First-time Fear the Walking Dead director Lennie James, who stepped behind the camera for Sunday's "Welcome to the Club," explains the Keyser Söze-like reveal behind a seemingly amnesic Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) in Season 6. When Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) reunite with Daniel weeks after their separation at Humbug's Gulch, they're dismayed to see him traumatized and tamed by Virginia (Colby Minifie). Worse still, Daniel has no memory of his old friends or newer friend Charlie (Alexa Nisenson). It's not until Daniel recognizes Morgan (James) in a private setting that the act is dropped, revealing Daniel hasn't forgotten a thing — least of all the skills he picked up long ago as a cold-blooded secret agent.
"That scene to me was so much more about Daniel than it was about Morgan," James said during a panel at the virtual ATX Festival. "For me, it was so much more about the reveal that Daniel hasn't lost his memory and that he's been exercising the skills that Salazar acquired from the job that he used to do."
"And I think it also puts a real kind of onus on how well he's been doing that job because it comes after the beautiful scene that he has with Charlie where she's almost begging for the last time to go, 'Do you remember me?' And it's all on Ruben's face," James added. "The scene came out really, really well, and it's all reliant on Ruben's face that you don't see it. You don't think he's play acting, you don't think he's using subterfuge in that moment — [you think] that he is a man who has lost himself."
Blades played the scene "so beautifully," James said, comparing the episode-ending reveal to a twist from The Usual Suspects.
"He plays it straight, and it's almost like a Keyser Söze moment in Usual Suspects," James explained, "where he suddenly starts walking straight and says, 'You need a haircut, Morgan. It's good to see you.'"
Daniel's pretend memory loss has even convinced conman Strand he's mellowed out and lost his edge — making Daniel a secret weapon inside the walls of Virginia's fortified settlement in Lawton, Oklahoma, where she's assembling an army led by Strand to neutralize a growing threat.
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