"Fear The Walking Dead" EPs Say Question of Morality, Family Loom Large

Is it time to fear the Swimming Dead?

When last we saw "Fear The Walking Dead's" increasingly fractured Manawa, Clark and Salazar clans in the Season One finale, they were about to attempt to escape the ravages of the zombie outbreak on Los Angeles aboard a yacht provided by the mysterious Strand. But as the cast and creators revealed with an oh-so-creepy clip during the PaleyFest LA tribute to the series last month, waterlogged Walkers may pose even more of a threat when the survivors are surrounded by nothing but ocean in every direction.

Beyond that, specific, spoiler-y details from the second season of AMC's insta-popular prequel/spinoff of "The Walking Dead" were being held close to the vest, but co-creator and executive producer Dave Erickson offered up a few big-picture teases to CBR News.

"I think we ended last season with a group of people who were scrambling to understand what the apocalypse was, what the Walkers were, what the Infected were -- people who still, up until the very end, trust in their institutions, to a certain degree," Erickson said. "Now, not only are they alone, they're adrift, and they're coming to realize that no one is going to come to save them. They've come to realize that there's no better place to go."

"One of the themes -- which is I think specific to the comic, originally -- is this question of 'OK, now that we know what the terms are, how much will we sacrifice the morality? Who will we become in order to survive?'" Erickson added.

He noted that another question broached in last season's finale will also be further explored: "What is family? Is it blood? Is it bond? I think we're going to see this pressure cooker on this boat with all the realizations that they're having, and challenges of the fabric of not just the biological family, but this dysfunctional blended family they've been trying to build. The death of Liza is not going to help the father/son relationship between Travis and Chris."

Erickson also indicated that while the focus will be firmly planted on the survivors at sea, there will also be more revelations on how the spread of the zombie outbreak is affecting the world at large. "It'll be a finding out that over the course of the first few episodes where we're trying to ascertain 'How far has it spread? Where can we possibly go?'" he said. "It's interesting because I think we're not doing 'Love Boat' with zombies. We're not stopping at a different port every episode. But there will be a quality of the unknown. Every time we go to land, we have no idea what's in store for us. What we do know is that it's no safer on the water either, so we're kind of trapped."

Who's the character he'd suggest the audience keep a sharp eye on in Season Two? "All of them," Erickson said stone-faced, before pointing to one of the show's more unpredictable players. "I think Nick posed an interesting thought last season in his moment of clarity, which is, 'The world caught up with me.' I'm interested to see how has Nick processed this new world, where at one point his isolation and this sense of exile was specific to him, and now he's surrounded by it. How does somebody who's been living in chaos adapt -- or do they have to adapt, now that everything is chaos?"

Erickson also looking forward to the convergence point when the series and its webshow tie-in "Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462" cross paths. "I'm fascinated by multi-platform storytelling," he said. "I love the idea of webisodes with the show, with video games, and how they can sort of blow that up. I mean, they will complete at some point, and that'll be the surprise, hopefully."

Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd is pleased that the series so quickly found its own, original footing to distinguish itself from its mothership show. "It's interesting because there's only so much you can explore after the zombie apocalypse has happened that doesn't feel like we're continuing to explore things that we have seen in "The Walking Dead,'" Hurd told CBR News. And she loves that "FTWD" can subtly or directly address fan theories and nitpicks that the first series prompted.

"So many fans said, 'What I do is I'd get a boat and I'd go to sea,''' she chuckles. "Well, now they get to see if that was really as good a plan as they thought it was! And that's what really makes it very, very distinct. Plus, our characters are very different. We don't have people who are for the most part trained in weapons, trained in law enforcement. They're coming to it much like an average person would, and having to handle it with no skill set whatsoever."

While the immediate success of the spinoff series also suggests that the world of "The Walking Dead" may prove fertile ground for even more exploration, Hurd says there's no rush to build out a bigger franchise.

"At this point, we concentrate on what's in front of us, which is making two fantastic shows that are worthy of exploring this universe and not feel like we're doing some sort of retread," she said. "That's hard enough as it is. That's why I admire ["Walking Dead" franchise creator] Robert Kirkman so much: because he continues to create the comic book, issue after issue, and it maintains its quality. But he's also doing the same thing for both franchises. So he's really the one that I have to say hats off to."

"Fear The Walking Dead" season two debuts at 9 tonight on AMC.

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