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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, “TEOTWAWKI.”]
After killing off one of its stars in the two-hour season premiere, Fear the Walking Dead brought back another beloved character in the final moments of the third episode of season three.
In the latter moments, Daniel (Ruben Blades) returned in the flesh to pay a surprise visit to Victor (Colman Domingo), who was locked up at the dam.
Appearing Sunday at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, where the episode was screened early for those in attendance, co-creator and showrunner Dave Erickson confirmed Daniel was not a figment of Victor’s imagination.
“What we shot was real. Daniel is back,” Erickson said. “We’ve been looking forward to bringing him back for a long time.”
Daniel was last seen on the seventh episode of the second season. However, his brief return at the end of Sunday’s hour is just the beginning, as the next installment will be a “Daniel-centric” episode. “I think we’ll get a lot of information about where he went,” Erickson said, “and how he found his way to the dam.”
Daniel is not the only member of the Salazar family who will return to the fold of the AMC spinoff this season. Erickson also came baring good news about Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), who was last seen with Otto (Dayton Callie). “She’s alive,” Erickson said to cheers and applause from the crowd. “Ofelia is not dead and we will find out what happened to her as we did with Daniel Salazar.”
Sunday’s episode largely focused on the Clark family as they adjusted to life without Travis (Cliff Curtis), who was killed off in the two-hour season-three premiere. “Madison really sort of takes control and doubles down. I don’t think she could bare his sacrifice to be for nothing. Madison goes pretty dark this season,” actress Kim Dickens said of her character. “She becomes merciless to do whatever she needs to survive and save her family.”
Part of that is their move to the ranch to live with the Otto family and their followers, led by patriarch Jeremiah (Dayton Callie). “One of the elements of the season is coming to realize exactly how good or bad Dayton’s character might be,” Erickson said.
However, Sunday’s episode saw Madison try to bond with him. Their scenes marked a reunion for the actors, who worked together on HBO’s Deadwood. “I think assimilation is sort of part of the means to the end,” Dickens said. “Getting to know Otto and letting him know her was a certain manipulation.”
One “liberating” scene was when Madison admitted to Dayton she wasn’t the easiest to get along with. “She’s got nothing left to loose,” Dickens said. “She doesn’t care about being liked.”
For Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), that meant bonding (finally) with the other residents her age. She was pleasantly surprised to discover that bible study was code for drinking and smoking pot. “It was a very different tone than what we’re used to,” Debnam-Carey said about the episode. “[Alicia’s] always had to be the responsible one. We finally got to see her try and fit in and be a kid.”
Despite her best efforts, though, this won’t last long, said Debnam-Carey. “She starts to realize … the morbid reality of kind of being in a self-destructive family and environment that is beyond happy, unfortunately,” explained the actress.
However short-lived, Debnam-Carey embraced this new side of her character. “It was a nice change from being stressed and running around breathless,” she said.
While Alicia was off having fun, her brother Nick (Frank Dillane) attempted to forge a bond with Troy (Dan Sharman). Nick agreed to go hunting with Troy, only to point a gun at his head. “Strangely, in this dangerous relationship with Troy, there’s a shared darkness,” Erickson said. “As we move forward, I do think you’re going to see a strange connection — it’s never going to be trust.”
The Clarks’ complicated relationships with the Ottos will have an impact on Madison, Alicia and Nick as the season progresses. “The big challenge for Maddie and for the family this season is to really dirty themselves a little bit,” Erickson said. “There are good people at the ranch, and there are very, very bad people.”
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