'Fear the Walking Dead' Boss: First Half Sets Up Midseason Cliffhanger

Showrunner Dave Erickson talks with THR about the new threats facing the group in season two.
Courtesy of Richard Foreman Jr./AMC

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

AMC's Fear the Walking Dead returned with new threats for the survivors during Sunday's season two premiere.

Led by the mysterious Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), the blended family set out for the high seas on board the Abigail, a fancy yacht well-equipped for what may be a lot of time out on the open water. However, where Strand is taking the group remains a mystery.   

The season opener set up multiple clashes on board the boat: Strand doesn't want to take any new survivors on; the group doesn't know if they can trust him; and zombies can float. The season premiere also sets up a new mystery as Alicia makes contact with a guy named Jack over the radio and gives away more than she planned to, as it's unclear if his group is friend or foe. The group winds up finding a capsized boat that was clearly attacked by the living, and Strand suggests that it may be tied to Jack's group as another boat is rapidly gaining on the Abigail.

To hear showrunner Dave Erickson tell it, the first half of the 15-episode season will — like The Walking Dead did with Negan's attack — set up a cliffhanger to come at the end of these seven episodes.

"I look at it as three chapters: We had the six-episode season one and we're broken into two  seven episodes for the first half and eight for the back half — of season two. You want something monumental that will beg people to come back," Erickson tells The Hollywood Reporter, noting that he thought the the flagship's "season finale ending was awesome." "You also need something that feels organic and driven. The ideal cliffhanger, the ideal churn for any show — and this can be a novel or a TV show or a movie — but you want it to feel inevitable. You want that moment of shock and surprise but when you catch your breath, you want to feel that yes, there's no other way that could have gone down. That's always the goal. So yes, in that regard, when we get to the writers' room and start building out a season, it's always with an eye toward something that is going to close out that chapter and make the first seven episodes feel satisfying but also something that in so doing it also lays the seeds for what's going to come in the back half."

Asked specifically if the first half of Fear's second season would end on a cliffhanger, Erickson didn't hold back: "The short answer is … yes," he said.  

The executive producer — who co-created Fear with Walking Dead mastermind Robert Kirkman — said it remains to be seen whether that cliffhanger would have anything to do with whether or not Jack and his group are friend or foe. For now, he said that Alicia was most drawn to the guy on the radio because he sounds like someone who has gone through a similar experience that she did — as someone who was well prepared for her future and lost everything (including loved ones) after the outbreak.

"Alicia is suffering to a greater degree than Madison, Nick or any of our other characters," Erickson said. "When she hears that voice … that's Alicia trying to hold on to the past and what the old world was. Then slowly but surely, Alicia gives up more than she planned on and it ends on a somewhat enigmatic moment. That's part of the mystery for the end of the episode. We know someone is on the water and shot up that capsized boat and killed the dead that are now in the water. And there's a suggestion that that could very well be connected to Jack."

Erickson noted that season two will focus on Alicia, Nick and Chris all coming of age in different ways. Nick has already proven himself invaluable to Strand, while Chris is grappling with his mother Liza's death from the end of season one.

"They're all going to come of age over the course of this season in very different ways and they'll all relate to the apocalypse in different ways," Erickson said. "They'll all change and go on their specific tracks."

Overall, one of the larger themes of season two will focus on one of the regular questions from the flagship series: Who do you trust in the new world? That will be closely examined within the group's dynamic as they're all in close quarters on the Abigail.

"Everybody has a very specific emotional agenda and the challenge for those on the Abigail, the bigger question is: What is Strand's agenda?" Erickson said. "Clearly he has an idea of where he's going. Daniel points out that he was packing before the bombs fell and had no intention of staying in that house. So where is he taking them? Strand suggests San Diego but we don't know if San Diego is safer than L.A. It's quite tenuous. There's an initial relief mixed with mourning and grief but the initial relief to be clear of land and get away from that catastrophe. And now it shifts to the question of: Who who can we trust? If we can't trust Strand, who is the captain of the boat, what do we do?"

What did you think of the Fear the Walking Dead season two premiere? Are you on board to sail with the Abigail? Sound off in the comments below.