Fear the Walking Dead showrunners answer season premiere burning questions
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday’s season 6 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead titled “The End is the Beginning.”
Morgan Jones is dead. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate, but by the end of Fear the Walking Dead’s season 6 premiere, the Morgan Jones we all knew and loved was gone, and he even said so himself! “Morgan Jones is dead,” the person formally known as Morgan Jones told Virginia on the other end of a walkie talkie. “And you’re dealing with someone else now.”
It seems after being left for dead at the end of season 5, Morgan was saved and stitched up by a mystery medic. But his wound had burst open and Eastman’s prized pupil was on the verge of death… which did, it should be noted, have one advantage in that it allowed Morgan to move along unimpeded among otherwise flesh-eating zombies. (Nice perk!)
There was one figure looking to speed Morgan on his way to death in the form of an axe-wielding bounty hunter obsessed with social contracts and hired by Ginny to finish the job that she didn’t. But there was also another person hoping to help Morgan and receive help in return in the form of Isaac — a former ranger for Ginny who was so moved by Morgan’s previous do-gooderness that he and his wife had left the group. Just one problem: said wife was about to give birth and Isaac had been bitten by a walker. (Bad timing!)
Ultimately, Morgan helped Isaac back so the baby could be delivered before Isaac met his end. And Morgan put an end to his non-killing ways by chopping off the head of his bounty-hunting pursuer — stealing his axe and hat in the process.
We put on our own bounty hunter hat to track down Fear showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg to get the inside scoop on Morgan’s journey, who exactly he has become now, and that mysterious graffiti-spraying group hanging out by a giant beached submarine. Read on!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, anytime you guys change up your opening credits, I'm going to ask you about that. Tell me about what you wanted to do here with the opening credits for season 6.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: The impetus around that was the fact that we were leaning into the anthology format of the show. And we wanted something that went along with that and signaled to the audience that there was something new coming. And as you will see, as you continue to watch, each opening will evoke the tone of the show. It will feature the character whose journey we're on.
And the other element of it is we really wanted something that has a graphic look. And a lot of this came from looking at some Western posters. I mean, we saw, I think, one fan poster for Django Unchained, and it was really cool. And that was part of the inspiration of doing the silhouettes. It was part of us looking at the show and embracing the new format that we are using for the storytelling.
IAN GOLDBERG: The other cool thing that happens this season is our composers, Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, do very subtle variations on the main title theme music in each episode to kind of, as Andrew was saying, evoke what the tone of that particular episode is going to be. It's very subtle, just a note or a shift in tone here or there, but it's just another kind of way that we're mixing things up.
You all introduce this badass new bounty hunter, and I’m thinking to myself, “Here we go. We just met the new big bad for at least the first half of season 6. This is the new Melvin. This is the new Martha. This is the new Ginny.” And then you kill the dude before the episode is even over! Ever any thought to drawing his chase of Morgan out a little longer?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: The character was brought to life by Demetrius Grosse in such an amazing way. When we started to see his performance, we kind of fell in love with him. And we were, I guess if I'm being honest, part of us was regretful that he wasn't going to survive the episode. But the decision to kill the character comes from the kind of stories we're telling. We want to be able to tell this complete story for Morgan, where he starts in a place where he thinks he's just hanging on to life long enough to do one little bit of good for Grace and the baby. And ultimately, he's pushed to such a place where he has to live. And the kind of sign of that is him taking the life of the man who is hunting him down.
And it also is about showing his growth as a character, as someone who is now able to take a life when necessary, to do the hard things that need to be done and not lose all semblance of who he is as we've seen him do so often in the past when Morgan, who was struggling with his own mental health, was very much a character who was all or nothing, either a complete pacifist or a walker-clearing psychopath. And we wanted him to be able to put together all the pieces of who he was and kind of synthesize them into a new person. And ultimately that meant he had to kill Emile. But we loved the character so much. Who knows? We could see him again through many different storytelling techniques that we're talking about.
IAN GOLDBERG: He did mention having a brother around the campfire. So that's just something to keep in mind.
Oh, nice! And Ian, I'll ask you to piggyback off that a little bit of what Andrew was saying, because Morgan has always had very complicated feelings when it comes to killing. And yet we see him slice this guy's head off, we see him put the stick down and pick up the axe. We hear him tell Ginny, "Morgan Jones is dead. You're dealing with someone else now." I mean, that lends the obvious question: Who is he now?
IAN GOLDBERG: Well, that is a complicated question. I think Morgan has had a lot of rebirths since we first met him in the pilot of The Walking Dead. He's been many different somebodies over the course of the apocalypse. He's endured a lot of trauma. And what we saw from him last season was it was probably the most hopeful Morgan that we'd seen. It was about uniting this unlikely family behind this philosophy of helping people out in the world. And they did do a lot of good, but at the end of the day, there was a great deal of loss that happened. And ultimately, they ended up under Ginny's control. Granted, all the work they did save Grace. And now there's a baby in the picture.
But it was not overall a win for Morgan. And I think Morgan realized that he had to change. Something in him had to change, and that also plays out with his interaction with Isaac in the episode. Isaac is someone who also felt he had to change. He was someone who had worked for Virginia, and through being inspired by finding Morgan's own videos of helping people in the world, that led to him leaving Virginia and finding the place that Morgan will now try and make a home.
For Morgan, likewise, realized that the way he was operating in the world before, it wasn't going to work for him going forward. It's not going to be the thing that helps unite everybody. And so, he realized he's got to become somebody different if that's a more morally-gray Morgan, then that's what he's going to be. And we're going to see that evolution in action as the season goes on.
So, for anyone wondering, Morgan’s stench of death is what made him immune to the zombies, correct?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Yes, exactly. He's so close to death, and that wound had been sadly treated by a mystery person, and it really is just kind of emitting the stench of death. And that is what kind of gives him almost this super-power where he can walk amongst the dead without being noticed.
It's a good news, bad news situation, though, right? It's like, you’ve got a super-power, but it's only going to last for so long.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Yeah, it's not exactly something anyone's going to try to replicate either.
So then, I want to ask you guys about these few instances we see throughout the episode where you see the zombies passing right by Morgan. And he keeps yelling at them, "I'm right here." He keeps saying that over and over, so he can fight them. What's that all about? Why is he doing that?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: That is really about Morgan just trying to prove to himself that he's not gone yet. I think there's something very scary when you're living in this world where every moment of your life is about avoiding these walkers. But then when they start ignoring you, that's really disconcerting. And I think it really, for Morgan, shows just how close he is to death.
And particularly the first time we see him shout to the walker, Morgan doesn't want to die, because he hasn't finished what he thinks he needs to do for Grace and her child in setting up that water tower he has for her. And then he has another experience where he's literally walking by walker after walker after walker, and I think the thing that is going through his head there is he's realizing that he's not far off from being one of those. And that pride and he's trying to save Isaac. It's just him essentially saying there's still fight left in me. And ultimately, we see it as he takes out dozens of walkers.
You guys brought it up a minute ago that he tells Isaac that someone stitched him up while he was blacked out, and left him with that note that said “You don’t know me but I heard your message. You need to do the same. You still have things left to do.” We will ever learn the identity of this mystery medic?
IAN GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. That's about all I can say.
You want to give any sort of timeframe for that?
IAN GOLDBERG: Within season 6. Actually, I'll go one further. You will find out within the first half of season 6. By episode 608, that mystery will be revealed.
The episode begins and ends with a dude spray painting “The End is the Beginning.” There’s talk of a key they need, and we see a giant beached submarine. What can you tell us about these gentlemen?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: I can tell you that they like graffiti. Leaving the message, "The end is the beginning," and this won't be the last you'll see of these characters. It won't be the last you see of that message. And there also is a future for that submarine.
They need a key. Morgan just got his hands on a key. Seems like that might be the same key. Does the key have to do with the submarine or are those two separate things?
IAN GOLDBERG: Yeah, you'll have to watch and find out, but that's a very good theory.
Okay, each of you give me a tease for something that people are going to see in your next episode.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Some of the stickiest walkers we've ever seen.
IAN GOLDBERG: I would say you're going to see Victor Strand step to the forefront, that is both a return to form for the morally-gray Strand that we have come to know, but also someone entirely new.