Fear the Walking Dead Boss Breaks Silence on Season 5 Backlash

The Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple breaks his silence on the largely negative response to the fifth season of spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, the first season of either show to receive a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. Gimple, who boarded the spinoff in its fourth season as executive producer alongside joint showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, says Season 5 was a bridge season necessary for setting up Season 6 — and in time, Gimple says, audiences will come to appreciate Fear Season 5 in retrospect.

"We’ve been lucky enough on that show to be able to do these long-range plans. Season 5 was about setting up this journey that these characters are on through there to Season 6, and I think people are going to see the relationship between those two seasons," Gimple told EW. "I think even getting to the very end of season 5, the last few moments, really informing that whole season about reaching for benevolence and reaching for sweetness and art and just life and how in the circumstances they’re in, it didn’t work, and how we leave a person that put that forward isolated, alone, bleeding in a dead town."

Season 5 ended with the altruistic Morgan (Lennie James), installed as new series lead in Season 4 following the midseason death of Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), shot and left for dead by Pioneer leader Ginny (Colby Minifie). Like the largely farm-set sophomore season of The Walking Dead — where Gimple joined as writer-producer — Gimple expects audiences to give Fear Season 5 another look after viewing it as part of a larger whole.

"I’m curious how people will watch [Season 5] in the future. Season 2 [of TWD], when we did it, we were assailed in a lot of ways," Gimple said. "'Why are they on the farm? Why are doing this? Why are they doing that?' I think in subsequent years, people watching that season had different takes."

He continued, "This Season 5 as a piece setting up Season 6 into a truly serialized entertainment, I think people might see the relationship and the journey, why the journey went the way it did. I was so happy with the way that everybody did. I think it really did come together in the end in this really tragic way that we couldn’t have gotten to without the journey that we had been on."

A rare alignment of audience and critic scores determined the penultimate episode of Season 5 was the worst episode of the entire franchise in terms of reception: the episode is the lowest-rated of either series both in terms of audience feedback and reviews from critics.

"It’s a tricky thing because, again, as long as somebody is coming at their opinion having watched the show, and as long as they have an open mind to start with, anybody’s opinion is valid," Gimple said when asked how much attention is paid to critical feedback. "One of the reasons I don’t read them is because it’s endless. It’s not, 'Okay, I’m going to read this person, this person, but I’m not going to read the other 15 articles, and these people have the mic.' It’s not quite fair, nor do I think it’s storytelling with integrity to just seek out what peoples criticisms are and address those criticisms without looking at the whole of the audience. And does online criticism represent the entirety of the audience? It is the same sort of demographics that are issuing those criticisms that are watching TV, just as far as their interests or their history with the show or any of those things."

That "works both ways," Gimple continued.

"People are saying awesome things about the show. I also don’t think it’s like reading that and be like, 'Ah yes, nailed it.' I don’t think that’s fair either," he said. "It’s a tricky thing because I don’t want the feeling that we’re ignoring it, but also I don’t think it’s wise if you print them all out and try to address everything. It’s just not telling a story with integrity. I mean would we have told [episodes 905 and 906 of TWD] the way that we did if we were just full of worries, if we were just trying to make sure that we weren’t taking a risk and ensuring that everybody in every sort of quarter would be happy with it, with the outcome, with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) going? Which was happening either way, by the way."

Online reaction to Fear Season 5 was largely negative: fans blasted some episodes as "boring," while reactions to another episode called the show "unwatchable." Some viewers dissatisfied with the direction of the show launched a petition calling for the removal of Chambliss and Goldberg, who also faced frequent backlash on social media.

Asked to address fan criticisms in a post-season interview with Insider, Chambliss said, "You know, we told the story that we believe in and we’re proud of what we did and in terms of going forward, the show is changing and that’s always been a part of the plan. You know, it changes every season and every half season and we’re very excited about the direction it’s going and a lot of the tough challenges that our characters ahead are going to be facing."

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Season 6 will reunite long-separated couple Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista), whose reunion comes as the group once led by Morgan — who may or may not have survived the Season 5 finale's cliffhanger ending — is now split up across multiple enemy settlements.

Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 premieres later this year on AMC. For more TWD intel, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.