After a jaw-dropping episode 7, Bellevue wraps up its freshman season Monday night with an equally intense Episode 8.
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Annie finally faces her demons, real and imagined, in the wake of Brady’s confession and death, Adam escalates his vengeance about Jesse and Sandy, with an exquisite “look back to look forward” framing of both murders, while Peter wrestles with long-held hard truths.
We also get closure for Maggie (she’s alive!) as Danny shares his videos of who Jesse was with him. Eddie continues on his path to find something better for his family, and Daisy learns a little more about her newest family member, which isn’t the brightest idea she’s ever had. It’s a taut finale that wraps up most threads and leaves some deliciously tantalizing open doors for a second season, which I seriously hope we get.
Earlier this week, I spoke to series co-creators Jane Maggs and Adrienne Mitchell about the season so far. Mitchell and Janis Lundman, her producing partner at Back Alley Films, bought the pilot from Maggs after Mitchell read it on a flight back from LA. “We’re always interested in strong, original voices. There’s kind of a dearth. If they’re here [in Canada], they don’t last long,” Mitchell explains.
“[Jane’s] pilot script had all these awesome characters in it. I was blown away by her voice as a writer and the kinds of relationships she was depicting that were now, and unapologetic and complex and not grandstanding. I was so riveted, and when I landed, I said [to Janis], ‘Let’s option this.'”
Maggs worked out the first season arc alongside Mitchell. “It always started with the trio [of Annie, Eddie, and Daisy], the family. That was the root of what was there,” she explains. “Working with Adrienne very closely, the mystery, the investigation, all of it really evolved. Adrienne is always looking for ways [to make things] unique and darker and weirder, which is an incredible way to make a series. That’s why it has plot points and strange characters you haven’t seen before.”
Mitchell says it was bizarre coincidence that the storyline they began two years ago bumped up against the radical reversal of a climate of inclusiveness that happened after the recent U.S. election. “[When we thought about making Jesse] transgender, at the time, one of the directors said, ‘The townspeople seem pretty enlightened [about this],’ and then politics changed and all the repressed feelings and loathing of people who are different [started] coming out in a crazy way. Bellevue has benefitted from interesting timing.”
Maggs adds that Sadie O’Neil, who plays Jesse, factored heavily into nailing that character’s story. “[She] was a big part in shaping Jesse,” says Maggs. “She’s a transgender actress and worked through the scripts with us in a way that made us feel like we were [telling] a more legitimate, authentic story.”
Bellevue‘s first season was always envisioned as an eight-episode arc vs. the more common six or ten we’re seeing now. “Sometimes when you know what your story is, you get a feeling,” Maggs points out. “I think ten would have been too many, and for how we wanted it to unravel relationship- and character-wise, six was too tight. Eight felt like the right number.”
The season was split across four directors, who block shot it two episodes at a time. “I directed the first two, April Mullen did [Episodes] 3 and 4, Kim Nguyen did [Episodes] 5 and 6, and I did [Episodes] 7 and 8,” says Mitchell. “It’s the most efficient way to do a serialized show.”
Maggs capitalized on her casting wherever possible. “Shawn [Doyle] is a really strong and incredibly nuanced actor, so we wanted to give him a more personal storyline to follow,” she says. Mitchell points out that finding Patrick Labbé for Adam directly informed who he became onscreen, which you’ll see in glorious detail in Monday’s episode.
“Annie’s riddler first had an existence in more of a netherworld. We knew who he was but not what he was. We didn’t know what he would be like. Up until Episode 5, he was just a presence,” says Mitchell. “We auditioned Patrick for Mr. Driver and thought he wasn’t quite right for that but he was so interesting, and the way he moved and talked … [We cast him as Adam] and he just started to write the role. We kept working off of him. Jane would develop some interesting moments and scenes for him that fed off of what he was bringing to it.”
Bellevue finishes its first season beginning at 9pm Monday on CBC. If you’ve missed an episode, they’re all online at CBC’s website. Here are a couple of sneak peeks of the season finale. Check back Monday night after the East coast airing for the second part of my interview.
Episode stills courtesy of Jan Thijs/CBC; Behind-the-scenes images courtesy of Muse Entertainment. Video Courtesy of CBC.