Divided and nearly conquered, the characters of Fear The Walking ended Season 5 of the AMC series with their hopes in tatters. It’s a cruel blow considering the hopeful spirit that became their collective’s guiding North Star philosophy this year but it’s going to get worse before in gets better, according to the show runners, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg.
Chambliss and Goldberg discussed the ups and downs of the dramatic finale with Deadline this weekend and explained why they felt the big finish on Sunday had some extra gravel in its gut. They also dropped some hints about the dark developments that may lie ahead in Season 6.
DEADLINE: Coming into the finale, what did you see as the biggest challenge?
ANDREW CHAMBLISS & IAN GOLDBERG: Season 5 was a season about hope — about our characters bringing that hope to other survivors in the apocalypse; about them embracing it for themselves; and ultimately about them finding a way to live that wasn’t just about survival, but also left room for them to rebuild their connections to both their own humanity and each other. And because this journey was one filled with so much hope, the challenge with the finale was to find a way to bring our characters’ mission crashing down around them in a satisfying way that felt organic to the story and honored where our characters have been while at the same time fundamentally changing course of the show.
DEADLINE: The road ahead is a dark one and in the finale the characters find themselves knocked down, divided and feeling a bit conquered.
CHAMBLISS & GOLDBERG: Yes we’re going to follow our characters on a very different journey – a far darker one – in Season 6 and that required them to face, not just an adversary who views the world in a way contrary to everything our heroes fought for this season, but also to find themselves in positions where their belief in the benevolent world they were fighting for will be challenged at every turn. The answer ultimately lied in having Virginia separate everyone, sending them to different corners of her apocalyptic domain.
DEADLINE: Even with all of that the episode still offered a real sense of resolution for a number of long-brewing character arcs
CHAMBLISS & GOLDBERG: Ending the season in such a dark place, meant finding the ways to bring the season-long arcs to a close in a way that challenged the growth everyone made this season: Morgan finally overcame the trauma he’s been living with over the loss of his family since The Walking Dead pilot, only to be left for dead with a gunshot wound to his chest and walkers encroaching on him; Alicia finally made peace with the violence she’s struggled with all season, only to be confronted with someone who wants her to embrace that very violence for unknown ends; Strand finally believes in his capacity to be selfless, only to find himself in a position where he’s going to have to embrace his old ways in order to help the people he cares about; June and Dorie finally get married, shaking any guilt over their good fortune, only to be torn apart moments later; Dwight finally stopped blaming himself for the things he had to do to survive under Negan’s rule, only to find himself under the thumb of a new despot who may force him to fall back into his old ways; Daniel started to make connections with the larger world — the first since he lost his daughter — but has to watch Charlie, the girl who made that first connection with him, get dragged away; Luciana made a sacrifice so her group wouldn’t come under Ginny’s control, only to watch that very fate befall everyone she cares about; Grace overcomes her fears of getting close to someone, only to learn that she may have waited too late to share those feelings with Morgan.
DEADLINE: That’s a lot to unpack and it puts every one of those characters on a new trajectory into, as you said before, a looming plunge into even darker circumstances.
CHAMBLISS & GOLDBERG: Our characters all find themselves in some of the lowest places we’ve ever seen them and the question that we’ll carry forward into Season 6 — aside from the obvious question surrounding whether or not Morgan will live or die — is whether our characters will be able to hold onto this growth under Ginny’s rule, whether they’ll backslide, or whether they’ll become versions of themselves we’ve yet to see.
DEADLINE: The season was a great one. Was there a turning point along the way where you could feel the momentum or energy build in a positive way?
CHAMBLISS & GOLDBERG: We always knew that our group was going to face an adversary whose reach stretched farther than Logan’s, but Virginia and her Pioneers didn’t truly come to life for us until we really started to develop their philosophy in the back half of the season. We wanted a group whose mission would be contrary to Morgan and the rest of the group’s in terms of how to best serve the future, and we ironically found the inspiration for that philosophy by looking toward the past. We see Virginia as the leader of apocalyptic Colonialists, using her power and resources to take over settlements, under the guise of helping them, while installing her own leaders and sacking these communities of resources Ginny desperately needs. She, of course, does this while claiming to provide stability and access to things these settlements wouldn’t normally have. As we’ll see in Season 6 as we explore the array of settlements Virginia has under her control, we’ll see that each of these settlements will maintain identities distinctive to their origins, while at the same time bearing the powers structures imposed by Ginny and her colonists.
DEADLINE: The ensemble of the show has me really invested in their characters right now. From your point of view, talk about maybe one or two characters who are poised at a crossroads that has you either especially eager or anxious to address?
CHAMBLISS & GOLDBERG: I think you could argue all of our characters are at a crossroads at the end of season five, because they are somewhere between the people they want to be and the people they are going to have to be under their new circumstances – and whether those two things can coexist. Two characters this is particularly clear for are Alicia and Strand.
The last moment we see with Alicia, as she’s getting into the car with Strand and Wes, one of Virginia’s lieutenants takes her weapon, her flash suppressor, from her. And Virginia says that Alicia is “going to need it” where she’s going. Which may not seem like much when you first hear it but when you think about what Alicia’s been through this season, that statement becomes a real gut punch. At the beginning of the season, we saw Alicia wield that weapon with great authority and skill, we saw her kill the dead, using violence to protect the people she cared about. But that violence also kept her at a distance from those same people. Her journey over the course of the season was reconciling that with finding a deeper meaning and purpose, one that went beyond violence, beyond killing to protect. Morgan played a big role in helping her get there, as did Strand. But now, when Virginia says Alicia’s going to need her weapon where she’s going, the implication is pretty clear what Virginia has planned for her. She wants to exploit the killer in Alicia. You can see from the look on Alicia’s face that her fears of what she’s about to enter into are coming true. So the big question there is — will Alicia be able retain the strength and evolution she attained in season 5, or is living under Virginia going to cause Alicia to regress somehow?
DEADLINE: You could say the same goes for Strand.
CHAMBLISS & IAN GOLDBERG: Victor Strand is someone who had a redemptive journey over the course of Season 5. We saw how he made up for the deeds of his past, how he proved that he was a changed man to the one person who was least likely to forgive him – and that was Daniel Salazar. But he did it. And he wholeheartedly embraced the philosophy of benevolence that our group was promoting out in the world. But now, here at the end of season five, we see glimmers of a different Strand coming through. And they’re shades of Victor we’ve seen before. We see him broker a deal with Ginny in the finale where he hands over the starter to the SWAT van. He tells Alicia he did it in order to curry favor with Ginny, because he believes they can “do more damage from the inside.” Now what that means, knowing Strand as we do, is that Strand is going to play things from both sides, for the benefit of our people. Strand has always been an adept negotiator, he’s incredibly savvy, has great people skills, we’ve seen this in the past. But it’s a dangerous game he’s playing, and there’s a real risk of Strand compromising the growth he’s made, even if he’s doing it for good reasons.
DEADLINE: There are always surprises along the way, both good and bad. Can you talk about a surprise that presented itself this season that ended up having a compelling impact?
CHAMBLISS & IAN GOLDBERG: It’s always really exciting when happy accidents happen during production. It’s part of the spontaneity and unpredictability that happens when you’re shooting sixteen episodes under such a tight schedule. And the wonderful thing is that happy accidents happen during every episode on some level, whether that be through a performance, a sunset that happens at just the right moment, and casts just the right light to give us a shot that looks like a painting. And Texas has a lot of great sunsets!
I think one of our favorite happy accidents that happened actually came about during the finale, at Humbug’s Gulch. And it has to do with, of all things, the gravel on the ground outside the church, the rocks that Morgan falls onto after Ginny shoots him, and that he drags himself across. Now, that gravel was not supposed to be at the Gulch. It was not at the location. And the only reason it was there at all was because right before we were set to film the episode, there were heavy rains in Austin, and it caused some flooding, which made the ground very muddy. We couldn’t very well have our cast slipping around in the mud, so Bernardo Trujillo (our amazing production designer), decided to lay down that gravel, those rocks, to sop up the mud. But it had the unintended effect of creating incredible atmosphere for that final showdown between Morgan and Virginia.
DEADLINE: It really did enhance the psychics of the showdown. The sound of that scene alone added a lot visceral impact and violent heft to the action. I noticed that because it was so unusual…
CHAMBLISS & IAN GOLDBERG: It may seem like a small thing, but as we were watching the cut, just the sound that the gravel made, the texture of Morgan and Virginia’s boots crunching against it, Morgan’s blood dripping against the rocks… it elevated the scene and made it so much more atmospheric and haunting than it would have otherwise. And that’s an example of something that would have never happened were it not for inclement weather. And we couldn’t be more thrilled. In fact, we watched that final sequence in a music spotting session with our amazing composers Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, and we wondered if the scene needed to be scored in a traditional way. But as we watched it, we realized that the sound of that gravel, set against the wind blowing and the feet crunching against the rocks, that was all that we needed to set that tone of dread and loneliness. It was kind of perfect. So thank goodness for that rainy day in Austin in June that allowed us to have that little miracle!