Fear the Walking Dead showrunners explain Strand's shocking move
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Sunday's episode of Fear the Walking Dead, "Welcome to the Club."
Victor Strand is back! We don't just mean that the character returned for the first time in season 6 on Sunday's episode of Fear the Walking Dead, "Welcome to the Club." Although that is certainly true. No, we mean that the ruthless, shocking, doing-what-needs-to-be-done-even-if-the-thing-that-needs-doing-is-truly-horrifying Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) we first met in season 1 was back to his old tricks. And this time, there were casualties.
After Strand, Alicia, Charlie, and Janis were all sent off to a warehouse of death to clear it of zombies for Ginny, the group came up with a plan to get the job done, but the plan went south, partly due to a scared cohort named Sanjay who left his post to go retreat to safety. With his friends surrounded and needing a distraction, Strand found one in Sanjay, stabbing the innocent in the leg and pushing him toward the zombies as an offering of fresh meat.
Strand straight-up murdering someone — and someone who was not an adversary — was a bold step for both the character and the series. We got showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg on the line to ask about that decision, and everything else we saw in "Welcome to the Club" — including a new director, a new ally, a new enemy, and a new con by Daniel Salazar.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Lennie James stepped into the director's chair for the first time on this episode. How did that come about?
IAN GOLDBERG: It was something that way back at season 4, when we were talking about Morgan coming over to Fear the Walking Dead, we had spoken to Lennie to see if he had any interest. And at the time, he kind of said not really, but we kept it as a possibility. And Lennie obviously knows the Walking Dead universe incredibly well. He's also an accomplished writer in his own right with his show Save Me that he's been doing in the U.K. When he came to us at the beginning of season 6 and said, "That thing we talked about way back with me directing, I think I would like to give it a try," we were thrilled because we had every confidence that he would do a great job, and he delivered pretty remarkably.
Let's get into the episode and start with this new character we meet: Dakota, who is Virginia's sister. Why is she running away to help the others? What's the sibling dynamic here?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Dakota, who we should just say is played wonderfully by Zoe Colletti, is a character we're very excited to explore, both because she's very interesting in her own way, but also she really illuminates a lot about Virginia that I don't think we even had an inkling of when we met her in season 5 or when we saw her in 601.
The relationship that these sisters have is an interesting one. Virginia, as we learn in this episode, is creating these communities, is bringing them all under her control and making them better, in large part to protect her sister and to provide a world for her that's safe. But as we see from Dakota, she views things very differently. She almost is acting like a child who feels like they're living with an overprotective sibling who won't let them do anything they want to do. And Dakota has a front-row seat to the way Virginia operates. So I think in many ways, she has an insight into who Virginia is and how a lot of Virginia's methods that Virginia would call efficient, to Dakota, look just wildly unfair.
And as Dakota mentions when she first meets Alicia and Strand, she's aware of who they are. A big part of that is because of Virginia's kind of obsession with them in season 5. So she's aware of the things that they were trying to do and the image that they've presented as trying to bring perhaps a more benevolent apocalypse to the forefront. And I think Dakota saw a lot in what they were trying to do that's attractive. So when they show up and then when they get banished to the molasses factory, she kind of sees them as her saviors, and not just in a practical sense, but I think also in a personal sense. I think she's hoping to have a relationship with Strand and with Alicia that she feels like she can't have with her sister.
Strand straight-up murders Sanjay. Talk to me about the balance of writing for Victor Strand, because you want audiences to like and root for him, but you also have to occasionally have him do terrible, terrible things or else he's not what made that character so intriguing to begin with. So how do you all balance that, and why'd you have him throw poor Sanjay to the zombies like that?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think it all hinges in this episode on his relationship with Alicia. And I think that that scene in the end where he tells her that he's reassigned her, because he knows and acknowledges that the things he's going to have to do now, like killing Sanjay, are things that he is not going to be proud of. And he acknowledges that. He knows it. And he doesn't want Alicia to have to see that. So we know that even though that Strand has done and will continue to do things that are very morally questionable, even downright wrong, there is a heart beating underneath that exterior. And he really wants to, at the end of the day, do right by Alicia, even if the way that he's going about it is incredibly complex and even questionable.
But I think that that's really the balance there is that Strand wants to be a good person. He wants to do right by Alicia, that she's sort of the closest person left for him. And that's why he gives her the St. Christopher's medallion and says, "I have to forget who I am, but you don't." And I think that's where Strand just is an incredibly multifaceted character, that you can hate him in the moment that he stabs and kills Sanjay, but then when he gives Alicia that St. Christopher's medallion, it just totally spins your perception of him once again. And that's what makes him such a great character to write for.
I mean, it's got to be fun to write for a character like that when you can have one of your heroes doing these awful things.
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, exactly. It really opens things up, because you don't necessarily have to ask yourself, "Well, can he come back from this?" And I think what Ian was getting at, it's really about looking at his motivations. And you can give him a lot of leeway when he's doing something like killing Sanjay, because he's doing it for a greater good, because he thinks it's going to be the thing that ultimately will allow him to get close enough to Virginia to bring her full, entire kind of power structure toppling down.
And the other kind of interesting thing about Strand is just keeping those motivations murky enough so that in the moment, we're never 100 percent sure if he's really doing this for the good of everyone in the group, or if there's some small part of him that's doing it because he wants some power. He wants to be the one in charge. And I think a big part of what's also driving him this season, is feeling like he might not have been in this position if he had just trusted his instincts last season. But he kind of took a chance on the mission that everyone was chasing last season, and it landed him here. So I think going forward, he's going to be, at the end of the day, answering to one person, and that's Victor Strand.
Does Ginny have a specific enemy in mind she wants this army for, or is it just to handle any general threat that might arise?
GOLDBERG: She does have a specific enemy in mind, and we've actually started to tease it already in episode 601, with those two guys outside the submarine spray-painting, "The end is the beginning." I won't speak to what the rest of that group looks like or the scope of it or what they want, but we are going to be doling out and learning more about this enemy as the season goes on, including in the next episode. It will be a mounting threat that we'll see why Virginia is forming an army. It'll all make sense, once you see exactly who this group is and how formidable they are.
We talked about Strand sending Alicia off. Where is he sending Alicia to?
CHAMBLISS: Well, that's something that we'll find out. But let's just say he's sending her to a place that he thinks she'll be safe and a place that he thinks will help preserve the things he values about who she is. But that doesn't mean Alicia's necessarily going to be happy about it.
We haven't talked about Salazar yet. Daniel pretends to have amnesia and even pretends to Alicia, Strand, and Charlie that he has no memory of them. Yet at the end, we see him drop the façade with Morgan. Is he pretending so he can overhear intel from Ginny? And if so, why trust Morgan and not the others with that info?
GOLDBERG: Well, you're spot on that this is Daniel pulling a ruse, using all of his skills as a former intelligence officer. He's created this persona about himself inside Ginny's communities to be just this sort of harmless man. One thing that we think is interesting is Virginia knows nothing about his background as an intelligence officer, which is something that he can use to his advantage.
And in some ways, we're seeing him reinvent himself within Virginia's community the same way that Strand is. Obviously, the tactics are a lot different. But as for why he trusts Morgan, that's actually something that's going to play out in subsequent episodes, so I don't want to give that away. But it will be the beginning of an unlikely alliance that's going to be cool to watch as we go forward.
Game recognizes game. All right, what can you tease for the next episode?
GOLDBERG: The inspiration for this episode was Die Hard. So I'll just say, if you ever wanted to see Die Hard with zombies, you're going to like the next episode.
Andrew, did he steal your tease?
CHAMBLISS: Yeah, You did.
CHAMBLISS: I would say people should watch carefully, because there are going to be several clues to this mounting threat that Virginia is aware of. And some of them may be obvious, but then there's one new walker that we've never seen before that will be a hint of what's to come.
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