RIP, Fear the Walking Dead. The long-running spinoff of AMC’s zombie hit officially wrapped up tonight with the final two episodes of its run. And while the show has been eight seasons long, for the bulk of that run — since Season 4 — co-showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have been overseeing the franchise.
The good news is, they got to take out the show on their own terms, including with — spoilers past this point — the surprising return of series star Alycia Debnam-Carey, who exited the show in Season 7.
“Luckily, all the stars aligned so we were able to pull it off,” Chambliss told Decider. “But we didn’t have any contingency plans. Because I think in our hearts, we didn’t want the show to end any other way.”
In the final episode, not only does Alicia (Debnam-Carey) return, but Madison (Kim Dickens) puts her past to rest, and heads back to LA to see how the zombie apocalypse has treated the city of angels. Not only that, the whole group survives the finale, all heading in their different directions. A surprisingly hopeful ending, but then, that was the point.
Read on for much more with the showrunners on the series finale. And be sure to read our other Fear the Walking Dead series finale interviews:
Decider: What was involved in getting Alycia back on the show? And was that the plan all along or were there contingencies in case it didn’t work out?
Andrew Chambliss: That was something that we actually first talked to Alycia about in season seven when we were wrapping out her story. We knew Madison was coming back for season eight and that our dream for the end of the show was a reunion between the two of them. So it was something that we were keeping in touch with Alycia about over the course of season eight, talking to her about the story and how they would come back together.
And then as we got closer to the end of season eight, we just stayed in close contact with her so we could figure out all the logistics. She was doing other projects. And luckily, all the stars aligned so we were able to pull it off. But we didn’t have any contingency plans. Because I think in our hearts, we didn’t want the show to end any other way.
How did Alicia not only survive but seemingly get better after the last place we left her? She was dying of radiation and the zombie bite and maybe some other things. So when we see her again, she seems happy, and healthy. She’s been going around and inspiring people. Were you able to fill in between those two blanks, so to speak?
Chambliss: Yeah, I mean, the answer really is back in season seven when she wakes up on that beach. And back in season seven, it played like: is this reality? Is this the afterlife? She looks a lot better. But our intention there was that the fever had broken and she had actually … at the end of season seven, her body had fought off whatever it was that was causing that illness.
Without getting into the weeds about walker bites and all that, one thing that we did talk about in season seven and that is on-screen many different times is the idea that maybe this wasn’t an infection from the walker bite, that perhaps it was something she picked up during the amputation in that drainage ditch that she was in.
I love the moment when Madison and Alicia are talking. And Madison says, “Wow, this feels like a dream.” Alicia’s like, “I am really here.” And you two popped out from the side, and you’re like, “Just so you guys watching know, this is real. This is really happening.”[Laughs]
More seriously, that reunion scene between Madison and Alicia, how much work went into making sure that was just right?
Ian Goldberg: Ultimately, to us, it was the emotional climax of the episode, that and Madison’s sacrifice at PADRE. Those two moments are what everything revolved around, so we did want to get it right. We rewrote and rewrote that scene between Madison and Alicia countless times. We had lots of conversations with Kim and Alycia about it. And then there was the logistical component of just making sure that we could get Alycia Debnam-Carey to Savannah during the dates we needed her to shoot her scenes. And there was a lot of work and a bit of luck that went into the stars aligning for all of it. But fortunately, it all worked out. We think it’s a beautiful moment. And we could not imagine not having that at the end of the series. Yeah, it’s beautiful.
I did want to ask you about Tracy because she’s become a big important character in these last couple of episodes very quickly, to the point that you end with, while she’s not exactly a Clark, three generations of Clark women are wandering off together. Why the focus on her? Why was this character important to bring in here in the final few episodes?
Chambliss: For Madison, who in the tail-end of this season is really struggling with Alicia’s fate, her responsibility in that, whether or not she did the right thing by her kids, having someone who almost was like an avatar for Alicia really felt like an effective way to dramatize her internal journey. And then the more and more we talked about it, and this was a show that started with, Madison as the matriarch of a blended family, it felt like there was something right about ending the show with the three Clark women walking off, this very odd blended family that includes the child of one of their enemies from their past.
And I think a big part of what the show has been about is the family that you find, the family that you build, the people that you make connections with. And that very last image speaks to that.
You leave, as we’re talking about, with a very almost pointed tease where you could do a potential spinoff focusing on these three Clark women going back to LA and seeing what it’s like. Is that anything in the works? Or was that just where it felt like it was good to leave these characters?
Goldberg: It felt like it was where we wanted to leave the characters. And in all our discussions with [Walking Dead CCO] Scott [M. Gimple] and AMC, that was our edict, land the Fear plane. And any subsequent stories that might arise elsewhere in the universe, spinoffs of these characters, that’s more Scott and AMC’s domain. But I would certainly love to see it. I think that could be a great series. Madison, Alicia, and Tracy going back to where it all started.
On the spinoff front, another one that felt like a really big, palpable idea was ending with Dwight and Sherry going back and maybe doing a Flip-My-House type thing with Sanctuary.[Laughs]
You set that up a couple of episodes back by reintroducing the setting, but what was your thought about ending those two characters in that place?
Chambliss: It really was kind of continuing those final moments that we set up when they were last at the Sanctuary. Just the idea that Dwight and Sherry are in this place where they’re actually looking inward and really trying to work on healing all the internal trauma. And it felt like a fitting place to do that would be going back to the origin of that. While they’re working on themselves internally, they could also be working on fixing up the Sanctuary. But yeah, I do agree Dwight and Sherry starting Saviors 2.0, but the Saviors for Good would be a cool idea.
Luciana and Daniel go their own path as well. But my main question is: how old is Skidmark at this point? Or did they trick him and then that’s another cat that looks like Skidmark?
Goldberg: [Laughs] Oh, that would be so cruel.
Goldberg: … if it was another cat. No, that is actually Skidmark. Skidmark clearly has nine lives. He has endured a lot since we met him in season five. But that was another reunion that we were the most excited for was Daniel and Skidmark. And then Alicia played a role in that was something else that we got very excited about.
I love the look on Rubén’s face when he sees the cat again. It’s so delightful.
Goldberg: Pure joy.
As we’re talking about here, it was pleasantly surprising to see so many open endings for all the characters ,and see the group separate, have their different paths. Why was this the right place to end the group, rather than them together heading off somewhere together, or characters dying?
Chambliss: I mean, thematically, what this season was about and what the finale was specifically about was just this idea of the legacy that you leave behind and how fighting for an ideal, something bigger than yourself can live beyond you. And it seemed like the most effective way to land that was to see all of these different characters taking the things that they learned on Fear and in this episode, what they saw Madison do and how that affected them and take those ideas to the different corners of the apocalypse. And it just felt like that would be more effective if all these different characters were going their own way than if they were all heading off in one group.
And that’s what made us feel like that was fitting. It also kind of allowed us to feel like this chapter was ending and that people weren’t asking the question, well, what happens next to the cast of Fear? This, I think, really says, this is the end of Fear. And now these journeys may go elsewhere, whether they’re in people’s imaginations or on other shows. That’s really the vibe we were going for.
I did want to ask you about Madison, I don’t know if you saw it this way, but it almost seemed like she was the final boss of the series in these past two episodes, at least with the rest of the group arrayed against her until she ultimately redeems herself by partially blowing up PADRE. What’s your take on that?
Goldberg: I think that’s a great way to look at it. We wanted to bring Madison in these last two … really across the latter half of season eight. But in particular, in these last two episodes, we wanted to bring her to her lowest point where we would see Madison at her … I guess you’d say at her darkest hour, when the philosophy that she had espoused in season four coming into season eight as she was striving to rebuild PADRE of “no one’s gone until they’re gone,” a philosophy of forgiveness and second chances… She was abandoning that.
And the most dramatic example of that is killing Troy and not giving him any chance at redemption at the end of the penultimate episode. Seeing how that rippled through the finale with the people that she loved, her family that she’d built in the apocalypse, Strand, Daniel, Luciana, everyone. And in particular, Tracy. And I mean, saying Madison was the final boss, in a way… She was an antagonist to the rest of the group, which we thought was an interesting dynamic to explore. But it was really about her own internal struggle of who she was going to be, and what she was going to fight for, and what her legacy was going to be. And ultimately, she chose one of hope. She came out of the darkness.
I’m going to have to let you go in one second. So I wanted to ask you guys, you’ve been going from show to show for well over a decade now and finished up a big run here. Do you have anything else lined up next? Or you are you taking a break?
Chambliss: Yeah, definitely taking a break from jumping into another big show, but just working on some development and creating some new worlds outside of the apocalypse.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Get Best News and Web Services here