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'The Resort' creator Andy Siara explains the mind-blowing reveals in the season finale
A lot of crazy stuff happened in The Resort season finale and creator Andy Siara explains it all to SYFY WIRE.
When you look back on the summer of 2022 in terms of TV, there's no doubt one of the most surprising shows was Peacock's The Resort. Created by Andy Siara, who won the Spirit Award for Best Original Screenplay for Palm Springs (2020), the series starts out as a dark comedy about the disintegrating marriage between Emma (Cristin Milioti) and Noah (William Jackson Harper). And then it turns into a tropical mystery when the pair find a 15-year-old cell phone out in the jungle that belongs to one of two kids who went missing from their vacation resort. From there, it weaves in stories about prescient murals, reclusive authors, grief, regret, and in the season finale, it finally gets supernatural.
In fact, "The Disillusionment of Time" ties together a myriad of improbable characters, plots, and concepts all within the dank, forgotten tunnels of the mythical place called Pasaje. Finally discovered by Emma, Noah, the father of one of the missing kids, Murray (Nick Offerman), and local legacy Balthasar Frias (Luis Gerardo Méndez), inside they all end up confronting the things they've been seeking and walk away changed.
To unpack everything that happened, SYFY WIRE reached out to Siara to dig into the literal and figurative outcomes in our exclusive post-mortem.
**SPOILER WARNING! Spoilers for the season finale of The Resort below!**
There was a lot that needed to come together in the finale episode. Did it vary much from your initial ideas to the final edit?
Back from my original pitch for the show, the ending really didn't cancel the [series] bible that I wrote several years ago. It was always around a bunch of characters who are trying to recapture a feeling of home. They have lost some aspect of that and they are trying to recapture it. Emma and Noah find two missing kids, and then there's the promise of this room that might be able to actually take them somewhere else. Every character in the whole show functions on that same trajectory. And then by the end, they realize that if do that, you lose time. You can obsess over the past but in doing that, you're just going to lose time in the present and the people who are there next to you might not be there anymore.
The show built up a robust ensemble of characters over the eight episodes. Did who goes down into Pasaje ever change?
It was always Emma, Noah, Balthasar, and Murray. They are our final four.
How about the ultimate look and scope of Pasaje? How did that evolve?
Yeah, one might ask where does Pasaje begin? Is it the one room with the whirlpool, or is it the entire underground? I would say that it's the entire underground. That's why Nick's character says, "How the f*** did we miss this?" It was important to me that the actual entrance is just a small hole because I don't want this to have been a thing that's been discovered by many people in time. And then some of these were conversations with [executive producers] Ben Sinclair and Allison Miller, my co-showrunner. And then Ariel Kleiman, who directed the last two episodes, and our incredible production designer, Bret August Tanzer. We were just constantly throwing ideas around of what this could be.
Every character has a personal moment in Pasaje. Was it always clear that Balthasar's moment would be a literal battle with his family symbol?
The final moment with Emma and Noah and Sam and Violet, we knew what that needed to be. And we knew that we didn't want Murray and Balthasar to be there for that. We needed to split them up, but what do they do? I remember very specifically, the moment was over winter break, just after Christmas. Me and Allison Miller and Derek Pastuszek, who wrote the finale, we were talking specifically about that. Since the summer in the writers' room, he'd been pitching, mythologically, that there's always a serpent garden in these kinds of stories. We knew that Balthasar needed to face down the past and we knew we needed to incorporate the yellow snake in some way. Derek said, "We've got to have him face down a snake!" I was like, "That's a big swing and I'm just terrified of VFX." But he tried it and Peacock read the draft with that in there, and they were in love with it. From that point on, we knew that he's gonna face down a snake, so how do we pull it off? Because it can't look too cheesy.
How did you work it out to have Luis Gerardo Méndez literally looking down the four nostrils of the inspiration for the Frias family symbol?
A lot of that was crafting the moment with Ari, the director, and our VFX people, Emotionally, we knew it made sense. Balthasar's arc needed to be completed and he has to go through a real trial to complete it. It makes the most sense because it loomed over everything. And it's not an evil snake at all. It's part of his past and rather than run from it, it's about accepting that it's a part of you, and don't run. In the VFX, when we're actually trying to make the moment matter, I was referencing the end of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with the shark that ate his friend. It's one of the most beautiful moments in any Wes Anderson movie, I think. And I don't know if we've achieved that kind of thing but we're dipping our toes into mythology and a world larger than the world we began in, so let's try to find the beauty within that moment. The snake flaring it's four nostrils and just accepting and moving forward.
Shifting over to what Emma sees, was that room always going to reveal a pool out of time?
I'd say over two years ago, when Sam and Violet walk in and with Emma when she goes in, it was just a dead end room. Even when I pitched it, I said it's kind of a disappointment. But in making it, I'd say that Pasaje was evolving in how much of it we were gonna see and experience all the way through the edit. Now it's Emma finding Sam and Violet having never aged with them having been somewhere for five minutes, and that Emma needs to be presented with her choice. But in the version where it is just a dead end room and she sees them just sitting there, I started to feel like there was no choice there. She finds the kids and I don't know what she's learning. And so there were a lot of endless conversations first with [director] Ben Sinclair, because even though he didn't do this finale we were setting things up from the first episode. For example, there's an overhead shot of Emma in the hot tub in the first five minutes of the show. She goes into the water and we mirror that same shot of a much bigger, weirder looking hot tub in Pasaje. At any other point in the series, I want people to understand she'd go in there because in the pilot we see her go underwater. But at this point, she needs to be able to make the choice to not go in.
Let's talk about Emma's decision to not stay in the moment, of seeing what is implied is her daughter, and to help Violet and Sam out to save them.
I realized in watching Cristin bring it to life and working through these episodes and rewrites that Emma has to be presented with the choice of either go forward, or take a step backwards and not jump into the water. I wanted to give her a little bit of this magical gift. We know what she wants, ultimately, from that campfire scene from Episode 7. We know what she's looking for and what she's hoping to find. Then we give her that. In the matter of a couple shots, we see that she's experiencing this, leaning forward and can perhaps live in this moment forever. That idea was always there in the original pitch, but how to actually crack it was very hard.
She can live in this moment forever and she may be about to go in. But also in that same exact moment, she sees what happens if you go in. Sam and Violet are un-aged and have lost time. Violet's just lost 15 years of her life with her dad, so there's a consequence to all this. We hear Noah yelling Emma's name and that snaps her out of it for a moment. And she decides to just grab the kids and stay out of the water because that's the curse of nostalgia, I guess.
Do you see how everyone comes out of Pasaje as a positive story or more of a cautionary tale?
I think it could be both. I wanted to make sure that the show was specifically about Emma and Noah's ending. From the end of the first episode, my hope was the question that's always in the back of our minds is, if they answer this mystery of what happened to the missing kids, will it solve their marriage? I never wanted to explicitly say where they end up. I think that's more on the viewer. It should be a happy ending to me. If some viewers say they're going home to get a divorce and that's the happy ending, or some viewers say, they're going home and gonna work it out to move forward together, all of that is right to me. I have my own ideas. But with Sam and Violet it's ultimately a happy ending.
What is the epilogue with Balthasar and Luna (Gabriela Cartol) implying? A Season 2?
I think my favorite scene of the show is the final scene. It was very crucial one. Basically, we're saying, "In case you don't see see it, it's pretty f**ked up what's going on." A couple scenes before that was Violet and Emma sitting next to each other. Emma asks, "Was it worth it?" Then we show Murray and he is not the same guy. Violet's being confronted with the consequences of refusing to move forward in life. In that final scene with Luna and Balthasar, it's reminding the audience that it's probably going to be hard what is next for them. They each last 15 years without their older parents. Each of those characters have probably learned some lessons in life, but it still comes at a cost. The ending is that there's a warning as the takeaway.
Does that pamphlet and Luna following Balthasar imply more stories?
From the practical side of it, I know a couple of different paths forward into a Season 2 should Peacock want to do it. But it was very important to me that every story is wrapped up in the finale. If you're going into the finale knowing what each character ultimately wants, and what they're struggle of the season is, by the end of the finale those emotional arcs are completed. Specifically for Balthasar in his big ole origin story at various points, his whole life has been running from the yellow snake, the thing that was supposed to define who he was so he didn't really feel like he had a choice in his own life. For him, coming out of Pasaje and going forward is the thing that was defining his life up to this point, he learned to accept and integrate it into his life.
Also, there's references to a lot of movies of the '80s and '90s peppered throughout the show, intentionally because we're playing on the nostalgia. But there's a lot of references to Batman in this as well, even in the lines. If you want to rewatch the show, and look at it through the lens of the rich kid battling demons in a dark cave who becomes one of the greatest detectives, and here is Balthasar, a rich kid who battles demons in a dark cave and goes off in a new suit at the end of the season not as a resort detective, but Balthasar is perhaps our memory detective. You can look at it like "Balthasar Begins."
Last question, does the huge mural perhaps have clues to where a second season could go?
The painting is a centerpiece that, if you want to break it down, will give you some answers to things. As for a second season, does it play into that? Perhaps. Actually, to be very honest, I was just chatting with Derek about a Season 2 avenue to go down and it very specifically ties to the painting. The guy who painted it is this Puerto Rican artist, Guillermo. He brought it to life, and then myself and Ben Sinclair and Bret Tanzer worked with Guillermo. He painted three different versions of this over time. We worked very closely with him to pepper in clues for everything. But there were things in there, specifically the thing that I'm talking about that is a potential avenue for Season 2, either Guillermo or Brett threw it in there. And in the true nature of collaboration, now I'm seeing an idea that gives me another idea and we're watching an idea grow into something that could be much bigger.
The Resort Season 1 is available to watch exclusively on Peacock.