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SYFY WIRE Features

'Mrs Davis' creator Damon Lindelof on that 'epic and stupid' Excalibattle adventure in Episode 3

Wylie's awfully big adventure in Episode 3 of Mrs. Davis explains a lot about the character and his big arc.

By Tara Bennett
Jake McDorman as Wiley and Betty Gilpin as Simone sit next to each other with serious expressions on Mrs. Davis

If you've been wondering exactly who Wylie (Jake McDorman) is, and what his story is with Lizzie/Simone (Betty Gilpin), Mrs. Davis Episode 3, “A Baby with Wings, a Sad Boy with Wings and a Great Helmet,” provided a lot of answers.

Per usual, a lot was happening across multiple plots but it's also safe to categorize it as a "Wylie-centric" episode that gives us more context on 1) why he looks like a retired cowboy, 2) why he's always giving Lizzie serious heart-eyes on the sly, and 3) why he funded a whole-ass A.I. Resistance. 

For our latest exclusive SYFY WIRE Mrs. Davis post mortem, we've got co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez explaining how the "Excalibattle" came to be, and Jake McDorman revealing some juicy stories about Wylie's heartbreaking history and the unique way they shot this crazy episode.

RELATED: 'Mrs. Davis' showrunners and Betty Gilpin explain origin of how this wild sci-fi saga was born

**Spoilers below for Mrs. Davis Episode 1.3**

Getting Touchy

Jake McDorman as Wiley leaning against an object with a helmet on

The whole setup of the "Excalibattle," where Wiley feels compelled to prove his worthiness to Lizzie, is both epic and stupid. Talk about revealing Wiley's back story, centering on that fateful day seven years ago that upended his life, and leading to this moment.

Damon Lindelof, Co-creator and Writer: I'll just say that Peacock would never go for this, but I would love epic and stupid to one of our posters, because I think that's exactly right. [Laughs.] Wiley was a little less baked than Simone coming out of the pilot. The [writers'] room was really interested in talking about some degree of toxic masculinity, where we're almost like post toxic masculinity with this idea of, 'What is a man supposed to be?" There's the idea that you can get a man to do really stupid things if you just challenge his manhood, so what is the most on the nose expression of this?

The show is also very interested in Coen Brothers movies. Like, The Resistance are very unoriginal, so they're pulling most of their ideas from Fight Club and Coen Brothers movies. With the Germans, someone just pitched Lebowski and so on. And so the idea was using kind of a Coen Brothers construct of a cowboy like Beau coming into a boardroom, and essentially taking this character — who was about to make a big philanthropic move and run off to Alaska with his girlfriend — gets completely and totally derailed by being told that he's not really a man.

And, you know, writers' rooms are funny. One day someone says, "Has anyone seen Hands on a Hardbody?" And the next thing you know, there's a giant sword sticking out of the ground in Spain.

Tara Hernandez, Co-creator and Showrunner: Or, it's a Thursday after Survivor and Damon and I are chatting about the latest endurance challenge, and how captivating and cinematic it is when people are standing still just trying to hold onto something. [Laughs.]

The Heartbreak Kid

Jake McDorman as Wiley standing in a stable on Mrs. Davis

Episode 3 is really a treasure trove of background on Wylie. When did they give you that script, which I assume was key in you building your performance of him?

Jake McDorman, Wylie: Before we started the project, I think I had had Episodes 1, 2, and then 3. Once signed on, I had Episode 3 so going in before our first day of filming the show at all, I had read those three. And yes, for sure. Episode 3 breaks your heart and totally changed so many different aspects of how you play his insecurity. For God's sakes, it broke the man so hard that he built an entire underground resistance kinda to get his ex back. And it's not that there's not personal motives, like he's got an expiration date and he's doing all this for the greater good and to take down Mrs. Davis. But look cool for his ex. [Laughs.]

The rodeo prologue is also shattering because he's been thinking her reaction meant she thought he was a coward this whole time and it wasn't even about him at all!

McDorman: To find out that that moment at the rodeo just devastated him so much! To find out that she didn't leave him the way that he thinks that she did —  the way that has thus defined the subsequent 10 years of his life — it was actually out of an act of protection, and preservation! And then right when maybe he's finding catharsis in that, she drops the bomb on him, "But I'm married to Jesus." He short circuits a bit, and it's like, "Hold on, what now?" Then it throws him back into not knowing how to process that information. He's spinning out, and he's right back to, "What the f**k do I do? Where the f**k am I?" 

What was it like shooting that episode?

McDorman: It was split over the very beginning of our shoot and the very end. All this stuff that happened in "Excalibattle" was in Spain and that was the last bit of work that we did on the show. We shot all the rodeo and flashbacks chronologically as Episode 3, and then had to hit pause on the whole other half of that episode until five months later, when we were in Spain. It was really great because by the time we got to that scene in the rain, where they're having that pivotal confrontation, Betty and I had worked together for so long and got so close. We knew these characters so deeply and cared about them so much. We had shot episodes 5, 6, 7 and 8. We knew the whole arc of their relationship which made that confrontation in Episode, we almost got to cheat because we got to shoot it last. So it's a hybrid, that episode, of some of the earliest work we did on the show, cut together, at the same time, in the same scene via flashback with the very last stuff that we shot.

Episodes 1-4 of Mrs. Davis are now available on Peacock.