Containment: Julie Plec talks series finale
Spoiler alert: This post contains plot points from the series finale of Containment.
Containment‘s first (and only) season ended with Lex inside the cordon and Jake saying his final “I love you” to the woman he loved. But what would’ve happened if the limited series had been given a second season?
EW spoke with showrunner Julie Plec about all 13 episodes and where the story would have gone if it had been given the chance.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How closely did you end up sticking to the Belgian series in terms of Katie’s death and just generally?
JULIE PLEC: We went in at the very beginning with the idea that we were going to try to preserve the integrity of all the beats in the original series that we had enjoyed so much as viewers and give ourselves, in spite of that, the freedom to put those moments where they fit the best in our version of what the season should look like. We had three more episodes and knew from the beginning that we wanted to make sure the Katie-Jake relationship had time to breathe before it went south, so in moving Katie’s death from episode five to 11, obviously it caused a major shift in the series as a whole. However, I think that if you went and watched the 10 episodes of Cordon, you’d see both a show that seems amazingly similar and yet 100 percent different all at the same time.
Were you at all hesitant to kill Katie?
It never occurred to me for a minute not to kill Katie because her death was so powerful when I watched it in the Belgian series, and it really cemented my obsession with the show, that they’d be willing to do such a bold, powerful thing. For me, it was never in question. And it wasn’t until I read some responses after the fact where people felt betrayed and upset by that choice that I even thought, “I wonder if I should’ve thought about that for an extra five minutes.” One of the reasons why I love the virus genre, the quarantine genre, is because the stakes are so high, and you’re put into situations where you are going to have deep and intense emotional attachments or detachments to and from people, and everyone is at risk, and everyone can die. So to build a powerful love story that wouldn’t necessarily have ever happened in any other circumstance and then to break it in half as a result of the virus felt like you had to do something that big and bold in the show to make it matter. Plus I love to destroy love. [Laughs.] It’s this twisted little problem I have. I think, make it as beautiful as you can and then rip it away. That’s my sadistic thought as a storyteller. [Laughs.]
You are right, though. That decision, as heartbreaking as it was, cemented my obsession. It’s so rare that shows nowadays make such a gutsy choice so quickly.
Yes, and it harkens back to the choice Kevin and I made in [Vampire Diaries] season 1 to kill Vicki Donovan, and it sort of felt like a nice full circle in terms of our choices.
The final minute of this show included a voiceover, which was new. Why did you choose to end with that, with Jake, and with an I love you.
Well, the original script was written to end on the reveal that Lex had entered the cordon. That mirrored exactly the final shots of the Belgian version. In our minds, that’s how our show was going to end as well. And then that song was so beautiful that when we put it in, it felt like the episode peaked too early, and that everything that happened after the moment of scattering the ashes felt accidentally like an after-thought. When we really took a look at it, we realized that musically somehow, it was telling us that the story was ending a different way than the script said. So then we shifted the pieces around and decided to end it on that beat of hope and love. I have to say, of course we were hoping that we’d have an opportunity to continue the series for another season to finish the story, but in that getting taken away, I’m glad it ends the way it does in a weird way, because it feels like it is the most emotional period at the end of a sentence that we could’ve come up with.
What would you have done with a season 2?
We had so many plans, and what’s exciting to me, in the midst of my despair, is that the Belgian company has made a second series of the show, so we get to see their story continue on. Maybe if nothing else, more people will watch that now that they don’t get to watch ours.
We really wanted to spend a season dealing with the day-to-day community building of being inside a quarantine that feels like it might never end and really explore what society goes through when they are essentially left to die. And then we were planning on building a really tremendous conspiracy outside the cordon that Leo Green was going to be chasing in a great kind of All the President’s Men way as he connected the origins of the virus back to a big pharma company. We wanted to see what it was like for Lex to end up in a community where suddenly Jake was really, for all intents and purposes, the mayor, and what conflict that would create between those two friends. We wanted to see Jana as the mama bear queen of the community as we see people starting to experiment with how do we communicate, can we have radio, how do we get the message out, how do we educate our kids? What’s poor Quinton going to be like as a teenager growing up in this community? What are the other kids? Are they troublemakers? We had a lot of plans. And I’m super sad that we’re not going to be able to tell those stories.
Any final thoughts on the experience of making Containment?
Honestly, I might be more proud of this show than anything I’ve ever done, because for a limited amount of money and in a limited amount of time and with a terrific piece of source material and full creative support from everyone involved, we told a story that was dark and sad and mysterious and tense and romantic and painful and beautiful all at the same time, which is the kind of TV I love the most. And it looked good, and it was fun to make, and everyone involved really gave it 150 percent and were so committed and so powerfully attached to their jobs and their roles, and it was one of the greatest working experiences I’ve ever had. So I can take that with me, and we can all take it with us and be grateful that the people who were able to tune in from start to finish got to go on that ride with us, and we thank them for tuning in.