Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched the Season 6 finale of Fear the Walking Dead, so be warned!
Even though fans have known for weeks that Fear the Walking Dead was gearing up for a potentially nuclear ending for Season 6, thanks to the deadly machinations of Teddy's "End Is the Beginning" cult, I still wasn't fully prepared for the finale to actually GO THERE. Only one of the missiles actually deployed, which is a depressing silver lining, but the one that did was equipped with ten warheads, and viewers saw some of the literally groundbreaking destruction that was caused by those that detonated. And we didn't even see all of the explosions, so Season 7 could definitely bring the boom when it starts up later this year.
CinemaBlend spoke with Fear the Walking Dead executive producer Michael Satrazemis, who directed the finale, titled "The Beginning," as well as the devastating installment "In Dreams" and others. We obviously talked about the nuclear catastrophe that capped things off, as well as two of the big 100% confirmed deaths that went down, so without any further ado, let's dive into this deadly dust storm.
How Fear The Walking Dead Went Totally Nuclear
To be expected, perhaps, Michael Satrazemis was held in disbelief for a while after learning where showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg wanted to take Teddy's storyline, and he continued to question the reality of the situation as it all came together. In his words:
It's just, in the initial setup of 'a rocket was launched,' nobody in their right minds would let it land. Not filmmaker-wise, you know? That's crazy moving forward; it's so hard to accomplish. So I hope that nobody ever thinks that it's really coming. And it is a big episode, so I got very excited. . . . I knew a lot earlier in the season, obviously, then Andrew and I would go through things in the pitch documents. But I probably asked a few times if it was real. I mean, I know for a fact I did. 'So we're really gonna let it land?... So we're really gonna let it land?' And the answer was still 'Yes,' always. That's just the big one, you know, and you're working towards that and you're like, 'Are we really going to do this?' And then there's a lot of questions. I had a lot of time to wrap my head around it, just knowing that I was going to direct it, but really how to how to accomplish it technically.
With up to ten different warheads going off in up to ten different places, that meant a lot of thought had to go into where each and every main character would be during the explosions, and what their proximity would be to all of the detonations. Considering not everyone was lucky enough to end up in a nuclear bunker, distance is definitely a key factor in this outcome, and Michael Satrazemis said the creative team definitely did their homework to try and keep things as realistic as possible.
All of us - there was probably a little think-tank group of twelve that basically researched blast radiuses and everything. Fallout. Wind shifts. We had to map out warheads, the splitting of the warheads. Mapped out the groups; kind of where they were perspective-wise. There was a lot of mapping it out in prep and talking about it, and where it leads into the future of everything. We watched a lot of videos. [Laughs.] We saw a little too much for me, but we did a lot of research. I think you just have to. With something like this, you want to be as accurate as possible. You don't want to cheat the viewers out of anything, and you don't want to take any licenses. It is a unique perspective that most of us never will ever, ever, ever see, that most people in the history of the world would never get to see. So I think it's nice to bring in audience and fans a perspective that they would never have seen otherwise. . . . We definitely raised the apocalypse to a new level: the nuclear apocalypse.
The relatively quiet and somber way "The Beginning" handled its catastrophic climax made the explosions all the more disturbing and doom-laden, as opposed to a more kinetic and pulse-pounding resolution. It instantly reminded me of the childhood nightmares I had after watching the nuked-out dream sequence in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and when I brought that up to Michael Satrazemis, he laughed and said that scene was definitely part of the inspiration for Fear's finale sequence.
Yeah, we used some of that material as examples for things when we were trying to calculate what degree we wanted to do for visual effects. I mean, that's one of the most horrifying examples. I have it vividly visually burned into my memory.
Even after watching the episode a couple of times, I'm still shocked that Fear the Walking Dead raised the nuclear bar with its Season 6 finale, which is going to make the wait for Season 7 all the more patience-testing. Not that everyone's eventual fate is in question by the end of the episode.
Fear The Walking Dead Killed Off Dakota And Teddy
While all of Fear the Walking Dead's main protagonists made it through the finale safely enough - seemingly defying the poster-centric theory that pointed to Dwight's possible death - Zoe Colletti's allegiance-flipping Dakota and John Glover's murderous cult leader Teddy were not part of that lucky group. It would have been interesting if the show had spent more time with Dakota as Teddy's protégé, but that might have turned her into too much of a straightforward villain, rather than just someone completely broken and ruined by the apocalypse. And so their story ended together, with Dakota putting an end to Teddy's lies after realizing he was just leading taking advantage of her fleeting loyalty, and then succumbing to the nearest explosion.
Here's what Michael Satrazemis had to say about Fear the Walking Dead's latest fatalities:
First of all, John Glover and Zoe Coletti brought amazing performances and amazing characters to the show. They're both immensely talented, and just great people to be around, so there's a little bit of a personal loss every time you lose somebody like that. And you know, I think it's such aa quick wrap-up that I liked; it didn't get played out. There was this dialogue to try to cut through, but when it went, it just went. We chose to do that on set, even allowing Zoe to have her last lines to his dead body. It just felt more appropriate. And then she just faced in and watched it. I just thought that was just such a beautiful visual effect. But I didn't see another way out for Dakota, either. It's hard to see her existing any longer in this world.
Truths. While Dakota probably could have made a quick attempt at salvation by scrambling into the underground shelter, she appeared to have reached her limit with life's disappointments. Thus, there was something vaguely poetic about the character taking her horrific demise head-on, as much as I would have probably enjoyed seeing Jenna Elfman's June getting further revenge for the death of Garret Dillahunt's Dorie Jr. Or even seeing Keith Carradine's John Dorie Sr. taking Dakota out for being the one to kill his lifelong nemesis.
Below, Michael Satrazemis speaks to what her killing Teddy does for the character, and showers more praise on Zoe Colletti for handling Dakota's "high-speed arc" in Season 6 as well as she did.
Yeah, I know. She got this tad bit of redemption right at her end. But for me, I'm still rooting for the actor behind it. Zoe is such an amazing, fantastic person; you would never recognize her outside of Dakota. She's this bubbly, amazing, young, vibrant soul who, when asked to give a deep and emotional performance, will just hit the switch. It was a real pleasure working with them.