Fear the Walking Dead showrunners answer midseason finale burning questions
Oh, there she is! That was the reaction of not just Victor Strand, but Fear the Walking Dead viewers as well when Virginia brought Strand into a secret room to reveal… Grace! Missing since she was hauled away from the Gultch in the season 5 finale and revealed to be pregnant and not terminally ill, it turns out Grace was being kept in secret captivity. The big twist at the end of Sunday’s midseason finale — titled “Damage From the Inside” — proves that even though Virginia may be on the ropes as Morgan brings yet even more of his friends back together, she has what may prove to be the ultimate bargaining chip.
We spoke to Fear showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss about this latest development, as well as all the other big moments from the midseason finale. Whose team is Strand playing for after he pulled a gun on Alicia, Morgan, and Charlie, and told Virginia he was on her side? Should we believe that Morgan is really welcoming Dakota into the group, or is he just biding his time before using her as leverage himself? And where did the idea come from for those crazy augmented zombies? Read on for answers as we hit the midway point of what has so far proved to be Fear’s best season yet.
ENTERTAINMENT WEKELY: First off, was this episode always planned as the midseason finale, or did it become the midseason finale due to COVID wreaking havoc with the filming and airing schedules?
IAN GOLDBERG: It was the latter. As we usually do, we conceive the seasons in eight-episode chunks, and 608 was designed as the midseason finale. But unfortunately, we were halfway through filming 608 when we had to shut down for COVID. And so, 607 became what is now our midseason finale. But funny enough, it's got so many cliffhangers and dangling questions and things that are set up, that it's funny when we look at it. We're like, "Yeah, it actually, surprisingly, works quite well as a midseason cliffhanger."
This episode has a very Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets 10 Cloverfield Lane vibe to it. Until the last few minutes, it’s essentially a stand-alone stuck with a scary dude in a scary cabin movie. And these are also some of the coolest zombies we ever seen on the show. So where did the idea for the augmented, horned zombies come from? Did the desire to create some rad-looking walkers lead to the story of Ed, or was it the story of Ed that lead to the rad-looking walkers?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: It sounds like I'm equivocating, but it's a little bit of both. We had the story of Ed, and we were looking for something that he could be doing that really differentiated him from other survivors we've seen holed up in isolated places. We looked at all the ideas that we've had over the past that we haven't really been able to marry to any kind of story, and we had always had the idea of adding taxidermy and augmenting walkers to make them look really monstrous. Then those two things kind of came together.
And I think what we really liked about it thematically was for Ed's story, it was all about him inadvertently creating these monsters to protect the people he loved, which ultimately destroyed the people he loved. And thematically, that really fit in with what Virginia was doing to her sister and to all the people that she's got living in her communities.
GOLDBERG: And we named the character Ed after Ed Gein, the real-life serial killer that inspired Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs, so that's just a little Easter egg.
Dakota says at one point that Virginia killed their parents. Is that true and, if so, are we going to learn why that happened?
GOLDBERG: I'll just say you are definitely going to learn what happened very soon, and Virginia did indeed do some pretty terrible things in the name of protecting Dakota.
Let's talk about Morgan, who just mowed down that convoy of rangers. What does that say about where his head is at in the whole thing? We've seen Morgan sort of yo-yo throughout his history on both sides. He’s not off his rocker, like we've seen in the past sometimes, but he's willing to go to some extreme measures to protect his friends.
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, I think what he's really trying to do is avoid having a repeat of what happened at the end of season 5, with the Gulch, where some of his decisions, some of his ideals — that you can try to solve everything and still protect life — might not actually be workable in this world. And I think Morgan's actually coming to a place that's almost merging the different versions of Morgan that we've seen.
I mean, like you said, he's not “clear” Morgan, who's just killing every living thing in front of him, but he's definitely not the disciple of Eastman, who thinks all life is precious. He's kind of finding some middle ground. And I think from his point of view, he realizes he's got to meet Virginia on her own turf, and he's got to fight in some of the ways she is willing to fight.
We see Morgan and Alicia fight over that walkie as Morgan wants to use Dakota as leverage to swap for his friends and she won’t do it. It’s kind of a like a game of chicken and Morgan appears to blink first and says Dakota can come with them as a part of their group. My question to you is: Does he mean it? Did he check himself and stand down on that plan or is he just biding his time?
GOLDBERG: No, I believe he will stand by that, because what the power of that moment is the fact that Morgan... all of the morally gray actions he's taken up until this point, the end goal of that is to reunite his family in a place where they can be safe. And he's recognizing in that moment that if he goes down this path and dangles Dakota as bait and uses her in that way, he's going to lose Alicia. And Alicia is willing to take a stand to that. And so, right there, he would be losing the very family that he's trying to reunite. So it is a gut-check moment for Morgan, and we're going to see it has ripple effects in the next episode and beyond.
So let's move over to Strand element of that, because there's a similar situation at one point that happens where he shows up, and Morgan says, "Hey, you should come with us." He doesn’t, and not only that, but he raises his gun on his friends before he finally backs down, as Morgan did. But he then tells Virginia he is on her side. I don’t necessarily buy that, because Strand is usually on Strand’s side. But why does he turn down the opportunity to leave with Alicia, Morgan, and Charlie? What’s his plan and what’s his end game?
CHAMBLISS: I think Strand's really kind of looking back at where he's been and all the events that have brought them to the place [where] everyone is under Virginia's rule. And I think if Strand were to answer honestly, he would think things would have turned out differently if perhaps he had let Strand be Strand and do what he wanted to do. So I think even though there is that offer from Morgan and Alicia to come with them to go live in the community beyond the dam, I think he's unwilling to cede control to someone else, because he's worried that kind of the idealism that Morgan and Alicia had both shown in different ways may actually end up being their downfall. And he wants to be a victorious in this.
So, going back to Lawton and telling Virginia he's on her side, it isn't necessarily the case. I think Strand's looking for his opportunity to make his move. And exactly who that serves, we'll have to see whether that ends up serving just Strand, or if it ends up serving Strand, Alicia, Morgan, and the rest of the gang.
So is what we're seeing in this episode between Morgan and Alicia and then Strand versus Alicia and Morgan, is this just all a question of tactics? Does everyone have the same goal at least? Because we've seen sometimes where they don't, but it seems now like they have the same goal, but it's a question of tactics. Is that accurate or not?
GOLDBERG: I think it is. And the title of the episode is “Damage From the Inside,” which is the thing that Strand has been vowing to do since the end of season 5, when everybody got split up at the Gulch. It's what he told Alicia, "We could do more damage from the inside." And that's still his intention. As we've said before, he is playing a dangerous game. The other thing this episode is about is the creation of monsters, both physically and metaphorically. And in the process of doing his damage, is Strand becoming, in a sense, a monster himself? We'll see if he is able to affect change for good, or if it's going to take him so far down a dark path he's not able to walk back from.
We see the big reveal at the end, where Virginia takes Strand into the secret compartment, and pregnant Grace is in there. Is this Virginia’s ultimate leverage over Morgan?
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, definitely. I think it's twofold for Virginia. She knows just how important Grace is to Morgan, personally. But then there's also Grace as a symbol of what Morgan was fighting for in season 5. And that final message she delivered over the walkie was that everyone needed to just live. And the fact that they had sacrificed everything for Grace, and then she was pregnant, was a sign that those kinds of sacrifices are worth it.
So I think from Virginia's angle, if she can use Grace as leverage, she can hopefully control Morgan. But then also, if she ends up coming to the point of having to take Grace out, that's almost like she's destroying everything that Morgan believed in and everything that the whole entire group fought for. So I think Virginia is starting to tread on some pretty dangerous territory, some pretty dark territory. And we'll see whether she's able to follow through on that threat.
So what can we look ahead to now in terms of the second half of season 6? You mentioned when we last spoke everyone's going to be getting back together at some point, but what are you teasing for the second half of the season?
GOLDBERG: Well, we haven't seen Morgan and Virginia have a conversation with each other at all since they spoke over the walkie in 601, when Morgan told Virginia that she was dealing with somebody else now. And they will be speaking again in 6B. So there's going to be a collision. There will be a coming together of Morgan and Virginia, as their goals continue to come into cross-purposes with each other.
CHAMBLISS: I think the other element that's really going to come into play is this group that is out there that has been leaving these graffiti messages that say, "The end is the beginning." We've obviously seen that Virginia takes that threat very seriously, and despite all her resources is, in fact, scared of them. That threat will start to rear its head, and it will rear its head at perhaps one of the worst moments for all of our characters.
One of the other things that's kind of fun about the back half of the season [is] we started with these anthology stories, and everyone's starting to come together. And as our characters come together, I think we'll be exploring whether they actually want to be together in all the various ways they've changed because of what Virginia has done to them. So we'll definitely keep seeing new shades of all these characters, and we're going to continue the same storytelling style of deep focus stories on small groups of characters.
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