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'Mrs. Davis' showrunner Tara Hernandez explains marriage issues between Jay and Simone in Episode 4

Mrs. Davis Episode 4 is all about favors, King Cakes and religious misogyny in our exclusive post mortem!

By Tara Bennett
Betty Gilpin as Simone points to a white bird on Mrs. Davis

Ciao! Welcome to our exclusive SYFY WIRE Mrs. Davis post mortem and deep dive on this week's escape to Rome adventure at the center of Episode 4, "Beautiful Things That Come with Madness." Outside of Sister Simone's (Betty Gilpin) quest for the Grail, hubby Jay (Andy McQueen) asks her to travel to Rome for a very important side mission that ends up causing some martial stress ... at least for Simone. It also brings a pope, Wiley (Jake McDorman) and the mysterious Clare back into the story.

RELATED: Recap: 'Mrs. Davis' goes to Rome in Episode 4, revealing its most insane twist yet

To get some clarity on the themes and the marriage dynamic between Jay and Simone, we got co-creator and showrunner Tara Hernandez to give us some perspective on all the emotional hiccups laid out here, from the writer's point of view.

** SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers below for Mrs. Davis Episode 4 **

Going to the Chapel

Andy McQueen as Jay and Betty Gilpin as Simone talking to each other in Mrs. Davis

Is it safe to say one of the themes for this episode is the hypocrisy of organized religious dogma? 

Tara Hernandez, co-creator and showunner: [Laughs.] Well nothing is "safe" in the world of Mrs. Davis — but yes, I think we can confidently say that when we were developing this episode, we were all very interested in exploring these themes — especially as it relates to Simone's marriage to Jay. At the top of the episode, we get to rewind a bit and see their wedding. We watch Simone take her vows. And although she has her concerns around the term obedience, she does so because she is so deeply, almost blindly, in love with this man. And now in present day, we see those vows catching up with her. Jay sends Simone on a seemingly impossible task, and Simone is expected to complete it because she has vowed to serve. Without question. And that was really interesting to us, this idea of not questioning. Of being asked to charge into the unknown, without really getting to ask, "Hey, what exactly is in this for me?" And that's the idea of faith, right? That it's not transactional. That it's not questioning. It's just blind belief.

On the other side of that coin, you have Mrs. Davis, who is able to perform real and concrete miracles. She can summon a million euros if you really need it. Because you asked. But we, the writers, were always grappling with the notion of ... but is that right? Is that healthy or in our best interest. Is this all powerful tech the answer? So Episode 4 is really special because you get to explore both of those dimensions.

Let's talk about the origins of Simone marrying Jay. It's wild that you are literally playing out what is taught in the catechism: that nuns are married to Jesus. Was that a story for this series that came from wondering what that looks like played out, or did it stem from your Grail chase story? 

Hernandez: Simone being married to Jesus pre-dated, or was developed simultaneously to, our Holy Grail story. It was very important to both [series co-creator Damon Lindelof] and myself while creating the character of Sister Simone that her faith was authentic. That it wasn't just a cool costume. Which meant we knew she was going to have taken her vows and be a literal bride of Christ. I was on the precipice of getting engaged myself, so weddings were at the forefront of my mind, and I just knew that I wanted to see Simone's wedding. Which meant, if we saw the wedding, well, we must see the groom. This was a terrifying notion for all the reasons having Jesus Christ as a character in your series is a terrifying notion. But to his credit, Damon at least entertained the initial pitch enough to where it not only felt not crazy, but critical to Simone's entire identity as a nun. The fact that Jay would then be able to help her on her Grail quest was really just a bonus; narratively speaking.

What is it about Simone / Lizzie's literal interpretation of that vow that makes sense for her at this point in the story?

Hernandez: We play the opening of the episode in just a short montage, but really Simone has been at the convent for years. At the point she is ready to take her final vows, she has already committed to this life. And hopefully we communicated that it's beyond just Jay at this point, that she really has gained a whole new life here. A sisterhood. So she's willing to maybe turn a blind eye to some of the more dated language, because she's all about that convent living. And if these other women have made taken their vows, and she loves and respects them, then she is willing to do it to. Although she doesn't really think about it until later, when she is slapped in the face with the revelation that, "Yeah, hang on. Jay didn't just commit to me. He is married to a lot of women. He is in relationships with a lot of people. I am in an open marriage that I did not sign up for (because I just wasn't considering that at the time!)" And of course, that does not sit well with Simone.

Let Them Eat Cake

Betty Gilpin as Simone sits on steps holding a pink box in Mrs. Davis

Later in Rome, how did Maria the Baker come to be? Her fiery questioning of why women can't be pope is a banger scene.

Hernandez: Maria was really a beautiful creation of the writers' room, and especially Episode 4 writers Jonny Sun & Noelle Vinas. We had the bones of the story that Simone was going to go on this impossible mission: to deliver a cake for the pope. And like most adventure stories, there needed to be an obstacle or a gatekeeper who was going to stand in her path. And of course, the first thought might be it's the Vatican guard or some other restrictive element preventing her from seeing the pope, because it can't be easy to get an audience with the pope, right? But eventually we landed on this idea, it should be impossible for her to get the cake! And because it's unexpected, we started to examine why wouldn't this baker want her to have the cake? Maria was sort of birthed from there.

We loved the idea of Simone, in her habit, having to look at this woman pointing out injustice of the church — the patriarchy really — and trying to justify why it hasn't been her own personal experience. Simone feels her relationship is special, that it defies religious hierarchy. And Maria drops the hammer by saying, "You're not the first one to come in here, y'know." We loved that Maria's cynicism wasn't born from anger, but just a real and honest line of criticism that, "Hey, this isn't fair. Just because I don't have a penis, I can't be pope. That's not right!" I loved that. And I loved her. I often think about what she did with the money. I'm hoping she went on a nice vacation ... then, maybe franchised. [Laughs.]

Check back for our exclusive SYFY WIRE episode post mortems for Mrs. Davis

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