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SYFY WIRE Features

Mrs. Davis Showrunner and Stars Explain That Bonkers Finale, Why It Ended That Way

Simone chased her quest to the end, and our exclusive Mrs. Davis season finale post mortem covers it all!

By Tara Bennett
Jake McDorman as Wiley in Mrs. Davis 108

Faith vs. technology. Intention vs. chance. Mothers vs. daughters. The Mrs. Davis season finale served up all of that and more in its final hour. Simone (Betty Gilpin) was given the answers she needed to make her final decisions about her loves, life and even her mother. But we still have questions!

In our last exclusive SYFY WIRE post mortem, we got one last super-sized conversation with showrunner Tara Hernadez, director Owen Harris and cast members Gilpin, Andy McQueen and Jake McDorman, They're together one last time to give us their thoughts on their favorite finale moments, some insider dish on shooting this episode and as Celeste (Elizabeth Marvel) asks...what now?

Ashley Romans as Joy in Mrs. Davis 108

** SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers below for Mrs. Davis Episode 8**

Finding Joy 

Owen, let's start with landing a finale episode for a series with so much mythology and huge themes. When you read the script, did it all snap together in your brain so you could put it together for an audience?

Owen Harris, Producer / Director: As an episode itself, the satisfying thing is — and I think that this is something that was important to Tara and Damon — was that if you set off on a story, and you open up so many questions, you've got to deliver. You can't be flip with it because you've got to remember that people have now invested a lot of time in this. I thought that they delivered emotionally, which I think that's more important than plot sometimes. I liked the way the show isn't quite so bothered about answering a question. It's about posing some questions. Black Mirror does a similar thing, where it's more about thinking about some stuff. And that's the sort of drama I like working on. If you can answer some questions in terms of how characters relate to each other so they their stories become fulfilling, I think the bigger questions you can leave more wide open.

Was Joy (Ashley Romans) always part of the endgame?

Tara Hernandez, Showrunner / Writer: She wasn't a character that Damon and I had conceived of prior to being in the writers room. Learning Mrs. Davis's origin story, and her mother [Joy], and getting to meet her and see her family dynamic was totally a product of the room. And even more specifically, the two other writers on that episode, Nadra Widatalla & Chikira Bennett. Sometimes, our job is to get out of the way and then it's for them to bring Joy to the screen in the way that they did, I have an enormous amount of pride in that. 

The End is the Beginning 

Margo Martindale as Mother Superior cheers glasses with Betty Gilpin as Simone in Mrs. Davis

How much did you know about the journey's end for Simone when you started shooting?

Betty Gilpin, Simone: I knew a little bit. Weirdly, and this has never happened to me, but when we were shooting the pilot, we shot from May to October. And we were going to lose the convent location while we were shooting the pilot. So I only had Episodes 1 and 2, and then suddenly we needed to shoot the final scene of Episode 8 and the scripts hadn't been written! We found that out like a week before and they gave me all the outlines for Episodes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Reading those on one weekend I was like, "You guys...what happened? This is insane! How are we going to do this?'" And so, me playing the final scene of Episode 8 is me just trying to cram study it into my little actress brain. I cram studied those outlines. It's the scene where I tell Margo Martindale's character all the things that happen. And it's really me telling her like, 'Margo, can you believe this is what happens in our show, that we're about to film, that we haven't filmed yet?!" [Laughs.]

I Am Worthy

Jake McDorman as Wiley in Mrs. Davis 108

Wiley really goes on his own journey of self-worth and he doesn't back away from the roller coaster of death. Talk about his gauntlet of worthiness.

Jake McDorman, Wiley: Oh, man, it makes me very emotional. Wiley confronting this aspect of himself that he just hates the idea of genuinely believing he's a coward, and having to confront that in a way that might actually mean you have to die. You know, he made a decision. It was a reckless decision. It's not fair. But the coward's way out would be to call The Resistance and to shut the entire thing down. The right thing and the brave thing to do would be to take accountability. Sit down and face the music. I think him getting the courage to do that — even though it means he probably will die —was just an incredibly complex thing to play. Especially, putting it in the context of this heightened reality that is our show. It was a dream sequence to film, and getting to go that deep with [a character] who I spent that much time with.

Saying Goodbye

A still image from Mrs. Davis Season 1

What do you think Jay has ultimately represented to Simone?

Andy McQueen, Jay: I think Jay means confidence. He's a confidant. He is someone that she can go to, obviously, when she's in times of need. I also think, at the core of it, my experience of the show was so different from the outside of what's happening in the falafel restaurant. In my mind, it was always just this really beautiful love story between the two of them. I think I existed in another world, obviously. But it's another idea to think that Simone and Jay were just star-crossed lovers, and they just happened to find their way to one another. I think Jay learns a lot from Simone, about how she sees the world. It's cool for that to be laid out throughout the series.

The scene in the restaurant is a turning point for the trio. Talk about shooting it.

OH: I love the scene with Jake, Betty and Andy. For me, tonally, that is Mrs. Davis. A kooky, weird setup which is basically Betty speaking to her two partners and saying goodbye to both of them, where you'd normally have one. What was great was that they deliver on both of them. It's heart wrenching. There's this sort of stoicism that you've been waiting for Wiley to show, and he finally shows it. And then you really land that connection between Simone and Jay, in terms of what this relationship has meant to them. How that scene ends, there's this sense of an echo that's going to carry on. It isn't necessarily answered, but you just get this wonderful sense of connection between them. And you understand, certainly for Simone, what her faith has meant to her. 

AM: That last scene I had had in my back pocket, so to speak for the whole shoot. And being only in that one location for the entire time, it really created a life in there that felt much longer than we actually shot in there. It created so many different emotions and feelings when we got to that final scene. When she puts me at the counter and Jay is getting to really take in this restaurant that he built, in another private moment, it was quite emotional as just me just saying goodbye to this space. Also just being able to know that was the end was just so beneficial to me from the start because you really get to take everything in as you go along.

Riding Off Into the Sunset

(l-r) Elizabeth Marvel as Celeste in Mrs. Davis 108

How did you land all these major story points and the emotional beats into a cohesive finale?

TH: If you talk about landing, we were always heading towards a mother / daughter, collective proxy scene. But, the journey has to earn that and it has to feel that this is absolutely the right way to have Simone's final moments with Mrs. Davis in the show and with her mom. We were incredibly terrified of that scene. We actually, for certain production purposes, shot it twice. We had two goes at it because it's just that important as an encapsulation of this moment. It really distills down to Simone's decision to continue her initial proclamation and turn the algorithm off. But it had to feel earned and it had to feel difficult. It's looking at Celeste's face and passing that judgment of saying, "It's okay, I think we're all better off. Thank you for giving us what you gave us. But, we got this now." It had to be so right, so all of our pride is in that scene, with the directing and the performance. That's the one [scene] I'm most proud of and to have been a part of.

OH: My favorite is the final scene with Simone and Celeste because so much of that story is about what isn't said. There was something just really powerful about it. Also I loved the setting of it. It was mundane. It's disarming. You don't necessarily feel like something's been resolved but the pieces have been moved on. That, just in itself, creates a sense of resolution that this stalemate doesn't have to last. You can change. You can adapt. You can communicate and make things better. There was something really lovely about that scene and the way they both played it. 

The last shot features Simone and Wiley riding into the sunset and that tilt up the windmill moving on its own once more...little miracles?

OH: I just wanted to add something that made you feel like this journey that we're all on, which is huge, was still ahead of them. It allows you to see them together, still in this huge big boss journey that they're on, and that we're on. And then you move up to the windmill, which in that lovely little Mrs. Davis twist as if to say, "But maybe...." It's a lovely way of combining those two feelings. And then also, it just looks lovely. When I read the pilot, I was just struck by the joy of it. I wanted to make something that made you feel optimistic, and it does.

Could there be more to the Mrs. Davis story?

TH: My approach to storytelling and for the season's construction is that you give people a really satisfying place to land. I think we've done that really well. The world has enough nuance and certainly dense mythology that I think there could be more to explore should our audience be be hungry for that. And we'd certainly be up to the task if asked to do so. But I think these eight episodes, we certainly put it all on the field. And then some.

All of Mrs. Davis Season 1 is now streaming on Peacock