‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ Boss on That Zoey & Max Shocker and What Could Be Next
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 2 finale “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye.”]
Just as Zoey (Jane Levy) makes a decision about her love life, she’s hit with a bombshell in the Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist Season 2 finale — and it comes as we’re still awaiting word on the NBC musical dramedy’s future.
Zoey and Simon (John Clarence Stewart) — who now has a new job at SPRQ Point — have one of the most mature breakups on TV before she plans to stop Max (Skylar Astin) at the airport and keep him from heading to New York. After misunderstanding a heart song, she thinks she lost her chance … until he finds her and reveals he didn’t get on the plane and broke up with Rose (Katie Findlay). But just as Zoey’s telling Max she wants to be with him, surprise! He hears her sing a heart song, “I Melt With You,” granting him the insight into her mind that she’s had into his all this time.
“We’re putting a lot of trains in motion for Season 3,” executive producer Austin Winsberg tells TV Insider. “There’s a lot of opportunities for our characters to grow and go on new paths in Season 3. To me, there’s still a lot of the story left to tell.”
We tried to find out what could be next after that finale.
Why have “I Melt With You” be Zoey’s heart song?
Austin Winsberg: I just was trying to think of what she wanted to express, if she could, in song she was feeling in that moment. Obviously, there’s a lot of love songs out there. But for me, that was just one that felt fun, lyrically appropriate. I liked that the first song we ever did on the show when she is in the MRI machine is “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” and this was “I’ll stop the world and melt with you.” I liked that it had “world” in both of them, and it just felt like the right kind of vibe.
Max hearing a heart song leads to so many questions, but is it still Zoey’s power just projected onto him because she’s opening herself up to him?
We spent a lot of time over the last two seasons talking about the inequality of their relationship — and this has come up in many of these Max and Zoey fights — and about how it’s not fair that she gets a window into his brain into what he’s feeling, but he doesn’t get the same window into her. When she’s visited by her dad in the dream, and he talks about him being part of the universe now and maybe all these things that are happening, maybe he has some control over that. In that last scene right after she mentions the universe is when this power change or transition happens.
Going forward into Season 3, the idea would be that after all this time that she got a window into him, he now actually gets a window into her. And I feel like in order for relationships to work in general in life there needs to be some sort of balance or equality. Giving him the power now allows him to see what’s going on in her head, too, and to empathize with her and to understand. On top of that, for romantic comedy purposes, I just think it’s funny for two people to be in a relationship and know exactly what the other person is thinking and what kind of complications that might cause.
Can he only hear Zoey’s heart songs or will he be able to hear others’?
It’s a great question. That is something that has not fully been decided yet.
Will Zoey find someone else who hears heart songs, not necessarily someone she already knows?
We have talked about this from really early on in Season 1. And certainly, when we talk about superheroes and superhero origin stories and all of that, there usually is a place in a superhero show where they discover somebody else with power. So it’s definitely been something we’ve been mindful of. We talked about Max getting the powers since really early on in Season 1, so that’s the relationship we’re most interested in exploring with that going forward for now.
They are definitely together, right? Because the shock of him hearing the heart song took over that moment.
They confess their love to each other at the end. The intention is for them to definitely try and make a go at it going forward.
How is the relationship going to be different this time, other than this new balance?
Zoey had a lot of fears and a lot of doubts about giving herself completely over to Max. Over Season 2 and certainly in the flashback episode and talking about it in therapy, we see she’s got a lot of fears about losing him and a lot of fears about what it means to give yourself to someone. She saw the precariousness of that when Mitch [Peter Gallagher] almost lost Maggie [Mary Steenburgen] and also all of Season 1, and Maggie losing the love of her life, Mitch. It made her guarded and fearful of a real relationship.
When her father sings “I Lived” to her in the season finale, it’s a message to her that you need to stop choosing fear and embrace life. From that moment on, she decides to go to the airport to tell him she’s making the choice that she’s not going to be afraid anymore and that life and love is risk and pain and challenges, but that’s what it is and that’s what it means to live life. As a character who’s been closed off and sees the world in very black and white terms as a computer coder, for her to wholly open up like this is the evolution that we’ve been building towards over two seasons.
Now she’s going forward with Max without hesitation, without the baggage of having been in the throes of grief, like she was early on in the season, and she’s going to want to make it work. New challenges are going to arise from the fact that now they have this complication that they can both hear each other’s songs.
Because of the connection that Zoey had with Simon, it was important for her to play out that connection and to see what it really was. I felt like she wouldn’t be ready to totally commit to Max until she had played out that dynamic with Simon.
I like how mature Simon and Zoey were about their breakup. I’m looking forward to them being friends because it feels like they can be.
I hope so. I don’t like villainizing any of our characters and I really feel like everyone’s human and maybe there’ll be a bit of an uncomfortable or bumpy road back to friendship, but I certainly feel like they bring a lot to each other. Skylar and John and Jane challenged me to not make it that Zoey was a prize and to not make it that they were competing over her. I just thought that that was kind of a more evolved and mature way to approach everything. I like the Max and Simon friendship, so I would like the ability for them to all be able to coexist and get along.
Simon has a new job and it feels like this is where his entire arc this season was leading. Is he perhaps the happiest and most hopeful we’ve seen him?
Yeah, it was important to me, especially with Simon and Zoey breaking up in the finale, that we weren’t bringing Simon back to a depressed place. A lot of Season 1, he was dealing with the grief of his father’s suicide and the guilt and the anger and the shame and all of the feelings associated with that. I wanted to see him come out more positive on the other side, so by him singing “I’m Still Standing” at the end and by getting this new job where he’s doing this incubator, which is very important for him, I think he is landing in a good place at the end of the season and also paving the road for us to tell us more inclusive stories in Season 3 and bringing new, smaller businesses and more diversity into SPRQ Point.
Mo [Alex Newell] and Perry [David St. Louis] are in a good place at the end of the season after some hiccups. How did you want to use those bumps and eventual reconciliation to evolve both characters, especially Mo?
Alex Newell is so great at challenging me to be authentic and challenging me to delve into the harder conversations or the things that might be more uncomfortable. He’s been a great ally and also creative partner in talking about that stuff, so it was important when talking about the relationship with Perry that we really talked about what some of those real issues could and would be. Now that they have come to a better place, I’m also excited to see what it’s like for Mo, who was kind of this carefree, independent person, suddenly in Season 3, having to be in a relationship with an older man, who’s got two kids and an ex. I am excited about the idea of scenes with Mo and children and really exploring what it means for Mo to venture into a more domestic situation and the comedy and the challenges that can go along with it. As long as we stay true to who Alex is and be authentic with it, there’s a lot of opportunities for stories there.