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Fear the Walking Dead showrunners give us the dirt on the midseason premiere

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Aug 12, 2018, 10:02 PM EDT

Fear the Walking Dead is back -- with an auspicious midseason premiere. The beginning of the season's ninth episode, "People Like Us," finds our heroes fractured. Strand spends his days drunk; Luciana loses herself to music; Alicia is trying to follow obscure clues in order to save someone she has never even seen. Morgan wants to go back to Virginia; June is finally ready to talk; and Charlie isn't saying anything.

We spoke with FTWD's showrunners, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, about why the characters are fractured; the storm; the supply box; and whether Morgan is really going back to The Walking Dead.

When we come in at the start of 409, why are all the characters separated? They seemed to have finally formed a unit in 408.

Goldberg: I think it speaks to where they are emotionally. They were together around the campfire at the end of Episode 408, but there was a lot unresolved between them, and also within themselves. Strand, Luciana, and Alicia suffered huge losses over the course of the first half of this season, [losing] Madison and Nick. They were also on a very dark mission of revenge. By Episode 408 they had stepped back from that mission, but that left them with a bit of a hole in their lives. This had been their entire purpose since the fall of the stadium, and now there is this question as to who are they now, what is their purpose, now that that is done? Who are they to each other? They were united by this drive for revenge, by this dark mission they were on.

Now that they are not on that anymore, they are trying to reconcile who they are to each other. Same goes for John and June. John spent the first half of the season looking for June. They finally reunited, only to have him find that the woman he knew as Laura had lived an entirely other life as Naomi, and then reveals her real self to be June. So there's a lot between the two of them.

Al is another... she started out in the first half of Season 4 as sort of a lone figure, traversing the apocalyptic landscape, collecting stories, just sort of going place to place, story to story. She's found herself tied to this group now. Morgan asking her to go back with him to Alexandria, this is a story she was obviously interested in. They are people who have connections to each other, but are separated as they are all trying to navigate who they are going to be going forward, and what their purpose is going to be.

Let's talk about Morgan and how he is trying to get his "new friends" to go back to Virginia with him.

Goldberg: Morgan has already been on a pretty incredible emotional journey so far this season. When we first saw him in Episode 401, he was leaving everyone that he was close to because he felt he needed to be isolated. By Episode 408, it was very different. He was at a campsite, surrounded by an entirely new group of people. Some had presented as friends, some as foes. But he's no longer running from people in 408.

In 409, he's come to a place where he wants to return to the people he left behind. There's something very decent in Morgan that is driving his decision, something he might not totally understand yet, that is rooted in a lot of the emotional ghosts from his past. The journey that Morgan is hoping to go on to Alexandria probably won't go the way he's planned. There will be a lot of detours along the way, a lot of challenges to face as he takes that upon himself.

Is it safe to say that Morgan will be returning to The Walking Dead?

Chambliss: Morgan's journey on Fear is far from over. As Ian said, the back half of this season is him grappling with what it is inside him that makes him think this new group of people he's with are the people he should be with — or not be with. Alicia kind of frames that questions for him at the end of 409, when Morgan tells her that she can kind of remember her mom by helping the people around her. Alicia throws back at him, "If that's the case, why are you leaving us?"

Morgan looks at her and he really doesn't have an answer. I don't think that's a question he has asked himself yet, but it is one he will be asking, going forward, over the next eight episodes.

The storm is a very interesting hurdle that I'm surprised we haven't seen in any previous iteration of The Walking Dead universe. Can you talk about how you came up with this idea, and the idea of walkers just flying through the air?

Chambliss: We started the back half of this season wanting our characters to go up against something we hadn't seen before and that wasn't a human adversary. Obviously, the Vultures played a big part in the first half of the season, so we were looking for something that felt a bit different. As we were looking at what both shows had done over the course of their runs, we asked ourselves the same question: "Why haven't we seen a big storm before?" It got us very excited about putting our characters in a world that is already very hard to survive, and asking, "How does it become harder in the aftermath of a hurricane?"

Not just that, but how does it change the walkers? How does it present new walker threats that we haven't seen before? As soon as we started talking about that, we said we needed to see some walkers going through the air at 100 mph, and we got very excited. We had a lot of phone calls with our production team, and it turns out that we were able to do quite a lot of stuff that was a lot of fun and different and exciting. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude, because they worked very hard to pull off a lot of things that we didn't think were necessarily possible when we thought them up.

There is a scene in which a group of walkers is killed beneath a pile of lumber, with a kind of cartoonish smash. How did you decide on this particular, unique kill?

Chambliss: In this particular episode, we were looking at locations, and a lumberyard was one of the locations we had available, that we thought about setting the final sequence at. Ultimately, a lot of times it comes down to looking at what we have on hand and finding fun, inventive ways to kill the walkers. That is how we ultimately arrived at the big stack of logs crushing the herd of walkers as they encroached on Morgan.

We see a "take a supply, leave a supply" box. Is this another trap, or is there good intent behind it?

Chambliss: That box will play a very important role in the season going forward. I don't want to give away too much about it, but I think people are right to be suspicious of it. The one thing that is also important to us is that we are telling stories about people finding hope, and that box may offer just a little bit of that.

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC.