Fear the Walking Dead showrunners answer season premiere burning questions
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched the season 5 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.
When season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead wrapped up, our heroes were on a mission of heroic proportions. They were going to put aside their assorted sordid pasts and continue on Polar Bear’s mission of box-based altruism and help people in need. YAY, TEAM!
As things picked up a few months later on Sunday’s season 5 premiere, however, life looked significantly less-rosy. For one thing, our group crashed a plane just minutes into the season. (Ouch!) We then learned they have been having trouble finding people that even wanted their help, which extended to a trio of youngsters they met post-crash in the premiere.
Not only that, but before the hour was complete, Althea appeared to be abducted, and it turns out the entire supply run was a ruse sent out by Polar Bear’s former partner Logan (Matt Frewer) to get them out of their factory home base of operations, which he then proceeded to take back over. To make matters even worse, Strand learned at the end of the episode that if he wants to help his stranded comrades, he has to confront the man he shot in the face, Daniel Salazar (not seen since season 3). Sooooooo, stuff could be better. We spoke to showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg to get the scoop on the new threats, the impending return of Daniel, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY We pick things up a few months after season 4 has ended. Why there? And why pick up right in the middle of this supply run where the first thing we see are some new characters in these kids? It’s very disorienting, which I actually kind of like.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: We talked a lot about how we wanted to open the season and what led us to the decision to open kind of mid-mission a few months into what our characters had been doing was that we really wanted to achieve a couple of things. First and foremost, we wanted to show our characters as a well-oiled machine who were very good at working with each other, rallying around each other, and we see that to the Nth degree as they’re fighting outside this plane that has just crashed.
And the decision to see it through the point of view of these two young boys who are in the woods hunting, that was really driven by the fact that we wanted to see our characters through the point of view of people who didn’t know them so that when they first met them, they really could almost appear larger than life, almost seem like they’re super heroes. That was achieved in a big way with Alicia’s first moment when she steps out of the smoke from the burning plane and then takes out one of the walkers.
It was really about creating the sense that our group has been doing this mission, has been successful at this mission, and it was all about creating a little bit of a mislead so that when we find out that they actually have been having a really hard time finding people who are alive, people who trust them, people who want help, that would come as a little bit of a gut punch to the audience.
And then I think the other thing is we have an amazing crew and we know that they’re capable of some pretty spectacular things, so we wanted to open in a really kind of big way. They certainly delivered, and Michael Satrazemis, who directed the episode, blew us away with the amount he was able to shoot at that crash site with the limited amount of time he had, and we’re very grateful for that. Honestly, we like to think of it as kind of the opening to a movie just to announce upfront that this season is going to be big, and it’s going to be action packed with a lot of character journeys attached to all of that.
Following up on that, it’s easy to write “plane crashes” in a script. It’s not as easy to pull it off. You’ve got a great director in Mikey doing that, but what were the biggest hurdles and challenges in terms of making that look good?
IAN GOLDBERG: Probably as many as you can think of and more. One of the big challenges was finding the right plane to use, and we decided on the sky van for a lot of reasons, but we kind of liked how weird it was and that it kind of looked like a Winnebago in the sky. Our team was able to track it down for us. That was not easy, but they made it look fantastic. There were some weather challenges. I remember we got some footage that Mikey sent us on his iPhone one day when they were shooting inside the plane and there was torrential rain happening outside, so much so that things were sliding around out in the mud. Austin’s weather does not always cooperate with us, so that was a challenge.
It’s a big, epic sequence that has a lot of pieces and to get it all in eight days — or in this case I think we had a couple extra days on this one — but it’s still a really tall order and it’s just a real testament to Mikey’s talents and energy and also everyone in our cast and our crew who just somehow managed to keep pulling out great episodes for us.
Let’s talk about some of the things we learn in this episode and what they mean moving forward. What can you say about the zombie heads hanging from trees by their hair? Or rather, what can you say about the group that put them there?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: You probably won’t be surprised that I’m not going to say a lot about the group that put them there, but I think it’s pretty clear that there is a warning and that there perhaps is something beyond those heads and the walkers that are strung up across the road with their own intestines — that whoever is putting those up does not want our characters to see. It really speaks to one of the themes that we’re exploring with our group’s mission, that this is a world that oftentimes is not inviting. It is a world where people don’t trust each other. It is a world that is scary to live in. When people show up saying they want to help, that is an anomaly and that’s not something that people necessarily actually believe.
Well, can we assume that these zombie heads we see hanging are connected to the group that appears to have abducted Althea? Clearly, that’s a connection I and some viewers are going to make.
IAN GOLDBERG: That is a very interesting theory and we’d hate to either confirm or deny that that’s what’s going to happen.
I get so excited whenever I see Max Headroom pop up and always love seeing Matt Frewer so was really psyched to see him onscreen here as Logan, and we learn he lured Morgan and company away from the denim factory to take it over. What can you tell us about Logan and his former relationship with Clayton? And does he get any points at all for at least staging a bloodless coup? I’ll at least give him that.
IAN GOLDBERG: He did. He has a code and there’s still some shred of his time with Polar Bear, and he still subscribes to take what you need, leave what you don’t. He’s pretty literal about that in the episode. Unfortunately, he took the thing that our people really needed which was their home base. Obviously, we’re very interested in how we’re going to explore Logan’s story this season.
He, at one point, was Clayton’s partner. We know what Clayton’s philosophy was, how we operated in the world, so it’s just very interesting to see how far Logan has fallen from that and we will explore at some point what happened and why there was a bit of a fracture there. There’s a lot more story to come with Logan and his motives for taking over the river mill and for kicking our people out and for sending them on a wild goose chase with the plane. He may actually have more going on than he initially says.
Daniel Salazar is back. He was found by Althea at some point and then she sends Strand to go get his plane. Strand sees him on the video. Looking ahead, what can you say about their impending reunion?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: We love that moment where Strand thinks he’s going to get his chance to be the hero who saves the day and he takes out that tape label and I think the last person he ever thought would be on it would be Daniel Salazar. It’s really putting Strand in this position where he’s going to have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. The one person who can help him, who then helps everyone on the other side of that mountain who crashed that plane, is the last person that Strand wants to see. And Strand is probably the last person that Daniel Salazar wants to see. What we’ll see is whether Strand can pull it together to actually face the man who he nearly killed and whether that man is going to believe a word Strand says about how he has changed.
For more Fear the Walking Dead intel, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.
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