Even with hundreds of episodes in the tank for the Walking Dead franchise, the midseason finale of Fear the Walking Dead still managed to surprise with a new, completely terrifying form of zombie. Spoilers past this point, but in “Damage From The Inside,” Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Dakota (Zoe Colletti) and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) were held captive in a mansion with a taxidermist who has a habit of modifying zombies, adding antlers and other animal parts.
“When I saw those antlered zombies, I just thought, personally, for me that was the coolest looking walkers we have ever done,” Debnam-Carey told Decider. “It felt a little bit whimsical, but macabre and a little creepy.”
After a climactic battle that leaves the taxidermist dead and Alicia reunited with Morgan (Lennie James), the stage is set for the second half of the season, and battle lines drawn. Dakota is heading off with Alicia, her sister Virginia (Colby Minifie) is on the warpath, with the surprising revelation that she is holding the very pregnant Grace (Karen David) hostage, and Strand (Colman Domingo) seems to have officially turned to the dark side.
With all those balls in the air, and the currently filming second half of Season 6 presumably premiering some time in 2021, we chatted with Debnam-Carey about Alicia’s journey going forward, one that will “change her for good.”
Decider: I wanted to start with the whole Frankenstein’s castle nature of the setting of the majority of the episode… What was it like, working on that cabin set, and with all of those antlered zombies?
Alycia Debnam-Carey: When I saw those antlered zombies, I just thought, personally, for me that was the coolest looking walkers we have ever done. I think that for the whole show, it’s so unique. It reminded me more of almost a Pan’s Labyrinth type vibe. It felt a little bit whimsical, but macabre and a little creepy. I just thought the look of that was really cinematic, and really, really cool. So I was really excited to do that.
And then I thought the whole taxidermy, cabin in the woods — it’s just so unique and creepy. It provided such an amazing looking setting, but also, I just felt it was something we hadn’t done before. I really liked it. Definitely one of my favorite set-pieces. I remember, though, also at the time being there, we were there for so long. At the end of the episode, we were all like, “Ugh, let’s get out of this cabin. It’s just so creepy.” All these creepy glass-eyed animals on the wall.
To get more into the meat of the episode: there’s almost this direct line where we see Alicia has been mentoring Charlie, and then her interactions with her own mentor, Morgan. What worked about this theme for you, and potentially, what it means for Alicia going forward.
I guess there are two things about it: the slow mentorship that is happening with Charlie is—it was nuanced, and I like that it was also a new thing that Alicia is trying out. She also had a flux of mentors in this apocalypse. And she realizes how important it is for her to have some sort of stable figure, because so many of hers have either died or have become a little — what’s the right word? Lost in the chaos, of sorts. I liked seeing that development with her.
And then obviously it speaks to, yes: her stepping up to Morgan. We’re seeing Alicia become — that’s what I meant by, almost a leader in her own right. She’s now deciding to go, “I have my own way of doing this, and it doesn’t have to fall in line with what you want.” Her own code of morals and ethics are really starting to shine through. I also just really liked having that seen with Lennie [James], who plays Morgan. Because the dynamic between he and I, I always enjoy working with him. I also think it’s a really nice dynamic between the two characters. It’s unexpected to see her suddenly go, “I’m not doing it your way. It doesn’t always have to be like that. I’m going to do what’s in my best interest, because I also want to protect the people that I know need protecting.” It’s the start, I think, of a lot more growth from Alicia.
From a fan perspective, it’s almost like we’ve been watching Alicia in this six-year training program, to see her finally get to the place we know she can get to. At the end of this episode, is she finally ready to lead now? Or does she have more steps to go?
We have a few more steps to go, I think. It’s definitely happening. But there’s a few final challenges that she’s going to have to overcome. But I think by the end of the season, we’ll be quite excited to see where we leave her.
Let’s talk about her plan to return to the stadium, which is called out in the episode as specifically something she’s relying on the past, something she decides against by these episodes’ end. Certainly, as a viewer, I’m like, “Oh, is there any chance that she’s hoping that, in some form, she’s going to see Madison there?” Was it about that at all? Or was it more about returning to something familiar?
For her growth, she’s also trying to mimic what others in her life have done successfully. The stadium was a true representation of success at a time that was built by her mother. For her, it is symbolic of a pragmatism based in reality. I don’t know, necessarily, it was about trying to see if her mother was still there and alive. I think it was more in an effort of closure. And continuing a dream that was cut short for Madison. I don’t think it’s quite grounded — I’m sure there’s a tinge of that wanting to believe, but also Alicia’s understanding of the fact that it’s gone.
That showdown with Strand at the cabin is pretty intense. Is there a moment where Alicia thinks he’s actually going to pull the trigger? Is their relationship that broken at this point? Or is there something reparable?
I think she’s still calling his bluff. I agree with you, I think there are both those things there. There is a momentary tinge of doubt on Alicia’s end of, “Here is this con man again.” Here is this person, who actually has reverted back to this person that she’s not familiar with, and the danger of what he could actually do. I still think she is inherently knowing of who he is, deep down. But I also think she’s calling his bluff. She does feel like she trusts what she knows about him. But yeah, I do think there’s a tinge of doubt in that moment as well.
Dakota’s relationship in this episode is very different from Alicia’s relationship with Charlie. Despite her being the lynchpin of the plot, does Alicia view Dakota as more of a chess piece? Or is there something more there?
At first, she sees her as a chess piece because she doesn’t want to get hurt and be wrong, and jeopardize people in her life again. So she’s very cautious with her. But on a more human level, actually realizes that the reason why Charlie is with her, and why they’re able to be with one another is because Alicia gave a part of her and a part of Charlie — that the world had turned them into monsters. Alicia is trying to rectify that and try the humanistic perspective with Dakota. That’s what she’s always wrestling with. Alicia’s always been savvy and pragmatic, and trying to do these chess moves. But she’s also, at her core, and why I think she’s lasted so long, is because she has that element of compassion. And is attempting to capture the goodness in people, and use that as the throughline to make the world better. I think it’s a dance she’s always doing.
There’s definitely a tease at the end of the episode that things are going to get very big going forward in the second half of the season. Since we talked at the beginning of the season about this anthology format, and I know you were enjoying the fact that you could really be one-on-one with the actors — with, potentially, this war growing out with Virginia, have you still been able to do that in the second half of the season? Have those really meaty actor scenes? Or is it getting blown out in terms of the action?
No, it’s still really sticking to that two/three sort of lynchpin characters in each episode. I’m really enjoying it. Of course, there are always few sections in each episode where the scale is a little bit bigger. But that is just the nature of the show. They have really stuck to harnessing the core dynamic with a few characters. It just helps everything. I feel like it also drives the story forward so much more, because we are really getting an insight into each character’s life and experience. We know where they’re really coming from, by the time that we get to the end. There’s definitely more of that as we go into the back half. They’re really sticking to that.
In terms of the emotional arc for Alicia, whenever she shows up in the second half of the season. Where, thematically, can we expect her to go?
Thematically, we can expect her to have her limits tested, once again. To rise to the occasion, but also to be forced into a situation that is going to change her for good. So that’s interesting.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Fear the Walking Dead will return for the rest of Season 6 on AMC in 2021.
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