Showrunner Stacy Rukeyser breaks down the season 3 finale and teases what's next

By Shirley Li
April 23, 2018 at 11:00 PM EDT
Bettina Strauss/Lifetime; Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
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Warning: This story contains spoilers for season 3 of UnREAL. Read at your own risk!

UnREAL’s third season finale could have been the drama’s final episode. “We actually didn’t know we had a fourth season when we were writing this script,” showrunner Stacy Rukeyser says, “so we wrote it as if it might be a series finale.”

That may be why some characters got happy endings: Rachel (Shiri Appleby) got the cabin she dreamed of, Quinn (Constance Zimmer) took down Gary (Christopher Cousins) once and for all, and Chet (Craig Bierko) reunited with the love of his life.

Of course, others didn’t fare as well by the end of the season. Suitress Serena (Caitlin FitzGerald), for one, walked away from a season of Everlasting empty-handed. (Well, not literally: As she pulled away from the mansion for the last time, she held her phone in her hand, endlessly swiping through yet another dating app.) Dr. Simon (Brandon Jay McLaren) was fired from the show after his snooping was uncovered. And Jeremy (Josh Kelly), after torturing himself with one more season of Everlasting, finally called it quits.

EW caught up with Rukeyser to break down the season 3 finale’s twists and chat about the series’ future.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Serena. Why did you want to end the season with her rejecting both men? Didn’t she come onto this season truly searching for love, not publicity?
STACY RUKEYSER:
 So much of what we were interested in exploring with her this season was all of the romantic travails of a woman like Serena. When are you doing the right thing by rejecting these guys and not settling? I think that that’s very hard to figure out these days, particularly in this world of social media — when everything and everyone looks perfect — and also in the time of all these dating apps. There’s always, just around the corner, something better, something more, something else. And oftentimes, you find that there’s not.

Did you ever want to have her choose one of the men in the end? Her final scene is so bittersweet — what do you want people to take away from it?
Well, I think we’re always trying to get people talking about things, and to ask questions rather than give answers. Things are changing so much, and in so many wonderful ways. But the thing that is challenging is that there are no easy answers.

Quinn’s story raises similar questions. Is she settling by choosing to go back to Chet, in your opinion?
Well, it depends on how you look at Quinn and Chet’s relationship. I believe that Quinn and Chet have a pretty undeniable love affair, as complicated and messed up and absurd as it has been at times. I think he’s worked really hard this season, he’s had a lot of personal realizations in terms of what he wants.

But Quinn too, her personal journey so much this season was about getting her career back. She so self-identifies with her work and her career, and that was so important. But one of the things that we were exploring was that, there is in all of us, I believe, this need for human connection. And at the end of the day, is the career really enough for Quinn, or does she need some sort of human connection? So I hope that Quinn ending up on Chet’s doorstep is something that the fans debate.

As for Rachel, she gets what she wants at the end of the season, but before she goes to the cabin, she delights in producing Chet’s girlfriend and upending Serena’s choice. With a season 4 on the way, we should expect to see her back in Everlasting’s fold soon, right?
Of course, nothing in UnREAL is ever one thing or the other, so nothing is ever gonna be just a happy ending. You can imagine Rachel Goldberg alone in this place, with all of those thoughts [about what she’s done] swirling around in her head. That can be kind of dangerous. Where Rachel’s left at the end of the season is a very destabilized place.

Quinn and Rachel’s goodbye scene felt so much more hopeful than last season’s, which came right after they killed two people. When you were writing it, were you trying to hint that they’re finally equals?
When we wrote it, again, we thought it might be a series finale, so their [conversation] was even more important there because we really do believe that Rachel and Quinn are the central love story in the series. [We wanted to show] that regardless of the terrible things that have happened, they love each other very, very deeply, and that Quinn is a better mother to Rachel than Rachel’s own mother ever was.

Bettina Strauss/Lifetime

On a separate note, the Quinn and Gary storyline was written and shot before the #MeToo movement took off. What are your thoughts on how prescient you guys were with this finale?
It is kind of crazy. I wish that I could say that we were prescient and felt that this moment was coming, but I can’t. I mean, yes, there were things that we were feeling and for some of us experiencing as women, and particularly as women in Hollywood, that obviously we wanted to talk about. But I just feel like it is an incredibly great coincidence that it’s now becoming part of the broader cultural conversation. And I’m thrilled that we are a part of that, and that we are dramatizing that, and frankly, dramatizing it in a way that does not put women on a pedestal.

In this case, I’d like to think that it’s really victorious that all of these women came forward and were empowered by Quinn. But we also talk a lot about how women are not these angels. Quinn’s always gonna come out on top, and she’s gonna use whatever she needs in order to do that. … We have complicated, messed-up women as our protagonists. And I think that that’s really important, to show real women, to show real behavior.

Now to clarify some of the other characters’ arcs, is that it for Jeremy? He seemed pretty set in his decision to leave — we shouldn’t be expecting him to return in season 4, should we?
Jeremy is not coming back for season 4, and that was purely a story decision, and a really hard one because there’s a lot of love for [actor] Josh Kelly. But storywise, it just felt like the right thing to do because he has gone on a big journey this season. In the beginning, he’s glib, almost, in admitting [that he killed two people], but he’s not really processing it. By the end of episode 9, he is. And it was just nice to see one character realize how toxic this place is and actually get out. So he gets out and he stays out.

And Dr. Simon? Will he return to torment Rachel even more?
No, he’s gone too. He’s been fired, and he’s going to stay fired. She’s certainly not interested in a romantic relationship with him.

Who’s back, then, for season 4? It’s an all-star lineup for Everlasting.
August is back, and Alexi is back, and then a couple other characters from earlier seasons.

What about former suitors and suitresses? Any chance Adam, Darius, or Serena return?
They’re not coming back. I know everybody wants Adam to come back — who wouldn’t want Adam to come back? — and we’d love to have him back, but he hasn’t been available, so there is no Adam or Darius or Serena in our plans for season 4.

What else can you tease for the fourth season at this point?
Well, if you’ve seen Shiri Appleby’s Instagram feed, you know she’s blonde. Rachel’s up at that cabin with all of these terrible things swirling around in her head, and so, this physical transformation — it’s not just about changing her look, it’s coming from a place of real panic inside. And you’ve seen in the teaser that Quinn says to Rachel, who’s with a lot of these all-stars, “To hell with being a producer. You’re the suitress.” I don’t want to say too much about how Quinn gets that impression, but it’s a whole new can of worms for her next season.

The Lifetime drama—created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and featuring Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer—explores the dark behind-the-scenes nature of a reality dating show (which is very clearly mirrored after The Bachelor).
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