Warning! This article contains major spoilers about Gypsy‘s first season. Read at your own risk.
The first season of Netflix’s psychosexual drama Gypsy posed more questions than it answered — but can you really expect anything else from a show centered around a therapist who secretly meddles in the lives of her patients, who keeps a seedy, secret apartment tucked away in New York City to host tantalizing affairs, and who (potentially) coaxed a former patient to burn a house down?
A nomad of the mind and spirit, Jean Holloway (Naomi Watts) navigated Gypsy‘s inaugural 10-episode stretch as two halves of the same person; the suburban power mom she plays at home and the thrill-seeking, ethically corrupt (but sometimes well-intentioned) Diane, who has a penchant for tank tops, (slightly awkward) dancing, and involving a client’s ex-girlfriend (Sophie Cookson) in a dangerous game of sexuality. Creator Lisa Rubin seems to be most interested in the seed of identity suspended between the two halves of Jean’s personality, the space of uncertainty, fear, pain, and regret that leads her to seek control as a means of coping with a mysterious past.
Now that you’re done binging season 1, Rubin is opening up to EW about the direction season 2 might take Jean on her quest for solace, what the final shot means for Jean and Sidney’s relationship, and how future episodes might lay the foundation for Jean’s strained relationship with her mother, Nancy (Blythe Danner). Read on for our full discussion.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I have to start with the question on everyone’s mind: Was it always your intention to make Naomi Watts dance as much as she did during season 1?
LISA RUBIN: It was scripted for sure that she was going to dance! Naomi’s actually a really good dancer. I saw her dance in real life, as Naomi, and what you see in the show was her choice as to how Jean would dance. That’s how she felt the character would express herself. Naomi’s actually danced in other movies very differently, so I think that was a definitive a choice.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. How has the negative criticism of the show impacted you?
There’s clearly a big disconnect between critics and audiences… I’m so happy with the fan response. I briefly looked at Twitter, and seeing the GIFs and the way it’s affected people… especially women, that’s rewarding. What I’m intrigued by is that a lot of people have binged it, but the critics are saying it’s slow and boring, while viewers are saying it’s addicting. If the show is about an identity crisis, that’s applicable to the reception of the show. Everyone sees something different. The show is a Rorschach test itself.
As the creator and a writer, will you take the criticism into consideration when writing season 2?
Yes and no. I think Netflix’s opinion is they made a show they’re so proud of, and they’re glad fans are connecting. Some people look at it as a thriller, but Naomi looks at it as a character piece. In terms of a season 2, in general, it will become more of a thriller. The last few episodes of season 1 are more intense because our commitment was to it being a slow burn. Those first five episodes are about immersing yourself in Jean’s world… I’m surprised at how many people are with Jean despite what she’s doing, which is part of what I wanted… it sets us up for a season 2. We’re fully in, a lot is happening. Obviously, there’s a lot more escalation. In those ways, it will potentially answer critics.
If episode 10 ends up being the series’ last, so much would be left open.
It was intentionally a huge cliff-hanger. It worked for some, and it won’t work for others. Jean is a mystery, and a lot of those questions about her past will be answered in a second season. We’ll start to understand her foundation and her motivations.
How far along are discussions for season 2?
We’re all excited about the possibility. It’s very much on the table. I’m sure they’ll announce it either way in a few weeks.
Moving on to some burning questions, how the hell did Sidney find the school where Jean was speaking?
If there’s a season 2, it’s possible we’ll do an episode from Sidney’s perspective, and we can see what happened… She sees all these photos in Michael’s office [when she goes there to ask about Alexis’ article]. If Sidney Googled “Michael Holloway,” saw a picture of Jean… maybe she’d come across an ad for Jean’s talk on a website or something, enough that she’s able to connect those pieces. In a weird way, Jean knew she was going to show up… she’s not expecting Sidney, but there’s a relief and excitement for Sidney getting one step closer to figuring her out.
In that moment, they both have satisfied looks on their faces. Sidney looks more intrigued by the revelation that Jean isn’t who she says she is. It’s like, okay, game on.
It’s almost like Jean’s saying, “Okay, your move.” They’re playing a game with each other. In the Bushwick bathroom in episode 2, they sign a contract that they’re both liars, and rules don’t apply… it’s almost a turn-on, realizing how similar they are. I wanted it to be a shared smile instead of a feeling of, “Oh s—, you’re onto me.”
And what about Allison? That’s definitely her in Tom’s car in episode 10?
Yes. In a season 2, that will be a big [thing we explore]. Tom and Allison could pose a threat to Jean… It could be that they’re in it together; it could be that Allison’s taken against her will. It’s ambiguous but could be explored in season 2.
Some people think she’s dead in the back of the car!
It was left open-ended. That’s not a crazy thought, and it’s possible.
Blythe Danner was another fabulous part of this season.
The first person who came to my mind [for the role] was Blythe. I was texting with Naomi way before we started shooting, and Naomi asked who I’d been thinking about for Jean’s mom. I told her my first choice was Blythe Danner, and she said, “Oh my God, that’s my first choice, too!” She had just run into her, and she was thinking about how they’d never played mother-daughter… I find Blythe injects a different kind of energy, like in that dinner scene in episode 9. You understand a lot about Jean through Blythe’s performance. In a twisted way, her mom’s enabling Jean. That’s the person who knows her secrets.
Jean has secrets regarding Nancy, too. How could she have missed collecting that photo of her when she was cleaning the apartment before the detective showed up? Or did she leave it on purpose?
She’s lied and told the detective she doesn’t know where Allison is, and since the apartment is paid for by Nancy, the easiest thing would be to tell him she went to an AA meeting with a patient who had to use the bathroom on the way home, and that she let her use a family apartment that’s only used when her mother comes to town to see a show. She could say her patient knew about the apartment and broke in.
Do we ever get a concrete reason as to why their relationship is so strained?
We never got all the details. Nancy’s the person who might know a lot about Jean and her secrets and is the person who holds her accountable and knows all of her s—… you want to distance yourself from that kind of person because you don’t want to be reminded of your past. Nancy will always have her back. There’s a code of loyalty there, but in a way, Nancy is a reminder of Jean’s true nature. In season 2, we’d be getting into Jean’s backstory and maybe stuff about her childhood, her father, and what happened there. There are skeletons there, and potentially understanding Jean’s patterns will help understand why she’s doing what she’s doing now.
Let’s talk about Melissa, too. We finally saw her in episode 10. Why do you think Jean feels the need to continue to manipulate her?
Jean is in a position where the walls are closing in. She doesn’t need another person casting any blame on her. For Jean, as someone who likes control, she needs to make sure she can keep control of this person who could be a potential problem for her — especially since Allison is missing — if Jean is complicit in some of the things Melissa did, like starting the fire. She wants to get that under control and make Melissa her loyal soldier. She needs to make sure she’s protecting herself so that if Allison becomes an issue, she doesn’t have other problems. I find Naomi’s performance very dark in that scene… she wants to make sure she has this person’s loyalty so there aren’t too many fingers pointed at Jean.
Season 1 of Gypsy is now streaming in full on Netflix.