‘Scenes From a Marriage’: Jessica Chastain & Oscar Isaac Break Down ‘Difficult’ Episode 4

Scenes From a Marriage - Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac - HBO
Spoiler Alert

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Scenes From a Marriage, Season 1, Episode 4, “The Illiterates.”]

Things took a turn for Mira (Jessica Chastain) and Jonathan (Oscar Isaac) in the latest episode of HBO’s riveting limited drama series Scenes From a Marriage. As with each episode before, “The Illiterates,” gave viewers a window into the world of a couple for whom time passes and circumstances change, but their ties to one another remain.

This installment was undoubtedly the rollercoaster ride of the season as the action focused on the broken pair while Mira attempted to salvage their tattered union amid uncertainty in her professional and personal life. Showing up at their formerly-shared home, Mira came to help Jonathan divvy up their items and settle things.

 Scenes from a Marriage Jessica Chastain Oscar Isaac

(Credit: HBO)

The hour-long entry included discussions about signing divorce papers, a messy hookup on a plastic-wrapped couch, a revelation that Mira was being forced to resign from her high-power position that culminated in moments of comfort and domestic violence. “I think it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done emotionally,” Chastain told TV Insider.

The actress decorated her dressing room with visuals to help inspire her performance, and for this episode, Chastain joked, “it was super dark.” She went on to add, “I just knew what I was heading into, and even talking about it’s difficult.”

In particular, she referenced a moment between Mira and Jonathan towards the episode’s end where the pair had a bit of a wrestling and smacking match. “I had a blast smacking my dear friend across the face,” said Isaac with heavy sarcasm marring his voice. The actor had been friends with Chastain since college. “It was heavy,” he admitted.

Scenes from a Marriage Jessica Chastain Oscar Isaac Episode 4

(Credit: HBO)

The scuffle involved Mira trying to prevent Jonathan from leaving, and as she tried to restrain him at the door, they ended up getting physical. When asked about the irony of the moment, which saw the pair essentially swapping roles following Episode 2’s exit for Mira which Jonathan tried to prevent, the actors admitted the reality of that moment was lost on the characters.

“I think it’s absolutely lost on them,” said Chastain. “I don’t think they’re even conscious of it cause it’s more of an animalistic state, but in both times they’re not really communicating from a clear place.” In Episode 4, “Mira’s had a very difficult past month,” Chastain noted, hinting at her character’s shifting position at her company, something that determined a lot of her decisions early on in the season.

While Mira was ready to do whatever Jonathan wanted to make it work, Chastain said, “It’s sad to see her give up.” But the actress teased that she saw Mira “happier at Episode 5.” And as for Jonathan’s state of mind, he’s resolved in his decision to make a break from Mira, a far cry from his desperation to keep the mangled marriage they had at the beginning of the show going.

“He’s not operating necessarily from a place of strength in Episode 4,” Isaac said. “There’s elements that feel like, ‘yes, finally, you’re standing up for yourself,’ but it’s not necessarily standing up for himself because he knows the person that he wants to be.” Added the actor, “he’s still quite lost, and in a way his journey is one of becoming more comfortable with being lost.”

While things seem broken beyond repair right now, Chastain promised, “there’s this beautiful love story” unfolding, ” and as much as it is a love story [about] how much she loves Jonathan, it’s also a love story of how much she loves herself.” See how the finale unfolds when Episode 5 of Scenes From a Marriage arrives October 10 on HBO.

Scenes From a Marriage, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO