Fear the Walking Dead is currently in a storytelling renaissance, and one that resonates more than a lot of other TV dramas. Part of that is the "Ranchers vs. Nation" cultural narrative taking place, as well as everything involving the dam, but another part of it is the always evolving family dynamic between Madison, Nick and Alicia. And according to showrunner Dave Erickson, who spoke with CinemaBlend about the back half of Season 3, it's only going to get more complicated going forward, thanks to Jeremiah Otto's murder. Here's what else Erickson told me.
I think that the trauma of [Jeremiah Otto's] murder is gonna stay with [Nick] for a while, and he'll continue to be haunted by it, and that's gonna steer him through the back half. And it's really gonna force him to finally question his mother's choices, and the person that his mother is. Can he really truck with that? And I think Alicia, to the same degree, we come to realize she's not a fool. She knows full well that her brother and mother were responsible for the death of Otto, and she also knows that it's a lie they have to maintain, because if Jake were to discover the truth, if the ranchers or the militia were to discover the truth, this very tenuous peace would go away. So you've got a family who are really entered into the conspiracy, anchored by the killing of Jeremiah Otto, and they all have choices to make moving forward. I think it's the first time, finally, you're gonna see Alicia and Nick define who they are in the apocalypse. Sadly, I think that definition is gonna come in opposition to their mom.
Even though we've already seen several forms of strife come up within the Clark family, that was usually because someone was being immaturely indignant for one reason or another. But now, in the face of Jeremiah Otto's murder-turned-beheading-disguised-as-a-suicide, the ties that bind are being strained by some legitimately troublesome elements, and while Nick and Alicia have done what they needed to do in order to maintain survival, neither one of them really reached the precipice or normal adulthood before the apocalypse hit. So they've largely just followed in Madison's footsteps, since she's been able to keep their heads above water.
But there's blood in that water, and Madison is partly keeping afloat by standing atop the bodies of others, which just isn't naturally in Nick or Alicia's nature. (At least at this point in their lives, since the future certainly won't be making anyone's existence any easier.) In Season 3, Madison really came into her own as the kind of leader that can easily be compared to The Walking Dead's Rick Grimes, and it'sd likely more of an inner struggle for her to make the consequential choices she makes. After all, she was a high school guidance counselor, while Rick was a cop, which is the kind of job that requires split-second decisions made for the greater good.
But being able to keep the peace through such means as plotting someone's death just can't sit right with people who aren't bred that way. Nick and Alicia didn't have to shoot and kill their father for beating Madison -- at least, we assume -- so they may not be able to stay on board with their mother's "do whatever is necessary" streak throughout the course of Season 3. It's not like everything is truly peaceful yet with anybody else, and I'm not sure that true peace can ever happen with someone like Troy around to cause unpredictable trouble.
Speaking of Troy, Dave Erickson shared with me a bit more about where Nick stands in this situation.
I think that, despite the fact that he was able to stand by his mother rand take that burden from her, he's not a killer; it's not something that has ever really been in his DNA, despite the fact that it's definitely in Madison's. And he's gonna suffer for it, and I think part of that guilt is gonna drive him towards a deepening of his relationship with Troy. And I think that's guilt to a certain degree, but I also think he is still an addict. If you watch the progression of Nick starting in Season 1, he got off heroin, but then quickly started goring himself and going out and hanging out with the dead. There's something in Troy, there's a shared darkness, there's a shared quality of self-destruction which we articulate a bit more explicitly later that he's drawn to. I don't think he necessarily understands it, and maybe doesn't have to.
Nick and Alicia have been giving Madison a lot of mental leeway following Travis' death, but Alicia is clearly on board with Jake Otto's form of peacekeeping, and Nick's habitual nature means he might well find another cause to adhere himself to in the near future. A cause that puts him at odds with Madison's morally ambiguous choices. And if and when the Ottos and ranchers do discover the details behind Jeremiah's death, then Madison will be at odds with more than just her kids.
Sadly, Dave Erickson will be exiting the show following Fear the Walking Dead Season 3, but at least he's going out with a bang. After the midseason finale's return of Ofelia, we're hoping to see a big reuniting with her father, not to mention just seeing more of Daniel in general. And there's still more of Strand's misguided decision-making to see as well.