Genera+ion co-creator responds to show's cancellation, answers most-asked finale questions
On Sept. 14, HBO Max announced it would not be moving forward with a second season of Genera+ion. In a statement, the streaming service said it is "very proud to have partnered with Zelda and Daniel Barnz to faithfully and authentically represent LGBTQ youth with such a diverse group of characters and layered stories." Here co-showrunner Zelda Barnz shares what the proposed conclusion for many of those stories were, and sheds light on how the season finale's poignant cliffhanger conveys what the purpose of the series was.
The question of the rooftop: Notes from the queer Gen-Zer who created, wrote, and executive produced Genera+ion
Recently, the news broke that HBO Max has canceled Generation. It's certainly a bittersweet ending for myself and many of the brilliant people who contributed so greatly to our first season, but I don't think Generation's purpose was to exist as a cultural giant in the landscape of television. I think its purpose was simply to exist, as something intimate and honest for queer people. I'm proud of the first season. I'm proud of our cast and crew. I'm grateful we got to make this show at all, because there was a great deal of uncertainty in even pitching a show about queer teenagers in such a specific setting. A part of me is content with the fact that this show, now, gets to live as a piece.
Of course, ending a season so abruptly leaves quite a few loose ends and unanswered questions. I'm going to attempt to answer some of those, just for my own peace of mind, and hopefully it can provide some clarification. These are some of the questions I get most frequently.
Was Mark Patrick and Joe's third?
No, we (the writers) never intended for this to be the implication, but we always indulged the possibility that Mark (Sam Trammell) was bi-curious, and had simply never had the chance to explore. We discussed many ideas regarding how to move forward with the Stewart family post-finale, and we didn't settle on anything final, but many of us loved the idea of Mark becoming a more present and open-minded dad, even if he didn't get the chance to explore his sexuality more within the context of our show.
Would Delilah, Naomi, and Arianna have been okay?
Eventually, yes. We see the slightest glimpse of this when Arianna (Nathanya Alexander) and Delilah (Lukita Maxwell) reconnect at the end of the finale, and of course the rift between these two and Naomi (Chloe East) is much more extreme, but I think these are three girls who couldn't help but come back to each other.
Would Riley have gone to Reno with her dad?
No. We could never have gotten rid of Riley (Chase Sui Wonders), we love her (and Chase) way too much. Who knows? Maybe Ana (Nava Mau) would've adopted her.
And Riley and Greta's relationship?
We really wanted to explore the implications of a relationship between one sexual and one asexual person, when they each experience such strong romantic feelings for one another. I don't think there is enough asexual representation in television to begin with, but it's also a question of the kind of asexual representation. I happen to know several ace people who have had romantic relationships, so why is that so hard to find in the media? So yes, there was definitely a future for Greta (Haley Sanchez) and Riley (but they both need to learn some communication skills). I'll admit I'm disappointed that we didn't get to continue this representation of Greta's experience with her identity — I think it had potential to be a valuable character arc for a lot of ace or questioning kids. I'll also admit I'm sad we couldn't give Riley her happy ending.
And then there is the unresolved mystery...
Who did Chester see on the rooftop?
I wish I had a straight answer, and I'm sorry I don't have any certainty on the matter, but I think I can answer this question in another way. Here is the concluding scene of Genera+ion, as it is written:
The cast and crew and writers and producers of Generation all had many conversations about this scene, about who should be the "you" in question. There was also a lot of speculation from fans. Some thought it should be Riley, some thought Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) after their tumultuous finale arc. Or Bo (Marwan Salama), who genuinely loves Chester (Justice Smith), and wants so much to figure it out.
Some people thought it should be Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett), because of the phone call, and because Sam has received a photo of this location before (via email, in the pilot). Justice once said it could be Chester's missing father. One producer thought the entirety of the GSA should show up, in a scene emphasizing the concept of chosen family. A fan once asked me if it was the ghost of Chester's mother.
Personally, I always thought it should be J (Sydney Mae Diaz). Partially for logistical reasons, because no other character had actually been to that spot before. But also because, in my opinion, no other character was quite as intuitive. J witnessed Chester's breakdown over the course of the night, and he knows how Chester's mind works when he's upset. I don't think any other character could both pinpoint exactly where Chester would go, and then follow him there. I think J showing up would've been really cool.
I'm not going to argue academic-essay style why J makes the most sense to me. Instead, I want to say something about this scene.
I'm very proud to end this show with a moment of joy. Unexplained joy, maybe, but does joy ever require justification? I don't think it does. I don't think it should. What matters about this scene is not who shows up (the unresolved mystery is a bit of theater, the "click next" moment that all streaming services ask their writers to provide), but that someone shows up. Someone shows up for this unapologetically queer boy in a moment of vulnerability. Someone shows up for him when he needs them, and he's able to smile, and he's able to say "it's you." And we know he's not alone on that rooftop.
So really, there is no mystery. Maybe it's Sam or Riley or J or maybe it's a hallucination or maybe it's a character we haven't met yet, but it doesn't really matter in the end. It's whoever Chester needed most in that moment. There is closure in knowing that person found their way to him, whoever they may be.
To any queer person reading this, whether you watched Generation or not, if your someone hasn't found you yet, give them time. They're finding their way.