SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s “Is Anybody Out There?” midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead.
The self-sacrificing, redemption-seeking heroes of Fear the Walking Dead were just saved by the power of Christmas! Okay, not exactly, but had there not been ample Christmas lights on hand to light up an abandoned airport runway then Alicia, Morgan, and company (not to mention a bunch of kids) would have crash-landed on concrete.
In the end, thanks to Daniel’s delivery of the lights and paralyzed Wendell’s heroic last-second crawl to plug them back in, the plane landed safely and disaster was diverted…for now. But what of Alicia’s (not to mention Grace’s and Morgan’s, and Victor’s and Charlie’s) possible contamination from the nuclear reactor and infected walkers? And what of the offer from former foe Logan to join forces and find the fuel they will need to continue on their mission of mercy?
We asked showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg about all that and a whole lot more out of the midseason finale — including that surprise mid-flight engagement between John Dorie and June. The answers await below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I asked you all about Alicia’s fate last week and you said it was cause for concern. I imagine it is still cause for concern in the sense of we don’t really know yet what that nuclear radiation zombie blood did to her, do we?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: We do not. As Grace said, it’s something that affects different people differently. It’s not like they have access to high-tech medical equipment to test anyone. A lot of characters have been exposed to the radiation in the course of this past season. Grace, obviously, Alicia, Morgan went into the irradiated zone, Strand and Charlie crashed the balloon in there. So, it’s definitely something that I think is going to be on people’s minds moving forward.
Dorie gives June this whole speech to find something to live for and then live and then she’s the one who tells them to get on the plane and leave John there to die because she made him a promise. Dorie and Dwight do show up just in time, but what does that say about June making that really difficult decision to not sacrifice herself and others for a seemingly lost cause?
IAN GOLDBERG: One of the things that we’ve been excited about with Dorie and June this season is how their journey mirrors Dwight and Sherry’s, albeit in a really different way. Even in this episode, Dorie telling June to find something to live for and live, those were the words Sherry wrote to Dwight in the letter that she left for him where she basically told him to stop looking because she didn’t want him to get hurt or to get killed trying to find her. She cared more that he found something to live for. So, you see there that that has impacted Dorie because he says those words to June.
Similarly, June has realized herself that by making that promise to John and by choosing the greater good of everyone, the people that they helped ever since they crash-landed here, the kids, Grace, making sure that everyone gets out of the plane, it’s a sacrifice that’s hard for her to deal with in that moment because of her love for John. But she’s doing it. Then the universe rewards her, rewards with John with June being able to find their way back to each other. Even there, there’s a Sherry and Dwight connection because the car that they arrive in is Sherry’s car that she left behind. We love how those stories have spoken to each other and come to a pinnacle here in episode 508.
What about our big apocalyptic engagement here between John and June? Tell me about the decision to make this be the time under these circumstances for him to pop the candy in his mouth and pop the question. Obviously, this is a big moment, so what led to placing it here?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Dorie has been struggling this half-season with almost survivor’s guilt, where he feels like he’s gotten so much in the apocalypse when so many other people don’t have what he has. He found the woman he loves, she helped him get past some of his past. He was kind of punishing himself earlier in the season by not letting them really enjoy their relationship, and then by trying to give Dwight that, and taking Dwight on the search for Sherry, and not wanting to tell Dwight the truth about the letter he found, he put himself in danger and thought he was not going to get to see June again.
So, in Dorie’s mind, he’s realizing that there’s no time better than the present to pop the question. He’s really realizing in this world where death is always potentially around the next corner, he’s got to make the most of every moment. He’s not going to wait a single second longer before really declaring his love for June and taking that next step with her. And Dorie having those candies with him is such an iconic part of his character. It just seemed like a really fun way that he could pop the question and make an engagement ring for her.
I think my favorite shot of the entire episode was such a simple thing. As Dorie and June are kissing, just that one reaction shot of Dwight totally hit me so hard.
IAN GOLDBERG: Yeah, that actually is a really powerful moment because I think it’s a bittersweet thing for Dwight. He’s been trying to make it right and find Sherry, and it now looks like he’s not going to find her anytime soon. But he did make something very right by bringing Dorie and June back together. So, he’s happy for them, but there’s obviously some sadness for what he’s lost. There’s much more story to tell there.
Speaking of more story to tell, what can you tell me about Morgan’s new, albeit shorter, stick?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Morgan couldn’t take his stick back, at least not the part of it that was soaked with irradiated walker blood. So, that got left behind. But we know just how important that stick is to Morgan and what it represents symbolically to him, it being a tangible connection to Eastman and everything Eastman helped him overcome. That is something Morgan is going to hang onto, and it’s something he’s going to have to deal with, but it was definitely a big moment for him to see it get broken in half.
I think it also speaks to Grace. She’s able to step in and help Morgan do that. Her whole arc was about letting go of the dangerous things from your past. She just has left behind the entire world she knew, both the good and the bad, and is going into a future that is very uncertain. In kind of the same way, Morgan is doing the same thing. The stick is a symbol of that.
How did you all come up with the big Wendell hero moment of him crawling across the asphalt to plug-in the runway lights? That was pretty awesome.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Sarah and Wendell, left behind on the other side of the mountain, really feel this need to contribute to the group’s mission. They think they found a way when Salazar shows up with the Christmas lights. We wanted to give Wendell this special moment in there to show just what he was capable of. We had the idea of a walker unplugging the Christmas lights, because that seems like something you have to do when Christmas lights get unplugged. Actually, the inspiration for it was from Back to the Future, when Doc Brown’s up on the clock tower and the cable gets unplugged, and he has to climb back up and plug it in.
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: That is like my touchstone for everything, so we were excited about the idea. We called Daryl Chill Mitchell to pitch it to him. He got super excited about it. We just want to say, he did that entire stunt himself, pulled himself across the runway. We had to time it all with the actual plane landing, and [director Michael Satrazemis] was a hero for making that happen. That is all in camera. None of that is a visual effect in that moment.
IAN GOLDBERG: The other thing that was so awesome about that, which Chill brought to it — we saw this in dailies — was when he pulled himself and plugged the cord back in, Chill started to cry. You could see it in the episode because it is such an emotional moment, not only that he’s done this heroic thing, but also as the plane is flying overhead, touching down. It is just such this rush of different emotions. That was something that Chill brought to it that we didn’t necessarily envision at first. He just really made that moment sing.
So let’s talk about how you set things up moving forward with Logan appearing and saying he wants to help, and all the gas is going bad, and Clayton wrote down the location of a place where they were cultivating new gasoline in a journal. Is getting to this gas going to be the big mission for the back half of season 5?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS: Without giving away too much, it’s very important to the group, but it may not, in fact, be the big mission. There may be a little bit of a surprise in store when people come back for episode 509.
Well, then let me ask you this: Logan says “I got s— I got to make up for too.” This whole show has been about redemption and making up for past misdeeds, but I can’t help but ask: How much of what Logan is selling should we be buying?
IAN GOLDBERG: Oh, that’s a very good question. I think if you look at the reactions of everybody in the group, they’re not so sold themselves. Logan hasn’t proven himself to be trustworthy thus far with everything that he’s done. However, Sarah did make a pretty compelling case to him when she confronted him in front of the river mill and pointed out the fact that she and Wendell are still atoning for what they did to Polar Bear. So, I think that does land on Logan, but there’s this whole other side to him which is much more self-serving. He’s not the same person Polar Bear is, at least not anymore. He’s a complicated character. You’ll just have to tune in to episode 509 and beyond to see how trustworthy he is.