Exclusive: Damien showrunner Glen Mazzara on that devilish season finale, what comes next

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May 10, 2016, 2:47 PM EDT

Spoilers ahead for the Season 1 finale of A&E's Damien series!

Last night, the beast finally rose and Damien Thorn (Bradley James) assumed his true identity as the Antichrist in the Season 1 finale of A&E’s Damien, capping off a season full of heart-pounding moments that are sure to haunt viewers in their nightmares.

To get at the bottom of many of events, especially that climactic final scene, I spoke with Damien’s showrunner Glen Mazzara (The Shield, The Walking Dead) about the Season 1 finale and some of the hellish plans in store for future seasons, if they get renewed. Be sure to watch the Season 1 finale before reading on as there are plenty of spoilers.

Glen, that season was intense and dense. A lot happened there, and before we dive into it and what the future holds, what are some of the things that stood out for you about finale and the entire first season of Damien?

GM: It is packed! After watching it again the other day with Bradley I was exhausted. I think what’s nice about the finale is that I enjoyed seeing how it all came together. I know genre fans or TV fans can feel frustrated if they don’t get the answers or that the season arcs aren’t paying off or things are coming to a head. When you see that final shot of Damien and look back, not at just the 10 episodes but also (back to) the original film The Omen. You have to look at the entire story, and that’s by design, we really approached this season as a movie in 10 parts. A lot of times maybe some thought that like most TV shows, they have an episode which gives you all the elements, and you watch how that plays out every week. We didn’t do that. We took our time introducing characters, various storylines, we had reversals in the middle of the season and twists and all of that. The storytelling, by design, was serpentine. It’s the story about the devil, it’s the story about Christ, it’s slippery, curving and unexpected right to the end, and you see that everything’s been building to that final climactic scene. This was a very, very different type of show than anything else I’ve ever written. We used a method of storytelling that was different from anything I’ve ever worked on. It was new, it was fresh and exciting!

Let’s start picking away at different parts of the finale. In the wake of Veronica’s (Melanie Scrofano) death, Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) is visibly affected by this, as any good mother should. It’s a bit of a surprise, considering how obsessed she is about caring for Damien, perhaps more than her own blood. Something tells me that this death affected her and her decisions in the finale.

GM: That’s interesting. Ann was really moved by Veronica’s death, in a way that surprised even her. When she asked Veronica earlier in the season, “Was I a good mother?” She’s thinking about being a surrogate mother or a foster mom, or whatever you want to call it, to Damien. I think she always has taken Veronica for granted. There’s this idea that Ann and John Lyons (Scott Wilson) were on Satan’s side, somehow they’re safe and they’re not. Ann says, “The power wants what it wants,” and I think it’s a creative, destructive force that sees everyone expendable, as long as the moves it wants get made. So the idea that Veronica suffered horribly really affected her, she realized that this is a greater power she’s sacrificed her own blood for. She’s in and needs to be beside Damien. Not to protect herself in any way, but because it’s real, it’s happening. She has this place in history as Damien’s guardian, if you will, or something like that. It profoundly moved her, but she’s compartmentalized that pain, grieved and moved on to Damien, but that’s a pain she’s always going to carry. 

Ann appears to have won her private little duel with John Lyons and now has Damien to herself, so to speak. 

GM: We’ve seen two opposing viewpoints on how to control Damien. One is that she expects Damien to lead and she will follow. The other is that John saw Damien as a pawn in his game. Ann’s side won out. It was interesting to see those two dance around each other all season. She knew she had to push Damien emotionally, to murder, to assault, or whatever you want to call it, because we never actually see John’s body at the end. When she said, “I tried to stop him,” she was right; when Amani (Omid Abtahi) was shot, she screamed, “No!” So she knew that was the card she needed to play and pushed Damien further down the road to eventually make this Faustian bargain. She may not have known how exactly that was going to play out, but she knew he needed to willingly sign a contract with the devil. He needed to promise his soul to go and accept his fate. That was something she had said very early on in the season. Ann was patient, and let it play out and pushed when she needed to push. [Laughs] Even though it means the destruction of the entire world, It’s nice to see that she won that game, because I love Ann as a character so much.

Yes, Barbara has been excellent all season long. I liked how Ann took a few steps back when Damien asked for her help after Simone (Megalyn E.K.) was shot; she didn’t intervene and just let it all play out. This was the last straw for Damien before he makes that fateful deal with the devil. What makes Simone’s resurrection so significant as well as Damien’s decision going forward?

GM: That Faustian bargain with Simone’s death and resurrection was always part of the show. We were originally picked up for six episodes and then expanded to 10 (for Season 1) before I even hired writers. It was part of my initial concept bible for the show. Simone’s death is set up by Kelly’s death. Now you’re on pins and needles when you see she’s shot at the end. When she steps forward (I’ll talk about that more in a second), well, there it is, of course, it was just a matter of time. The twist is that Damien then resurrects her.

There are two Christ images in that final shot. Simone is a Christ figure in the scene where she’s washing Damien’s feet, and she sacrifices herself to protect Damien. She steps forward when she sees Detective Shay (David Meunier) raising the gun. I don’t know if that was apparent, but she is stepping forward. That death is promised. If you remember episode five when Damien is wandering through the basement of the Veteran Affairs Hospital, before he meets the demon, there’s a shot of Simone with her skull being removed on the autopsy table. We telegraphed that five episodes before and I didn’t see anything on Twitter wondering why she was in that scene, but it was by design. You could say she’s Christ coming back from the dead, you could say she’s a Lazarus figure. When Damien speaks in Latin, “Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit,” that’s what Jesus said before he died on the cross. It’s interesting he would use those words. 

There’s always a lot of parallels between Christ and Damien. It’s not that there’s a one-to-one correlation, this character is this figure or this event is that from the Bible. In the biblical Christ story, we’ve taken those characters and put layers on each of them in some of our characters. I don’t ever want to be a specific correlation, it’s always layers. In the end scene, a lot of people drop to their knees but what’s Shay crying about? Damien raising Simone from the dead or is he crying about Simone coming back to life? What is the miracle? It’s complex and it’s something that needs to be sorted out in hopefully Season 2. 

When we last spoke at Wondercon, we didn’t get to talk about Detective Shay much but he’s been such an integral character in the back half of Season 1. You’ve since attacked him with Rottweilers, set his car ablaze, took his badge away, rattled his marriage and haunted him repeatedly with his own son, Jacob, to the point that for a heart-stopping moment in the finale, Shay runs over him with his car.

GM: [Laughs] David Meunier does a fantastic job with that character. [Chuckling] That was a lot of fun because he’s so desperate so frantic, but he’s always speaking the truth. What he’s saying about Damien is always right. People think he’s nuts. You can feel Shay’s frustration, is he losing it or not? Obviously Damien’s the devil’s whipping boy but that character has been incredibly fun to write, and David plays that really well.

Damien turns to the camera at the very end of the finale and gives a slight smile, talk us through that last shot and what he’s saying in that look. 

GM: I’m not going to interpret that last shot for the audience. I want people to be posed with that question. Was this part of his plan? Is he he activated? What does this mean, it’s unsettling and ambiguous by design. It is a call back to the end of the 1976 film The Omen, which is one of the most famous shots in horror. I’ve always felt part of the psychological thriller aspect and horror aspects were two things we took seriously. We want to give you answers and pose more questions. I think that’s funner for the audience and we’ll never be a show that wraps everything up in a nice, neat bow. It’s just not what we do. It’s a story that questions about evil, horror, and suffering. You know, those things don’t have pat answers. 

Sadly, Amani met a similar fate to Veronica [sans being violated by tree roots] and was put in a mass grave with Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert) and later show this somewhat ambiguous hand breaking through the dirt. Now, Sister Greta wasn’t shot, but regardless of who is clawing their way up, either choice would make for interesting storylines in Season 2.

GM: We have an idea of who that is. There’s a lot of story there but I’m not going to give that away. We just wanted to set stuff up for Season 2, I don’t really like to do cliffhangers, especially with Damien, but we do like to set stuff up. It’s a very dark, bleak episode. So that hand coming out of grave is such a beautiful, horror movie image, how could we not do that? We also wanted to set up the Vatican Death Squad. [Laughs] These guys are finally mobilized and are coming in. 

That brings me to my next question, are we led to believe that these daggers are one way or the only way to combat the antichrist?

GM: He attempted suicide, okay. There was a supernatural agent who interceded to stop him from committing suicide. If the evil is around and can kill people, the evil is going to keep him alive to some extent. From The Omen, we do have these seven daggers and started talking about them. What if each of them were made for the original churches and thought that was really interesting. We have laid out in the end of the finale, that Ann Rutledge has two of the daggers, and the Vatican Death Squad has four. There’s still one missing. I love the idea of, where is that missing dagger, who has it, who’s going to get all the daggers. This is a story I’d love to play out in Season 2, those daggers coming together. I just really enjoy the different conspiracies around Damien and everyone in motion and lurking in the shadows. I think that’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot more story with the daggers than we’ve gotten to and in our minds–the writers and me–they would be a big part of Season 2. 

That’s awesome because I’m so hooked to this portion of the mythology. I know that the Vatican Death Squad are not in possession of Epheseus, Zmyrnam, and Pergamum. Epheseus is supposedly the one that can pierce his heart. So Ann has two of these, but you’re saying she doesn’t know which ones she has?

GM: Correct. They’re not labeled. So maybe if you gather all of them together you can figure it out. 

Let’s talk about some of the elements for what comes next. What about an adversary for Damien in Season 2? Some people have been wiped out in this finale, and we do have the Vatican mobile. But is there something we haven’t yet seen or are we going to see still going to see Damien at odds with Ann?

GM: I think you have more people at play now. There’s this dark church that emerges from the mist at the finale and kneels to Damien. We’ve heard about that dark church in the past and it will certainly have its own conspiracy. You have the Vatican Death Squad and that is an important storyline moving forward. You also have people not understanding what happened with Damien or people laying claim to Damien for their own. Shay thinks he witnessed a miracle but he doesn’t understand that he’s watching the ascension of the antichrist and fulfilling the head of the dark church. He’s kneeling for one reason, everybody else is doing it for whole other reason. The show embraced having a lot of different layers and different perspectives and we told as interesting a story as possible this year and I’d like to do that again in future seasons. I never want the show to fall into Team Damien vs. everyone else. It’s not that simple. You look at all of the different perspectives the characters had, even if they’re on the same side, like Ann and John Lyons, had two completely different perspectives. Simone and Amani were on the same side, they had different perspectives. No one knows which side Greta was on. Shay was his own thing. Damien had his own thing. Having all of those different perspectives is important to me, but now that we have these core characters established and core issues up and running, I would want to keep adding layers. What you’re supposed to think at the end of this episode, is Damien is now on the world stage, so a lot more people need to be involved in his story. 

Meggido, Israel was mentioned in the finale as the place to fend off the Armageddon, is that site going to be in play for the future or was that more of a Hail Mary thought given the impending doom and panic of the finale?

GM: Well, the show started out in Syria and I do think that you can’t tell an Antichrist story without involving Jerusalem. I do think that’s part of the original film and our story too. At some point Damien has to go to the holy land at some point. I wouldn’t promise it for Season 2 but it is something that is part of his story, I don’t want to give anything more away. The other thing I would expect to see in future seasons is Damien out in the field as a war journalist or a celebrity. I do think this is a figure on a world stage. I like the global opportunities of the characters. He’s a world traveler (and potentially) a world leader. 

We got just a taste at what Damien can do with this newfound power that is growing within him even before accepting his identity, when a woman gave him her car and she nearly killed herself right after. Have you explored the variety of abilities he might display in the future and will he need to undergo training?

GM: I don’t know if there’s necessarily a training process. It’s not like a Jedi using the Force, it’s more that he needs to, in a religious sense, settle and pray or ask for his father’s intervention. If you look at how Jesus performed miracles, it’s more of these of these actions that he needed at the time. It’s not necessarily telekinesis and I think people might be expecting that. We have an idea of what this force is, his powers would be related to the same force that’s been causing all of these deaths. How much he could ever control that is something would have to be explored but it’s not my intention to push Damien into a completely magical, Harry Potter-type world or things you might see in a comic book movies or other TV shows. The show is always grounded in this heightened reality established in The Omen and you see that even in the finale. We (the writers) have rules we believe we need to follow. Now, as Damien and the people around him try to figure those out, the audience will go on that ride with us, hopefully. 

After a game-changing finale, the immediate reaction viewers want to know is, when does Season 2 start, but you haven’t gotten the word yet. What are the prospects of Season 2?

GM: That’s being discussed between A+E and Fox 21 Television studios. I know I’m excited about it, and we have a great creative team of directors, writers, and actors who are ready to get back to work. I have a lot of ideas (see above) for what that season is, specific episodes and character arcs, I just hope we get that opportunity. 

We hope it’s only a matter of time before a new season is announced and until then, share your thoughts on Damien’s first season and the finale below, as well as what Glen Mazzara shared in our interview.