: Morgan, after Nick’s death, is still reeling from that, and it prompts him to want to go back on his own and to return to the isolation that we saw him pursuing in episode 401. But then there’s a change of heart for Morgan at the end when he sees just how devastated John is by learning that Naomi didn’t make it out of the stadium, and that his whole search for her is not gonna end the way that he’d hoped.
And there you see just the feelings that Morgan has for John and how much he’s bonded with him, that he’s not gonna leave him on his own after being so devastated by this loss. So I think that shows a bit of a change in Morgan. But also, in terms of the other story, yes. we will continue to follow Luciana and Strand and Alicia and Al as they continue the next part of their mission to hunt down the Vultures, and we’ll pick up with that in the coming episodes.
What else can you tell us about what’s coming up next?
CHAMBLISS: In the next episode, we’re gonna continue to play with time, and we may jump to a new story stream that we haven’t seen yet.
GOLDBERG: In addition to playing with a different time stream, there are also some new and unique walker elements that we’re very excited about — very different than the waterpark, but something unlike you’ve seen on Fear before. So we’re also excited for people to see that.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.