Fear the Walking Dead showrunners weigh in on Strand going full Negan
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season 7 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, "The Beacon."
Victor Strand has always been… complicated. Over 6 seasons of Fear the Walking Dead, Colman Domingo's enigmatic character has vacillated between only looking out for himself and trying to serve the greater good. And he has never been afraid of doing whatever it takes to accomplish what he deems necessary, which culminated last season in him murdering some poor sap named Sanjay to save his own friends and then pushing Morgan (Lennie James) into what he assumed would be his death (it wasn't) so that he could garner the glory in stopping Teddy from launching the nukes (he didn't).
But none of that could match up to the Strand 2.0 we met on Sunday's season 7 premiere of Fear. Believing that following his own survival instincts is what led him to surviving the nuclear blast at the end of season 6, the Strand we were introduced to here had embraced the dark side he felt had kept him alive all these years. But when that resolve weakened upon meeting a stranger named Will (Gus Halper) who could possibly lead him to Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Strand left the comfort and safety of his new tower to search for perhaps the last person he truly cares about. When that decision almost led to Strand's death, he decided the only way to make sure he never faltered again was to do something so horrific there was no coming back from, and something Alicia could never forgive him for — throwing Will off the roof to his death.
In a way, Strand's arc has turned into the mirror opposite of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who was first introduced with a terrifying act on The Walking Dead yet has slowly redeemed himself. Strand, an always morally complicated character who nonetheless did perform heroic acts for the group, has trended in the complete other direction. We spoke to showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg to get the inside scoop on season 7's surprise villain.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Strand throws a dude off a roof… as one does. As far as his reasons for killing people, maybe you can kind of understand a Sanjay situation a little bit, but this is pretty irredeemable, isn't it?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: I think you could say it's pretty irredeemable. And that was kind of the point from Strand's point of view. The journey he took in this episode made him realize that the soft spot he has for Alicia, the validation that he's seeking from her, is the one weakness that he has and is the one thing that could endanger the tower. So in his twisted logic, he does what he thinks will protect him from that. He does something that he thinks will hurt Alicia so deeply that she will want to have nothing to do with him. And he thinks that's going to be what keeps her away from him. It is a very dark move from Strand, and he's aware of it at the moment. I think he's probably not aware of just how much it's going to cost him as he continues to try to build his tower.
Is Strand a straight-up villain now? He feels like Negan in reverse almost. Negan started off doing these terrible things and slowly redeemed himself, while Strand is trending in the opposite direction.
IAN GOLDBERG: I don't think Strand would see himself as a villain. But it's hard to take an action like he does in this episode — throwing Will off the roof intentionally to hurt Alicia — without the audience and some of the other characters regarding him as villainous, if not a villain. One thing that we saw at the end of season 6 with Strand, and that certainly plays forward now in season 7, is he's someone who is no longer apologizing for anything that he does. And he has built this empire for himself and he doubles down on that in this episode. He does what he thinks he has to do to hold on to that. We've seen Strand do some morally gray things in the past; this is certainly the furthest he's ever stepped over the line. Whether he sees himself as a villain, I think we can say that Strand is definitely one of the chief antagonists in season 7.
Andrew, you alluded this a little bit, but this isn't really a strike against anyone else. Throwing that guy off the roof, it's really a strike at himself. He's fighting himself with that act, isn't he?
CHAMBLISS: Exactly. And I think if we look back at Strand's past on the show, he's always been his own worst enemy. He's always getting in his own way, and season 6 could have gone very differently if he would've just worked with Morgan and let Morgan take the lead on the submarine. I think at that moment he thought, no, he had to do it. He had to be the hero. He had to prove Alicia wrong. But ironically, he ended up proving her worst suspicions about him to be true. And that's very much what's happening here. I think definitely going forward in what Strand has built with this tower, he will make a lot of enemies on the outside and there will be a lot of people who want what he has on the inside. But at the end of the day, he is definitely going to be one of his own worst enemies. He's going to have to keep himself in check to make sure he doesn't lead to his own downfall.
What's up with his outfit, and the hat and everything?
GOLDBERG: He's rocking it! We had a lot of conversations with Colman and with our costume department about how we were going to reinvent Strand. When we see him in season 7, where it all came from was history. And the end of season 6, he met Howard in the tower. Howard is a historian. One of the last things Strand said to him in that episode is, "This feels like the dawning of a new day." What essentially Strand is doing here is he's writing a new chapter in history for himself. And he is at the center of that. That's why he's carrying a sword from 19th-century Texas history. That's why he's wearing that historic-looking tunic. It really is just this new image that Strand is trying to evoke in himself of some of historic figure. And he's using garments from various points in history to bolster that.
What about this guy Will? He sort of gives the circumstances for why he was banished, but doesn't give the exact particulars. Are we ever going to get that filled in a little bit more in terms of why he was given the old heave-ho?
CHAMBLISS: There's definitely some history in that bunker, some history he had with Alicia. He doesn't seem like he's particularly willing to share it in this episode, but that doesn't mean the audience won't learn it. And it's definitely something that we will be exploring this season.
What is Padre? Obviously it's something we'll learn more about as we go, but what can you guys say about it at this point?
GOLDBERG: We can't say very much other than it plays a very important role in the narrative this season. Stay tuned for more. It's definitely going to continue to be a mystery that we unpack as the season goes on.
This group that Will calls the Stalkers, are we going to be seeing them more or not?
CHAMBLISS: Short answer is yes. A slightly longer but probably annoyingly vague answer is that they definitely will play into the mystery that we have set up. And we'll say that there is a reason that Will knows more about them than Strand does.
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