Fear the Walking Dead Showrunners Explain Character’s Sacrifice in The Key

Fear the Walking Dead killed off a member of Morgan's (Lennie James) group in Sunday's "The Key," which entangles former cop John Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) in a murder mystery-turned conspiracy when one of Virginia's (Colby Minifie) Rangers dies under unusual circumstances. When John discovers the semi-eaten body of Ranger Cameron (Noah Khyle) wrapped in a barbwire fence, he mounts an investigation amid suspicions a killer is on the loose inside the otherwise sleepy settlement of Lawton, Oklahoma. Virginia pins the murder on "flight risk" Janis (Holly Curran), Cameron's secret girlfriend, who confesses to the crime despite John uncovering evidence proving Janis couldn't have committed the murder.

Despite her innocence, Janis is sentenced to execution and torn apart by flesh-hungry walkers outside Lawton's gates.

"I think Janis is very appreciative of the lengths of Dorie is going to in order to try to free her and prove her innocence. But Janis is someone who has lived under Virginia for much longer than John has," showrunner Andrew Chambliss told EW. "She lost her brother in an attempt to escape. She knows that Virginia is going to have this rigged. So, she is well aware that anything Dorie does is just going to not work. It's going to get her hurt, it's going to get Dorie hurt. So, her deciding to take the fall is really her trying to spare Dorie."

Losing Cameron weeks after the death of brother Tom (Joe Massingill) is enough for Janis to sacrifice herself if it means John can escape and reunite with June (Jenna Elfman), the wife torn away from him by Virginia at Humbug's Gulch.

"As she tells him, she doesn't have anyone. Cameron was the one person she had connected to since she lost her brother, and he's been taken away from her," Chambliss said. "So, as far as she sees it, she would rather take the blame and die so John can live and have that relationship with June. So, it's really kind of a noble sacrifice she's making there. Even though John doesn't really see it that way in the moment and can't accept her giving up."

Like the Die Hard-inspired "Alaska," this episode also drew inspiration from a famous film: Jack Nicholson's neo-noir mystery Chinatown.

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"The genesis of this one from the beginning is we really wanted to tell John Dorie's Chinatown. Both on sort of the crime investigative aspect, but also kind of in the position of the JJ Gittes' character in Chinatown; where he's haunted by his past and finds himself destroyed by a crime in the present," said showrunner Ian Goldberg. "So, it was just that kind of scaffolding has been really exciting for us as we're crafting these episodes. To be like, 'Wouldn't it be cool to tell Chinatown with John Dorie?' And everything kind of extrapolates from there."

Follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter for all things TWD. New episodes of Fear the Walking Dead premiere Sundays at 9 pm ET/8c on AMC.