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'Fear the Walking Dead' works through its changes at Comic-Con

'Fear the Walking Dead' works through its changes at Comic-Con
Alycia Deb-Carey, Colman Domingo, Danay Garcia, Jenna Elfman, and Garret Dillahunt participate in the panel discussion for "Fear the Walking Dead" at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International. (Chris Delmas / AFP/Getty Images)

A two-hour zombie-palooza kicked off at Comic-Con on Friday morning with a Hall H panel dedicated to AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead,” which served as the opening act for sibling show “The Walking Dead.”

But for all the familiarity that comes with more than three seasons and a Hall H crowded with fans and the occasional zombie cosplayer, the “Fear the Walking Dead” panel in part felt like the introduction of a new show after the first part of Season 4 saw the somewhat controversial death of Madison (Kim Dickens), one of its central characters.

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After the panel kicked off with a gag reel and a teaser of upcoming episodes — there were storm-blown walkers to the tune of Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet” and all manner of blunt-force exterminations — new showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg were introduced as the forces behind the changes. But executive producer Scott Gimple revealed a hidden influence on the show’s evolving storyline: Nickelodeon.

“There’s a little show called ‘Pete & Pete,’ ” he said to a few shouts of recognition from the crowd. “The gentlemen on that show said they were pursuing sad, funny, strange and beautiful. So we check all those boxes and added scary and screwed up.”

The showrunners spoke of the “very different energies” brought by the new cast members, who include Aaron Stanford from “12 Monkeys” and “Mad TV’s” Mo Collins. But there wasn’t much time given to mourn previous losses. The biggest mention during the panel came during a discussion of varying survival methods that referenced Dickens’ character. “Aww, Madison,” moderator Yvette Nicole Brown interjected mournfully.

Brown’s presence constituted another change for the franchise as she took over for Chris Hardwick, whose status AMC is still evaluating amid recent allegations of his being abusive to an ex-girlfriend. His name went unspoken as well, but the panel rolled on in Brown’s capable hands.

She cheerfully identified herself as a shipper for Jenna Elfman and Garret Dillahunt’s characters, and at one point she recounted an off-color joke by Dillahunt that didn’t quite land. “Send your letters to me, I’ll take your letters,” Brown joked.

During the audience Q&A, the showrunners were also cagey, as could be expected, about future appearances by characters from “The Walking Dead” as each show has played with different timelines and, in the case of Lennie James’ Morgan, shared timelines.

“Things are going to change on ‘The Walking Dead,’ ” Gimple hinted. “Our windows together [between shows] will be brief, but they will happen. And I know that’s a riveting answer.”

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