Warning: Do not proceed if you have not watched Sunday's episode of Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist. You are heading into spoiler territory.
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist spent its latest episode exploring the uglier side of grief, anger, and the very real possibility that the end may be fast approaching for Zoey's father, Mitch (Peter Gallagher).
On Sunday's episode, things don't go nearly as planned with Zoey's parents' romantic anniversary dinner at their favorite restaurant, largely due to Mitch's deteriorating health, and experiencing her father's decline becomes too much for Zoey (Jane Levy) to bear. So, she channels all her suppressed feelings and emotions about her father, the mounting pressures of work and the growing confusion over her messy love life by acting out in a very un-Zoey-like fashion.
"We've done a lot of episodes that have explored different phases of grief: denial, different aspects of sadness and depression that goes along with grief. But I really wanted to explore the idea of anger and what anger looks like," creator Austin Winsberg tells ET. "We see a side of Zoey in this episode where she's acting out in ways we haven't seen her before that are triggered by her own internal anger about the situation her dad's in and her inability to help him."
"That anger is a natural offshoot of grieving and mourning, and I wanted to explore that in a way that felt real and that maybe didn't always make Zoey seem so likable in the moment, but was true to what that character was going through," he continues. "When we all deal with loss, we deal with it in different ways, and I think it is messy. I wanted to put that out there."
To break down the episode, ET spoke with Winsberg about where Zoey goes from here, why the upcoming season finale is extremely "personal" and an early look ahead at what a potential second season could look like.
ET: In this episode, Mitch's health is deteriorating at a pace his family isn't ready for. How does this looming reality that his days are numbered affect them as the end approaches?
Austin Winsberg: When you know you have a limited amount of time left with somebody, you are trying to do your best to make the most of the time they have left, both for you and for them. And you're also probably trying to wrap your own head around what is life going to look like when they're no longer around, and what are the ways that I have to protect myself and emotionally prepare myself for the inevitable? Zoey is doing her best to spend as much time as she can with the family and to give her dad as much love as possible.
Certainly, in episode 10, they're trying to create as special of a moment and a memory as they can with [her parents'] anniversary, especially because they always go to this one restaurant. Maggie's trying to make their last anniversary as memorable as possible for both of them. It's this push-pull, where you're wanting to create these last memories for the person who's still alive and also memories for yourself to hold on to. In the spirit of everything being messy and complicated, how do we live in the moments when we know there isn't that much time left, is a very complicated question that [has a] different [answer] for everybody.
If the show does get a season two, how do you foresee continuing Mitch's story or have you made a decision about whether this is going to be something that you'll explore in a one-season arc?
That is a very tough question to answer without giving away spoilers. But I will tell you that I just pitched season two to the network last week, and Mitch's effect on the family are things that continue to carry through all of season two.
What can you preview in these last episodes on his progress or lack thereof?
I wanted to make sure that I had a really special moment or two between Mitch and Maggie to dignify their relationship and to understand what they mean to each other. That's something we're going to see more of. The family is going to continue to deal with the end of life, late-stage illness, together in surprising ways. And Maggie's going to be exposed to an aspect of it that she wasn't ready for. Zoey and David are both going to have different, unexpected reactions as things are starting to look worse.
While Simon and Zoey work out their issues, Max moves on to the sixth floor and puts physical distance between himself and Zoey. Does he come to an answer for himself regarding what relationship he wants to have with her?
I think he's doing his best to move on in some ways and to find his own strengths. He, surprisingly, finds some degree of success and validation on the sixth floor that he wasn't getting on the fourth. That work validation contributes to a greater self-confidence. We will see in episodes 11 and 12 that Max and Zoey's relationship dynamic will continue to evolve and change based on where they're both at right now.
Leif makes the decision to join Max on the sixth floor. There's already a rivalry forming between the fourth and sixth floors, and the tug of war for power seems like it'll reach a boiling point. Can you tease what we can expect?
There's absolutely a rivalry for the Chirp between floors four and six. Joan and Ava have had a longstanding rivalry, and that rivalry plays out in episode 11 in a big way, and not everybody escapes from this rivalry unscathed.
Zoey has been gradually letting people in on her kind of secret power. Is it going to be an ongoing journey for her of how she can control this power? What do you want to say in terms of how what she's going through internally manifests itself to the end of the season?
Yeah, I think a lot of season one has been about her gradual acceptance of her powers and her understanding how to use those powers to help others. By the end of the season, she is going to learn to accept that the powers are probably here to stay for a while. And her needing to redefine her relationship to the powers and her shifting mindset from how the power in the beginning was scary and a deep responsibility and a burden to her accepting that maybe there's actually positive things that come from having these powers, both in herself and her ability to expand who she is and also in the way that she interacts and was able to help others. But I think going forward in season two, we will continue to talk about her powers, the responsibility to her powers and how she wants to be empathetic or to help people going forward because of it.
When I talked to Jane, she said the finale was quite "moving." Can you tee up the final episode of the season?
There's a lot in that episode that's very personal, that's taken directly from my own life. We do a seven-minute musical number in the episode that is all one take. So we nail everything, which is one of the things, if not the thing that I'm most proud of the whole season. The finale is one of our best episodes. But also, we have a lot of great songs and big emotions that come out in that episode and some big story points that change everything going forward.
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.
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