Fear the Walking Dead, The Walking Dead's artier younger sibling, starts its second season Sunday in the 9/8c timeslot just vacated by The Walking Dead after its controversial Season 6 finale. The Los Angeles-set prequel takes place at the beginning of the zombie outbreak, and follows a family with members both blood and surrogate as they figure out how to survive as society collapses and walkers repopulate the city.
At the close of Season 1, the Clark-Manawa-Salazar clan prepared to flee the mainland to mysterious, possibly untrustworthy rich man Victor Strand's (Colman Domingo) mega-yacht. Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) had just put down his ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) to save her from dying of her walker bite and reanimating, a decision that will further strain his relationship with their son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie). Travis' girlfriend Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) has her own hands full with her heroin-addicted son Nick (Frank Dillane) and increasingly unpredictable daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey).
Season 2 picks up a few hours after the end of Season 1, with the crew's escape to the yacht, and it's out of the frying pan — the walkers Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) freed from the arena are swarming the city — and into the fire: They're now basically trapped on a boat, with no known safe harbor and aqua-zombies floating around.
That's right, not only do they have to deal with walkers, they have to deal with swimmers too.
Fear the Walking Dead in Season 2 continues to differentiate itself from its big brother with its human-sized scope. As executive producer and showrunner Dave Erickson tells TVGuide.com, it's basically a family drama with zombies.
"Most of the narrative turns stem more from the interpersonal relationships we've established, and they're just amplified by the presence of the infected and the end of the world," Erickson says.
"One of the big challenges for our characters is deciding at what point do those we love compromise the greater good," he says, "and at that point, what do we do about it?" In other words, can blood stay thicker than bond when you're reliant on the group to survive?
The other big challenge the characters will continue to face is figuring out the boundaries of the new morality the apocalypse requires: When is killing justified?
To answer that question, some characters may have to start to act more like one of AMC's leading men: The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes or Breaking Bad's Walter White. The Rick Grimes will have to do terrible things to protect the others, while the Walter White will do terrible things for power.
Travis Manawa will probably not be either. He struggled with killing all last season, and having to shoot Liza completely broke him. Even Cliff Curtis, the actor who plays him, says he sometimes looks at Travis and thinks, "you're a goner, mate."
"Walter White had genius in him," Curtis says. "Travis wasn't even going to be the principal. He's a good English teacher and a nice bloke, but he's just an average guy."
Madison Clark seems more likely to become the Rick Grimes of the group. "She'll have to wrestle with the moral complexities that come up when her human instinct to help others is challenged and she has to sort of negotiate and learn to take care of the ones that are more responsibility," says Kim Dickens.
Erickson says that one of the main criticisms of the show last year — that since viewers at home know so much more about the dead than the characters, the show lacked an element of surprise — will not be much of an issue, since the characters now know the rules for dealing with zombies, like there's no reasoning, only head trauma.
And one of the other criticisms — not enough zombies! — will definitively end too. Viewers who lust for gruesome zombie effects will be satisfied in the first episode by a close encounter between a swimmer and an outboard motor.
Curtis wouldn't give any gory details of kills Travis will have to make, but he did say that he had his first zombie nightmare the night before he spoke to TVGuide.com.
"They were all coming up over a hill and one of them started running at me really fast," he recalls. "I thought, 'Hey, that's not in the script.'"
Actors having nightmares bodes well for horror fans.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 premieres Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.