[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Sunday’s Fear the Walking Dead midseason finale, “Shiva.”]
To call the Fear the Walking Dead midseason finale explosive would be accurate in many ways. Chris took a young boy hostage with a gun in his attempt to escape his father. Travis then refused to return, opting to stay out in the wild with Chris. Madison murdered their host Celia by locking her in a room with zombies because she did not like the connection the woman had made with her son. Daniel continued having crazy visions, including ones with his dead wife Griselda, which led him to burn the entire compound to the ground. And then Nick refused to flee with his family, opting to walk amongst the dead instead.
We spoke with showrunner Dave Erickson to get the scoop on all the burning questions from tonight’s midseason finale. Like, is Daniel Salazar — last seen surrounded by flames that he himself set — dead? Erickson’s answer may surprise you. (Click through both pages to read the entire interview, and for more Fear the Walking Dead scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, let’s start with Daniel, who lights the whole place on fire, and the last time we see him is surrounded by flames. Safe to assume he is dead, or not?
DAVE ERICKSON: We don’t see Daniel burn, and that’s intentional. I think what’s important at the end of the midseason is that it’s the impact on Ofelia and the rest of the characters that Daniel’s gone. That’s going to spin Ofelia specifically in a new direction for the back half. From my perspective, in terms of the arc of the show, this is not the last we see of Daniel Salazar. He will be done for the season. We won’t be seeing Daniel in the back half, but my hope is we will see the return of Daniel in season 3.
Wow, big news there, then. It’s interesting because when I watched that scene, I was like, “Well, this guy’s a goner.” But you know the adage: If you don’t see someone actually die on a show, there’s always that question mark still out there.
Absolutely. Liza’s a very good example. That obviously was a death and it was concrete, and we saw her body at the end of last season, and again at the top of this season, and it was very much about the impact that was going to have on Chris and Travis and the rest of the group. In the instance of Daniel, his story’s not done. And what’s great about this is it gives some degree of closure for the first half of the season. It gives the story of Daniel reconciling and trying to find some kind of redemption for the crimes he’s committed — that’s really the end point for that, and he finds that through the ghost of Griselda, essentially.
I think there’s another chapter to be told in that story. What we’ll focus on going into the back half of this season is the impact it has on specifically his daughter, because Ofelia is somebody who really was kind of trapped in her life. She’s someone who gave up a great deal in order to take care of her parents, and what she’s come to realize now is they didn’t need that much taking care of. And now, at the moment where she should become whatever she wanted to become, she’s trapped in the apocalypse. So it’ll be interesting to see how that manifests and what Ofelia is able to do to reconcile the loss of her parents now that she’s orphaned. So there’s more story to tell, and it will involve Ofelia ultimately, but it will not be something we see in season 2. It’s something I think we can hopefully look forward to in season 3.
And before we move off Daniel, what is it that broke him here?
If you watch the trajectory of the first half of the season, there were clues. There were moments where you heard voices. There were moments where he seemed to be focusing on things that weren’t there. I think Ofelia started to see this relatively early on. The thing that broke him, if you go back to it, is the loss of Griselda. He’s a man who’s committed a great number of sins. He’s a man who has killed, who’s tortured, who’s committed war crimes, and he always had his wife, who knew his secrets.
And when he loses her at the end of last season, he really loses his rock. He loses the one thing that’s protecting him from these memories and from these crimes and sins, and in the place of Griselda, he now finds his daughter at the beginning of the season, who looks at him with a degree of judgment. And without the love of Griselda, the things he did and the guilt that he’s been keeping at bay starts to come back, and it eats at him over the course of the season.
The first big hit of it, in terms of a vision, is in episode 6, when he has flashbacks and you believe that Daniel had actually killed a child. And what we reveal in episode 7 is that it in fact was him, and this original sin committed was something he was forced to do as a little boy, and that’s what he really has to come to terms with. Any monster starts from an innocent place, and that’s what we wanted to dig into and get to the heart of: who he was and how he became the man he is now.
Speaking of people going a bit crazy, let’s move over to Chris, who has also lost it, is running away from his dad, he takes a poor kid hostage, and tries to slice his dad with a knife. Is he taking off because he’s lashing out or does he see himself as the problem so is trying to solve the problem by removing himself?
It’s the latter. I think what you see in Chris when he goes into Madison and Alicia’s room at the end of last week, it isn’t with the intention of hurting anyone. But when he sees the knife there, I think his feeling is that’s for me, these people are afraid of me. And I when he picks it up, it’s not necessarily with the intention of burying it in Alicia or Madison. I think he’s angry, he’s confused, and he’s frightened.
He’s a kid at this point and feels overwhelmed and broken, and can’t quite see straight, and he’s fearful. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do from moment to moment. We’ve taken this really alienated, angry kid — which is who he was before the apocalypse even hit — and layered on the pressure of his dead mother, layered on the pressure of the fact that his father was the one to put down Liza, and never mind the fact that he’s now living in this what has become sort of a hell on Earth, and he’s adjusted to killing the dead. It’s all coming to a head.
So I think your second point is absolutely true. His attitude at this moment is, something’s wrong with me, and I need to remove myself from this place where the people who supposedly should love me don’t. And the only way he can resolve that is to get as far away from them as he possibly can, and fortunately for him, Travis is unwilling to let him go. But Travis has been struggling with, How do I reach out to my son? How do I fix this? How do I make it better? And what he comes to realize is his son is not going to get better if he’s with a blended family that looks at him with hate, so he makes a pretty significant sacrifice, because he’s giving up on his family as well, at least in the short term, in order to heal his kid.
Yeah, that’s a huge choice that Travis makes there, because this isn’t like our society today where you’re like, “Well, I’m going to spend some time with my kid now.” When you say, “I’m not coming back,” as Travis does here, that could be a permanent choice. So, he’s really making a significant decision here, isn’t he?
I would say, in Travis’s defense, when he leaves Abigail’s compound, he doesn’t know that everyone’s going to be exiled. He obviously doesn’t know that the place is going to be burnt down. So, I think from his perspective, he’s leaving Alicia, Madison, and Nick, in a safe place, if that makes sense. And even when Nick goes out and tries to bring him back, everything to Nick is relatively sound, meaning he’s already gone out and found Luis and secured the sanctuary for his family.
So from Travis’s perspective, it’s an opportunity for me to tend to my kid, something that I haven’t been able to do yet in the rush of the apocalypse in the past few episodes. But he also thinks that Madison is safe. If if he knew that they were burned out and he realized what had gone down, the narrative might have changed slightly.