'Fear the Walking Dead' Season 1 Postmortem: EP Dave Erickson on Yacht Living in Season 2, the 'Good Man,' and Travis and Madison's Romance

Farewell Liza, and hello yacht life. That’s where the Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 finale, “The Good Man,” left us, with Travis, Madison, and Daniel managing to save Nick and Liza (and new friend/foe Strand) from the military compound, only to lose Liza to a bite from the infected once they reached the temporary safety of Strand’s house on the water.

Travis had to do the very thing both the women — ex-wife Liza and current love Madison — in his life had feared would break him, and Strand shocked Nick with the reveal that his beloved Abigail is not a who, but a what: the yacht that he plans as his apocalyptic survival hideout.

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FTWD showrunner Dave Erickson breaks down what all that means for the show’s 2016 Season 2, including whether or not having to shoot Liza will break Travis, whether or Strand can be trusted, and whether or not the yacht will be a love boat for the often-at-odds Travis and Madison.

First of all, I have to ask: Do we know that zombies cannot swim?
I think we do know that, because we’ve seen at least… I’m trying to remember. The Governor threw somebody into a lake in Season 4, but I can’t remember if he was tied down or not. No, I think zombies can float, but they can’t swim.

That might actually be a good diversion to remember for later, that maybe they can be lured into water.
I think the challenge is, depending on how many have died and in what areas, they would end up with floaters in the water… it could work where you could anchor them around your vessel and use them as mines to prevent people from coming and getting you.

And you already have the perfect name for them: floaters.
That would be for [some of them]. I think we’ll be splitting our time between land and sea [in Season 2]. I think there’s going to be some challenges getting to the Abigail, and then as our destination is determined, we’ll be splitting our time between the boat and land. We’ll definitely still have some walkers to contend with.

Will any of the episodes in Season 2 be bottle episodes that unfold completely on the yacht?
It’s possible. It’s a pretty big boat, so I think we'll… if we spend any length of time on it, we’ll probably build out our interiors and service those. There’s absolutely a world in which we could spend an entire episode on the boat. I think that that would only be if it was really serving the sense of claustrophobia or paranoia or mistrust that might be going on between our characters. I think it’s a good way to heighten that. I also think it’d drive everybody a little bit crazy if we were stuck there for too long. It’ll be a balance.

But Strand says, “We have to embrace the madness.”
We do have to embrace the madness. It’s a question of what that means exactly and how it’s going to affect each and every person. I think with Nick, as an example, Nick seems to have had this moment of clarity where he feels… comfortable might not be the right word, but he definitely feels like he’s in a new place. It will be interesting to see how he’s able to manage that. I think it’s, you have to embrace the madness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be mad. You know what I mean?

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Yes. The other thing is that we’re all assuming that everybody is going to end up on the boat. In fact, Strand indicates that he’s going to Abigail, and he says that no one can stay in his house, but he doesn’t specifically say that he plans on taking all of them with him on the yacht, either.
He does not say that. Strand is something of an enigma still. I think he absolutely has his own agenda. He has his own plans. One of his specialties is determining what the newest currency is, what value he can get from people or things in this new world. I think he’s still figuring that out. I think he definitely has taken a shine to Nick, for reasons that will be revealed. I think he likes Madison. He gets a good vibe off of Madison. He can see that she is confident, and she’s definitely got leadership skills. It’s his boat, so I think it’ll be an interesting challenge, as to who becomes the captain.

The finale had the first major character death with Liza, which was all the more surprising since we didn’t see her get bitten. When do we think that happened? In the kitchen, when everyone was engaged in a bit of hand-to-hand combat with the infected?
Yeah. We went back and forth on it, because what we didn’t want to do was oversell it. But yes, if you look back at it, there’s a specific moment where, the walker that she’s fighting, his face is close to her side. I think that’s the moment when she probably received the bite. I think her adrenaline was jacked and she was caught up in the terror of what was going on. It didn’t really register for her until later. By the time she gets to Strand’s house, obviously, she’s now realized that she’s been bitten. And because of her experience with Exner and with Griselda, she knows what that means.

Right after that fight in the kitchen, she also had to tell Daniel and Ophelia about Griselda, so she was distracted for a while. In terms of when she realized she’d been bitten, did she know when she tried to talk Exner into leaving with them? Was that part of her motivation, trying to make sure there was another medical personnel around her family, if she knew at that point that she was going to die?
That’s a really good question. The answer is probably… I think at that point, she’s still kind of tunnel vision-ed. All she wants to do at that moment, I think it’s a gesture to ask Exner to come. I think at that moment though, what she really wants to do is find an exit, because she wants to get back to Chris. I think that’s her primary focus. But that’s a really good point. I don’t know if that was in her head, “I’m going to die, and I need there to be a doctor with my family.” But that’s really interesting.

Earlier in the episode, Exner asks Liza who’s essential to be saved with her, asks her to be cutthroat about it, and Liza names only Chris and Travis, not Maddie and her family. Now, Madison is going to be one of the main people helping Chris survive. Is that a little bit of karma or comeuppance for Liza? What was the intention with that?
I think it’s interesting. Madison and Liza have, obviously, a complicated relationship. They’re not friends. I think they’d had limited interaction with each other. Both have said, I think that for Travis to do what he ends up having to do at the end of the finale, is going to break him. That’ll be a big question going into the next season: Does it break him, or does he stand up and try to hold onto his composure and his strength, because he has to protect Chris and wants to protect Madison?

At the end of [“Not Fade Away”] when Liza goes off with Exner, you have Madison, who blames Liza, assumes Liza was the one that ratted out her son, and she’s right. It wasn’t the intention. It wasn’t Liza’s plan, but that is what happened. By the end, you have this dire moment where Nick is about to get torn apart by walkers, along with Strand, and it’s Liza who comes back and is the one that’s able to save her son. I think there’s a turn for the two of them in that moment. So much so that when we get to Strand’s house, the only person who realizes in that exchange between Chris and Liza when she tells him that she loves him and that everything’s going to be OK, is Madison. She clocks that. I think she senses something of a goodbye in that exchange. And because this woman has stood up and has proven herself, and she’s helped to save Nick, Madison’s the one that actually follows to make sure things are OK.

One of the questions they asked on The Talking Dead, was, “Would Madison have done it?” if Travis did not arrive. If you go down this road, part of me thinks, she might not have. Part of me thinks, her feelings towards Liza have changed to a certain degree, and she might not have been so quick to pull the trigger. When she takes the gun from Liza, is she taking the gun because she’s going to shoot Liza or is she taking the gun so Liza can’t shoot herself?

In the end, both of them were very devoted mothers, and had both loved this very good man.
Yeah. I think, at the end of the day, it’s what Liza says when she approaches Madison in “The Dog,” that we have to be strong, we have to get along essentially for the sake of the kids. Now though, now that Liza is gone, how will Madison deal with Chris? Will she try to deal with Chris?

Especially now that Chris is going to have this whole issue with his father. He may not understand that it’s something that had to be done or that Liza felt it was something that had to be done.
Right. I think that’s going to take some processing.

Daniel’s plan was a risky one. Using the auditorium of infected to create a diversion worked, but it’s not like he had control of them himself. What made everybody go along with that plan?
It was a desperate hour. I think the only way they were going to get into the compound was to create a diversion large enough that they would have the time to sneak in through a different access point, that they’d be able to find [their family] and escape before the ward was actually penetrated. I don’t think, honestly, they thought they would. I think the hope was the horde would distract the soldiers, they would go in through a different vantage point and then get out before the gate crashed, which was not a part of the plan. I also think the rationale was, at least the guards have guns. The guards can defend themselves. In a slightly, definitely non-altruistic way, there was a sense of, “These guys were about to leave us anyway, so screw them.” Again, it speaks to some of the really hard choices that all the characters have started to make and continue to make. It’s one thing when an action you take is going to compromise the neighbors, who you’ve lived with for a long time or somebody who is connected to you or not connected to you, somebody that might be a stranger. It’s another thing when those choices start to impact the family itself. That’s where it’s going to get really complicated and be very challenging for our blended family.

Adams was one of those tough choices for Travis. Do we know his status? Is he ones of those characters, like Exner and Moyers and Tobias, who could still be alive, who could return?
We never see him die. Travis puts a significant beat down on him, but he’s still breathing when all is said and done. There’s not any plan, necessarily, with Adams, but I think it is interesting when you consider the characters who we haven’t physically seen turn or physically seen die. There’s always an opportunity there.

Travis losing it with Adams. Was that him dealing with his guilt about letting Adams go and Ofelia getting shot, or was it indicative of a bigger shift in Travis?
I think it’s a breaking point in Travis, because [releasing Adams] was the last benevolent gesture he made. I think his rationale was, “Give me the information, let us know what we need to do, and I will let you go.” Because I think Adams’s fear that there’s no version of this story that doesn’t end with me dead, that was valid. Deep down, Travis was afraid that at the end of it all, Adams would end up with a bullet in his head. So he gets the information he needs, he frees him, and then Adams betrays that trust, when Travis had tried to hold on to his humanity and tried to make right whatever wrong had been done to this guy. That betrayal is what makes him snap. In addition to that, it’s the benevolent action that has a malevolent result. Ofelia is nearly killed. I think that is the moment when he loses it, but I also think that changes him going into the next season. Now he’s at a point where, I think, he finally gets it. We’re only 12 to 14 days into the apocalypse, so it’s not a huge amount of time to reach that point. I think he’s going to be seeing things through a different lens, though.

Is Travis “the good man” in the title of the episode?

Is he still?
That’s the thing. There’s a certain irony to the title, because by the end, one can question if this is, with his action with Adams and what he has to do with Liza, is he still the good man? I think he’s definitely been tarnished. I think it’s really the question for Travis going into the next season: Does he retain any of that goodness or does he have to abandon it completely?

When they’re all leaving Los Angeles to go to Strand’s house, it’s jarring just how abandoned the city is, in, as you mentioned, just two weeks or less. The image of that is reminiscent of Rick Grimes riding into Atlanta and finding it so largely abandoned. Was that homage to that classic TWD scene?
I think to a certain degree, yes. I think if they had actually gone deeper into the city, they would have come across something not unlike what Rick encountered when he went into Atlanta at the end of the pilot of the original show. It’s a city that has essentially been taken by the dead. They find a route to escape which is obviously not populated. This episode was a nice little nod back to the pilot, too, taking the Los Angeles River to get to the sea.

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What are you most excited about exploring or diving deeper into in Season 2?
I think now that the apocalyptic education is almost done, and that they now realize that things are not going to get better, they also have to… what they don’t have, they haven’t had yet, is this CDC breakdown saying, “Look, here’s the deal, the world is gone.” They’ve heard references to other cities, other states in jeopardy. They know this is a contagion that’s widespread, but they don’t know yet that’s it’s global. I think they still have a little bit to learn, even into the next season.

It’s also interesting to me that now we’re essentially out on our own, and we have to begin our process of survival education… when we get to a place where the choices made are going to compromise our family members. We actually start to deal with the in-fighting and the mistrust that can come, especially with people who are living on a boat. That’s intriguing to me. I think it’s going to be fun to see how… that question of “What is family now?” I think that’s going to be one of the big questions that all our characters are going to ask themselves as they go through the next season.

They also haven’t gotten to the point where they’ve had to deal with not having food or water and other basics.
Exactly. When they actually have to become survivalists, that’s going to be an interesting challenge. We don’t have police officers in our group. We have an aging soldier who has been through hell and definitely is more capable in many ways. I think Daniel can bring some, pull some tools from his kit that will be helpful. Everyone else is going to have to learn very, very quickly.

And now that we have a basic knowledge of each of the characters, we’ll get a lot more background on each of them in Season 2? Especially Madison…
Yeah. One of the questions that came up is, “Why does Madison seem more adaptable?” She makes hard choices and sometimes keeps those, the choices she’s made, to herself. She doesn’t share the situation with Art with Travis. There is a reason for that. I think it’s a difficult conversation, how do you get into it? We’ll learn more about Madison’s past, as well, and how that influences her.

And though they’ve survived them so far, the differences in world views of Madison and Travis would seem destined to continue to challenge their relationship.
Yeah. I’ll be honest. The original intention when we first started was to really fracture Madison and Travis by the end of the season. He sees a woman who condones torture and she sees in him a man who might not be willing to do what’s necessary in this new world. The idea was for them to see the different sides of each other and be challenged by them, and they are. They will be, but by the end of the season, they’ve taken part in this horribly traumatic, emotionally wrenching death with Liza. There will still be lots of challenges for that relationship. But that ties them together and actually brings them closer in a strange, strange way.