Fear the Walking Dead co-showrunner Ian Goldberg describes how a last-minute shot kept the show from releasing its first-ever zombie-free episode.
AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead very nearly released an episode with zero zombies. A spinoff of mega-popular The Walking Dead, which is itself an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s beloved comic book series of the same name, Fear the Walking Dead premiered in 2015 and will return for season 7 this fall. Current showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss came on board in season 4, and though seasons 4 and 5 of FTWD received a lackluster response from fans, season 6 fared better.
The show’s core group, currently led by Morgan (Lennie James), was somewhat splintered this past season, both ideologically, as they dealt with differing opinions about what type of future they should be working towards, and physically, as they faced forced separation from each other and ongoing threats by groups such as the Pioneers, led by Virginia (Colby Minifie), and a doomsday cult led by Teddy (John Glover). As FTWD focused more on the characters’ interpersonal struggles, the ever-present threat of zombies largely faded into the background.
So far into the background, in fact, that they were almost entirely left out of one episode. Goldberg shared in a Twitch live stream for TWDUniverse (via ComicBook) that FTWD season 6, episode 9, “Things Left to Do,” was very nearly zombie-free. He explained that the episode was so concentrated on the human storyline that if it hadn’t been for the addition of a last-minute shot, there would have been no zombies onscreen at all. Read his full quote below:
“It’s a strange thing because when we approach these scripts, walkers are such a big part of it. And we realized when we got into it that we just had not put any in [Episode 609]. I think because we were so kind of consumed with the human drama between Virginia and Morgan, and sort of the final gathering clouds of the war and the storm and sort of this end of Virginia, that we watched the cut and we were just like, ‘Wow, there’s no walkers in the episode.’
It didn’t really bother us that much, but we thought, ‘It might be good to have some walker presence.’ So we had to get a couple pick-ups [shots] anyway, so we decided to put one [walker] in.”
Were it not for that last-minute decision, this would have been the first episode of FTWD not to feature a zombie. It doesn’t seem like it’s a milestone the show will reach anytime soon. Goldberg went on to explain that he felt FTWD “can’t have a walker-free episode,” and that the upcoming season 7 will showcase the work of special effects makeup artist Greg Nicotero with new zombies who are “weird and scary and nightmarish” as a result of the nuclear fallout masterminded by Teddy. It stands to reason that zombies will be very present in season 7, if only to help reveal the damage caused by the warheads detonated in the season 6 finale.
Looking forward, however, a zombie-free episode of FTWD makes a lot of sense. While it may sound strange at first, it has long been clear that the real threat in the Walking Dead universe is the other living people who inhabit it. Though Virginia and Teddy may now be out of the picture, the destruction caused by Teddy’s actions will be catastrophic, and signs point to more trouble brewing from within the core cast of characters, possibly coming from master of survival and ethical ambiguity, Victor Strand (Colman Domingo). Whoever turns out to be the next big bad on Fear the Walking Dead, the dead themselves are becoming less of a danger, and an episode without zombies may well be on the horizon.
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