Fear the Walking Dead showrunners on the return of Daniel Salazar
SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “The Hurt That Will Happen” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
Reunited and it feels so… awkward.
Last time Victor Strand and Daniel Salazar were in the same room together, Strand shot Salazar in the face. Which is a way of saying they didn’t exactly leave on great terms. But that was way back in season 3. So how would their season 5 reunion go down on Sunday’s “The Hurt That Will Happen” episode of Fear the Walking Dead? Well, not great.
On the plus side, Daniel did not kill Victor. So that’s good. But he also did not give Strand the plane he needed to go rescue his friends (including Alicia). It was a tense meeting, and one that culminated with Victor leaving empty-handed… but at least with his hands (and head and heart) intact.
We spoke to showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss to get their take on the big meeting, as well as the introduction of a key new character, radioactive zombies, Alicia’s bloodlust, and the tenuous status of Morgan’s trusty stick.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been a long time since we saw Daniel, so his reemergence is a big deal. Tell us how you landed on this way to bring him back in, facing down the guy in Strand who totally shot him the face.
IAN GOLDBERG: There were a few factors at play, and we can say that yes, we didn’t see Salazar for the fourth season of the show and he has been on a pretty crazy journey from where we left him at the dam when Strand shot him in the face to where we find him in season 5. We only get a very small bit of information about that in this episode. We see that he’s wound up at this warehouse surrounded by everything one could possibly need. He’s got this cat named Skidmark. We’re not exactly sure where the cat came from, but I think it’s safe to say he’s alone there. He’s isolated. He’s still harboring a lot of mistrust of Strand.
Strand spends the episode trying to convince Daniel that he’s a changed man and what’s interesting is that as an audience we knew that Strand has really transformed in a lot of ways. The interesting thing for us, and it’s something that we’ll explore as the season goes on, is why is Salazar still holding on to so much anger towards Strand, why can’t he turn the page, and what does that say about him and where he is?
Let’s go a little deeper on that. Because Daniel sits there and hears Strand connect with Luciana over the radio, but yet still doesn’t give him the plane to go help. Is that because he still can’t fully trust this guy, or does he think he’s just going to screw it up somehow?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: I think it’s a little bit more of the latter because I think in that moment, Salazar believes that Strand thinks he’s changed, but he’s been with him long enough both as an ally and as an enemy that he knows the thing that motivates Strand at the end of the day is his own survival, his own selfishness. I think in Salazar’s mind, he believes that Strand wants to help, but he thinks, like you said, he’ll find some way to mess it up because of his own need for self-preservation.
It’s kind of that idea that Salazar ends up putting in Strand’s head as he walks away from the warehouse. Strand has come a long way, but I think the person who he may have to convince the most after that encounter with Salazar is himself. You see that anger that’s starting to build up and frustration as he picks up a piece of concrete from the ground and just starts bashing the walker’s head in. I think a lot of that is fueled by some self-loathing that he still has to deal with before he can truly move on.
To confirm, we will see more of Daniel this season, right?
GOLDBERG: Oh, most definitely.
Let’s also talk about Grace now, who we meet in this episode. She worked at the reactor. She’s now trying to take out all these radioactive zombies. Tell me about where the idea came from to introduce this new character and how she’s going to fit into things moving forward.
GOLDBERG: We wanted to show how difficult it was for our people to help out in the world, and Grace was someone that we thought of as a particular challenge for Morgan and Alicia and everyone else. At the end of episode 501 at that scene outside the truck stop, Morgan says, “It should be hard. That’s how we know we’re on the right track.” Here in 502 we meet Grace, who we find out over the course of the episode is hunting down and killing the people who died as a result of the plant, the nuclear plant melting down, that she feels responsible for causing.
On top of that, she’s someone who suffered exposure herself and feels that she doesn’t have much time left. With the time she does have left, she thinks the only thing she can do to make up for her actions is to find and essentially take care of the people she cared about that she couldn’t help when they were alive. This is a huge challenge for Morgan and Alicia. How do you help someone like that who is at such a low point? That’s going to be the challenge before Morgan and Alicia going forward. But also, is there any light at the end of the tunnel for Grace, or is this all there is for her?
CHAMBLISS: Just to add, we almost did radioactive zombies in season 4, but we just really didn’t have the room for it, so it’s something we kind of had in our back pocket that we were very excited about, and just having walkers that weren’t as easy to kill. Most of our characters are pretty proficient at killing walkers now, and the fact that there are now walkers out there that you can’t kill in the regular way because if you get their blood on them you could potentially be exposed to contaminated particles, was something that got us really excited.
Alicia has been on a killing spree, and we see a few instances where she’s really almost courting death or infection. Is that out of her system now? Has Morgan talked her down off the ledge?
CHAMBLISS: It’s a really tough journey that Alicia has already been on and she’s still kind of navigating. The thing that we’re really interested in with Alicia is, she is a character who went to the lowest of lows in season 4 where the only thing she cared about was killing the people who she blamed for her mother’s death. She pulls herself out of that. She ended up making amends with the person who killed her brother and that was a huge step, but even in embracing the help mission at the end of season 4, she still had a lot of healing to do, and that’s where we find her at the beginning of this season. She, in many ways, has resorted to what she knew in season 4, which is violence, which is killing, but she’s found a way to channel that for good.
At the beginning of the season, we’re thinking of her as Wolverine and that famous phrase he had, “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn’t very nice.” It’s really Alicia thinking that this is the way she can contribute to the group. She says, “Every walker I kill, that’s one less dangerous thing out there.” What Morgan is trying to illuminate for her — and Morgan is a man who has been in that very same position where all he could do was kill — is that that might be the easier way to go, but it will eventually lead to her own death or the death of people around her.
It’s really that challenge he gives her at the end of 502 where he says you’ve got to open the door, and it’s not easy because you can’t put a weapon between yourself and losing people, where we are really kind of seeing some common ground growing between Morgan and Alicia, and I think Alicia is starting to realize that the next thing she’s going to have to do is the thing that is a lot scarier than running out into a muddy field filled with walkers. That’s actually trying to make connections to people. Maybe making connections to people who don’t want your help. It’s something that she saw her mother do and it’s something that she just hasn’t been able to bring herself to do, but it’s definitely, at least in this moment, what she knows she needs. And the question now is whether she’s going to be able to do it, and if she tries, whether she’ll be able to pull it off.
Look, I could sit here and ask you guys about Alicia and the new character of Grace, and Daniel coming back, and that’s all well and fine, but all I really want to know more than anything is: Is this really the end of Morgan’s stick? I’m very concerned about the loss of Morgan’s stick.
GOLDBERG: No one is more concerned about it than Morgan, I promise you. There’s more story to come with Morgan’s stick. There’s an incredible history there and we will absolutely be telling more.
CHAMBLISS: We did take Lennie [James] out to lunch to break the news to him that his stick was going to get contaminated.
Okay, what can you say about what’s coming up next on Fear of the Walking Dead?
CHAMBLISS: We can say we’re going to the wild, wild west.
Well, you’ve been going to the wild, wild west for a while now. I mean, this has a total western feel to it since you guys came aboard. Is it going to be even wilder and wester?
GOLDBERG: You ain’t seen nothing yet. If you watch season 4 carefully, we may have previewed in season 4 the location of where episode 503 will take place.
For more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.