'Fear the Walking Dead' Boss Previews Faster Pace, Mix of Land and Sea in Season 2

Showrunner Dave Erickson talks with THR about what to expect from the 15-episode second season.
Courtesy of AMC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season one finale of AMC's Fear the Walking Dead.]

AMC's Fear the Walking Dead capped its freshman season with a death in the blended family when Travis (Cliff Curtis) had to shoot Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) after she was bitten trying to escape the compound after a walker invasion. (With Daniel setting the walkers free in a bid to save the group's loved ones.)

That capped an episode in which Travis let Daniel's (Ruben Blades) tortured Army soldier Andy go, only to see him return and take a non-fatal shot at his daughter, Ofelia (Mercedes Mason).

As for where season two goes, the finale indicated that Strand (Colman Domingo) was planning to head out to his fancy yacht, which is positioned right off the coast. (Click here for a full rundown of what happened in the finale.)

Here, showrunner Dave Erickson talks with The Hollywood Reporter about what to expect from a second season potentially on the water and more.

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What's the biggest lesson you learned from season one and how it was received?

Being aware of pace. We purposely developed the show in a slower fashion than people are accustomed to. We reached the point of critical mass by the end of the season, which was by design. We ended the finale with our first horde and our largest action sequence of the season. Once you do that, you have to be mindful of that moving into subsequent seasons. There will expectations. We always attempt to challenge those expectations and make the show as tonally specific and as different as it needs and wants to be. You also don't want to ignore diehard fans of The Walking Dead and that's important to think about moving forward.

Will season two follow the same pace?

We'll pick up in a more accelerated pace when we go in to the season. We've learned a lot: our characters in their apocalyptic education have learned what walkers are. Even Travis has had to shed some of his humanity for the first time, which was his great struggle. We'll have more of a shorthand going in to season two. There are still things for them to discover. They haven't had the benefit of the CDC download. They know the city has fallen and know things are incredibly bad and they know that this is happening in other states and potentially other countries but they haven't had anybody say to them, "The world is over; this is our extinction event." That's something they'll have to process as they move through season two as well. If I were them, I'd be thinking that there has to be some place to go. Maybe it's an island. I don't know. But there's got to be a place where this contagion hasn't touched. But we the audience know that's not true and that will be the next blow that they suffer.

Where will season two pick up? Will there be a time jump?

There may be a time jump but it's not going to be terribly dramatic. There's too much emotional weight coming off of the finale and the loss of Liza and Griselda. We didn't want to jump too far because there's an obligation to see the aftermath of that and see how that impacts our characters as they try to wrestle with it. It's going to be interesting to see how does Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) look at his father? How does Travis look at his son? How can they reconcile what happened and what Liza said had to happen and continue to love each other. That will be a challenge. This tragedy, in some strange ways, has reaffirmed this connection between Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis and that will carry on as well. Ofelia has realized that her father was a monster and, in some respects, the loss of Griselda is almost the sins of her father. They're looking at each other differently as well. Those are all interesting things to explore and too long of a time jump would make it difficult to explore those properly.

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Season one was about getting to know the family and seeing their evolution in the apocalypse. What's the theme of season two?

There are a number of things I'd like to explore and we set them up, to a certain degree, in season one. Exner's question — what is family now? — we've seen our characters make choices that have impacted their neighborhood, other people that they're connected to. And the choice to release the zombies had a dire impact on the National Guard service people at the base. I'm curious to explore, especially if we make it to this boat and that becomes our base camp, who — when you get to a position when somebody you love dearly is compromising the larger group — brings about this strange duality. If I'm Madison and I want to keep everyone safe and somebody is compromising that, what am I willing to do to fix it? Are we going to get to a place where our blended family will have to flee from the herd? That's something that's worth exploring. There's a reference to it in the pilot, which is this question of madness, and Madison has a darker past that we have yet to fully explore. She's worried that certain things that have afflicted people in her life are going to afflict her son (Nick) and daughter (Alycia). When Strand says the best way to survive a mad world is to embrace the madness, I'm curious to see what happens to our characters when they step into such a level of chaos — which is almost war-like. How do you maintain your sanity? In this world, where the world has gone mad, is it better to not maintain your sanity? What does that look like for Nick or Chris, who has gone through horrific trauma of losing his mother. We try to tell the story through the filter of a family drama and that element needs to become more visceral and violent as we push forward.

Will you reveal more about about what Cobalt is? The humane termination of the people was never explained.

You'll have to wait for season two! We're not at the point where Rick [Andrew Lincoln] woke from his coma [on The Walking Dead]. So the military's withdraw from the L.A. basin and the suggestion they're going to head to the desert — that's real. You can imagine that's happening throughout the country and throughout the world right now. Everyone is in retreat but you don't want to leave a city, if you can avoid it, that's completely consumed and owned by the dead because the dead will continue to spread throughout every city and every community they're in and bite more people. And before you know it, there won't be any people left. So the military still has plans.

You mentioned on Talking Dead that others likely had the same idea to head to the coast. What might that look like?

We end on one boat and the ocean beyond — but what we'll come to realize and this will be part of what the military is doing — you'll see that land is no longer safe. At least not in Southern California. Some people have not been quarantined or driven north or south. But there's thousands of boats through L.A. County. So a lot of people will stock up the boats and try to get to the water and avoid land as much as humanly possible. You'll see a lot of people trying to survive. If you look at Strand's yacht, it's a pretty handsome vessel. It's something that you can survive on for a good period of time and that's something others might covet. So when you get to the question of what's worse, walker or human, we'll continue that theme. There will be quite a bit of action on the seas — and we'll split it between land and water. But it's going to be an interesting dynamic.

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Can walkers function under water?!

My understanding is that walkers can't swim. The Governor (David Morrissey on The Walking Dead) killed somebody and tossed him into the lake. You see the walker underwater, he's submerged and is trying to get up. I think there was something weighing him down so he couldn’t float. I have to confirm this with [Fear co-creator] Robert [Kirkman] but walkers can't swim — I'm sure they'd eventually bloat.

The yacht is already out to sea. Is it already populated? How many more characters will you be adding next season?

If and when we get to the yacht, you'll see. As we start season two, what's important to me is the internal conflict with our group is important. There's going to be external conflict and obstacles to contend with. In terms of the number of characters we'll add, we're on that now. But it's always something I want to be careful about because we have a significant headcount and I want to make sure that we're exploring the characters that we've gotten to know and are living with before we add too many more. Because then it starts to become difficult to tell the story of the family. There will be new characters coming. There will be new conflicts and much more drama on sea and on land but I don't have a specific number yet.

How will you introduce the survivor of Flight 462?

We'll see at least one character from Flight 462 who makes an appearance. As to how involved that narrative thread becomes, that remains to be seen. We will conflate those two story lines over the course of season two.

How will Liza's death impact Travis and Chris? Both Liza and Madison knew that if Travis pulled the trigger, it would gut him.

That's one of the big questions for season two — we've got two women, both of whom said this would break Travis. The challenge for Travis is not to break. His relationship with Chris was fraught and now they have this incredible weight between them and it's going to spin Chris off the planet a bit. It's going to be on Travis, as painful as it is, to try and anchor that kid and bring him back. Is he broken? Absolutely. But is he going to be able to mend that fracture so he can take care of his son? That's the challenge. It was important to us to have at least one character who would cling to his humanity and fight it. When you consider we're only about 12 to 14 days into the apocalypse, I don't think it's unreasonable for one of our characters — even up to the bitter end — to still do what he feels is the right thing to do. Travis does that and it bites him in the ass with Adams and how that almost leads to the death of Ofelia. That's why he breaks.

It would have been interesting if Ofelia did die, Travis would have her blood on his hands as well and complicated his relationship with Daniel that much more.

Travis has some explaining to do. His actions did nearly take away Daniel's "one pure thing." That's something that will be between them. But Daniel sees and understands what Travis had to do with Liza. He realizes that the Travis he first met in the barbershop isn't the same man anymore. Every character has had a devastating loss. Between Liza and Griselda, they're all touched by death now in a very specific way. That can create more conflict or can also lead to a bonding in some instances and a sense of understanding. I'm excited to see what Travis and Daniel's dynamic is going into season two.

Will Andy (Shawn Hatosy), Tobias (Lincoln Castellanos), Exner (Sandrine Holt) or Lt. Moyers (Jamie McShane) be back?

There are a number of characters who we don't see turn or die and we can assume certain things, but I really love all those characters. I'm not saying they'll come back but it's a consideration for me as we move forward. If we bring any of those characters back, I want it to feel organic. Look at how they're bringing Morgan (Lennie James) back into The Walking Dead. It has to develop in the same way — but Adams is not dead. I have a feeling that Exner is probably not coming back. In my mind, she was planning to use that cattle pistol on herself. Her mission has failed and she had a look into what our characters don't understand yet: this is the end. She is left in a place where I don't think she sees any way to bounce back from it. We have no plans for Exner right now.

You've hinted at Madison's dark past. Daniel's was revealed this season. How soon will Madison's past be revealed in season two?

I don't know yet. The things that she's experienced are secrets that she's kept for a long time. A big part of the reason she doesn't tell Travis about Artie [the principal-turned-zombie she put down in episode two] is because it hits a nerve in her history. I'd like to find a way to explore that shame she feels. Obviously there was a survival element and she had to defend herself and Tobias from Artie. But no one in our show is at a point where killing is easy and it's a difficult thing to share. We'll discover that there's a level of violence in Madison's past that she's been covering. These things are echoes of her past and eventually those will become stronger and more prominent and she'll have to reveal some elements of what made her. But this will not be a download in the season two premiere. It's something to explore as we move forward.



Edwards Air Force base is mentioned as a potential evacuation area. Is there any potential to see what's going on there?  

There are no plans to see Edwards. Much in the same vein as the comic and original show, the goal was to not see things from perspective of the generals and politicians. To go to Edwards, we'd have to pick another character to view that through who isn't Exner. Doing that might take us away. We have a lot of story to tell as it is. The question of what the military's larger plan is was definitely a retreat to Edwards and they're going to try and hold out as long as they can. That's happening in many places. The sad news is that by time Rick wakes up, which is still a few weeks away, we all know things have gotten progressively worse. That's the challenge — everybody knows where it's going to go, except for our people.

Wrapping up, why did Strand save the family? He sees something in Nick but why take the rest of the family? If he already has an evacuation idea, why take along everyone else? Is it so they can help him get where he needs to go?

Possibly. Strand is able to look at any situation and determine the currency. What is going to have value in this new world? His boat has value because it's something that can allow people to survive and gives him a degree of power. He sees something in Nick he's responding to and we'll find out more about what that is, but there's something enigmatic about Strand. He's not going to offer kindness unless he feels he can benefit by it. He definitely has a plan and will be figuring things out as we move deeper into season two. 

What did you think of Fear the Walking Dead? Share your season two theories and hopes in the comments section, below. Fear returns to AMC in 2016 with a split 15-episode second season. A specific return date has not yet been announced.

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