SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Weak” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
First off, a toast to this latest episode of Fear the Walking Dead — if you can find that elusive bottle of beer to make the toast, that is. Ask Luciana, she should be able to find you one. And an ice cold one at that! Luciana’s noble quest for suds was just one of the intriguing storylines in Sunday’s “Blackjack” episode. She finally located that bottle of Auggie’s Ale for a dying stranger named Clayton — who also happened to be the Polar Bear truck driver that was originally leaving those help boxes on the side of the road.
But that wasn’t all. John Dorie and Strand had their own problems. Dorie finally convinced Strand to join him in trying to cross a flooded waterway patrolled by a zombie-devouring alligator, but they had to abort and turn back when their makeshift raft started taking in water. And the episode ended in a cliffhanger as Morgan and co. were being pursued in a high-speed chase by their new fearsome foe — the mysteriously titled “Filthy Woman” (played by Tonya Pinkins), who had stolen Althea’s SWAT truck and was ready to open fire.
We asked showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss about all that and more, and they not only shared their thoughts but gave us some teases for what’s coming up next as well.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: And we have three different stories going on here so let’s take them one at a time. Let’s start with what felt a little bit like a Jaws movie as Strand and John Dorie try to outsmart a zombie-devouring alligator. Where did this idea come from and how was it executed?
IAN GOLDBERG: The idea for the alligator sort of came to us from real life in our research into hurricanes. What happens with not only people but animals during the aftermath of a hurricane? We sort of liked the idea that we would find both John Dorie and Strand displaced by the storm, but also this alligator that had also been displaced and put into unfamiliar territory and how it would affect all three of them. And how the alligator served as the ultimate obstacle to Dorie getting across the island and getting back to June. We’re always trying to find different ways to push the envelope and find ways to create new obstacles for our characters and an alligator is a foe that they have yet to face until now.
A lot of focus on alcohol in this episode. We’ll get into the beer aspect of that later but what’s going on with Strand risking his life for a bottle of booze? He says later that he drinks to forget that he has nobody to drink with. He later comes out of his funk and agrees to cross the water with Dorie, but then they have to turn back. So where is Strand at after all of that? Is it back to the bottle or is he going to get his stuff together now?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: We’ll obviously find out a lot more in upcoming episodes about where he goes from here, but we always viewed this episode as pitting two polar opposite characters together. Strand is someone who at the moment is really filled with cynicism. He’s seen his best friend die, the family they had build torn apart, and he is stuck on an island with one of the most optimistic guys I think we’ve ever seen in the Walking Dead universe. It really, for us, was an opportunity to kind of pit those two philosophies together, and ultimately, at the end of this episode we see who has won out, that was Strand. He was right. They wouldn’t be able to get off the island, and for the first time, we see Dorie lose some of his hope when he kind of sits there after they wash ashore and he eats that Black Jack, which was kind of the sign that he was going to get back to June.
I think Strand is in a place where he actually wanted to believe in Dorie’s optimism, but he wasn’t surprised when it didn’t work out. I think that being said, we’ll find that it might not be that easy to beat either Dorie or Strand down. The person who turns things around may not be the one we expect.
Let’s get more into the John Dorie angle of all of this. He’s full of hope that he’s going to find June. But then the crossing doesn’t work. They have to swim back, and the last thing we see is Dorie eating that black licorice himself. What is the symbolism of that and what does it mean for John heading forward?
GOLDBERG: John is, as we said, an incredibly optimistic, hopeful person. And we’ve seen him take signs from the universe before. And this candy is the latest symbol of hope for him, and that’s what he tells his friend early in the episode. That licorice was in his pocket when he washed up on the island, and he sees it as a symbol of hope and a gift from the universe that it means he’s going to find his way back to June. And that he’s meant to give this back to her. John had a tremendous struggle to get to June in the first half of the season. Against a lot of odds, he was told that she was dead at one point. But he kept fighting and he’s going to keep fighting.
And so when ultimately his plan doesn’t work out, and he sits at the shore and eats that Black Jack, it’s sort of the ultimate acceptance of defeat for John. And that things don’t always work out and it’s going to be a difficult climb back up to the optimistic John that we’ve come to know from him.
Let’s now talk about Luciana, who appears to be searching for Charlie and instead comes across this guy Clayton who is stuck in a car. Clayton wants a beer, and by golly, she’s going to get him that beer. What’s going on with her? She says she has things to make up for. Why the intense mission for a bottle of beer?
CHAMBLISS: Luciana is feeling a lot of the guilt and remorse for everything that she, Strand, and Alicia did when they were hunting down the Vultures. But I think the thing that is most present in her mind is the fact that she chased Charlie out into the middle of the storm. And she doesn’t know if she sentenced this girl to death or not. So when she finds this person who’s in need, she’s just so desperate to do one good thing to try to make up for all the bad things she’s done. And even though that thing that she wants is as small as, you know, a bottle of beer, it’s become so important to her, it’s almost the thing that she thinks, “If I can do this one little thing, that means maybe there’s hope for me to move forward and continue to help other people.”
And ultimately, it builds to this really nice moment between Luciana and Clayton where, Luciana opens up and says, there was actually a time when she watched someone else die, and she wasn’t able to do anything to comfort that person, and that was, of course, Nick. So we get a little more insight into the pain that she’s feeling and understanding that, in addition to all the guilt, there’s also a sense of helplessness that she’s been feeling in this world and the fact that she’s able to hand him a beer, and not just a beer, but a cold beer that she was able to chill with the ice pack from a first aid kit. She was able to give someone a final moment of happiness before they die and I think that, in a way, helps give her a sense of control and makes her feel like she can make this world a little better, one bottle at a time, I would say.
Of course, we learn that Clayton is actually Polar Bear the trucker, the guy who was passing out the boxes on the side of the road. We see so many stories of good people turning bad and doing bad things to survive in the apocalypse. How nice is it to have this story of a guy who did the opposite? He shut himself off pre-outbreak, and it took that terrible event to unleash the good within him.
IAN GOLDBERG: We’re really excited to be able to tell those kinds of stories and to offer that small little ray of life, that glimmer of hope in what can often be a bleak world. We’re very excited about telling the story of what Clayton started, and we’ve been slowly providing bread crumbs for that from the moment we first saw help boxes in episode 409. Now we realize more where that philosophy came from and who the person was that started it, but also how it’s impacting all of our characters and how Morgan has taken on the mantle of what Polar Bear was doing by now — taking his truck and dropping the boxes on the side of the road and really just taking up where he left off.
It’s just this idea that help begets more help, and benevolence begets benevolence. It’s a pretty unique way to live in this world and that’s going to be very much of the storytelling going forward. Even though, it also puts Morgan directly in the cross hairs of the Filthy Woman that we see in this episode. She doesn’t like that he is caring forward Polar Bear’s legacy and I think we see just how determined she is to stop that and to be the opposite of that help that Polar Bear was trying to promote.
Let’s talk a bit more about her. What happened to this person to turn her this way where she thinks that helping people makes everyone weak and will we ever get answers as to that?
CHAMBLISS: I’m not going to answer that first question because we will be getting answers and we may even be getting them as soon as next week, but there is, in fact, a very good reason for the philosophy that Filthy Woman espouses and why she is so dead set against stopping this group of people who have picked up Polar Bear’s mantel and kind of continuing to do what he set out to do.
So, who wins in the battle between a SWAT tank with automatic weapons and an 18 wheeler?
GOLDBERG: Oh, you’ll have to tune in next week. Another tease for you, you’ll find out next week.
What about ending on that cliffhanger? What made you all decide to want to cut the episode right there as the SWAT truck is pulling up right next to them?
CHAMBLISS: Well, obviously we want people to tune in next week to see what happens but the thing we’ve found interesting about it was, really kind of hearing the fight from Alicia and Charlie’s point of view. We, in this episode, see how the help boxes have connected all these characters on their disparate journeys. Then we cut to the other side of that walkie and we see that it is Alicia and Charlie. We’re hoping that this means they’re going to reunite, and then we pulled the rug out from under that idea pretty quickly. But we want to kind of be in Alicia and Charlie’s head at the end of that episode.
The last time we saw them, they were in a crisis, but Alicia has found some hope and Charlie had found some hope. They thought they could move forward and then at the end of episode 410, Alicia realizes that things might not get better. She couldn’t find any of her friends. And it’s kind of in this moment when she seizes on a little bit of hope when she finds that box on the side of the road, but it gets pulled away from her again. It is questioning optimism and seeing that Morgan’s efforts to continue Polar Bear’s mission are going to be met with a lot of resistance.
Okay, what else can you tell us about what’s coming up next on Fear the Walking Dead?
GOLDBERG: Well, we saw a lot more about the Filthy Woman this week and we’re going to learn even more in next week’s episode, including her name and a bit more of why she is the way she is.
CHAMBLISS: All right. I’ve got two things. Piggybacking off Ian’s, we’re also going to see maybe one of our favorite needle drop montage sequences as we learn more about Filthy Woman. And we spent a lot of time in rural Texas, seeing the very Texas landscape, but next week we will in fact be in a much more urban setting.
IAN GOLDBERG: We’re going to the city!
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.