'Casual' Creator Says Season 2 Finale Death "Frees" Other Characters

Creator Zander Lehmann talks with THR about how season three will be lighter and funnier, with Val and Alex "more entangled than ever before."
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Tuesday's season two finale of Hulu's Casual, “The Great Unknown.”
 
At its core, Hulu's Casual is a show about the symbiotic and loving (if at times unhealthy) relationship between siblings Valerie Meyers (Michaela Watkins) and Alex Cole (Tommy Dewey) and Tuesday’s season two finale took the previously feuding pair’s unique bond into new territory, setting the stage for an interesting third season.
 
When Alex began an affair with his ex-girlfriend Sarah (Britt Lower), who just so happened to be engaged to his boss (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser), Val disapproved and went on an impromptu weekend getaway with her new boyfriend, Jack (Kyle Bornheimer), while Alex’s life rapidly spiraled out of control.
 
After the affair, Alex lost his company and the girl — who turned out to be better-suited for him in his mind than in reality. What's more, he desperately needed his sister back in his orbit in order to gain control of his life. He tried to utilize therapist Jennifer (Kate Aselton) — who is one of his sister’s only friends — but Val was the one he really needed. After tricking Val into coming home, Alex threw her a surprise birthday and sabotaged her relationship with Jack.
 
Just as Val was about to leave and go back to her ex-husband (Zak Orth), whom she’d unexpectedly started hooking up with again, the duo's ailing father, Charles (Fred Melamed), showed up unannounced and declared he wanted his children to euthanize him because he was in multi-organ failure.
 
The Hulu original’s sophomore season ended with Val, Alex and Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) — who was in the midst of a fling with a classmate and cancer patient Spencer (Rhenzy Feliz) — euthanizing Charles with a lethal dose of sleeping pills. Following Charles’ death, Val moved out of Alex’s house and into her own home with Laura, while single, unemployed Alex formally started therapy with Jennifer in attempt to work through the issues that have plagued him since childhood.
 
 
“The thought is, yes, they are moving forward and progressing [after Charles’s death] but they still are holding on to something they may not let go of,” creator Zander Lehmann tells THR of Val and Alex.
 
Below, he also discusses how Charles’ death is actually "freeing" for the family, how it will impact them moving forward, and why the siblings will never be truly independent of one another.
 
Alex, Valerie and Laura euthanize Charles together. How is his death going to impact each of them moving forward?
 
The wedding between Dawn (Frances Conroy) and Charles [in the season one finale] made them feel like they were stuck in something they couldn’t escape, that their past was going to come back around, and they were trapped. In a weird way, the death has freed them. It’s like the ending of a piece of their past they thought had always held them back.
 
My idea is by the shared euthanizing of their father, they are left to move forward out of their past and it’s wide open. That’s what we were building toward, the idea that anything is possible and 30 years of sabotage are freed by the death.
 
 
The symbiotic nature of Val and Alex’s relationship factors heavily into the back half of the season, and in some ways it mirrors Alex and Emmy’s (Eliza Coupe) connection from season one. Was that a conscious effort?
 
Yes, I think so. We have always, and this season especially, wanted our characters to go off and have these journeys, and then feel like there was this magnetism that pulled them back together where they couldn’t escape their orbits. Alex obviously sabotages Valerie by talking about Jack to Jennifer, and then Valerie comes back in and has to come to terms with the fact that she slept with Emmy in season one. It’s the idea that they are both actively sabotaging one another.
 
By the end of season two, they have a sad moment — they lose their father and they have to help him end his life. Yet that’s the thing that frees them and allows them to move on.
 
We want to play with the trope of Valerie finally finding happiness and all things are well, and she can go off and live her life, whereas for us, it was actually a sad moment, and the thing that made them take stock of their lives. It allowed them to say, "Maybe we should part and try to make this on our own way." I love where it gets to at the end. I think it kind of mirrors the end of season one, but hopefully in a surprising way.
 
 
Val and Drew sleep together and Val hints there might still be something there, but she doesn’t tell Laura the full story. How might that impact her?
 
Laura is such a difficult character, because on one side she is the smartest person in the room, and on the other she has no idea what she’s talking about. Laura is trying to piece together her own relationship template based on what she’s seen from her parents, and what she’s seen out of Alex and Valerie. By seeing that Valerie is up to going back to Drew in the end, and is opening up her world and not reverting, hopefully that allows Laura do the same. Whether that is with Spencer or not is yet to be determined.
 
The thought is, Laura sees her mom progressing and moving forward in a positive way, and hopefully she can parallel that. We generally tend to parallel the Laura and Valerie stories because they are so intertwined, and Laura looks up to her mom. They try to help each other on their journeys, but they end up taking similar journeys. I expect in season three there will be more of Laura moving forward as her mom does. 
 
 
Will we see more of Jack in season three?
 
We are not sure yet. I love that character. I love Kyle Bornheimer, he is a joy to work with. When we originally wrote him in season two, the thought was he couldn’t be more than a one-off season character, but as we saw their scenes and their chemistry, believe me, it’s something we’ve discussed extensively in the writers' room.
 
I love to see Jack and Val together in their scenes, and Jack is someone who also works well with Alex. I could see him coming in and being the other friend, just part of their lives. I just love what he brings to the dynamic.
 
The characters are more self-aware in the second half of the season than we’ve ever seen them before. How is that going to inform their actions in season three?
 
You can’t have characters that are in stasis forever. I felt like it was time for them to really figure out the problems they have been avoiding for now 22 or 23 episodes. By the end of season two, when they are able to confront those problems and move forward, what that’s going to allow us to do in season three is play a little more for humor, to have a little less of the heavy emotionality since they’ve come to terms with a lot of their problems.
 
I want to see them out experiencing life, I want them trying to live without each other. Ultimately, because they all love each other and because they are so self-suited, they are going to end up being in the same places. Hopefully, it will feel more comedic, and more fun, and not necessarily so heavy about how they have ruined each other’s lives for so long.
 
Alex has become one of Jennifer’s full-time patients, and usurped one of Val’s only friends. Is that something that could cause tension between them going forward?
 
It could, and it’s the same dynamic of Leon (Nyasha Hatendi) helping Valerie move into her new house. Alex and Val have basically felt like "Oh, we’ve moved forward. We’ve shaken off the patriarch who kept us together for so long and was so dysfunctional. How great." Now the final images of the season are Alex doing therapy with the Valerie’s best friend, and Valerie moving in with the help of Alex’s best friend. The idea is that they are doing well, they are happy, but there’s also this inescapable feeling that they are never going to fully breakaway. They are using each other’s friends, and just swapping places.
 
Val toyed with leaving Alex’s house before, and in the finale she finally takes the plunge and gets her own place. Why is this potentially going to work for her now?
 
I don’t know if it’s going to work necessarily. If you watch season two and look at the beats between Alex and Valerie, they don’t spend a whole lot of the season together. They are living in the same place, but they are like ships passing in the night, and they’re trying to connect but unable to do it because of what Alex is doing to Valerie and her relationship with Jack, and what Valerie did to Alex in season one. When you clear that up and she has gone off to live in this new house, she’s expecting to move forward, she’s got a fresh start.
 
I think because of the tension that has stirred up with Alex, they are going to be in more scenes than ever together. Even if Valerie is living in another house, she and Alex will feel more entangled than ever before. I really want to make sure that Michaela and Tommy get more scenes together in season three, because they have such good chemistry. I want them to be on the same page in a way that we haven’t seen in 15 to 20 episodes.
 
 
How might Alex and Val’s separation at the start of season three impact the overall structure?
 
They can live apart, but still spend a lot of time together with the nature of Alex’s job — which he will need to find a new one — and Valerie’s more fluid work hours. Even if they don’t live in the same house, I imagine Valerie and Laura will be coming over to Alex’s house frequently, and Alex will be going over to her house frequently. I just don’t see a lull where they are really spending significant time apart, even if they are living in separate houses, so it doesn’t change the structure too much. I just want to get them together in new places, and I think even living in different places they are going to be able to do that.
 
 
Will we see them exist on their own? Is it even possible for them to be truly independent of one another?
 
I don’t know if the show will function with them purely independent of one another. In a relationship-based show, you want them to be happy on their own, but there’s also something that’s so gratifying when they’re doing well together. I don’t know exactly where the series will end up, but at the core of the show, that relationship has to remain intact. They can try to be independent, and they can certainly move forward, but they will never fully leave each other. Hopefully, by the end of this series, they either come to terms with that, or they do break away in a way that I’m not expecting yet. Time will tell, but so far it’s just so fun to see them together. I just love when they are in their world, and I don’t want to deprive the audience of that.
 
Casual season three will stream on Hulu in 2017.
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