Ask Matt: ‘Supernatural,’ ‘Walking/Talking Dead’ and More Coronavirus Fallout, ‘Legends’ Departure, ‘Sinner’ Rave & More

Supernatural cast
Jeff Weddell/The CW

Welcome to the Q&A with TV critic—also known to some TV fans as their “TV therapist”—Matt Roush, who’ll try to address whatever you love, loathe, are confused or frustrated or thrilled by in today’s vast TV landscape. (We know background music is too loud, but there’s always closed-captioning.)

One caution: This is a spoiler-free zone, so we won’t be addressing upcoming storylines here unless it’s already common knowledge. Please send your questions and comments to [email protected] (or use the form at the end of the column) and follow me on Twitter. Look for Ask Matt columns on many Tuesdays and Fridays.

How Will the Outbreak Affect Supernatural‘s Finale?

Question: Because the coronavirus has forced Supernatural to shut down production, will we ever get to see the last two episodes or will we be left to never know how it was going to end? — Justin

Matt Roush: This industry (and global) shutdown is unprecedented in so many ways, and there’s no way to predict at this point how things will play out on a number of fronts, so I’d advise patience on the part of fans when it comes to situations like this. It is unthinkable that Supernatural of all series won’t ever get to film its final episodes, but as we’ve just learned, it has already affected the immediate scheduling of episodes, so it’s unclear just when the remaining episodes will air. Nonetheless, when and if things improve, I’d expect Supernatural to gear up again as soon as is safely possible and get these final episodes in the can and on the air without undue delay. The one scenario I don’t see happening is the show just ending a few episodes shy of the actual finale without ever telling the end of the story. As executive producer Andrew Dabb tweeted, “We, the CW and Warner Bros. fully intend to return and finish the series. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

Not All Finales Were Affected

Question: I’ve been really enjoying NBC’s Manifest this season. I saw a promo that there are 3 episodes left. Does that mean all were filmed before the work stoppage? I already know some of my other shows like FBI will have a shorter season. — Fred

Matt Roush: Yes, as a midseason show with a shorter episode order, Manifest will run to the end of its season as expected without interruption. A number of prime-time shows signing off before May, including the series finale of Modern Family in April, thankfully were able to wrap production before the shutdown. That list includes a handful of shows airing their finales this week, including This Is Us, Stumptown, Star Trek: Picard, A Million Little Things, Deputy and The Sinner.

Dead Silence

Question: My query is about the recent episode of The Walking Dead which featured the deaths of three fairly important characters and especially that of one Big Bad, that of Samantha Morton‘s Alpha—but it does not concern this happening, but rather why we were deprived of the Talking Dead after-show without any previous heads-up of this not happening from AMC. I know that we have the coronavirus pandemic causing these changes, but most other talk shows had at least one episode without an audience. And not to have one after this episode is quite glaring since most of their latest episodes have been actually quite boring. Besides I wanted to see if Samantha Morton would finally be one of the two surprise guests featured, but more than likely it would have been Thora Birch or John Finn, whose characters also died — so why did Samantha Morton never appear is another question. I guess there is little hope for Danai Gurira appearing as an after-show in the future as I understand that Michonne’s last appearance is near. — JV

Matt Roush: This question obviously was submitted before Sunday’s episode, when Danai Gurira appeared on a special non-studio edition of Talking Dead to discuss Michonne’s exit from the series. So let’s back up, and again I’d caution patience. Yes, a fan may feel inconvenienced when deprived an episode of something, but imagine the producers and participants of these shows and what they’re going through in terms of logistics. When the big Alpha (DN-RIP) episode aired on March 15, it was during the weekend when the situation was escalating dramatically all across the country and even more established nightly talk shows were still figuring out their strategy on how to go forward. I’d cut them some slack for not having all of the elements in place by then. There will be future opportunities for these actors to appear, or not, on the show (from home or in studio, remains to be seen) to discuss their departures, since the fallout from Negan’s surprise slaughter of Alpha will continue to play out in the next episode and beyond.

And as we’ve seen with AMC’s decision to delay the premiere of the Walking Dead: World Beyond spinoff to an unspecified date later this year, the fallout from this outbreak continues to ripple and we who merely watch need to stay flexible as well.

Where Does This Leave Pilot Season?

Question: Obviously, none of us (including you) has a crystal ball to foresee whether our favorite TV shows will be able to trickle back into production this summer…or later. So please don’t mistake this question as some solicitation for a psychic prediction. But what does the Hollywood shutdown mean for the fall TV pilots that were ordered, based on their known status? Did any of the ordered pilots complete filming in their entirety, and could be viewable to network executives for consideration? Or, whenever the next season begins to air (even if it doesn’t actually hit our screens until November or January), is it more likely that such a schedule will be populated with mostly returning favorites, whereas a majority of new shows wouldn’t premiere until spring or fall of 2021? — Suzanne

Question: As you suggested, it’s way too early in this crisis to know the extent of the ripple effects on the season to come: when it will start, what shows will or won’t make the schedule, and so on. I don’t know if any pilots for fall had actually completed production, and my guess is it would be a pretty short list. Some shows given a straight-to-series order would already be in contention, but others may have to be evaluated sight unseen on strength of premise, script and locked-in cast. As I keep saying, this is an unprecedented situation, and until we actually know the extent of the shutdown, there are no good answers.

On a similar train of thought, Roger wrote: “I’m thinking of a very slight upside to the current pandemic. As production of new episodes has shut down, filming of pilot season is also halted. Am I wrong to think this may save some shows that would normally be cancelled (like Stumptown, Tommy, Deputy, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist) since the networks will need shows once production (hopefully) resumes sometime in the future?”

That subject came up in this column’s recent discussion of the chances of renewal for Stumptown, and there is some thought among industry insiders that the current disruption could bolster the chances of some of the more marginal shows seen to be “on the bubble.” If it gives shows like Stumptown and Zoey a boost, more power to them.

Another Silver Lining

Question: Actually a prediction: People adjusting to the quickly evolving coronavirus pandemic, and feeling a serious financial pinch, are going to cancel cable and streaming services, and return to free basic broadcast TV, especially feel-good sitcoms and family dramas (appointment TV for me now includes The Waltons on MeTV). — Maurice

Matt Roush: You’re probably right, especially as many are facing a dire new economic reality — although I’ve noticed a number of streaming services expanding their “free trial” periods to 30 days, so that’s another option for the short term. But with the late-night shows going dark, our household has begun a recent routine of nodding off to the comforting predictability of Perry Mason (also on MeTV). I’d expect more people than ever are flocking to syndicated sitcom and nostalgic drama repeats as comfort food.

When a Legend Takes His Leave

Question: Can you please tell me why Brandon Routh was written off DC’s Legends of Tomorrow? Everything I’ve read has been vague and non-specific. I’m going to miss his goofy character. — Laura

Matt Roush: I’m sure you’re not alone, but from all I’ve seen, this was a “creative” decision that appears to have been made by the show’s producer/writers, who felt the character had earned his happy ending. The revolving door on shows like these is nothing new, but when it claims a fan favorite who apparently didn’t choose to leave, it can sting.

And Finally…

Question: Bill Pullman, as Detective Harry Ambrose in The Sinner, is by far one of the very finest actors on TV. His performances in The Sinner are mesmerizing, intriguing, subtle and thoroughly captivating. He can portray more emotion with a sly look of the eye than some actors can with their whole body. How fortunate are we that every week we get to watch this master class in acting. May there be many more seasons of The Sinner. — Sandra K, Maryland

Matt Roush: I’m always happy to end these columns on a positive note, and this is particularly well-timed to The Sinner‘s finale this Thursday after another darkly compelling season (with a strong guest performance from Matt Bomer). Couldn’t agree more about Pullman’s work as Harry Ambrose: quiet on the surface, with so much depth and pain in the details. It’s the sort of performance that too often gets overlooked, so thanks for calling him and the show out. I also hope there are more stories to tell in this franchise.

That’s all for now. Thanks as always for reading, and remember that I can’t do this without your participation, so please keep sending questions and comments about TV to [email protected] or shoot me a line on Twitter (@TVGMMattRoush), and you can also submit questions via the handy form below. Please include a first name with your question. Everyone stay safe and healthy!