By Dalton Ross
May 23, 2021 at 10:06 PM EDT
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Warning: This article contains spoilers for Sunday's episode of Fear the Walking Dead, "Mother."

The end is the beginning. Those words have been splashed around all season on Fear the Walking Dead, and on Sunday's episode, "Mother," we learned that the beginning is Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey).

At least in the eyes of Teddy (John Glover) it is. Sunday's episode saw Teddy take Alicia and a newly arrived Dakota (Zoe Colletti) on a post-apocalyptic road trip to retrieve his mother's corpse. Only it wasn't really his mother. Along the way, they were met by a blast from the past — Alicia's old pal Cole (Sebastian Sozzi). Thought to have been killed back at the baseball stadium in season 4, it turns out Cole, Doug (Kenneth Wayne Bradley), and Vivian (Rhoda Griffis) had actually survived. But hard living out in the open turned them into killers themselves as they robbed Alicia and company of their truck and gas and were about to kill their former friend (not to mention the daughter of the woman who saved them at the stadium) before a zombie attack turned the tables.

Alicia eventually killed Cole and had a gun to Teddy's head as well, only to watch as a quickly converted Dakota sided with the cult leader and trained her own gun on Alicia. It was at that point when Teddy finally revealed his ultimate plan — to use Morgan's (Lennie James) key to launch missiles from a beached submarine to blow everything up. That would be the end.

As for the beginning, that would be Alicia, whom Teddy locked in an underground bunker — seeing her as the perfect person to help rebuild society once he and everyone else were gone. What does that mean for Alicia moving forward? What made Cole start breaking bad? And does his return (along with Doug and Vivian) mean there could be other survivors from the stadium long thought dead? We went to Fear showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg for answers.

Fear the Walking Dead
Alycia Debnam-Carey, John Glover, Sebastian Sozzi, Rhoda Griffis , and Kenneth Wayne Bradley on 'Fear the Walking Dead'
| Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We get a total blast from the past here. So what in the freak happened to Cole to turn him into this coldhearted, murdering son of a bitch?

ANDREW CHAMBLISS: The zombie apocalypse happened to Cole. It's really just seeing what really hard living can do to someone and how survival day can start to wear down on your optimism, your belief that people can be good, people can be better, and it got to Cole. It got to everyone he was with, and they were doing what they had to do to survive. And it paints him in the strokes that Teddy has been talking about, how the world has really gone to a bad place and there's no hope for it. So Cole stands as proof positive of the philosophy Teddy's been espousing.

We thought Cole was dead at the baseball stadium. Turns out he was alive. So that raises the question: Is there anyone else maybe we thought was dead at the stadium that could have possibly survived? Someone whose name perhaps rhymes with Fadison?

IAN GOLDBERG: [Laughs] You know, it'll sound like I'm deflecting, but I'm really not, but the point of this episode for us was to see how Madison's legacy endured in Alicia, and how Teddy tested that. And we saw both how she followed in her mother's footsteps but also deviated a bit. But at the end of it still maintain that shred of hope that Teddy was sparked to. So it was really more about seeing how Alicia's relationship with her mother kind of very much informed what Teddy's looking for from her.

So what does it say about Alicia that she pulled the trigger on Cole? Is that just self-defense because it looked like he was starting to raise his gun, or is it something else?

GOLDBERG: Well, I think Alicia gave him every opportunity to do the right thing. Alicia wants to believe the best in people, but there's also a pragmatic aspect to Alicia where she realized that this really was the only option. Yes, it was self-defense, but also it was protecting other people from who Cole had become.

But I think what's powerful in that moment is yeah, she kills Cole and that's very difficult for her, but the fact that she turns to Teddy and says, "You're wrong about your philosophy. Just because there are some bad people like Cole out there, it doesn't mean that the entire world needs to be wiped out. There is a middle ground." And that's the moment when you you see the smile come over Teddy's face where he realizes that this is the beginning that I've been looking for, someone who will not lose hope, even in the space of the most awful circumstances, like she just faced with Cole.

Fear the Walking Dead
Sebastian Sozzi, Rhoda Griffis, and Kenneth Wayne Bradley on 'Fear the Walking Dead'
| Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

Teddy sees himself as the ending. Why is Alicia the perfect person to be the new beginning he envisions for humanity?

CHAMBLISS: I think he needs someone who is kind of the complete opposite of him, someone who despite kind of being dragged through the trauma of the apocalypse is still maintaining kind of some shred of hope and some wish that this world could be better. And it really is in seeing Cole and what's become of Cole, someone who went through this same exact thing Alicia did at the stadium, and arguably Alicia went through more because she lost her mother. She's lost her brother. But seeing that Alicia's still in a position where she is trying to hold onto her morality, trying to build some world that's better than this place that we're in right now — that is what he wants.

And it's really interesting that Teddy, despite the fact that he has such a kind of cynical viewpoint of the world and is all about bringing about destruction and thinking that the zombie apocalypse isn't far enough and that they need to take things farther, he actually can respect kind of that hope and optimism that Alicia has and believes that someone like that needs to exist in the world. And I think the affection that we see him show towards her — despite what just happened with Cole — that is genuine. He's genuinely happy. Because I think he really, in his own twisted way, wants the future to be better. Even though he's not going to be a part of it.

You start the episode with a Teddy flashback, on death row as the outbreak begins. And I noticed some press clippings on his wall including one that read, "Top cop praised for bravery, determination." We know John Dorie Sr. is obsessed with Teddy. What about form the other side? What's Teddy's take on the man who took him down?

GOLDBERG: That's a good question. I think one of the big differences in terms of the clippings on John Dorie's wall versus the clippings on Teddy's are those clippings on John Dorie's wall are the things that have been haunting him. It's the case that has destroyed his life. That continues to haunt him all these years later. In Teddy's cell, they're points of pride, they are trophies, and sort of the steps that he thought he was taking to making a better world. So I think his view of John Dorie is that he wasn't impediment to his new beginning that he wanted to create.

But in that same sequence, and one of the things we got the most excited about, was seeing what the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse would look like to someone with a twisted mind like Teddy. And for most people that experienced that moment, we've seen it was horrific and awful and sort of just seeing their world change in the worst possible ways. But for Teddy, it's like this revelatory moment where he feels like all those things that he did, all those killings that are depicted in his clippings, he was right!

He was trying to do all this to bring about a new beginning because he believed that the world was going to change. And now suddenly he's been given the freedom to go out and make that happen. The zombie apocalypse actually frees him. So that was a cool spin for us on how someone viewed the zombie apocalypse through that lens.

Why does Teddy go collect the other corpse? What's that whole road trip about?

CHAMBLISS: That whole road trip really is about the journey with Alicia and getting to know Alicia and trying to probe Alicia, trying to push her. As we learn, that corpse really wasn't his mother. That was just kind of the smoke screen used. But he obviously knew about Madison [Kim Dickens] from this interview that she had given Riley [Nick Stahl] back in holding when we first met the cult. So he knows kind of some of Alicia's issues. And I think he knows if he was talking about his mother, if he's bringing her on this journey, that in some weird way creates some intimacy between the two.

I think he's hoping that he can learn more about how Alicia really feels about losing her mother and can kind of test Madison's beliefs, Alicia's beliefs, how aligned they are, how strong Alicia's are… and the whole thing was designed to also bring her into proximity to the stadium in hoping to dredge up everything that Alicia went through there.

And as Teddy says, he never could have imagined things would go as well as they did by having them run into survivors that Madison saved. And also then finding out that these survivors are complete a--holes who are going to turn on her and kind of prove his point about humanity. So the whole thing was kind of one large test that he set up for Alicia that went better than he ever could have imagined. Not just because of Cole's arrival and what had happened to Cole, but also because Alicia's reaction to it and how Alicia was pragmatic, was practical, and did what she needed to do to survive. But at the same time, really walked that line and maintained who she was by the end of the episode.

Fear the Walking Dead
Alycia Debnam-Carey and Zoe Colletti on 'Fear the Walking Dead'
| Credit: Ryan Green/AMC

If anyone would seem to be susceptible to joining a cult, it would be Dakota. Why does she ultimately choose Teddy over Alicia, and had Alicia been more open to a reunion and working with her, would that have changed anything?

GOLDBERG: I don't think it would have, ultimately, because I think what Dakota realizes over the course of this episode is that she's a lot more like Teddy than she is like Alicia. And she's been searching for a new family since we met her this season. And that's why she left Morgan that note and why she saved his life, because she was looking to be liberated from Virginia [Colby Minifie]. So she has been looking for acceptance and love from a new family all this time, but her realizing who she is and what her values are and kind of who she wants to be in this world, she realizes that's never going to work with Alicia and Morgan and that group.

She really fits in much more with Teddy. And so that's why she chooses his side, ultimately. And it's kind of sad and kind of dark, but also kind of sweet that she finds acceptance from this psychopath at a critical moment in her life. It's certainly not the family that most would choose, but Dakota is not most people.

We haven't really had a chance to talk about the fact that you all have Nick Stahl playing Riley. And I'll have you know that I have spent many an hour defending Terminator 3 as a really good movie with a great ending. How did you all land on him?

CHAMBLISS: I agree with you on Terminator 3. Credit goes to our casting directors, and we were casting Riley and we got a list and we saw Nick Stahl's name on it. And we're big fans of him on Carnivale and Terminator 3 and think he's a terrific actor. And what we needed from Riley was someone who in some ways was threatening, in some ways could be scary, but at the same time had this vulnerability and you can understand how he got drawn into a cult like Teddy. And Nick Stahl has all those qualities. And we spoke to him and he was excited about the role. We were excited about him, and the dates and everything worked out. And we're just thrilled that we get to work with someone who played John Connor.

Let's circle back to Alicia. What can you say about her fate and her future being locked in that basement?

GOLDBERG: Well, we certainly know what Teddy wants from her. He wants her to rebuild the world after he destroys it, or at least that's what his plan is. But we also know that the last thing she says to him is I'm not going to remake the world the way you want it. And he says, "I know, that's what I'm counting on." So I think the question is just how is Alicia going to move forward? Given the fact that she has been essentially imprisoned in this place and placed with people she doesn't want to be with, apart from the people she cares about. it's going to be a difficult road for her. But I think it's safe to say that she's not going to be doing exactly what Teddy hoped.

CHAMBLISS: It's funny you mentioned Terminator 3 because inspiration was drawn from that for this ending. That ends with John Connor locked in a fallout shelter. And then here we have Alicia locked in this bunker. To add to what Ian was saying, Alicia's final line where she says, "When I get out of here, you're not going to like what I've become" — that's true. I think so much of this season for Alicia was her kind of questioning who she wanted to be, who she wanted to follow. And coming to this place of realizing kind of who she was, what she believed in letting go of Strand [Colman Domingo], of Morgan, even Madison, and taking kind of the good from all of them and letting go of the bad. And she's at this point where she knows she's got to become her own person in some ways. Being locked behind that door is perhaps the beginning of her transformation.

All right, penultimate episode coming up next week. Tease us up for what to expect.

CHAMBLISS: We are going to spend a very large portion of this episode on perhaps one of the coolest sets that our production designer, Bernardo Trujillo, has ever designed.

GOLDBERG: We will see a reunion between two characters, 40 years in the making.

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