Interview: Fear TWD showrunners talk the season 5 premiere

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15: Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss attend AMC Survival Sunday The Walking Dead/Fear the Walking Dead on April 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC Networks)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15: Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss attend AMC Survival Sunday The Walking Dead/Fear the Walking Dead on April 15, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for AMC Networks) /

Fear the Walking Dead is back and Undead Walking had a chance to talk with showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss about the thrilling season premiere.

The Fear the Walking Dead season 5 premiere started with a bang and ended with what could quite possibly be one of the most important mysteries of The Walking Dead universe. Thankfully we were able to chat with Fear showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss about “Here to Help” and how it sets up the rest of the season.

(Undead Walking/Sarabeth Pollock): After viewing 501, I noted in my review that the episode begins in medias res and keeps moving forward. Will we learn what happened leading up to where the season premiere began, or does it even matter?

Ian Goldberg: Opening episode 501 in media res was very much by design and something we talked about from the get-go as we were planning season 5. There were a few reasons for that. We ended Season 4 with our group united behind a shared mission of going out into the world and helping people as a way to a) carry forward the philosophies of Madison and Polar Bear and b) redeem themselves for things they’d all done that they needed to make up for. That’s a pretty ambitious goal, and we wanted to come into season 5 seeing exactly how this group was accomplishing that mission. And as we can tell from the minute Alicia steps out of that plane – they’re going to some pretty extreme lengths to help people in the world.

One of the other reasons for opening in the middle of the action was to experience our group and their mission from an outside perspective — our young survivors Annie, Max and Dylan. It was important to us to showcase our character’s heroism through the eyes of people who needed help but were also reluctant to take it, reluctant to fully buy into what our crew is doing. We’ll find out more about why these kids are so hesitant to believe in our people as the season goes on but their hesitation speaks to just one of many obstacles our characters are facing with their new mission – helping people in this world is harder than they could have ever imagined.

Andrew Chambliss: We do get glimpses of what things have been like for our group in the time between the end of season four and where we find them now. Morgan tells Annie they’ve been doing this for a while and haven’t had a whole lot of luck. We see the River Mill from Logan’s POV when he’s walking through and taking it all in. He sees room after room of our group’s unfulfilled dreams… the boxes of supplies never delivered, the empty bunks that have never been slept in. Moments like this give us a pretty good indication of what the months between the end of season four and now have looked like for everyone. We will continue to learn more about what that time was like for our group and how it’s informed who they are when we find them in season five.

There will be people who wonder why the group would use a fully functional airplane to help someone in need instead of taking it somewhere that benefits them. What does this say about their level of personal investment in these missions?

Chambliss: Flying a plane to help someone in need is a tall order in any world. But to do it in the post-apocalyptic world — to rescue a complete stranger, no less — speaks to an incredible level of investment for everyone in our group. There’s also some other layers to it. We see Logan discover that stack of Al’s tapes in the River Mill, and the clipboard next to it that lists all the people we’ve looked for and tried to save… all of whom are either missing or dead. It’s not that our people haven’t been trying — they have — but they haven’t had any luck. So while there’s an element of determination to flying that plane there’s also some desperation there.

Goldberg: This really comes into focus in that scene between Morgan and Alicia at the truck stop near the end of the episode. The heart of it lies in the line where Morgan tells Alicia they can’t just pick up a walkie and say they want to help people. It should be hard. The fact that the plane crashed, that the person they came to rescue wasn’t there… Morgan doesn’t see that as a failure. He sees it as signs that they’re on the right track. And Alicia looks at him and says “it’s not supposed to be this hard.” That exchange is going to be something that we return to over the course of the season as this group is forced to confront some tough questions — what is the cost of their mission? How far is too far? Is there a better way to do what they’re trying to do? Is it even possible for altruism, benevolence and hope to prevail in this world? These are all things we’ll be digging into as the season progresses.

Morgan might be the one who came up with the idea for the missions, but there’s no mistaking the moment when Alicia was the one to come up with a plan of action. Would you say she’s embracing a role as the group’s leader at this point? Between her propeller fight scenes and the ease with which she called out a plan it looks like she’s really come a long way since losing Nick and Madison.

Chambliss: Alicia has transformed in so many ways from who she was at the beginning of season four. To endure all the loss and tragedy Alicia went through would break most people but Alicia has come out the other side and carved out a position of strength and leadership within the group. And yes, it’s clear what that role entails as soon as she steps off the plane with the propeller blade — she has become this group’s protector. And as we see in the way she fends off the walkers at the plane, she’s very good at it. But we’re going to learn that this new role has come at a cost for Alicia. That protecting everyone from the dead might also be keeping her at a distance from the living. But like any great leader, we’ll see how Alicia tackles these demons, external and internal, and how she’ll continue to evolve.

In so many ways it seems like Fear TWD writers have a list of all the things people wonder about in the apocalypse…being on a boat, living with doomsday preppers, making a shelter out of a resort and a ballpark and what happens during a hurricane, to name a few. (Not to mention that thing coming up later on that we can’t talk about yet…) Now we have a plane. How do you come up with these ideas?

Goldberg: LOTS of espresso and green tea! In seriousness, one of the most exciting things about working on FTWD, and in the greater Walking Dead Universe, is coming up with fresh takes on life in the apocalypse. We have a great team with big imaginations and it’s a lot of fun to continue carving out unexplored corners of this world. We try and approach everything from a place of story and emotion — the hurricane was a symbol for the storms raging inside of our characters, the plane represents the lengths our group will go to in order to help people. When it comes to high concept ideas like that, we find we’re usually most successful when we’re able to marry the emotional with the cool.

There’s a moment when Annie asks Morgan how he knows Logan, and she looks shocked when he rather sheepishly says they don’t actually know him. Was Morgan totally catfished?

Goldberg: Logan certainly pulled a fast one. But the fact that Morgan and the rest of our people went to such lengths to rescue Logan, despite the fact that they didn’t know him, is a pretty heroic thing. And the fact that they remain largely undaunted at the end of the episode, that they’re committed to continue helping despite the massive setbacks, shows that they’re not giving up any time soon.

June and John, the newest power couple in the apocalypse, seem to have grown the most in the months since the season 4 finale. June acknowledges that she didn’t think she could be saved, but John managed to break through her barriers. Would you say that they’re in the best place mentally and emotionally out of the entire group at this point?

Chambliss: When you think back on everything John and June went through last season and still managed to wind up together, it’s pretty remarkable. To quote John Dorie: “Most people don’t have that kind of good luck.” They found each other, against all odds, and found a new family and mission in the process. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not struggling with the same disappointments as the rest of the group. And we’re going to see as the season goes on that sometimes good luck can cut both ways — how do you live with all that good fortune when so many people don’t have it? What does that do to you? And what can it do to a relationship like Dorie and June’s? They both overcame a lot individually and as a couple last season, but we’re going to see them tested in entirely new ways this season.

Dylan’s question about why anyone would need toys in the middle of all of this is both heartbreaking and a testament to what Polar Bear was trying to do by giving people what they needed, no matter what that might be. The first thing Logan threw out was the toys. What does this say about the two men, and how it ties into the group’s missions?

Goldberg: Well, the company is called C&L Trucking — Clayton and Logan — so we know at one point these two men were very much of like minds and philosophies. The question is: what happened that sent Logan down such a different path? How did he lose his faith? What made him turn so cynical? We’d say keep watching because we may just answer those questions at some point…

When I finished watching 504 (Author’s Note: Reviewers were given the first four episodes of season 5 to review), there was no question in my mind that the story you’re telling in season 5 was made possible thanks to season 4. If season 4 hadn’t happened there would be no way to tell this story. Are we seeing the next phase in a larger vision for where you want to take the show with this foundation that you’ve built?

Chambliss: We do see season 5 as the next evolution of the show and of these characters’ emotional journeys. One of the most exciting things about this show and this universe is the ability to constantly reinvent itself. Season four was about taking our characters from a place of hopelessness to hope. This season is about taking that hope and putting it into action, and seeing all the challenges that entails for our people. Season four we were lucky enough to tell stories that were by turns exciting and epic and heartbreaking and funny and warm and even a little weird. We embrace those tonalities and love that we get to continue telling these stories with these characters, hopefully for many seasons to come.

At the end of the episode Al notes that “There’s a story here.” She’s not kidding. There seems to be a big story here. What can you tell us about what’s coming up?

Goldberg: Well, if history has taught us anything, it’s that when Al says there’s a story… she’s usually right. We don’t want to say too much about where this particular story goes but we would say that if you’re a fan of the greater Walking Dead Universe… keep watching.

Related Story. Fear the Walking Dead season 5 premiere recap: Here to Help. light

Our thanks go out to Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss for taking the time to talk with us about the season premiere!

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.