[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale.]
How’s everybody doing after that bananas Slasher: Ripper finale? Despite the gore that preceded it, that final scene of everyone leaving the church, bloodsoaked and defiant, was a thing of beauty. [Seriously, check out Scott McClellan’s Insta feed for his tagged posts that name check the artisans behind the scenes.]
I caught up with showrunner Ian Carpenter and cast members Steve Byers (Andrew May, Jr.) and Sharron Matthews (Gladys) to talk about the mayhem of the final two episodes — and that killer takedown.
In episode 7, Verdi got her revenge on both sisters in an extreme way that actually did the Widow’s work for her. She’s a fast study. While Venetia’s death was particularly tortuous, Viviana’s punishment is the long game, as she’s left to rot the rest of her life inside a prison, worlds away from the grandeur she kept trying to capture, no matter the cost to others. And to add insult to injury, the Widow gets to put a final stamp on things when Regina — the widow is the Widow — confesses to Viviana who she is and what she’s done, and Viviana is powerless to act on the information.
Carpenter both loved and hated giving the character her due. “There are some contradictions in her final moments [in the series], because Kenneth comes to her before and offers her a way out if she’ll tell him what happened. And, like everyone else, she realizes if she does anything, Basil will have her killed. Once Basil is dead, she still has this story that no one will believe. We love this. What a great punishment for Viviana,” he says.
“Both she and Venetia are such tormentors of people it seems only right that the very selfish Viviana has a punishment that’s far more lasting. I picture Regina being torn about this but realizing it’s far more awful, and for Viviana that would be extra horrible.”
“Even just sending her to jail and her treatment there, at the hands of Slasher regular Patrice Goodman, was one of those moments in the script when you went, ‘Oh God, this is going to be terrible.’ It’s crazy that given a show like ours where terrible things happen to so many people, that stripping her naked, hosing her down, and cutting her glorious hair felt like one of the more terrible things we were going to do to someone. Of course, Paula [Brancati] dove into it wholeheartedly, as she does with everything the show sends her way.”
Viviana is just one of Regina’s confessions. She also confesses to Kenneth, they become lovers, and, breaking the mold of seasons before it — he lives to tell the tale and is involved in the final murder. Carpenter shares that it’s a thorny, age-old argument. “This is the essential argument of this season and something horror trades in constantly. Justice versus vengeance,” he explains.
“Kenneth is one of the most deeply principled and good characters to ever appear on this show. When the world tells him these murders can’t be solved, to forget about them, to look the other way, he always says, ‘No.’ He has to find a solution. And he is up against everything. All power is against him and eventually it’s proved to him that the little power he has as a police officer can be taken away completely.”
“His time in jail proves that. The victories of Basil prove that. And then, when he escapes jail and sees Basil beating Gladys and Gladys begs him not to say anything to Basil about it — he finally realizes in Gladys’ pleas, that this is the inescapable reality of their world. Justice can only go so far.”
“As Regina proves to him, nothing legal happens to the untouchable. They’re above everyone else’s rules. Aaron [Martin] and I thought, ‘We’re living in a time where this is constantly proven — the rich and powerful can skate through some of the most outrageous crimes.’ Kenneth finally has to accept that.”
“And, as he says in his final lines, ‘Thanks to you, she’s all that’s left of justice.’ Essentially, ‘Justice doesn’t work, so we need vengeance to step in with its heavier hand.’ I don’t think he’s happy about that. But he knows it has to happen to have the world that he and all the others present want. Regina, who he loves, has proven that to him.”
That path to vengeance also involved Verdi, Pastor May, and Gladys joining Regina and Kenneth to extract their literal pounds of flesh from Basil. “The group kill is super interesting for us. This is the first time we’ve done a “for good” group kill. Let’s not forget the horrible version of this with Talvinder in season 2. It’s sort of a flip side of that,” Carpenter points out.
“Something that surprised me about it was the almost ritualistic side of it. They’re almost presentational about it. And really, given that they’re about to enact a sort of community act of justice or vengeance, that makes so much sense. But, beyond the intellectualism of that — these poor people have spent, sometimes years, 12 years, suffering, enduring, and biting their tongues. That needs to come out.”
“When you look at Pastor Andrew, his 12-year attempt to let his faith guide him past the murder of his father — it needs to be answered. Basil had this coming to him and it took a group and someone as determined and strong as Regina. Think about everything she did to pull this off, including marrying the sicko who abused her mother, to learn everything to finally pull it off. It had to be this way. Visceral and animal in action. It was a joy to shoot.”
Joy is also how Matthews describes the whole experience of playing the much-maligned but eventually victorious Gladys, who, even before avenging her own treatment, steps in to counsel Verdi when she’s on the edge of running away. “I love that even though Gladys could not see a hopeful future for herself, she was the kind of person who didn’t decide to drag the world down with her into her pit of despair…but instead, helped Verdi. That is one of the reasons I really dug her,” Matthews shares.
When she signed on, she knew what she was in for, and she was gleefully all in. “When Ian Carpenter sent me the script — well, pieces of it [because] there were so many secrets not to give away — and I saw that most of my arc involved Eric slapping me around, then throwing me out a hansom cab, I could not sign up fast enough,” she says. “True story. And it was as glorious as I thought it would be.”
And to top it off, Gladys got to help take Basil out. Carpenter says she was added to the scene after its original conception. “As we built up the Gladys character, and knew we’d have a powerhouse like Sharron Matthews playing her, we realized she was another one of those silenced by the domination of Basil,” he explains. “She had to rise up. She had to get her side of this vengeance.”
Matthews was (fake, obvi) blood-soaked by the end of it. “It was literally the most fun I’ve ever had in a while. The fake blood flying into our mouths and the fake viscera sloshing our hands… [the] screaming and screaming,” she recalls.
“Then, as soon as cut would be called there would be this breath of silence … then nervous laughter. There was SO much blood that as we slowly walked away from the ‘body,’ our feet were sticking to the carpet. It was just something you don’t ever expect to do … and you feel a huge weird feeling that you are. It was a joy to work with the cast and crew. A real bunch of warriors. [Would rate] 99 out of a 100. The minus one is for the blood I found in my ears the next day.”
Byers was of course on the receiving end of a tag-team kill in the OG Slasher when Cam met his demise, and he said the experience on Slasher: Ripper was next level. “I can honestly say that was my first group kill. I hope it was my last,” he laughs. “In full honesty, full disclosure. It was hilarious.”
“Eric [McCormack] was such a good sport about it. I’m always very conscientious of the physical stuff with other actors. I had to have my hands on his throat and when things get exciting and there’s so much energy and lots of people, things can get carried away.”
“And I just wanted to be sure, so, every time we were doing it, I’d ask, ‘Are you okay? Are you good?’ and he’d say, ‘Yep. I’m telling you, I can barely feel you, buddy. It’s okay.’ Every time. Eventually, he was like, ‘I’m good. You don’t have to ask me.’ But it was a blast.”
Byers adds that this finale was also much, much bloodier, and he joined Matthews in just being completely covered. “Every time, we thought, ‘There’s no way we can do any more,’ [and director] Adam [MacDonald] would say, ‘Let’s do it again with more blood, more blood, more blood.’ He was shouting, ‘More blood,’ throughout the whole thing, the entire time, to the point where they literally said, ‘We have no more blood. We’re outta blood. We’re done,’” he recalls.
“I think we hit the absolute maximum level of blood you could put into something, which is kinda ironic, because in the finale [of Season 1], there was a lot of blood in that last scene where Brandon is holding me and Katie was cutting my throat. I would say, the blood scale [on that], from one to 10, was about a six. This was about a 20.”
“The notion was that there was going to be ‘some blood,’ so they’ll have a double of your shirt, that kind of thing. No idea that it was gonna be this, and so much, I don’t think anybody really knew.”
“Sharron, my God, I love Sharron. She’s hilarious. And we had such a blast. She made me laugh so hard, so funny. Such a pleasure to work with. But [after] that scene, we kind of sloshed back to the trailer. And at that point, everybody realized their big foible was that there was no shower, there was nothing to clean up with, and everybody just started looking at each other, like the criminals who had forgotten to bring a getaway car.”
“And I was so covered. And I don’t know how I got so much, but I was so covered that someone on set [said], ‘We actually have a shower in the producer’s trailer. But it only runs cold water.’ Most people said no, but I was a full on, ‘Yeah, I gotta do this.’ Because we were in Hamilton, and we had an hour drive back to the city and I couldn’t do it. So I went in and took the coldest shower of my life, and I think I washed all the sin off of me, and some of the blood. But it was a good way to go.”
All eight episodes of Slasher: Ripper are streaming now on Shudder and AMC+ in the U.S and will be streaming Friday on Hollywood Suite in Canada. You can catch the first six episodes on all outlets now. As a reminder, you can catch last season’s Flesh and Blood there, too. The first three seasons of Slasher are still on Netflix. And all our coverage of previous seasons is here.
Photos courtesy of AMC Networks and Sharron Matthews.