Major spoilers below for Fear the Walking Dead's latest episode, so be warned!
Despite Fear the Walking Dead shifting away from the anthological episodic approach that made the first batch of episodes so distinct and acclaimed, I'm still convinced Season 6 is the zombie drama's best run yet. Episode 11, "The Holding," definitely kept those views intact with its long-awaited introduction to the villainous "End Is The Beginning" group and its bearded leader Teddy, as portrayed by Smallville vet John Glover. Like some of the best antagonists in the Dead franchise, this cult-esque group isn't 100% evil, even if it's fueled by ideas that initially sound totally batshit.
Ahead of Episode 11 hitting AMC and its streaming service AMC+, CinemaBlend spoke with new Fear the Walking Dead recruit Nick Stahl, of Carnivale and Terminator 3 fame. Here's what he told me when I asked for his first impressions about the new group:
Considering how much set-up went into this episode-long introduction, I was quite relieved that even though Alicia did her best to fuck the underground group's world up, they were definitely proven to be more than a one-and-done threat by the end of the episode. Now let's dive deeper into their overall philosophy!
Why Teddy's Group Is "Somewhat Attractive" To Nick Stahl
Even though Fear the Walking Dead viewers weren't privy to much information about the new group ahead of "The Holding" airing, fans know what the deal is when it comes to large groups of characters who appear to be doing just fine in the post-apocalypse. Since, you know, nobody is doing just fine in the post-apocalypse. So while Nick Stahl's Riley, Chinaza Uche's Derek and the other new characters do not appear to be either total villains or victims at first glance, that obviously gets upended as the story moves forward. But even still, nobody's coming across as a total monster, and that dubious balance played a lot into how Stahl approached the wrong from an acting standpoint. In his words:
I'm sure most of the people reading this, and the majority of Fear the Walking Dead fans in general, would like to believe they'd keep to virtuous high roads in times of chaos and panic. We'd all love to be the Johns and the Junes of the world - or at least the not-dead versions - and there definitely would be a lot of people just like that out there if the world ever fell to a zombie outbreak. But there would absolutely also be groups just like Teddy's, where well-minded survival instincts become overtly tainted with various forms of mental degradation, to the point where you have a room full of deluded people staring at a flora-covered walker as if it's Christ on a cross.
Still, the reason why groups like that are successful is partly because their leaders often do sincerely have members' best wishes in mind, at least at first. To that end, Nick Stahl says this is basically the case with Teddy's second banana Riley, and he also pointed out how Teddy's group compares to similar real-life groups by way of its recruitment process. In his words:
When first learning about the underground group, it wouldn't be outlandish to compare the grow-work-survive ethic to that of a traditional commune. And for the most part, Nick Stahl's Riley doesn't exactly seem like he's trying to lie or fool Alicia's group upon their arrival, and it's mostly after the show's protagonists start dismantling the group's settlement and ideals that Riley and others become more threatening. Of course, it all sounds a lot more suspect after the room full of walkers is discovered, and after learning they were indeed responsible for Tank Town's destruction.
Why Teddy Has So Many Followers
I don't want to make any petty generalizations here, but I think we can all agree that John Glover's Teddy looks like he just woke up from leading a cult of Rip Van Winkle cosplayers. So while I think he definitely looks and acts the part quite naturally, it's mildly astonishing that Teddy convinced so many people to stick around instead of calling him a kook and going on about their post-apocalyptic days. Of course, Teddy's underground accomplishments have far more to do with his thoughts than his wild eyes and bushy facial hair. Below, Nick Stahl explains what makes Teddy such a good leader.
Nick Stahl really does hit the nail on the head with that explanation.The biggest draw-in factor for these group members likely isn't the hot food, the concrete living situation or the sense of community - not that any of those hurt - but rather Teddy's way of making the concept of death less intense and harrowing. In the end, that might very well be what people want the most, and if it comes wrapped in double-speak and hippie-leaning mantras, so be it.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET, and we're hoping to see a lot more from Rubén Blades' Daniel Salazar getting his mind right while settling down in Lawton with Colman Domingo's Victor Strand, since that's not a combination that seems destined for peace and tranquility. And I'm also highly curious whether Alicia's multiple references to her mom are any indication that Kim Dickens' Madison Clark will somehow still make a return.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.