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Fear is all about optimism and adventure
Fear the Walking Dead returns for Season 5 on June 2, which is Season 2 of its new paradigm. When showrunners Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss took over in Season 4, they turned it into a very different show than what it was for its first three seasons. It changed from a grim family drama at the end of the world into an optimistic Western about people coming together to help others, with a new color palette, new location, and largely new cast. The first half of Season 4 was transitional, killing off Nick (Frank Dillane) and Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) to create space for new main characters like Morgan Jones (Lennie James) -- whose presence connected the previously totally separate Fear to The Walking Dead for the first time -- and June (Jenna Elfman) as the show settled into its new normal in the second half.
Season 5 will continue the spirit of adventure, with a tone that's positively sunny for a Walking Dead property, even more than in Season 4. In fact, executive producer Ian Goldberg told TV Guide that the touchstone for Season 5 was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a movie that would go dark at times but always stayed playful. It's a unique sensibility within the ever-expanding Walking Dead franchise, which will be adding a second spin-off in 2020.
"I think the way that we have conceived of and what we embrace and love about Fear is that it's a very different tone than The Walking Dead, and I believe it's going to be a different tone than the new show," Goldberg said during an interview at April's AMC Summit. "It's obviously a very optimistic, very hopeful show about unifying people. We love that we can go to sort of comedic places with it," like the scene in Season 4 where Morgan compared a wheelchair-accessible bathroom stall to a "little apartment."
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Starting in Season 4, Fear the Walking Dead was added to the portfolio of Scott Gimple, who at that time was given the newly created position of chief content officer of The Walking Dead, developing new properties and overseeing the franchise as a whole. Goldberg says that he and Chambliss are "in fairly constant communication" with Gimple, who's an executive producer on the show. At this point, for better or (some fans would say) worse, Gimple is the person who has established the storytelling values of the Walking Dead TV universe. Goldberg said that he and the other writers are always trying to come with new walker gags and ways to heighten the genre elements, but those things are always subservient to emotion and story and character. "At the end of the day, it's really just about telling these poignant, beautiful little stories that can make people cry, can inspire people, make people laugh, or just tell a weird little O. Henry story that happens to be set in the zombie apocalypse," Goldberg said. "And that's one of the many things Scott does. He just makes sure that that stays consistent and that all things have that stamp that says, 'That's Walking Dead.'"
Fans are still salty about the protagonist Madison Clark being written off the show last season, and Dickens herself said Madison's death was "a huge disappointment." Looking back on how that happened, Goldberg doesn't sound like he has any regret, because Madison's death is what the story needs dictated. "It was really tough because Kim was a huge part of the show," Goldberg said. "We loved what she brought to it. She was such an anchor and a hero and a warrior, and last season, it was all about taking people from a place of hopelessness to hope -- and the loss of Madison, someone who is so pivotal in these character's lives, was really the bottom that they needed to hit in order to drag themselves out of that hole and ultimately find themselves in a better place."
"Any sort of blowback that we got, I think it was just because she was so beloved, and anytime there's a loss of the character, that's devastating," Goldberg said. "But what Andrew and I both hope is that we see how her legacy lives on, and how her loss didn't defeat the people who stayed behind, in fact inspired them to be better, and to continue that legacy going forward."
Fear the Walking Dead Season 5 premieres Sunday, June 2 at 9/8c on AMC. Previous seasons are available to stream on Hulu.