Fear the Walking Dead showrunners weigh in on the latest CRM link
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's midseason premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, "The Holding."
All season long on Fear the Walking Dead, we have caught glimpses of a mysterious group with an affinity for graffiti and catchy slogans promising that "the end is the beginning." And on Sunday's episode, "The Holding", we finally met that group in full, along with their charismatic cult-like leader, Teddy (played by John Glover).
Alicia, Luciana, Althea, and Wes infiltrated the underground headquarters (or lair, if you will) of the group that had the dearly departed Virginia so scared — posing as wanderers who needed rescuing. But the seemingly happy-go-lucky members were doing more than just composting zombies (or "posters" as they called them). They seemed to have a much more nefarious plan in mind.
Part of that plan was uncovered when Al and Wes went searching in the bunk of Wes' long lost brother Derek, who was with the group. Not only did they discover maps and plans to take out communities like Virginia's and their own at the dam, but they found drop site maps for the CRM — indicating that the group being targeted in the office building back at the beginning of the season, were not the inhabitants, but the helicopter landing on the roof, a helicopter piloted by none other than Al's potential love interest Isabelle.
Alicia sacrificed herself to help the others escape, and seemed to be destined for the embalming table until Teddy showed up and informed her that "I've been looking for someone like you for a long, long time" while extending his hand out to her.
What does that final line mean? What is Teddy's end game? And what does this latest link with the CRM (who have appeared on all three Walking Dead shows) mean for the franchise moving forward? We went to showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg for answers.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, what are we calling this underground group of Teddy's know that we've met them. Is there a nickname you all have been using for them?
IAN GOLDBERG: We have names that we call them amongst each other in the writing staff, but there's no defined moniker. We've read online people calling them everything from Enders to Beginners. And we like both of those. But honestly, when we shorthand it amongst ourselves, we say "The people who are spray painting the end is the beginning."
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: [Laughs] It's not really shorthand.
Where did the idea even come for this group and this out of death comes new life philosophy?
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, we were looking for something that felt a little bit different and wasn't necessarily about people just wanting power over people wanting to control settlements and all that, especially because we had just spent a bunch of time with Virginia and she was essentially a colonial superpower in the state of Texas. But we were trying to think of things that could motivate people beyond that. And we kind of landed on this philosophy and we obviously had been spray painting "The end is the beginning."
So we had some inklings of what it was going to be. But then when we got to this episode, it was really kind of digging into how we were going to represent that. And ultimately it was through this idea that they were literally turning walkers into compost and turning the destruction that we've seen throughout the entire series into the beginning of new life. And it was something that we wanted to present initially as a positive before it started to take a more kind of sinister turn.
So is this a cult? Because it sure sounds like a cult and it sure feels like a cult.
GOLDBERG: I think it is. But I think the important thing to us kind of as Andrew was saying is we didn't want it to feel like a cult. We wanted it to feel like this warm, inviting, somewhat weird, but highly functioning society. And only as our characters experience it more and more and kind of mine what's under the surface do we see there's more sinister motives.
There are clues early on. While these people are farming and we're seeing crops and everyone being friendly with each other, there is this drone of a voice that is playing over all of it with his philosophy just sort of on a loop. And that, of course, is Teddy. So that's pretty cult-like, and they are, as we see throughout the episode, true believers and followers of Teddy, despite the fact that his intentions are not necessarily positive.
What's Teddy's ultimate motivation here in terms of doing all this? What's his end game?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I can't give you the whole end game, but I think what we know is kind of what Al has discovered with Wes when they're snooping in the room and it's what we've been seeing evidence of. We saw the tower that had been infected with the plague rats. We saw what they did to Tank Town. I think it's pretty clear when we look at their philosophy in "The End is The Beginning" that they're all about bringing about the end so that something new can start.
We hear Teddy's voice say, from death springs new life, and I think what it is they're looking to do, and what we're going to find out, is that they are looking for the way to bring about the end so that things can start over. And it is already the zombie apocalypse. So I think as we learn more, we'll see that perhaps Teddy doesn't think that the zombie apocalypse has taken things far enough.
The episode ends with Teddy telling Alicia, "I've been looking for someone like you for a long long time." What does that last line mean?
GOLDBERG: I think he sees something special in Alicia, something that he hasn't found in anyone else yet. And we learn at least part of that is what she talked about in her interviews early in the episode with Riley and her relationship to her mother and her mother's sacrifice. And also seeing her do something similar by the end of this episode that she put herself in harm's way so that the rest of her friends could escape.
And Teddy says, "I'm a mama's boy myself." And that is something we will explore later. There's definitely more to mine there, but I think there's a kinship that he feels with Alicia. Granted, they're very different types of characters with very different agendas, but he has a very specific role in mind for her in his twisted view of how he's going to bring about the end. And the question is, is Alicia going to go along with that?
I have to say I was having some awesome Scrooged and Gremlins 2 flashbacks watching this. How did you all end up casting John Glover for Teddy?
GOLDBERG: He came to us through our amazing casting team at Bialy/Thomas. It was Sharon Bialy and Gohar Gazazyan. They suggested him when they knew what we were looking for, and instantly we were just sort of, we're like, yes, he's the guy, because John has a playful quality about him. He can be very funny, very warm and enticing, which is exactly ... and also very articulate, which is what you want from somebody who's going to be a charismatic leader of a cult like this.
And we knew that we were going to hear him and hear about him before we ever met him, and so we needed somebody with a commanding voice and a singular voice. And so John kind of checked all of those boxes and also just has such presence and such danger and unpredictability about him, which we see even though we only experience him in a small way at the end of this episode. He really, we couldn't imagine anybody else in that role. He's the best.
CHAMBLISS: And we cast him right before we shut down production. So one of the silver linings of shutting down for six months was that he was able to grow that crazy beard and that crazy hair, which is so perfect for the role.
So, did Wes' brother Derek know that Wes was in Tank Town when they planned that assault? Give me a final ruling on that.
CHAMBLISS: It's a very good question, and yeah, the final ruling would be, he did know. And it just speaks to Teddy's power of persuasion.
So then let's follow that up. Why does Wes ultimately choose his new family over his old one?
GOLDBERG: I think what's heartbreaking about it is that Wes sees that his brother is not the same person that Wes knew. That Wes has been completely brainwashed and corrupted by Teddy. And he's not going to be moved off his course of destruction. And Wes is sort of left with no choice but to choose the family that he's found. And it means, unfortunately, that Derek has to meet a bad end because of the choices he's made, the person he's become.
The other big nugget to sort of come out of this episode is Althea finding those CRM drop site maps. What can you say about that? And what can you say about what that might mean moving forward as we saw Althea going on another adventure?
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, it definitely is something that caught Al's attention and kind of recontextualized the episode where she was in the tower and she thought the rats that had the plague were just there by happenstance, or that Teddy was targeting the people who lived in the tower. But now she's realizing that he actually had larger plans and he was targeting these people in the helicopter. Now he might not know who the CRM is, but when you see people in helicopters, you know that you can probably exact some destruction on them.
And I think on a more personal level, what it does for Al is it makes her realize that she's got to act, she can't kind of wait and see what happens. She can't sit by and accept that something could happen to Isabelle. So that's why at the end of the episode she kind of makes that decision to go off and warn her, even though she knows trying to make contact with someone from the CRM could result in her own death. So it really speaks to kind of the way her feelings for Isabelle are sticking with her, even after all this time.
How long will it be until we check back in on that search?
GOLDBERG: It won't be too long. We won't say exactly, but we will check back in on it and we're excited for the next chapter there.
Okay, hook us up with some teases for next week.
GOLDBERG: Honestly, next week's episode is truly unlike anything we've ever done on the show. Just conceptually it's very far outside the box of what you've seen on Fear the Walking Dead to this point.
CHAMBLISS: I will say we will see pink trees and I'll just leave it at that. A little psychedelic.