Fear the Walking Dead showrunners answer season finale burning questions
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's season 6 finale of Fear the Walking Dead titled "The Beginning."
Fear the Walking Dead reached the end of season 6 Sunday night in a finale titled "The Beginning," and it was indeed the end for some, and a new beginning for others.
The episode showed everyone split up on different missions — survival or otherwise — after a missile with 10 warheads was launched in the penultimate episode. When all was said and done, the fallout was as follows: Dakota killed Teddy after realizing everything he had been selling was a lie and he had planned to sneak into a bunker (a bunker June and John Dorie Sr. entered while Dakota burned to a crisp upon missile impact). Dwight and Sherry made their way into a cabin cellar just before the blast. Daniel killed Rollie after realizing he had switched sides and then led his group to a set of coordinates where they were picked up by Isabelle in a CRM helicopter sent by Althea. And then there was Strand and Morgan.
Strand, too embarrassed to even say his own name after attempting to sacrifice his friend in a bid for personal glory on the sub, met a man in a tower named Howard and told him his own name was… Morgan Jones. But after they survived the blast, Strand gave an epic speech in which he bragged of his survival skills and throwing people to the wolves and cheating at chess because he would do whatever it took to survive, and win.
Morgan had his own dramatic last-minute change of heart. With Grace pleading for them to end their lives on their own terms rather than succumb to radiation poisoning (as Athena's father did), the two were seconds away from killing themselves when they heard a baby crying in the distance. It was baby Morgan, being dragged by a zombified Rachel, who had sacrificed herself to give her child a chance to survive. While adult Morgan saw the arrival of his baby namesake as hope for the future and a new beginning, it was clear from the look Grace gave him at the very end that she did not share his optimistic viewpoint.
Who's right: Grace or Morgan? What are we to make of the new villainous and loving it Victor Strand? Was Dakota always supposed to die? And how big a role will the CRM be playing in season 7? We sent our own distress call out to showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, and they picked up their radio to provide some answers to our burning questions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, let's talk structure first. How did you all come up with this finale structure with the title cards and everything?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: When we were thinking about how to bring everyone's stories to a conclusion, we obviously couldn't do it in anthology format, where we're focusing on a select group of characters. Then, the idea occurred to us that, we could tell these little short stories, that in a way, honored the anthology format of the whole season, and allowed all the characters to have their own conclusions to their stories, and at the same time, set up where they're going to go in season 7.
In terms of the title cards, that's actually something that we came up with when we were working on the cut of the episode. We really wanted something that announced in each act, that this was the start of something new. We played around with some different ideas, and landed on the idea of pulling some of our favorite lines from the episode and tried to pick stuff that was either thematic, or seemed a little bit mysterious, and put those at the beginning.
IAN GOLDBERG: I think our favorite one that amused us every time was, "Enjoy the view, a--hole.", for the Dwight and Sherry story. That one tickled us.
Let's get into some of those stories. Tell me how you came up with Rachel's long-shot plan to save her baby by turning herself into a zombie, which is just a brutal plan.
GOLDBERG: Well, I think there were a few parts to it. We started the season with Morgan and Isaac. That journey was all about getting back to the town where Isaac had been living with Rachel, so he could be there for that baby's birth. That baby was such a part of Morgan's rebirth in that episode. We knew that we wanted to return to that baby when we got to the finale, under the "end is the beginning" idea. It all comes full circle.
I think the other part of it was, just wanting to tell this story of intense love, of what a mother is willing to do for her child. I think the teaser is really heartbreaking and shows a different spin on using oneself as a walker that we hadn't seen before. We got excited about that idea, conceptually, but really, it was rooted in just showing what a mother would do to protect her child, under unthinkable circumstances.
Since we're talking about the baby, let's just bring it full-circle from the beginning to the end, as it were. Grace gives Morgan this big speech about how she can't go through it again watching someone die from radiation poisoning, and they are all ready for the double suicide here when they hear the baby crying. They run out to get Rachel's baby and especially judging from that last look between them as another warhead falls out of the sky, they seem to have very different reactions to this development. What can say about how Morgan views the arrival of the baby and how Grace views it?
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, I think that look says it all. They both are viewing the future of the baby in very different terms. Morgan says to Grace, "... a gift from Athena." He's viewing it in a very positive way. But then Grace, who we just heard give this impassioned plea about how horrible she knows living in an irradiated landscape can be, is looking at it very differently, just imagining what it's going to be like to raise a child in that world.
Not to mention the fact that, Grace is still really deep in her grief of losing Athena, and that was obviously a much more visceral experience for her. I think the idea of someone else's child is just very hard for her to wrap her head around. It'll be interesting to see, just from that look between them, that hints that they're on very different pages about this, to see where that story goes, as we move into season 7.
How does Daniel put it together that Rollie is working with Teddy's group?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think it's a slowly dawning realization for him, but the smoking gun is when he hears Rollie and Riley both use the same term about a phoenix, "Like a phoenix." I think that's really seeing Daniel putting the pieces together, using his skills as an intelligence officer, that despite the fractures that he's had this season, which we saw in the episode, "Handle with Care," that it really fractured his memory, he is still formidable and still has very unique skills.
It's this shocking moment, where he seemingly shoots Rollie out of nowhere, but I think it's also a moment that starts to vindicate him with the rest of the group, that then takes another turn when they go to the place of the coordinates, and it seems like there's nothing there, only to reveal the helicopter showing up to save them. I think it's really all about Daniel buoyed by this friendship with Luciana, and the friendship, and the faith that Luciana shows in him, despite everyone else's skepticism that restores him within the group, and gives him a bit of wind in his sails, as we go into season seven.
He gets the coordinates right, he figures out Rollie, so should we feel like Daniel's mind is well again? How much can we read into that?
GOLDBERG: I think he's headed in the right direction. I would not say that he's totally out of the woods. I think he's still going to have to navigate the trauma that has resulted in this mental fracture for him. But I think the one thing we can say is that this relationship with Luciana that we see forged in this episode, and Luciana's faith in him is definitely going to be explored in season 7, and will be part of bringing him back to his old self, or as much as that's possible. Luciana is going to play a big part in that.
Daniel and company get on that CRM helicopter with Isabelle. What can you say about where they are heading and where Althea is?
CHAMBLISS: I can't say that much, but I can say that, I think the fact that, that helicopter showed up, that Isabel is helping Al save people she cares about, there's a story that may have gone down between the two of them. I think the other thing that we have to keep in mind is that, a move like that, using CRM equipment, exposing people to a helicopter, to a CRM pilot is a very risky proposition, so that may bring its own complications in the future.
So how big a role will the CRM be playing in season 7?
GOLDBERG: They will play a role. I won't say how big, but as Andrew said, the fact that a CRM helicopter is showing up to airlift them out to safety is going to have repercussions in season 7. I can't say much more than that, other than it's going to be exciting and we can't wait for people to see.
Was the plan always to kill off Dakota by the end of the season or did that take shape as the season writing went on?
CHAMBLISS: From the time we conceived of the character at the beginning of the season, I think we always knew that she wasn't going to belong for this world. We always had her exit in mind. The pieces that we didn't have were, that she was going to forge a connection to Teddy, and she was going to think that was going to provide her with the understanding, the connection, the family she wanted.
That was something we found as we were writing, and ultimately led to what we think is a good, but a tragic end to her, where even in this final moment, she realizes Teddy doesn't even really have the same viewpoint as her, and is really in some ways, using her. She would rather go out in a blaze of glory, believing what she believes, not changing for anyone, than doing anything that would compromise who she is. We think it's a pretty tragic ending.
We're bummed to say goodbye to the character, because Zoe Colletti just did such an amazing job bringing her to life, and making a character who has done so many awful things to characters on the show that we love. She killed John Dorie, but I think there was still something in her performance that made her really interesting to watch, and sympathetic. Yeah, we're sorry to see her go, but we loved what she did with the character.
Strand. Oh my God. Why does Strand tell Howard that he was the one who was ready to die and that his name is Morgan Jones, and then after the blast give that big speech bragging about throwing people to the wolves and cheating at chess and all his worst traits? What changes when that blast goes off?
GOLDBERG: I think it's the blast itself, and the fact that, when it's all said and done, he's in this tower that's been spared from the blast, and he's alive.
When he comes into that tower, Strand is in a really self-loathing, bad place. He is disgusted with himself. He's lost the respect of everyone. He is so ashamed of what he's done, that he can't even bring himself to say his name to Howard. He says his name is Morgan Jones, because he believes these are going to be his final few minutes, and he doesn't want those final few minutes to represent himself as someone who did something as despicable as what he did on that sub.
But then, when the bomb hits, and he survives something that seemed unsurvivable, it's a vindication for him. He realizes, oh my God, the decisions I've made, everything I've done has led me here. My instincts, all the things I've done, the morally gray things that I was so ashamed of just a few minutes ago, I'm not ashamed of them anymore, and I'm not going to be, because my decisions that I've made, have made me a survivor.
I think we're going to see a very self-possessed, confident Strand, and a very different tone to him as we're coming out of this season. It's a real reinvention. It's a real beginning coming out of an ending for Victor Strand. Coleman absolutely crushed that final speech that he has to Howard. It gave us chills from the moment we saw it in dailies, until the cut. It's just extraordinary.
CHAMBLISS: He lost his voice doing it, too.
Are these folks all just radiation time bombs? What is the long-term health impact of these explosions?
CHAMBLISS: Well, it's a really good question, and what these bombs going off has done is, it really redefined the landscape that everyone lives in, and has set the clock back to zero, in terms of everyone's survival skills, and knowing how to live. I think what we're going to see is that different characters are going to adapt in different ways, to this new world.
We did a lot of research into the reality of it, and spoke to people who are involved in planning for disasters of this nature. It led to a lot of interesting things that we learned. There are actually ways that you could survive in a world like this. It may not be pleasant, and it may not be fun, but it's not necessarily a death sentence, it's just a whole new set of challenges on top of the zombie apocalypse.
You all are deep into filming on season 7. So what else, at this point, can you say about next season?
GOLDBERG: Well, I can say that we were very excited about the new form the show took in the anthology format in season 6, with telling more concentrated characters' stories. That will continue into season 7. We will continue to tell the show in that structure, and in that format. That excites us, because like in season 6, we're going to get to see a variety of different kinds of stories, different tones, different worlds within the episodes themselves, and we've been really happy with how that's been going so far. Look forward to sharing it.
CHAMBLISS: Of the anthology, the format is the thing that we're carrying forward from the season, the new things that we're introducing, it's what I said before when I was talking about the characters' ability to survive in this world, we really are creating a new world. The new show is going to look very different, the walkers are going to look very different. Everything is going to feel much more heightened, so we're really excited about that.
At the same time, in terms of the character stories, I think there's going to be a lot of really interesting stuff ahead. I think people will find that some characters, as we saw with Victor Strand in that tower at the end of this episode, he's in a place where he may be able to thrive. Whereas other characters like Morgan, outside the submarine with Grace, and the baby are perhaps going to find themselves in places that are almost impossible to live in. It's the differences between how characters are able to survive, that is really going to drive a lot of the conflict, going forward.