Travis is still probably deceased on Fear the Walking Dead, but the show's creative team wants you to know his death has a very real purpose.

The show's central male figure is presumed dead after being shot in the neck and falling out of a helicopter in the season premiere. Executive producer Dave Erickson explained to fans and press at the ATX Television Festival in Austin on Sunday morning after a screening of this season's third episode that Travis' (Cliff Curtis) sacrifice was essential to push Madison (Kim Dickens) and her kids in a darker direction this season.

"A big part of the season is really about morality and the loss of it," Erickson said. "I think Travis was the moral compass of the show. The reason to do it early was to drive Alicia, Nick and Madison in a very specific way. In his absence everyone, especially Madison, doubles down on the cruel aspects of the apocalypse and what you have to do to survive."

Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens, <em>Fear the Walking Dead</em>Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens, Fear the Walking Dead

The immediate effect of Travis' death will send the Clark family spiraling to try and regroup. Once they've gone down the deep, dark, emotional rabbit hole, they'll have to try and find their way out.

"Part of what the season is about is trying to get back to what Travis offered," Erickson continued. "For the most part he was sort of this rock. It's really about the emotional impact [his death] has on Madison, Alicia and Nick. I mean, Alicia was with him when it happened. She's also wrestling with the fact that she killed a man last season. There's a lot going on. Madison is just in a place where she has to do anything humanly possible to protect the kids. Again, she's willing to associate with some very unseemly people to do it."

By unseemly people, Erickson means the Otto family who run the cattle ranch where Madison, Nick and Alicia have found refuge from the walkers outside. Actress Kim Dickens also weighed in on Madison's moral ambiguity when it comes to keeping her kids safe.

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"Madison really takes control and doubles down. I don't think that she can bear his sacrifice to be for nothing," Dickens said at the panel. "Madison goes pretty dark this season. I think [Travis' death] spins her off in that direction. She becomes really merciless in doing whatever she has to do to save her family."

Meanwhile, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is dealing with the guilt of being there when Travis died. Having to be the one to tell her family that he was dead has left her with a feeling of debt to Madison.

"There's such an element of guilt there. Travis did sacrifice his life to some extent," Debnam-Carey explained. "Alicia was there when it happened. Alicia had to deliver the news when it happened and bear that burden all the way until they got to the ranch...I think Alicia feels like she owes it to Madison to stay and support her and get through this as a family and try to bring everything back together."

So, at least Travis didn't die in vain?

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.