‘Debris’ Showrunner Joel Wyman (Almost) Answers Our Season Finale Questions
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the season finale of Debris, “Celestial Body.” So if you haven’t watched it yet, go wrap yourself in tin foil and come back after screening it!]
Debris closed the case on its freshman season by opening up a ton of storylines that basically say “Get off your ass and renew this show already, NBC!” Much like showrunner Joel Wyman’s beloved Fringe, there were several twists that turned everything upside down, as well as some developments long in the waiting.
The case of the week found CIA agent Bryan (Jonathan Tucker), MI-6 agent Finola (Riann Steele), and her back-from-the-dead genius dad George Jones (Tyrone Benskin) investigating a mass of humans who had been drawn to a quarry for what turned out to be an “emotional convergence” caused by a piece of debris. While these folks stared dead-eyed at rocks, we were slack-jawed by everything else.
George declared his secret allegiance to the terror group Influx; Bryan proved impervious to the mind-erasing effect of disengaging the debris and was revealed to be the enigmatic “third man” from an event that included his former partner and a Chinese agent; Finola was somehow being kept in suspended animation inside a cave in Arizona by the face-swapping Brill (Sebastian Roche) and the shaman-like Dakheya (Julian Black Antelope), who were reunited with the ball of light we learned about back in Episode 2…and Fringe‘s amazing John Noble showed up as Otto, the scariest antithesis to Walter Bishop we’ve seen so far.
It was almost too much to take in, so we rang up Wyman for a debrief on this epic hour of Debris and where all of this could be headed.
So many questions, one after another. I did not see the twist coming and would never have expected George to align with Influx! How much of this was completely mapped out from beginning to end?
Joel Wyman: All of it.
So there was never a point where you saw the great bond Riann and Tyrone shared on screen and thought, “Maybe we don’t have him break her heart”?
No, because that’s not the story I’m telling. The show is about perception and the perception that “Oh, I know what this guy is. He’s a scientist.” We could have Walter Bishop-ed this and then they’re going to have this great relationship, but that’s not the case.
At the beginning of the season, Finola was a woman who didn’t have a satisfactory relationship with her father. She really did want to get connected to him but he was always elusive because he was set up as the smartest man in the world and had other things on his mind and couldn’t get there. He took his own life before she could get to the place where she was hoping to get, then followed in his footsteps and got a second chance to take over the role of savior. And of course, being a savior, well, now he’ll notice me. So she goes after that and wins that, only to realize that that’s just the beginning of a very, very, very dark chasm that she’s going to have to move through in Season 2. That’s really interesting for me because it doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a different kind of relationship between them.
Speaking of perceptions, what is this version of Finola in suspensia?
[Laughs] Yeah. Well, I can’t tell you that, but I wanted to leave the season with the idea that you’re like,” Okayyy?” I was very, very specific with the words that I wrote for Brill where he’s like, “OK, Let’s begin.” Now it’s like the story’s been opened up wide and now we’re going to start to realize what’s really going on…This forces people to sort of re-contextualize everything they’ve watched before. But you are going to get that answer.
The way the episode ends, we were given the impression that this is something that has been going on even longer than before Orbital was formed.
Yeah. I mean, there’s a moment in Episode 11 where Maddox says to Bryan, “You seem to be the only person that we know of that the debris has reached out to.” Then of course we meet Dakheya and that’s something hopefully the viewers will go, “Oh, OK. This guy has been touched somehow, that’s interesting.”
Does the Finola in suspensia tie back to the Icarus two-parter?
No. You know me, I’m not hiding anything. The Icarus concepts were to really get people to understand that anything is possible with this debris. We should not think that we understand it at all. That was sort of prepping us for coming up, to what’s happening next season.
John Noble showing up — awesome, so awesome. When did you reach out to him and say, “I’ve got this idea”?
As soon as I had something to talk to him about. As soon as NBC ordered the show. I knew the character of Otto and created him in a way that there was only one person that could do it. I wanted him because John and I obviously have a really close relationship and we’ve done so much fun work together. He’s such an awesome human being and a gentlemen.
My struggle was that I needed to have a character to offer him that was going to really sort of stretch him in a way that Walter did but in a completely different direction. I need to make something complex that has all of the delicate things that John is capable of as an actor and to give him layers, to give him a character that’s going to turn into something exceptional. Then we had a conversation about it, and I was very detailed about where he’s going and what’s going on. He was thrilled and said, “Yeah, let’s do this.” That was always the plan, to have him come not as a surprise, but to make it really show that he’s a character that’s very, very important and who will return.
So he is Ash’s boss, correct? This is the head guy?
Well, he’s…yes. George is the head guy, but Otto works with George. So basically they’re tasked with the same thing, but Otto knows a lot and George needs Otto. It’s a great relationship to have.
Then you tell us Bryan was affected by debris, as was Garcia. But we still don’t know what it did to him.
Correct. You will, though. Nothing has happened to him yet, but they’re trying to stop that. We met Garcia, so we know Garcia has incredibly small pupils and small irises and his face looks like it’s been blown apart and put back together. There’s things that have happened to him. The Chinese agent, Ming, who’s also a character who’s going to show up, there’s something going on with him as well. We’ll learn about that. Bryan, let’s just say that when Otto says, “I know who you are,” it’s important. We’ll get more of that.
What does Season 2 look like for you as far as where would it pick up?
Well, I can’t really give anything away, but it would pick up right after. Because I like to give answers and there’s a lot of questions that people want answers to. So the first half or quarter of the season will be sort of addressing all of these things because essentially, I hope people understand that this season was an origin story. The first season is just the beginning. As I said to you early on, I wanted people to think, “Oh I know what this show is. It’s a show about this debris that falls and I get it, it’s case-to-case” and then to realize, “No, wait a minute. That’s not what the show is at all.”
The show is completely changed now. Now it’s going to be something that’s 100% involved in this mythology and there will be still cases-of-the-week, [but maybe] not in the same context. But the pieces they find now mean so much more because they all add up to stopping George Jones and Influx. So the second season is definitely the beginning essentially of the rest of the story.
I really struggled with Maddox (Norbert Leo Butz) because his family stuff is so compelling and emotional and sympathetic, but he’s also really shady professionally. Then I had this creeping feeling, as his wife was kneeling in front of Dario: What if debris or portions of debris has negative effects on people? Dario could have killed her right there!
They could. Maddox knew what that piece does, but that doesn’t mean that’s the end of it. I think you bring up a really good point. I mean, Damian, you remember with Fringe. Starting out, it took 22 episodes to get an audience, it took 22 episodes to find a way. That really gave us a chance to sort of find it and develop it. With this show, I only had essentially a pilot and four episodes so I had to make the choice to come in and say, “Well, the debris is very, very scary and it’s going to do things.” I think the character in Episode 11, “Asalah,” the woman who was kind of taken by the debris and communicating with Bryan, was terrifying. She lost her life and that was a terrible scenario.
So negative effects, yeah, that’s the fun of this show…we’re realizing by the end of the season that they do not understand the debris at all. When George says to Finola, “Hey, you need to know things I’m going to talk to you about, and you need to come on this side with your dad,” that is a line in the sand. Finola’s first journey was to be his savior and now her journey is to destroy him. So it’s going to be a very, very rich odyssey for her.
What did Otto do to those people in the gas station?!
[Laughs] I’m leaving that up to the audience. There’s lots to dig out.
What is the organization that Brill is working with? Is he really MI-6 or is there another group?
That’s a good question. When the character of Brill showed up, he’s giving a positive piece of advice and information to Finola. When we first meet him and he says, “Your father’s not a clone and they’re lying to you,” we know that at least somewhere inside, he’s got Finola’s best interest at heart. Then the next time we meet him, we see that he’s sort of keeping himself alive [by harvesting parts] from a cloned version of himself, which is terrifying. We don’t understand what that means. Essentially, he’s like this vampire who’s dragging his coffin around and staying alive because of it. Then at the end, it’s revealed that he knows more about what’s going on than anybody on the show. He was waiting with Dakheya, they knew together that the ball of light was going to show up and they’re the ones who have Finola in suspensia. How did they get her there? Where is she from? These things will all be answered, but it should definitely make us feel like Brill knows a lot more than anybody would have thought.
Is it in any way plausible that he would be somebody who was on the ship?
Well, I can’t really say who he is, but I just want to leave it open. We know he’s an MI-6 agent, because he was working with Ferris and he was the person who was tasked by her, so on the surface, he’s a guy who could have been touched by a piece of debris just like Bryan, but in a different way. He could be what you’re suggesting. He could be a lot of different things. For those answers, that’s some really good, delicious stuff that unfortunately I’m going to have to not give away. Yet. [Laughs]