Here’s why Fearing The Walking Dead killed former main character Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) in season 3. Few could have predicted the runaway success of AMC’s The Walking Dead series when it was first announced. Based on the cult graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, the show followed a group of survivors as they adjust to a world turned upside down by a zombie outbreak. While the show weathered some behind-the-scene issues during its first few seasons, such as the firing of original showrunner Frank Darabont, the great cast of characters, soap opera plotlines, and intense gore kept fans hooked week after week.
Just like the comic, The Walking Dead series wasn’t afraid to kill off major characters with little warning either. The continued success of the show led to a prequel series called Fear The Walking Dead being greenlit, with the first season airing in 2015. Fear The Walking Dead introduced new lead characters Travis Manawa and Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), a couple who try to keep their family together in the early days of the zombie outbreak. Much like Rick Grimes, Travis was Fear The Walking Dead's moral compass but he gradually adjusts to the harshness of the new world.
Fear The Walking Dead also provided character actor Cliff Curtis with a lead role after years of stealing movies in supporting parts. It appeared Fear The Walking Dead was setting up Travis to become a darker character following the loss of his son in season 2, but season 3 took a shocking turn in season 3. In the episode “The New Frontier” Travis is shot in the neck while he and Madison’s daughter Alicia are escaping in a helicopter. Travis – who was secretly bitten prior to this – decides to jump out of the helicopter rather than put other survivors in danger.
Travis’s death was a turning point for Fear The Walking Dead and proved the show wasn’t afraid to take risks. His demise later empowered Madison to take charge and do what she felt necessary to survive in the new world. Fear The Walking Dead showrunner Dave Erickson later admitted Travis was supposed to last longer on the series but his early exit allowed other characters to have the spotlight. In fact, fans of Fear The Walking Dead feel the show took an upswing in quality following Travis’ death, and just like The Walking Dead, few of the original cast still remain.
Those following the career of Cliff Curtis offscreen probably foresaw Travis' death coming, however. It was announced in 2017 the actor was joining the cast of James Cameron’s Avatar sequels as Tonowari, leader of Pandora’s reef people. Curtis wouldn’t have been able to split his time between filming the Avatar sequels and Travis on Fear The Walking Dead, and a major role in a blockbuster movie franchise was always going to be the more tempting offer. Travis is missed by Fear The Walking Dead fans, but his loss helped pushed the show in intriguing new directions,