‘The Bite’ Team on Rachel & Lily’s Growing Friendship, Plus Who Survived?
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for all six episodes of The Bite.]
For six episodes, we watched the world of The Bite fight a strain of COVID that turned people into zombies, but by the finale, there is a cure. There’s just one problem: It will only save one of the two women, neighbors Dr. Rachel Boutella (Audra McDonald) or dominatrix Lily Leithauser (Taylor Schilling), we’ve gotten to know in their apartments in New York.
Rachel’s infected while she’s studying the virus to try to find a cure, and Lily makes the ultimate sacrifice to help her when her neighbor reveals a major problem. Rachel was able to briefly connect with her husband, Dr. Zach (Steven Pasquale) at the CDC, but she can’t read everything he’s written about the cure. As a result, she has two batches, and only one will work. Lily infects herself so each can take one and they’ll know which is the cure. Then, all they can do is wait … and continue to bond in person (for the first time) as they’d been doing over Zoom all season. When time is up to find out which person took the cure … the series ends.
But who survived? Read on as creators Robert and Michelle King and stars McDonald, Schilling, Pasquale, Phillipa Soo (who plays White House liaison and spokesperson Cyndi Estero), and Will Swenson (who plays Rachel’s lover Brian Ritter) break down that ending.
Who Lives? Who Dies?
We’ll never know. All Robert King would tell TV Insider is there’s no last-minute miracle where both do. “Given the rules that we establish, one survives and one will not,” he says.
McDonald admits that her answer “changes from day to day. There’s a Pollyanna part of me that thinks they all survive. And then there’s the egotistical part of me that makes me want to think that it’s me. And then there’s another part that thinks that it might be Lily.”
Schilling, on the other hand, “would hope it was Rachel” because “she had a lot more technical knowledge to offer the planet.” (As we saw, however, Lily did do quite a good job when it came to contact tracing.)
And while it looked like Zach and Cyndi died — she was bit and infected then bit him — Pasquale refuses to rule out the possibility that they somehow survive. “We don’t know what happens,” he points out. “What we know is it gets pretty intense there at the end, but there are serums and antidotes and all kinds of things that happen.” His wife Soo agreed: “There are no certainties.”
The True Love Story of The Bite
While Rachel’s love life is complicated — she’s married to Zach, but involved with Brian Ritter (Will Swenson, McDonald’s husband), while Zach had an affair with Cyndi) — her blossoming friendship with Lily is quite simple. The two do, after all, go from only talking to each other from their windows to the dominatrix (potentially) sacrificing herself instead of taking up a client on his offer to escape the city.
“In many ways, it’s a romance of a friendship in a way of two unlikely people, an odd couple who become friends and you’ve had them apart,” Robert King says. “It’s like Sleepless in Seattle — they’re on separate coasts and they hear about each other and they have missed phone calls and the son’s trying to get them together, but only at the end, do you see them together. That creates this new spark. We were kind of going for that, but with women and about friendship.”
“We like to do shows that comment a bit on the current moment,” Michelle King adds. “And maybe the only good thing to come out of the pandemic is a lot of people found friendships among their neighbors because you couldn’t go out with or see anybody else.”
McDonald agrees. “The relationship between Lily and Rachel is a love story in and of itself. It’s these two women that are working hard to stay sane during this time, and are both very much alone in some ways and come to realize that they can depend on each other. There’s a whole level of trust that opens up that perhaps they haven’t really expressed or experienced with anybody else,” she says. “To go from some strange woman that Rachel’s not really sure what it is she does up there to the only person that she can truly count on in the world is a magnificent journey to happen in just these six short episodes. It’s very Thelma and Louise in some ways.”
“I think they really started just to get a kick out of each other,” Schilling says. “That was my favorite part of the show: watching them learn to be on each other’s team, to support each other.”
The Relationships That Didn’t Stand a Chance?
Due to COVID, the Kings found actors who could film together — McDonald and Swenson, and Pasquale and Soo — but don’t forget that Rachel and Zach were married. And without the in-story virus, none of the actors are too sure about the strength of Rachel and Brian or Zach and Cyndi’s relationships.
Brian “was in it for the long haul,” Swenson says. “Brian had played the field for years and years and then just got slapped in the face with this real love. That was the tragedy of his story was finding his love and meeting his end all within a matter of a couple of weeks.”
However, as McDonald notes, “sometimes the pandemic and tragic situations like this can bring things into hyper-focus. I’m wondering if, like Rachel says, people are making decisions they wouldn’t normally make in this time.”
Pasquale isn’t sure if Zach and Cyndi thought they’d have a future together either, and Soo adds, “when you’re in isolation with someone and the stakes are so high, especially someone that you previously had a relationship with, it only heightens that tension even more because you’re aware of your potential mortality.”
The Bite, Available Now, Spectrum