Fear the Walking Dead showrunners on those mysterious new characters
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “The Code.”
Friends or foes? The answer to that question shifted several times during the latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead as Morgan met a new duo named Sarah and Wendell, who appeared at first to be a pair of post-apocalyptic do-gooders but turned out to be anything but. And then there was brewmeister Jim, whom Morgan saved from certain death — only to be repaid by Jim leaving Morgan to die on his own.
Morgan eventually survived a zombie onslaught and told the trio he would bring them to Alexandria, but only after they delivered him back to Texas to save his friends — and dropped off supply boxes along the way. So are Sarah, Wendell, and Jim to be trusted? And who was with that mysterious other woman we met in the very last scene? We asked showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg about all the newcomers, as well as Morgan’s big changes throughout the episode and what to expect next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You all told us last week that there would be a tonal shift for this episode and we’d see more humor than usual, and we certainly did, with most of it based around Daryl Mitchell’s character of Wendell. What made you all want to add some spots of levity in here?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Coming off of the previous episode with Alicia and Charlie having their reckoning together during the hurricane in a house, that was a very dark episode and there was only a small glimmer of hope at the end. We wanted something that really was a shift in which we’re reminding the audience that at the end of the day there is hope in this world. We ended up landing on these two characters, who we meet in Wendell and Sarah.
One of the things we love about humor is how people often use it to cope with really difficult situations. There’s not something we can think of much more difficult than the zombie apocalypse, so these two characters, Sarah and Wendell, are people who almost are joking with each other and trying to keep things light because they have to. That’s kind of their survival mechanism. It’s a big shift when they come into contact with Morgan, because he’s not necessarily a character who goes around cracking jokes. So, he’s kind of the straight man to them.
So Morgan meets Sarah and Wendell, thinks they’re doing all this post-apocalyptic philanthropic work. Turns out that is certainly not the case, and they instead stole the truck and supplies from someone else and later, along with brewmeister Jim, will leave Morgan out to die after he gives them information on how to get to Alexandria. I know not many people are strictly good or bad in this world, but where do these three folks fall on the morally reprehensible meter?
IAN GOLDBERG: Well, I think that’s a really interesting question. All three of them have come from very different circumstances and are surviving in really different ways. I mean, you take Jim, he’s someone who has been somewhat sheltered from the apocalypse. He’s holed up in his brewery, and he has a very clear drive of what he wants to do. He believes that beer is key to bringing people back to civilization, and he’s got that speech where he tells Morgan of all the historical reasons for that.
It seems like it’s a very kind of noble thing that Jim wants to do, but what we think is so kind of interesting about Jim is the contrast, and that he’s actually doing it for a very selfish reason. He’s got a big chip on his shoulder for what he feels like he didn’t get before the apocalypse that he feels like he should now. There’s some complexity to Jim in that way.
What about Sarah and Wendell? Because clearly they’re doing some bad things here during the course of the episode. So how should we feel about that, and how should we feel about them? They did leave Morgan to die, so what’s their excuse?
CHAMBLISS: What is anyone’s excuse in the apocalypse? I think if you asked Sarah and Wendell, they would say they’re just two people trying to survive, and they don’t necessarily see what they do is anything worse than what anyone else would do. In fact, we hear Sarah call out Morgan and say, “This is no different than what you did. You could have crossed that bridge. We know it wasn’t out. You’re not protecting your friends, just like we’re not going to help you right now.” So I think they just see themselves and people trying to live in this world.
Morgan does, I think, get through to them by the end, and even though they ostensibly are helping him in his mission to find his friends and leaving these boxes kind of begrudgingly on the side of the road, I think there’s a part of them that may actually find some satisfaction in doing that. And that’s something that we’re going to kind of play forward as we progress throughout the season.
We saw Morgan make Alicia his mission after he failed to save Nick. Does he see these three people as a new mission of his?
GOLDBERG: Absolutely, yeah. I think Morgan is on a mission of redemption. The sort of crossing with Sarah, Wendell, and Jim is kind of a fortuitous thing for him because Morgan has done some things that he regrets, things that he feels he needs to make up for. We see it very clearly in this episode when he stands on that bridge in the beginning and lies and tells Sarah and Wendell that the bridge is out when it isn’t. And then later he admits to being a coward and voices his own fears that he might not be able to emotionally help his friends as much as he thinks they need it.
That’s a big moment, and a big admission for Morgan to make. I think the discovery of the box, and the mile marker, and being able to use those things to free himself from the walkers at the bottom of that ravine, and sort of realizing what the truckers were doing by leaving these boxes on the side of the road — it gives Morgan a real opportunity to carry that mission forward. As he’s heading back to Texas to find his community of people that he left behind, he’s also redeeming himself with Sarah, Wendell, and Jim by leaving these boxes and carrying forward that mission.
Let’s talk about that last scene. What are we to make of this woman at the very end who’s been listening in on the radio? She’s got zombie Pervis hanging there on the wall with her. How does she fit into this puzzle?
CHAMBLISS: I don’t want to say much about that mysterious woman, but I think it’s apparent in that moment that she clearly has some sort of history and relationship with whoever it was who set up that truck stop. And the fact that in the final moments of the episode she writes on that walker’s face the key phrase that we’ve seen on the boxes the entire episode, “Take what you need. Leave what you don’t,” I think we can see that she’s not too happy with the fact that Morgan is now carrying on that kind of legacy that’s left behind. We will certainly see her again. She’s going to become perhaps an unexpected antagonist to Morgan and the rest of the group.
Let’s use that to look ahead as to what we can expect next week on Fear the Walking Dead. What can you all say?
GOLDBERG: Kind of just reiterating what Andrew said, we will learn a bit more about that mysterious woman that we saw at the truck stop, and we’ll get a little bit more glimpse into what her goal is. We’re going to see just how dangerous she is as well.
CHAMBLISS: Next week we are going to find out what happened to June and Al, and I will say Al is a character who we’ve always seen pretty much be in control of whatever situation she is in. But that may not be the case next week.
All right. I’ve saved the most important question for last. Jim — or Jimbo, as it were — gave this whole little speech to Morgan, and I pose the question now to you guys: Is Jim right? Does the world need beer?
GOLDBERG: Oh, that’s very much so.
CHAMBLISS: That’s an emphatic yes.
GOLDBERG: And without spoiling anything, there’s a lot more beer to come this season.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.