SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Close Your Eyes” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Alicia and Charlie not only had to survive each other when they both holed up in an abandoned house to escape the storm outside this week on Fear the Walking Dead, but they had to survive the zombies and deluge of water making their way in as well. While Alicia threatened to kill Charlie at one point and then almost gave her a mercy killing at another when they found themselves trapped in a flooded basement, the two eventually made it out alive — and possibly as friends instead of foes.
What was the inspiration for what felt like a contained two-character horror movie? How did they shoot that flooded basement scene? And what happens next for these two — along with everybody else? We asked showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss all that and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Usually your episodes have a lot of characters and go back and forth between an A and B story, but you’ve had a few of these almost two-person play type episodes. First off, tell me about embracing that structure, which we also saw earlier with the “ Laura” episode?
IAN GOLDBERG: The two-character episodes are some of Andrew’s and my favorite ones because it really allows them to focus on the emotions and the characters and to put characters into situations where we can really just explore new textures to them. They’re in their own movies. That was something we found so exciting about episode 405, “Laura.” One of my favorite episodes from The Walking Dead is “The Grove” — the episode with Carol and Tyreese. That’s a common reference point for us. So it’s a challenge to craft those episodes because you really have to hone in on the very specific emotional moments between the characters.
And “The Grove” was directed by Michael Satrazemis, who directed this episode and the “Laura” episode you guys were just talking about. So, clearly, that’s no accident to have him working on these.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: No, it’s not. We knew we wanted to tell this story between Alicia and Charlie and we knew we wanted someone to direct that who really could focus on these performances that are very nuanced and have a definitive arc that goes throughout, and Michael Satrazemis has done that on Walking Dead. He did that for us on “Laura,” so when we were conceiving this episode, he was the person we wanted to direct it.
“Laura” was more of a love story, but this had a lot of classic horror movie elements — being trapped in a house with monsters, ending up in a basement, almost drowning. Did you get that feeling like it almost could work as a standalone horror story?
IAN GOLDBERG: Yes, and a big reason for that is, of course, the contained nature of it and the storm raging outside and just sort of those elements. But really, the horror comes from the darkness that both Alicia and Charlie are wrestling with, and their feelings towards each other. They are the last people in the world that they want to be trapped in a house with, and that’s exactly what inspired the episode for us is to put two people who absolutely do not want to be together, and putting them in that situation and seeing how the pressure cooker informs their behavior. It was a challenge and we’re thrilled with how it turned out.
We see Charlie has the gun presumably to possibly use on herself and we see her let that walker on the branch grab her. Is she trying to end it and is she trying to mend some fences and right some wrongs before she does, like returning The Little Prince book to Luciana?
IAN GOLDBERG: Charlie is wracked with guilt. She’s tormented by everything that we saw her do in the first half of the season and she’s looking for redemption. Like so many of our characters, she’s looking to make up for those things and she’s not sure how she’s going to do that. Giving The Little Prince to Luciana is a step in that direction, but it’s really just a step.
And it’s also interesting to think about it from Alicia’s point of view because yes, Alicia sat across the campfire from Charlie is episode 408, but there is a lot unresolved between them. It’s not like suddenly all is forgiven. Charlie’s killed Alicia’s brother. Charlie was the Vulture who first led the rest of the Vultures to the stadium. So many of the tragedies that happened to Alicia, Charlie was at the center of. So there’s not a great deal of trust from Alicia to Charlie. She doesn’t forgive her. She doesn’t trust her and that’s why there’s so much that comes out between them in this episode because there’s just a lot to be worked out.
We learn about Charlie’s past here and what happened to her family. Explain how this works in terms of building a character’s backstory. How much do you know when you first introduce the character, like at the start of the season with Charlie, and how much do you fill out when you get to that script and time where she actually reveals it?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: When we first introduced Charlie, she was a young woman who had been on her own in the apocalypse for a while, and had lost her family, and had been adopted by the Vultures and really saw them as her family because they were the first people who she really came across, and we knew there was some loss in her past that dealt with her parents and her family, but we didn’t know specifically what it was.
And it really wasn’t until we were digging into the meat of 410 that we started to really wonder what it would be like for a kid who lost their parents so young and had to live in the zombie apocalypse on her own. And the detail that we came up with for this episode that we thought was really cool was what it would be like for someone who’s that age to see their parents turn and just thinking how that would become almost an indelible memory. And as Charlie says to Alicia, she can’t actually remember what her parents looked like before they turned, and that just seems like such a horrific way to have to live in this world where the people who you wish were there to protect you, you can’t even remember what they were like. And it kind of leads to her obsession with collecting all these photos of this family and trying to save them just in case whoever knew them might come back looking for them because deep down, I think Charlie is hoping that somewhere out there, she’ll be able to find some pictures of her parents so she could remember what they were like.
Let’s talk about this flooded basement scene. You keep writing these things that must sound cool when you dream them up and certainly look cool on screen, but they also must make your production team bang their head against a wall trying to figure out how to stage it.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Yeah, it was definitely a challenge. Everyone dove into this one full force. We talked to Mikey Satrazemis when he was on set shooting stuff and we didn’t realize that he’s in a wetsuit standing in the tank where they actually built the basement set. It wasn’t a small feat to flood the basement, but for us it was very important to have Alicia and Charlie in what they thought were their final moments being in this very intimate space where they were finally able to get past everything they had going on between them, but also everything that they had going on internally. We were super excited that we were able to actually pull it off in a real tank with this basement set built and water up to their necks.
So where do Alicia and Charlie go from here?
IAN GOLDBERG: Well, they’ve both been on quite a journey within the episode. The fact that they are together at all is amazing, but they go to try to find the rest of the group and realize that they’re not there and things aren’t going to end as happily as they imagined they would have. And they’ve got a distance to go, and it’s going to be hard to maintain this sort of brightness that they found within each other when the reality of the world and how the hurricane has wreaked havoc on the world really hits them at the end of the episode. So, it’s now taking that forgiveness and the new hope that they found in each other and carrying that forward when the situation is a bit bleak.
You dropped this nugget into last week’s season premiere where they came across a box of supplies clearly left by a stranger or strangers. But then no follow-up on that this week. Are we going to learn more moving forward about who left that stuff?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: It is safe to say that we most definitely will learn more, and we may even learn more next week.
What else can you say about next week’s episode?
IAN GOLDBERG: We’re going to meet some new faces next week who are going to lend a very different flavor to the show. There’s going to be a lot of comedy. Episode 410 was a very dark episode and with the episode 411, it’s going to be much lighter in tone and a lot of that will come from some new cast additions that we’re excited for people to check out.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.