SPOILER ALERT: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Shiva” episode of Fear the Walking Dead.
We know from the mothership series, when groups of apocalypse survivors are forced apart, bad sh– happens. And that’s where we leave the Fear the Walking Dead crew in the midseason finale: Separated from each other because of individual breakdowns, a raging fire Daniel set to wipe out the compound, and Strand’s banishment after his mercy shooting of his bitten lover, Thomas.
FTWD showrunner Dave Erickson talked to Yahoo TV about Chris and Daniel’s breakdowns, why Daniel set the compound ablaze, and how Strand is going to be changed by losing his only love. And Erickson also drops a bombshell about which character will be MIA for the rest of Season 2…
One of the big takeaways from this episode, thanks to Travis’s bloodied feet, is that it might be a good idea to sleep with your shoes on in the zombie apocalypse.
Yes, you should sleep with your shoes on. It’s interesting, because I think the first thing Daniel says to Ofelia when he gets through his dream sequence is, “Find your shoes,” so Daniel knows what he’s doing. He knows how to survive. And I think Travis is so desperate to get to his son and not realizing that that’s going to turn into a longer trek. So yes, you should always keep a pair of shoes nearby.
All of the characters are in major upheaval when we leave them in this episode. Strand is a guy who always has a plan, and a backup plan, and a backup to that backup. That doesn’t seem to be true right now.
The thing about Strand that’s interesting is this relationship he’s developed with Madison. There’s a true friendship that’s starting to form, and there’s a certain level of respect between them. And it’s a shift, because if you look back to “Blood in the Streets,” when Reed and company took over the boat, Strand got off. Strand abandoned ship, because he was primarily concerned with following his plan and his main drive and goal was to get back to Thomas at all costs. Now you see a guy who, once he’s kicked out, he does come back, whether it’s because he saw the fire start from a distance or whether it was because he was fearful about what might happen to his friend Madison and her family — he doesn’t run. That’s a Strand we haven’t seen before. I think it’ll be interesting to see how that manifests in the first few episodes of the back half, and an interesting thing for Colman [Domingo] to play.
There’s a sense of loneliness with both Strand and Madison, and neither of them gives their trust to others easily. Is that why they’ve bonded?
They don’t give their trust easily, and I also think they’re kindred spirits in many ways because both of them are willing to do, ultimately, what needs to be done. [Madison] can be an incredibly compassionate and caring person, but I also think fundamentally there is a coldness and there is a darker quality to her that she’s able to tap into. I think that’s something Daniel recognizes in her. That’s also something Strand recognizes in her.
I think it started from a place of negotiation, in the early episodes of the season, where, “I need you Madison, because you have the ear of Travis and you have the ear of Salazar.” She’s this common denominator. Everyone seems to respect her in some way, shape, or form, if not love her, and I think that’s the reason why everyone gravitates towards her ultimately. It’s also the reason in the long trajectory of the show, I think she is somebody who will continue to rise as a leader, and she will take steps forward and she will fall back, because fundamentally the one weakness that she has is Nick. It’s the one element of her life [where] she sometimes makes very bad decisions and sometimes commits acts that seem reprehensible and are, but from her perspective, she’s willing to die for her son, and she’s also willing to kill.
There’s a really nice scene between Strand and Madison when he’s digging Thomas’s grave. He turns around and tells her he plans to go back to the yacht, and, without looking at her, says, “Do you care to go?” It’s such a rare moment of vulnerability for him, now that he’s alone.
I love that you watch these episodes so carefully. David Wiener wrote the script, and I thought did a beautiful job. And I love how Colman played it, because he doesn’t face her when he says it. He’s turned away, and you’re right, it is a vulnerability, it is him asking. It’s the only time we’ve really seen him ask her for help in that way, in the sense of, “I don’t want to be alone, and you and I, we’ve got something. We have a friendship, we have some kind of connection, and I don’t want to go back to that boat by myself. I just lost the man I love, I’m losing everything. I need to hold on to something.” All of that is encapsulated in that one moment, and I think it’s heartbreaking.
From Madison’s perspective, as complicated as her relationship with Travis has become, she does still love Travis, and she can’t conceive of abandoning him, abandoning Nick, abandoning any of her family. The truth is, as much as she is growing to care for Strand — and we’ll continue to see that relationship develop as we move forward — she can’t break from family for him. That’s the one thing she has that Strand does not have.
Chris is also having a major meltdown. Is this the accumulation of his mother’s death and the fact that he hasn’t had time to stop and deal with anything, going back to the apocalypse beginning in L.A.?
I think that’s what it is. I say this all the time, but I feel like all of the character trajectories really do start with who they were before the apocalypse began. With Chris, he is a child of divorce, which many children are, as my children are, and he has certain resentment and anger towards his father. He had been moved to a new school, he was alienated, he doesn’t have any friends. He’s a kid who doesn’t really have a place. You take that kid and then you put him into the apocalypse, and you have his mother killed at the hand of his own father … A lot of our characters behave in ways where I think there are certain people who say, “Well, just snap to. Why don’t you get this? It’s the zombie apocalypse, this is what it is.” We really push back against that, because I think, for the majority of our characters, really with Daniel being one of the few exceptions, it’s really them trying to process the end of the world.
For Chris, it starts with, he’s very much devastated by the loss of his mother and trying to understand that, and then he finds some degree of solace and catharsis when he kills the dead for the first time in episode 2, then he kills more in episode 3, but he’s also put in the position where, it is a mercy kill, but I think his having to put down one of the living, it’s traumatic, and I think it changes him as well. That builds up to his confrontation with Reed. I think the thing with Reed that’s specific and interesting is that Reed is the kind of person who, back in episode 5, he’s the kind of person who can see people’s weaknesses. He is a bully, and he’s somebody who was really born for the apocalypse. He rides Chris in episode 4, continues to push his buttons in episode 5, and essentially, it’s the first time Chris kills when he’s going to try to rationalize it subsequently. He’s going to say, “He was going to turn, I had to do it,” but the truth is, he didn’t. The truth is, Reed was, for lack of a better word, evil. He was somebody who was very ugly and very violent, and was thriving in this world, and Chris finally shut him up because he started … the idea was that, off camera, Reed started asking questions about his mom and Chris snapped.
So it is all these things, and by the time we get to episode 6, episode 7, he’s a kid with no family. Everyone’s looking at him with doubt, derision, if not hatred, and his father’s trying to find a way to put a handle on this and make it all better, and he can’t. I think Chris is ultimately and finally overwhelmed and he runs. When he says to Travis, after Travis finally catches up with him, he wants to be alone, he’s not even saying, “Let me die,” he’s just saying, “Let me go, I am broken. There’s something fundamentally wrong that I don’t understand, and I know it’s scaring other people, but it’s also scaring me.” I think that’s the vulnerability in that and the desperation in that that finally puts Travis in a place where he realizes, “I have to take care of my son. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to fix him, but I’m going to try.” Travis has been holding onto his morality as best he can and for as long as he can and I think what will be interesting going into the back half of the season and then beyond, is watching that man change and ultimately watching this guy who has struggled with this new world, potentially become part of it.
The same thought behind Daniel’s breakdown, is it also with him that everything has just caught up with him?
For Daniel it started really with the loss of Griselda. I think that’s something that Ofelia comments on in episode 6, when she goes to pray with Nick. This is a man who has committed atrocities. He has tortured, he has murdered… the deaths that he’s responsible for are many. All of his life he had Griselda, and Griselda knew what he had done, and she gave him forgiveness. She gave him some degree of acceptance and solace. Then she dies. I think what replaces Griselda is a daughter who now realizes who her father is, and a daughter who now looks at him with judgment. Once he had forgiveness, now he’s faced with that, and he’s faced with this need to make up and help her understand why he did the things he did and the fact that he actually is a good man despite these things. I think it takes time for Ofelia to begin to see that.
But it’s without the emotional protection of Griselda where Daniel starts to break down, and it starts in episode 2. It’s a very small moment that we wanted to capture when they’ve taken Harry Geary away from the island and Seth comes and recovers his brother, and they return to the dock and we see Melissa, the mother, walking down the dock and she’s turned, and we know what’s going to happen. There’s a moment there where Daniel looks at this little boy — and the age of the kid is important because it’s roughly consistent with how old Daniel was when he first had to kill — and it’s interesting that he can’t watch this happen. For a man who has seen as many things as he has seen and done all things that he has done, just something about that child and the innocence of that child being compromised that he turns away from. That’s the first moment I think we start to see bits and pieces where he’s looking far off as though he’s seeing things that aren’t there.
But that’s what he tries to do. He does believe the compound is evil, he does believe that Celia is embracing evil, and the dead in that wine cellar become the embodiment and representation of all of his dead as well. And in burning them and burning down this evil place, he feels that he’s able to cleanse himself, his own sins.
We don’t really know exactly where Daniel is when the episode ends, do we?
Well, here’s what’s key, here’s what’s important: The characters on the show have seen this fire, and they know where Daniel was before the fire broke out, and so they definitely believe that he’s dead. Specifically for Ofelia, she’s going to have an interesting turn in the back [half] as a woman who was essentially trapped for a big chunk of her life, because she took care of her parents, and sacrificed a lot of her own life in order to do that. From my perspective, we didn’t see Daniel burn for a reason. Daniel Salazar’s story is done for the season, but my hope is we will see him return in Season 3.
So will we not see him again in Season 2?
No one should hold their breath to see Daniel in the back half of Season 2. Ruben [Blades is] amazing, the character’s amazing, and this is, I think from the story perspective, it’s going to do good things for us, and then the hope is that when we get to Season 3, we can find a way to return him to the fold.
What can you tease about the second half of the season? Strand says he’s going back to the boat, if there is a boat, which is probably a pretty big if.
We end the midseason [finale] in fracture, and that was the intention, so we know Travis will be with Chris, trying to help him regain his sanity. Madison flees with Strand and Ofelia and Alicia, and then Nick abandons them. We’ve got an interesting opportunity from a narrative perspective, because this group that’s been stuck together has to go out and fend for themselves. I think the other interesting thing is the fact that, as hard as it has been for them, they were on the boat. They did have the safety of the boat. They did have water, they did have access to food to a certain degree, and then the compound, they had water, they had food. They’ve been in relatively safe places up to this point, and now we’re going to see them having to survive for the first time. We’re going to see Nick try to continue this spiritual journey that he seems to be on where he’s trying to find his place in the apocalypse. But we’re going to see a family in fracture, and then it may not be in the back half, but eventually we’ll find a way to earn their reconstitution.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 returns Sunday, August 21 at 9 p.m. on AMC