Warning: Spoilers ahead for the “Monster” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
They’ve made it to Strand’s tricked out yacht, but now what? Because as the early survivors of the zombie apocalypse find out in the Season 2 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, the water is not safe from walkers, and it’s certainly not safe from other survivors who can immediately see the benefits of a luxury yacht in the apocalypse.
FTWD showrunner Dave Erickson talked to Yahoo TV about the sophomore season premiere, including why Nick is emerging as the unlikely hero in his family, how the Clark and Manawa fams and their friends are only beginning to find out just how bad the apocalypse is, and how long we’re going to wait to find out what’s really up with Strand.
Nothing like jumping right back into the action.
Yeah, there’s not much of a break between the finale and the premiere, and that was largely for two reasons. One, we wanted to make sure we were introducing the boat effectively. We didn’t want to do a larger time jump, because I think the actual arrival on the Abigail was important. The other thing, the premiere is sort of steeped to a certain degree in the grief that comes from the loss the family has suffered… part of that loss is seeing your home destroyed. We see the beginning of it at the end of Season 1, and as they make their drive across Los Angeles and down the L.A. River, it seems very barren, much like a wasteland. I think seeing the combination of Operation Cobalt, and seeing the fact that there is no home to go back to ever, that was something we wanted to make sure we hit effectively.
It also emphasizes how, especially since the events of Season 1′s penultimate episode, they’ve had no time to stop and think. They just have to react constantly to everything.
You’re right, and I think it’s interesting, because in terms of the apocalyptic education at the ending of Season 1… some of our characters believe that they’re dead. Some of our characters get to the point where they realize the only way to deal with the dead is to put them down. We were relatively insulated, I think, but exactly at the moment when we began to understand what we were dealing with, with the affected, the National Guard arrives. We spent two episodes behind a fence, I think hoping that things are going to be repaired, and assuming that they were, because there was still a level of faith and trust in the institutions. I don’t think we got the first blast of the true scope and scale until the finale, and now I think, although we understand what the walkers are, we’ve not been in tune with the fact that the world is gone. I think that’ll be part of the puzzle for Madison and Travis, and Nick, and Alicia, and everybody as we move forward: figuring out how bad this is, how extensive is it.
We didn’t have the benefit of the CDC episode, so … we don’t know. No one’s actually said, “Okay, this is global. The world is gone, so you better start from scratch.” And for some, not knowing, I think it lends itself to hope, and then for others, it just makes them want to jump off the boat and drown.
One of the scariest things in the series so far is that message that comes over the radio Alicia is listening to, where the Coast Guard is essentially saying, “There’s nothing more we can do for you, no one’s coming to help you. Please forgive us.” It’s so frightening because it’s an official admission of hopelessness by the people you depend on to never let that happen.
The comforting thing about that is that we actually called the Coast Guard station and asked them what would happen. “What would you say? What might you broadcast if you were not able to go out on rescue missions?” The person paused and said, “What do you mean?” I think the idea that they wouldn’t be able to function was not something that they would consider.
That is reassuring.
It is reassuring. In the real world, we know we’ll always have them. But that was the point of it — to tie it to the Coast Guard, and to really tell Alicia specifically, and by extension the rest of the family, that what they’ve seen, and the devastation they’ve seen as they make their escape, is not going to get better any time soon. Then the big question is, if Los Angeles is gone, if Los Angeles isn’t safe? Up until this point, we heard some radio broadcasts last season. We know that this is happening. It’s spreading across the nation, and potentially the world. This is really an accumulation of evidence for her for the first several episodes. It’s trying to figure out where it might be safe, and then realizing progressively that the dominoes have fallen, and there is no safe place to go. There are no ports where everything’s going to miraculously be well. That’s part of it when I talk about the apocalyptic education.
What is the rest of the season then?
I think the season is them going forward, “Okay, we understand what the dead are, and now we have to figure out how we can function and survive among them.” Some of our characters, Nick in particular… I think we speak to this at the beginning of the story in the premiere. He approaches the infected in a much different way. He’s the first person who says, “They’re dead,” back in the third episode of Season 1, and he goes through an evolution. I think his survival, his realization that the world has gone to s–t, and it’s a world he knows — there’s a shift for him. I think he starts to ask himself when so many have died, when Gloria has died, Calvin, Griselda, Liza, Matt, and he has not, and he’s someone who should have died a hundred times over, why is he still there? What is this new world, and what is his place in it? I do think innately he feels like he can function. Whatever it was that Strand saw in him last season I think is valid. I think we’ll start to see that manifest.
He’s emerging as a leader. We see it when he’s driving the boat to pick everybody else up to take them to the yacht. He’s giving Ofelia advice about her wound. All the things that doomed him in his previous life have given him skills and made him tough in ways that benefit him and his loved ones in this scenario.
That’s absolutely right, and I think the main challenge for Nick is his level of fascination with this world. What we see with him towards the end of this episode, he has a couple of close encounters, and… there’s something revelatory about his moments, especially in the second where he is looking at the dead in a different way. I think you have to remember that he is an addict and that doesn’t go away. Heroin is gone, and he’s not going to be able to score in the way he once was, but usually anyone that I know who’s in recovery tends to have something else that they channel that energy into. I think that’ll be a big question for Nick: what does he channel that addictive personality into over the course of a season?
He also has the coolest kill in the premiere, the death-by-boat-motor. That’s a new one.
That was actually an Adam Davidson pitch. He directed the premiere. Yeah, that was fun. It’s always interesting when you go into the effects and you’re looking at the pieces as they develop. If people in editorial cringe and turn away, then you know it’s pretty close to what you want it to be, because they were all completely jaded. It’s gross, but it’s kind of fun, strangely.
The most clever kills are where things that are right in front of you, that you would not think of as a weapon necessarily, are used as a weapon.
Absolutely… and it’s a reaction that Nick has in that moment, and he doesn’t cower. He doesn’t shy away. He actually takes advantage of what’s there in the moment, and he improvises, and it says a lot about his state of mind.
What can you say about these various boats we have going at the end? We have the ship that’s there. We have the Abigail. We have the one that Strand fears is coming at them, very quickly. That seems like a small space for that many boats to be sailing around in.
There’s a bit of a mystery swimming around them those last couple of acts, because Alicia’s been speaking to this guy Jack on the radio, and it starts off as an innocent conversation. It’s her reaching out. I think for Alicia, it’s very much trying to hold onto the old world. We talked about how Nick seems well-adapted to this world, but Alicia was functioning very well in the old world. She had her plan, and I think she, in the first couple of episodes, is jarred and feels betrayed by this in a way that Nick does not yet. By the end, we see the shot up boat, and the danger that whatever is coming onto the radar at that moment might be connected to the shooting of that boat, the death of those people, and Alicia’s concern is, “Holy s–t, did I bring this on us? The guy that I’ve been talking to, who’s now claiming he’s going to come and see me soon, could it be that person?”
All of these things, it’s part of the danger on the high seas, and the danger of, “How safe are we on this boat, as much as we benefit from a water filtration system, a desalinization system, as much as we have?” There is a galley. They can cook. There is hot water. All the things that you’d expect on a luxury yacht we have, and those are all things that people would desperately want to take from us, especially considering the Abigail can go for a few thousand miles without stopping if it needs to. It’s really about emphasizing that, if we thought we were going to be okay on the water, we’re clearly not, and now it sends us on a new trajectory going to the second episode and beyond.
Can we assume that because Strand has obviously thought out every part of this that he has enough supplies? Has he planned for having this many people on the yacht, as well as the supplies for them?
It’s part of the mystery of Strand. The short answer is, no. The short answer is, he knew the boat was there. He knew he was going to get on the boat. He had a plan. He didn’t expect to bring seven other people with him. It’s one of the interesting things about the first two episodes: we don’t know what his agenda is. Madison and Salazar speak to this. He’s brought them there in a moment of… it was really out of the immediate need when we ended the last season, and I don’t think he was going to confront the group and say, “I’m getting on my boat. You can’t come,” especially as the bombs began to fall. I think he had to act on it. I don’t think Strand has the plan completely refined as to how to handle these people, but they speak to it. They speak to the fact that he’s got some intention. He has some plan, and they don’t know what it is yet. Until they do, there’s going to be a certain sense of anxiety and paranoia and worry on the boat.
The David Bowie song, “Five Years,” is so appropriate here, but is there any significance to that specific five-year time frame?
Oh, no. No. Five years is the name of the first [TV series Erickson and TWD creator Robert Kirkman worked on]. We actually referenced it… it’s on the chalkboard in Travis’s classroom as well. That’s just a song that we all love, and so no, it’s not speaking specifically to the next five seasons of our show necessarily. It resonates thematically, and it’s just a great song. It was something we’d actually explored using in Season 1, too.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.