[Warning! This post contains spoilers for the Superstore season finale.]
Superstore ended its sophomore season with a bang: the ever-present Cloud 9 store was destroyed in a tornado, and the threat of death significantly altered several relationships.
Jonah (Ben Feldman)—still reeling from accidentally telling Amy (America Ferrera) she was sexy—went out of his way to try and play it off as a goof. But as the two feared they were near death, they shared a kiss...only for her to leave later with her estranged husband and daughter.
Meanwhile, Garrett (Colton Dunn) and Dina (Lauren Ash) faced their own issues as the colleagues with benefits fought over her apparent ambivalence over his survival pre-tornado. And though Mateo (Nico Santos) dumped Jeff (Michael Bunin) in order to keep his undocumented status quiet, he dialed up his ex to confess his love during the height of the storm.
Superstore boss Justin Spitzer spoke with TV Insider about pulling off the NBC comedy's ambitious finale and what's next.
The real Superstore soundstage was demolished due to Universal Studios theme park construction. What role did that play into the decision to destroy Cloud 9?
We had talked for a while about wanting to do a tornado in the story someday, but I hadn’t planned for it to be at the end of this season. Then we’ve had a joke or two about that the store wasn’t tornado-worthy earlier in the season and I thought, "Oh, this is great. Over the next few years, I’ll keep doing it just occasionally and then Season 5, I’ll just destroy the store or something. Or our series finale would be the store gets destroyed." Then, when we found out that they were tearing down the set anyway, we just thought, "Well, now’s the time. We can destroy and not have to worry about putting it back together and it'll help justify why the store looks kind of different when we come back."
Natural disaster threatens the retail outlet Cloud 9 in the twister-laden season 2 finale of NBC's 'Superstore'.
Did you have to take a break in production to destroy everything for that final moment?
We definitely made sure to shoot in order. So we shot the stuff where the store wasn’t destroyed first, and we had to make the call that, yes, we are done with everything where we need to see the store; there’s no more re-shoots, there’s no anything. And then, yeah, the second half of the week we beat the hell out of it.
Then we had to be off our stages one week before the end of shooting because they had to get started with the theme park, so we flipped the order of [production of] those last two episodes. So we shot the tornado episode before we shot the wedding episode.
And that’s partly the reason why the wedding episode was the wedding episode. Not that I wouldn’t have wanted them to get married at some point, but we needed to shoot an episode that was almost entirely on location, which we’ve never done before. And that was the reason for that. As long you can go with it and adapt, I think, nobody knows—well, now they know!
Looking to the episode itself, there was the very huge Amy and Jonah kiss. At what point in the writers' room did you guys decide, 'Okay, we want to have them kiss, but we also want to have them kiss when the stakes are actually life and death?'
That felt like the only thing that can actually motivate the kiss. We went back and forth on the kiss for a long time up, and until the last possible moment you can make a decision, they were not gonna kiss. They’re going to share a moment that looks like an almost kiss. And I even made sure, while we were shooting it, that we had the footage that, if I changed my mind in editing, I can kind of pull back.
It really just felt like I wanted it to be a significant moment when Amy decides that that family is important. That she, at least for the time being, needs to be with Adam and Emma, and for that to mean something, she and Jonah had to have something real and also openly acknowledged. Their will they, won’t they all this time has been very one sided; neither one has admitted their feelings to each other. It’s always been, "I’m a little jealous, but I’m not going to admit it. People around me perceive that I have a crush, which is crazy. I’m gonna fight that." So, them actually having a kiss is kind of the first acknowledgement that there’s some tension there—other than the moment when Jonah calls Amy sexy in the wedding episode. But it’s the first one where Amy gives him something back. And it felt like they needed to be about to die for that to happen. I don’t feel like they’re at a place yet where they would have a kiss otherwise.
You have experience with another will they, won’t they with The Office's Jim and Pam. And while that was, obviously, very different circumstances, there are certainly parallels that could be drawn between the two couples—including their first real significant big moment coming in the Season 2 finale…
I know, I know. I was very conscious of that. I didn’t want to follow the Jim and Pam template and it just felt like that was the right call. But I was resistant partially because of that.
Since you do have that history and because people could make that connection, how similar will their Season 3 journey be?
I understand if you had to compare it to another show in television history, I understand why people would remember that one. But I don’t think The Office owns a stutter step; that feels very real to me, especially given that Amy isn’t divorced. So there’s only so many moves to make in will they, won’t they relationship. Either they’ll be together or they won’t be.
For me, they feel so different because the characters feel so different. But, you know, it’s definitely something I’m always aware of. Probably too much so. I think, a lot of times other writers say, "Look, most people don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of The Office you have." But I do tend to be hyperaware of that.
The writers played with Amy’s marriage issues this year. How much will you be mining that next season, or do you feel like the audience has seen what you have to say about that and if/when a split comes, they'll know why it happened?
I think we need to remind the audience occasionally. I don’t think we could go 22 episodes and then have Amy say, "Hey guys, I divorced Adam. Remember Adam?" But I know what you mean: we also don’t want it to feel repetitive and just keep doing stories that the audience sees coming and Adam is largely an off-screen character. So it becomes difficult to find new things.
I think, we’re just gonna keep on using her relationship to provide color and to understand why she can’t be with Jonah or why she acts in different ways. And see where it takes us. We don’t have a specific destination in mind about what’s gonna happen with Jonah and Amy. And I still mean it when I say they may never fully get together. I think we’ll just keep breaking stories and see where it takes us.
Garrett and Dina have quite an arc as he was getting very frustrated with her lack of caring. In your mind, will her acknowledging she's happy he survived change them next season?
I think everything with this show is baby steps. For them, too, I don’t know where they go. I don’t how Dina is in a full relationship. It would be very interesting to explore. She doesn’t seem like someone that is empathic that you feel like telling your true feelings to. It remains to be seen.
Glenn was praying his heart out, and then his prayers seemed to be answered in an unexpected way. How much are you planning to play with that next year?
We’ve talked about whether that he loses faith. Does he become Muslim? Which I don’t think we’ll end up doing. But I don’t think it’s something we drop. Whether he starts questioning his faith or he just starts questioning himself for having that momentarily lack of faith, I think it’s something that’s a part of him and we have to keep going. We can’t just treat the tornado like something that happened and then they rebuild the store and everything is back to normal. I think it’s going change some people in some ways and we’ll have to be cognizant to that.
Mateo did confess, via phone call, that he loved Jeff. How might that play out going forward?
Originally, he was going to confess he wasn’t a citizen and we ended up cutting it—probably for time—and also we didn’t quite know yet how we would answer it. But it was mostly for time.
I think we love Jeff, we love Michael Bunin. We don’t want to lose him as part of our characters and part of our cast, so we just do that to keep it alive. Jeff was such a big part of Mateo’s arc this season, probably because it overlapped with his citizenship, that it just seemed like if anything was gonna be happening with him during the tornado, that would be it. If it were, he’s gonna decide to die and he calls home to tell his mom he loves him, it just wouldn’t feel meaningful.
Series creator Justin Spitzer teases 'Mateo's Last Day.'
What kind of time jump do you anticipate doing when the show returns?
Actually, my plan right now is not to do a huge time jump. For a while, we were thinking six months later, but I think there’s too much that happened during the tornado to have to then find a way to explain to the audience with a time jump. I think we want to see what’s going be happening with Jonah and Amy, Garret and Dina, and certainly Glenn, too. So, I think it might be as little as a few days.
In your mind, do you anticipate them being at other stores as our Cloud 9 is being rebuilt?
We talked about that, but I think more a likely scenario is that the store is being rebuilt while they’re working there. That’s the sort of plan. And it’s a little borne out of truth. I don’t know about stores destroyed by tornados, but we’ve certainly read articles about stores where the roof is caved in or there’s just been tremendous damage and those stores, incredibly expensive to own, they have to keep on pushing products. So it stays open and we work around the repairs.