Fear the Walking Dead’s first season began establishing its own identity from the “mothership” series and this third season is a defining one, anchored by great writing and exceptional acting. I was fortunate to attend the press room for the series with the cast and Executive Producer at San Diego Comic Con.
In attendance were:
David Erickson – Executive Producer and Showrunner
Kim Dickens – Madison Clark
Coleman Domingo – Victor Strand
Mercedes Mason – Ofelia Salazar
Michael Greyeyes – Qaletqa Walker
Dayton Callie – Jeremiah Otto
Sam Underwood – Jake Otto
Alycia Debnam-Carey – Alicia Clark
Frank Dillane – Nick Clark
Daniel Sharman – Troy Otto
The writers and producers are not shy when it comes to killing characters throughout the series, especially those in the core team. The departure of Travis (played by Cliff Curtis) during the early part of this season was not easy on Madison, Alicia, and Nick. His death served as motivation for Madison to find a safe haven to her children. Kim Dickens stated that her character has evolved from being a high school counselor to being a merciless person.
She described Madison’s transformation from a person beholden to morality when she was introduced in season one to someone who has realized that survival is at a higher cost and the currency is that of brutality. This was displayed as Madison took action as needed with weapons ranging from a spoon (the scene still give me shivers) to her mind when looking to build alliances with people she actually didn’t trust. Side note: I found the fight with between Madison and Ofelia worthy of a PPV fight. Dickens said that season three was, for her, the best season so far because of the evolution of the series, the writing, and the characters.
Another aspect of this series is the separation of characters from the group and their reemergence later on. The character of Ofelia Salazar was noticeably absent during most of the first half of the third season, which led many viewers to wonder about her whereabouts. I began to draw comparisons to Sophia’s absence during The Walking Dead season 2. To keep us guessing, her return was teased during Talking Dead. When her return was finally revealed, viewers found out that she was in Qaletqa Walker’s camp and also seemed to be pulling the strings from behind the scenes. The innocent, overly-protected daughter had transformed into a darker person during her separation from the group, which culminated to a point where she initiated a biological attack on the Otto camp.
Victor Strand was an unlikely ally when viewers were introduced to him during season one. He was a smooth manipulator and a con man who enjoyed the finer things in life. The zombie apocalypse changed his way of life and Domingo describes Strand as a survivor who needs to find his way. During season three, viewers witnessed Strand con his way into being a doctor at the Rosarito Hotel and kicked out when the leaders realized that he was not what he said he was. He then looked up an old partner for a place to stay, however that did not work out and he was eventually saved by Daniel Salazar. Daniel decided to leave Strand behind when he felt that Strand was not to be trusted. After all of this, Strand found the Abigal and decided to torch it to go off on his own. Where he goes from there, viewers will hopefully find out soon enough when season 3 resumes on Sunday, September 10th.
Domingo spoke about witnessing how the characters in the show separate and reconnect. Case in point was the return of Daniel Salazar (played by Rueben Blades). In my opinion, this was one of the highlights of this season thus far. The writers brought Daniel back and did a great job showing the viewers what he went through after he left the compound at the end of Season 2. The episode detailing Daniel’s journey was spoken entirely in Spanish to give it its own sense of identity – after all they were in Mexico – and this was a standout episode of the season.
In the mid-season finale, Nick saved Madison from committing murder after she had earlier revealed to her children the violence she had experienced as a child. I find Frank Dillane’s portrayal of Nick to be exceptional with his intense internal struggles. When viewers were introduced to him in season one, he was an addict who was forced to get clean due to the zombie apocalypse. While his was struggling with his addiction he was also trying to fit in and fulfill a purpose. Prime examples of this change in purpose are his alliances with Strand and later with Jeremiah. What stuck me as odd was his ‘bro-mance’ with Troy who was not very kind to Nick or his friends at the beginning of season three. I think these actions are motivated by a desire to belong.
The first half of season three introduced several new characters and the one the stood out for me was Qaletqa Walker (played by Michael Greyeyes). When I asked him about the parallels in the series to the struggles of Native Americans, he responsed that dialog written for him drew some interesting comparisons to tribal laws and the rights lost by Native Americans. He also found the creative direction of the series appealing because it addressed the stereotypes of violence and brutality when the laws that govern human behavior are absent. Greyeyes said that the approach and depiction of the world was of returning to feudalism, since all of the old rules are broken and people need to figure out what they need to do in order to survive.
Alicia Debnam-Carey described the strong bond amongst the cast and even with the new additions they all got along well. This also helped since the shooting locations for season three are more isolated than in prior seasons.
Dayton Callie was the funniest of the cast during this press room, with his jokes. It is unfortunate that Nick killed his character during the mid-season finale, however based on the flashback during Ophelia’s journey away from the group, there is a chance we may see Callie’s Jeremiah Otto in the future in similar circumstances.
Daniel Sharman described the series as an investigation of being human. In particular, he described the character of Troy as being on a journey this season and I found this to be true as I reflected back to when viewers were introduced to Troy and the changes his character underwent on the way to the mid-season finale. Sharman described joining the cast as slightly odd, given his characters’ intense desire to survive and his flawed racial morality. How Troy copes with his father’s death will be very interesting to watch.
Sam Underwood’s character of Jake Otto is the moral compass of the group at the Otto compound, given his background as a constitutional lawyer. Underwood described Jake as the polar opposite of Troy. Jake feels that the society they are in currently needs some form of democracy to keep a sense of morals and ethics, not only within their community but also with the surrounding communities like Walker’s group. During the first half of the season, he puts himself in harm’s way – almost getting literally scalped by Walker to keep the peace with the Walker camp.
As a fan of both The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, I am drawn to these series primarily because of the drama and the action. The struggles of humankind as well is the resilience of the characters when faced with challenges are the the hook for me. Another theme which is prevalent in both series is the motivations of the characters as they are trying to re-establish civilization in the best way they possibly can. The trials and struggles these characters must endure to survive is what makes these series a must-watch each single week.
Looking ahead to second half of season three, the underlying theme is survival on the resources one has. This was teased in the trailer, where the group on the Otto compound realize that they are not sitting an unlimited supply of resources.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays on AMC, returning September 10th. Click here to join the conversation on the FoCC forum.