Last night’s season finale of ABC’s delectable soap Revenge — perfectly titled “Reckoning” — was, in a word, explosive. And filled with juicy cliffhanger after cliffhanger.
With so many doors opened, there are so many questions that are begged: Is Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) really dead? What’s going on with the increasingly tangled love life of Emily (Emily Van Camp), Jack (Nick Wechsler), Amanda (Margarita Levieva), Daniel (Josh Bowman), and Ashley (Ashley Madekwe)? Is Amanda’s baby really Jack’s? Who will play Emily’s mother? And what will the character be like? How did the show so perfectly pick Florence and the Machine’s haunting “Seven Devils” to play during the episode?
To answer these questions, we went straight to the source: Revenge creator and executive producer Mike Kelley, who holds the keys to the show’s castle. As usual, he was tight-lipped about some things — but let a few other juicy tidbits slip. Read on for the answers to all your burning questions from last night’s season finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What were you thinking when you went in to writing this episode?
MIKE KELLEY: I think we set a record for storytelling pace, and so I don’t think fans would have been satisfied — or I would have been satisfied — if we didn’t turn over some pretty significant cards at the end of this season. So, I went at it and I had an idea where I wanted it to end, with one exception — I wasn’t certain about who I wanted to reveal as alive. I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell the audience about Emily’s mother at the end. I wanted to perhaps save that for next season. But I find that in telling the story of Revenge, that any time I try to stretch out story, it feels false. It doesn’t feel like the show. I decided let’s just trust ourselves to keep the pace going and reveal all at the end of the season. We definitely went in wanting to keep it going.
Speaking of Emily’s mother, that was a great reveal — and we don’t know much about her. Are you thinking about who is going to play her? What can you say about that character?
What we really want to do is find the perfect actor for the role. It would be really great for her to be as formidable as Madeleine [Stowe], but it’s a completely different part. What you’re going to discover about the woman who was Emily’s mother is the circumstances under which they were separated and you’re going to find that there’s some deep psychological issues with her, which I think is going to be fun for us to explore. For Emily, she’s going to start seeing some of the psychological damage that her mother has in herself. So she’s going to start doing a lot of soul-searching about who she is, what part DNA has played in her life choices and how she’s going to move forward, whether or not this person is going to be part of her life or if this is going to be someone that is going to disappoint and hurt her.
Alright, there’s a much larger conspiracy going on. Did you know that you were working toward this much, much larger conspiracy?
We did definitely know that was going to play a larger role. You have to continue to expand into season 2, we need a larger palette. We don’t want to get repetitive. We need new discoveries and new sinister twists and new villains. So we definitely knew that there was going to be a larger thing at play. What’s going to be fun is that we’re going to reveal is that we’ll find out that Emily’s involvement about what’s about to happen in season 2 was not by chance. There is a lot happening here, a larger plot is at play and she’s part of it. She’ll become more mad than ever, and with the help of Nolan, she’ll really plan to do something significant to bring down a very large, very evil, very untouchable force.
Amanda is back! How can Jack not see that he’s being played?
The thing about Jack is that if there’s any place that we’re more ponderous with storytelling, it’s with Jack, who really — and by design — sees the best in people. We want him to be a moral center. He doesn’t immediately go to the I’m-being-played place. Now he’s not an idiot. He knows that Amanda has been tricky, but the last thing that happened was she told him that she loved him and wanted to go before she ran off. He’s got a lot of questions, and as far as the baby is concerned, if he was sleeping with her, he has no other reason to believe that it’s not his. And, I will tell you: There is a baby. So it’s not illogical that the baby would belong to him. He’s the kind of guy that is going to do the right thing. He’s not immediately going to go to the dark place.
With Victoria Grayson reportedly being killed in this plane explosion. When did you know that you were going to work toward this?
I knew I wanted a cliffhanger on Victoria. I wasn’t sure what the details were going to be. After the Fire and Ice Ball, I started to think of the last seven episodes, I thought of those as a contained story, episodes 16 through 22. Since it was leaning toward the white-haired man and the conspiracy and all those things were coming up, what I really wanted to do was twin the first plane crash and it seems poetic in a lot of ways, for her to almost knowingly get on a plane and go to her fate, by her own design. I didn’t want her to be tricked into her own demise. I wanted her to sort of embrace her fate and the role she played in bringing herself to this terrible place. We had thought about it extensively, but we were so buy writing that I didn’t get the chance to flesh out how I wanted it to work.
Should we be wondering whether Victoria Grayson is really dead? Could it have been faked in some way? It seems insane to kill off one of television’s best characters.
This is all part of the show. People should listen to their instincts because they’re invested in characters in the show, but there are twists and turns and they love to be surprised. What everybody expects happened that night has not been fully reported. How about that?
Music last night was important: That Florence and the Machine song, “Seven Devils,” was used perfectly. How did it come to be that you used that song?
Our director Sanford Bookstaver temped that in, and we have a music supervisor. They give us some options. The music supervisor reads the script and they know what tone we’re going for, and we have discussions about it, but really, their instincts are spot on. We needed an epic feel. We needed something that felt really dangerous and really emotional and raw and frightening. There aren’t a whole lot of songs that cover that, so Florence, we were just so lucky to get it. It’s one of those things where you temp a song in, you become so attached to it, you can’t imagine that sequence without it now. I don’t know what we would have done had we been unable to license that song.
So, romance-wise, there was a triangle with Emily, Jack, and Daniel, but now Ashley and Amanda are involved. So are we dealing with a five-way? How would you describe the way that the romance is playing out on the show going forward?
Emily is kind of the odd man out now, right? That’s not going to sit well with her. This whole Ashley bit with Daniel is going to play out in a really fun way for us next season. Daniel has a say in the matter, as well. He’s not a pawn any longer. He’s made some pretty dark choices, and I don’t think that feeling misled by Emily is going to make him any nicer. We’re going to continue the ride to the dark side with Daniel. I think Ashley is going to get perilously close to making herself a target to Emily. You know, the fun thing with Ashley is that there are some surprises that we’ve been holding on her. I can’t wait to bring to light something about Ashley that will make everyone go, “Oh! That’s why she’s hanging on!”
Was Ashley always intended to be such a big part in what’s going on? She seemed like a sleeper at first.
I’ve worked with Ashley before, so I happen to know what a comprehensive actress she is. I would really hate to miss an opportunity to let her loose. For a long time, I’ve been waiting for the right moment. We’ve been a little bit busy with Emily, so that’s why it took a while.
Sammy died in last week’s episode. Fans want to know the backstory to that, I’m sure. Walk me through that a bit. Will there be a new dog? Did Sammy die because of all the chatter about his age?
Well, two things. I lost my dog this year of 14 years. It was very emotional for me, and really, all the things Jack was saying to Sammy were pretty much verbatim how I let my dog go. It was something really emotional that I wanted to share with people. People were really, really devastated by it in a way that surprised me. They weren’t angry about it because death is part of life. The second part is that I wanted to make sure that Sammy’s death performed the function that it was always meant to, which was to bring Jack and Emily together. Unfortunately, Sammy wasn’t around to bite Amanda and push her into the water, but had he lived, he would have done that, I’m sure. That’s a joke, but listen, I always wanted the dog to be the linchpin that holds these two together, and he did that, and they’ll always have that. In television, whenever a dog dies, a puppy springs up.
So I’m sure you’re in the throws of season 2. What are you thinking? Where will we pick up?
Well, obviously, we have a lot of questions to answer. Something that served us very well in season 1 was flashing forward to a very dramatic event and telling our audience how we got there. The audience trusts us to tell a satisfying story without dragging it out for 100 years. So I think you can expect that we’ll answer a lot of questions up front and we’ll pose a lot of new ones as to where we’re headed, and you can expect a Fire and Ice-level event that we’re headed to in the opening of season 2. That’s my plan for now. I reserve the right to change my mind. We get back into the writers’ room next week, and I want to know what everybody thinks. Everyone has had a chance to sit and think — I want to know what they think, if there’s a better idea, but the formula that we began seems to have been working for us.
You had said originally, there might be a wedding and a death in the same day in the opening. Is that still on the table?
Will we be back in summer? You had said that season 2 would launch back in a Hamptons summer. That still the case?
Yes. I can tell everybody to expect another summer in the Hamptons.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky
‘Revenge’ season finale: Chat live with Gabriel Mann tonight at 10 p.m. ET