SPOILER ALERT: This story contains details of tonight’s Fear The Walking Dead Season 2 premiere.
The Season 2 debut of AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead tonight confirmed the notion that nowhere is safe in the zombie apocalypse — on land or sea.
Picking up mere moments after the record breaking blockbuster Season 1 of the Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson created show ended last October, the return of The Walking Dead spinoff found our West Coast survivors taking up the mysterious and seemingly wealthy Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) on his offer to escape a fiery Los Angeles and head for the relative safety of the sea.
Of course, this is a world created in part by Robert Kirkman. So Madison Clark (Kim Dickens); Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis); his son, the mourning Christopher (Lorenzo James Henrie); Madison’s junkie son Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) and daughter Alicia (Alycia Jasmin Debnam-Carey); ex-Salvadorian miltia member Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades); and his daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) are far from land but on a course to danger as they encounter walkers in the water, other survivors under attack, an overturned ship, and danger on the horizon.
With production underway on Episode 9 of Season 2 of the show executive produced by Kirkman and Gale Anne Hurd, showrunner Erickson stepped back to discuss the move from a collapsing L.A. to the Pacific, where Strand and Madison could go, and a possible greater crossover with web series Fear The Walking Dead: Flight 462. The EP also revealed a little bit about how Kurt Sutter inspires his sense of how long FearTWD could run, what the jump from the six episodes of Season 1 and the 15 episodes of Season 2 is like, and why David Bowie fits in to tonight’s debut.
DEADLINE: Now that Season 2 has debuted, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned coming out of the six episodes of the first season and moving into the 15 episodes of this cycle?
ERICKSON: Don’t talk to zombies. I think it was difficult only in that we had to crunch so much story into six episodes. I think what we learned from that and what was offered to us going to Season 2 was the opportunity to expand and try to slow things down a little bit. Reality is, I think in the first half … I mean if you look at it as three chapters, you know Season 1 being 1 and then Seasons 2A and 2B being chapters 2 and 3.
You know, I think we have a lot of story that we cover in the first half of the season. Then I think the upper for us going into the back half is going to be able to slow things down a little bit and fracture the narrative a little bit and allow for a little more time and a little more reflection.
DEADLINE: On the sea?
ERICKSON: Yes, because there’s nothing more scary than being stuck in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight and this abyss beneath you. I think that in and of itself creates a degree of uneasiness, then if you add to that the fact that you’re trapped on this vessel with some people whom you don’t know and who’s agenda is you don’t know, I think it lends itself to dramatic tension.
That was something we wanted to maintain because I felt that it worked in Season 1, and I think the great thing for us is that we did get through a lot of our apocalyptic education in Season 1 too. You know I think one of the things we don’t do going into this season obviously is dwell too much on whether it’s right or wrong to kill the dead when they’re coming at you. We don’t, and we allowed the characters to experience what it might be like to see your first infected and how they respond to it accordingly – which was important.
DEADLINE: This is Strand’s boat that our West Coast Survivors are on at the beginning of Season 2, and he has in every way become the dominant figure right now. Where are we going to see this enigmatic character going deeper into Season 2?
ERICKSON: Clearly, he has a plan, he has an agenda, which he’s only sharing part of, if any. What’s interesting to me, it is his boat, he’s the captain, but he has this crew that he’s brought with him, none whom really trust him. That provides us with the opportunity for alliances. And as Madison tries to figure him out, there’s a certain degree of simpatico I think between the two of them. I think they both are survivors.
DEADLINE: To that end, we saw more of Kim Dickens’ Madison emerge in this season opener – there is obviously more than a high school guidance counselor there. So what are we going to see revealed about her this season and how will that impact her relationship with Travis?
ERICKSON: I think we’re going to see a leader. I think we’re going to see a woman who has certain strength and ability to go to a violent place when it’s necessary and then the ability to compartmentalize that. We actually saw some of that in Season 1, and I think that’s one of the things that will make her effective in the apocalypse.
As for Travis, he is going to become more effective but he’s still going to try to do the one thing he promised he would — which is take care of his broken child. And that relationship between him and Chris is going to go to some interesting places over the course of the first half of the season and then the back half.
DEADLINE: How so?
ERICKSON: One of the fundamental questions for the first half at the very least is who is going to control that boat, who is going to control the direction of this blended family. Initially, it seems to be Strand, but what we will come to see in episodes 2 and 3 is that there are challenges and it’s not going to be smooth sailing for him, no pun intended.
DEADLINE: You’ve repeatedly said that there is no planned crossover between FearTWD and The Walking Dead, but what about web series Fear The Walking Dead: Flight 462 in Season 2?
ERICKSON: Yes, everyone’s asked about a crossover between The Walking Dead and Fear, as you know. In terms of chronology and in terms of geography, that is something that we would never, never do. We aren’t based on the comic book and the comic book’s never going to go into the world of Fear, which too behind where they’re at.
With Flight 462, however, the answer is yes. I think we will return to that story at some point in the first half of the season and we will conflate those two storylines. I think that’s part of the fun about multi-platform storytelling these days is that you can do that. You know you can do a webisode and introduce a character perhaps incorporate him or her into the body of the main show. I think that’s kind of exciting, and probably something we’ll do again between Seasons 2 and 3 — if there is a Season 3.
DEADLINE: Back to the Season 2 opener, I found the use of David Bowie’s “5 Years” on the soundtrack incredibly poignant. Why did you guys choose that end-of-the-world song and was the decision to incorporate it made before or after the Divine David passed away on January 10.
ERICKSON: That was actually before and that was actually a song that we tried to use last season. You know it resonates for me. I love that song and all the record but it was the first project I worked on with Kirkman that was called Five Year and it was about a meteor that was hurtling towards Earth, and I always assumed that Robert come up with that idea from the song but he hadn’t.
Then when we were cutting episode 201, we put it in there, and really thought it worked and it resonated. I mean it resonates thematically but it was actually something that we had done prior to Mr. Bowie’s passing.
DEADLINE: What has the growth spurt been like going from the six episodes of Season 1 to the 15 of Season 2?
ERICKSON: It was interesting, because you look at 15 episodes — I’ll be honest, for me, it was daunting. I mean, I worked for Kurt Sutter on Sons Of Anarchy for four seasons and we did 13 episodes a season and that was, to me, a great number. Thirteen’s a great number. Ten’s a great number. You know 15; you’re starting to press towards sort of network land.
The truth of the matter is I think the legwork we had done in Season 1 in terms of introducing our characters, establishing their family dynamics, and then the set up leading to Season 2 would actually lend itself to the more story. If we’re in an early enough stage where I feel like there are always more stories to tell, it really becomes a question of how do you parse it out and how long do you stall and how much do you save for later seasons.
DEADLINE: So without Kirkman’s comics as a foundation, where is this story that you’re planting the seeds for logically going to go? How long is this show? Is it a five-season show, a six-season show?
ERICKSON: Look, the shelf life of any show varies. For example, I know when Kurt started Sons, I think he had seven seasons in his head and that to me is a healthy number, an ample number of seasons to tell a full story.
There are story points and there are certain character moments between our core family that I have in my head and it’s way too soon to play any of them out yet. But when I think about some of these moments, it’s really a Season 5 storyline or Season 6 storyline so how many seasons do I think we could go? It’s really difficult to say, but in my mind, loosely I would say about seven seasons, makes the most sense to me.
DEADLINE: You have our West Coast survivors out at sea for the foreseeable future but will they be making a permanent return to the urban environment on dry land at some point this season?
ERICKSON: Not necessarily an urban environment, even though I do miss it. But I do think the landscape is going to expand between the seascape, obviously and then what we do encounter when we do go to land I think is going to be rich but what I do like is the light has a similar articulate quality of Los Angeles.
There’s something about the look of the show that even though we’ve expanded it, I still think it feels grounded and connected to what we started when we were back in the neighborhood, back in L.A. It’s something I can see us returning to.
When you ask about subsequent seasons, I do think that there’s a world in which I’d love to someday see what Los Angeles looks like now that it’s been firebombed. You know I think that’s something that’s in the back of my mind. That would be down the road.