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Last season, it started with a plane crash and ended with one mother of an explosion — or, more precisely, several of them. The cliffhanger fireworks that brought AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead to a nuclear finale in Season 6 hit a soft reset button, once again, on a series that by now knows a thing or two about reinventing itself.
Gas masks, charred bodies, and fallout — what better way to launch the new seventh season than by picking up in the aftermath of a madman’s nuclear meltdown at the end of Season 6? In keeping with the vision of original The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Fear the Walking Dead may just hold the distinction of being the entire post-apocalyptic franchise’s most post-apocalyptic show.
As season 7 gets set to kick off this month with the irradiated winds of change blowing into Texas, let’s take a look at what we need to know beforehand — so we don’t go in unprepared, of course.
What’s Fear the Walking Dead about?
Over the course of six seasons and one near-total reboot, Fear the Walking Dead has been about a lot of things. But right now, it’s about surviving a new kind of world-shaping catastrophe; one that nearly drove longtime series mainstay Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and his maybe-new-girlfriend Grace Mukherjee (Karen David) to almost commit suicide in the Season 6 finale.
The threat of imminent nuclear annihilation has a funny tendency to shove all other priorities — even a zombie plague — into the background, and that’s pretty much the legacy that doomsday cult leader Theodore aka “Teddy” Maddox (John Glover) left behind while meeting his own overdue end in last season’s finale. Discovering and eventually launching a batch of missiles over the Lone Star state in a perverse Messianic death wish, Teddy inadvertently levels the entire playing field as Fear the Walking Dead prepares for its next chapter: Some key characters die, the fates of others are unknown, and the whole event vacuums out the power dynamics that were in play last season to clear the way for something new as Season 7 approaches.
That brings us to the other big plot driver that’s stealing center stage this season: The emerging high-stakes personal war between Morgan and Victor Strand (Colman Domingo). In the wake of a long struggle that’s put Morgan and Victor at odds over the choices they’ve made to benefit FTWD’s large cast of survivors, Victor finds himself viewing the nuclear blast alongside a new acquaintance — a mild-mannered History professor who hears Victor’s long confession (after some typical Victor-esque smooth-talking) about what he really wants out of life. For Victor, the blast feels like a new beginning: the perfect gateway to a new future where his survive-at-all-costs skills can finally come into their own.
Morgan and Grace, meanwhile, swerve from deciding to kill themselves at the last minute when they hear the sounds of a crying baby over the loudspeaker — only to stumble outside and find a zombified Rachel (Brigitte Kali Canales) being tugged along, with the un-zombified baby in tow, by Fear the Walking Dead’s resident canine, Rufus. It’s a near-miraculous discovery that seems to give the pair a new lease on life, especially after riding out Teddy’s atomic apocalypse.
The Season 6 finale, though, ends on an intentionally ambiguous note about what could happen next. Whatever it is, AMC is teasing there’s a major conflict setting up between Victor and Morgan. The teaser trailer above puts Victor in his most overtly antagonistic role yet, pledging to sweep Morgan (and his well-intentioned failures) aside in order to take over the role of the group’s protector. Let’s just hope he’s half as benevolent as Morgan… even as Morgan figures out the best way to knock his new nemesis off what’s shaping up to be another long-con game.
What’s new for Season 7?
While it’s not a total reboot, Season 7 promises to be a major case of “forget what you know,” even for longtime FTWD fans. We’ll have to wait for the season premiere to see just how much Teddy’s nuclear nightmare has changed the Texas landscape, but it’s safe to say that we’ll be entering uncharted territory all around — along, of course, with the survivors who remain.
With Teddy gone, the antagonist’s role is wide open once again, with Victor appearing to be the front runner to fill the void. The Season 6 finale also removed other characters from the playing field, with Rachel’s zombification as well as the death of young Dakota (Zoe Margaret Colletti), who was burned to a crisp by the blast just after turning on Teddy and shooting him.
Co-showrunner Andrew Chambliss told San Diego Comic-Con fans earlier this year that Season 7 will indeed open a completely new chapter for the long-running series. “We were looking for a way to reinvent the show," he explained. “We're gonna reset everyone in terms of apocalypse survival. Everyone's kind of back to zero, having to learn how to do it all over again ... We are adding so many new elements. In many ways — from what we've shot so far — it feels like a new show.”
Fellow showrunner Ian B. Goldberg added that dealing with two apocalyptic threats — Walkers and radiation poisoning — will test everyone in ways the’ve never been tested.
“We're dealing with multiple nuclear warheads that have detonated across the landscape,” said Goldberg. “It's gonna change everything. It's gonna change the Walkers; it'll change how our characters navigate the world outside, where in a lot of cases, the air is not breathable unless through a gas mask. Resources are gonna be more scarce and we'll also see that it's going to — as with any new apocalypse — bring about a whole new brand of human adversary that will challenge our group. It's a whole new world in a lot of different ways.”
How to watch
With a Texas-sized standoff taking shape between Morgan and Victor, an entire SWAT truck full of survivors whose fates are still unknown, and an ominously invisible layer of fallout descending over it all to keep those geiger counters jumping, Season 7 of Fear the Walking Dead premieres at 9 p.m. ET on Oct. 17 at AMC. It's also streaming on AMC+.