'Covert Affairs' Creators Discuss Annie's Life-Altering Move and What's Next (Q&A)
Co-creators Matt Corman and Chris Ord talk to THR about the aftermath of the summer finale and preview a darker, grittier Annie Walker.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead from Tuesday's summer finale. Do not proceed if you have not watched the episode.]
Where does Covert Affairs go from here?
USA Network's spy drama didn't hold back in its summer finale, faking the death of Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) and introducing a brand-new chapter in a never-ending saga against Henry Wilcox (Gregory Itzin). But one question remains to be seen: Did we bid farewell to the Annie Walker we've known for good?
Either way you slice it, when Covert Affairs returns in October, things are going to look and feel vastly different. "This change that we see in Annie at the end [of the finale] is a seismic one and a major one," co-creator/co-showrunner Matt Corman tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's going to launch us into a back six where we see a totally different Annie and a totally different show, and we hope people enjoy it."
This shift in character was a change that Corman and co-creator/co-showunner Chris Ord had eyed well before the season began. "We did want to see Annie do something like this," Ord tells THR, "and in many ways geared the front 10 [episodes] towards that goal. Now we get to enjoy the challenges and excitement that comes with this new chapter."
Corman and Ord spoke to THR about Annie's life-altering decision, employing a darker tone for the final six episodes, the future of Annie/Auggie and much more.
The premiere teased a confrontation between Calder (Hill Harper) and Annie, with guns pointed at each other. With the knowledge that that was where the first 10 episodes would lead to, did the journey to get to that point change along the way?
Chris Ord: The journey is sometimes circuitous, but we always had this in our minds as the summer finale, this moment. That's why we teased it in the premiere as a way to bookend the season, with the goal being you see something in the premiere -- we actually touched on it again in episode five -- but then we get to know the details in this episode and it takes on a whole new meaning. That was something we liked in TV and movies and something we wanted to do here. It was something we had in mind since the get-go.
Were there any inherent challenges in crafting that particular scene between Annie and Calder, now an ally, knowing that what was playing out in the elevator wasn't all that it seemed?
Matt Corman: It was an amazing moment to build toward. Seeing Calder's evolution will be really interesting for fans. Obviously people had preconceptions based on 401 through 409, and our hope now is to take the character into a new dimension in the world of our show in that he's part of our core characters and his morality is no longer in question. That doesn't mean it's always going to be smooth sailing, because as he's identified, he's the sheriff and he has very strong opinions about everything. But he can no longer be thought of as an enemy in the world of our show.
Ord: You'll look back on the season and you'll definitely see sign posts that lead up to this moment that we put in there. There was a reason why Helen (Michelle Ryan) did this similar thing in the past. Teo (Manolo Cardona) talks to [Annie] in 408 about doing deep cover work. For us, that was an opportunity to get those ideas into Annie's psyche so that when she makes this decision based on things we've seen, it should be satisfying as we head into the back six.
Were there any difficulties in paying off Calder's loyalty in episode nine?
Corman: Since we knew where we were going, we had to carefully chart his behaviors over the course of the season and create it in such a way that when looking back, it was all consistent. Although he seemed to be operating against our characters, he never really was. They were just misinterpreting his moves. Because we knew where we were ending, we were able to craft these stories in certain ways, and our hope is the audience will look back on it now and say, "All of his actions were consistent," and we can move forward and look at him as an ally and not an adversary.
Following the events of the finale, Arthur (Peter Gallagher) is in a tough position. What happens to him now?
Ord: Things don't look great for Arthur as we head into the back six. Henry's plan to exact revenge has come to fruition and, in many ways, that's what Annie's fighting for and we'll be reminded of that at certain points. Arthur's situation makes it tougher on our characters because it's not as simple as finding Henry and terminating him, because that doesn't help Arthur. Arthur would still go down. Annie's goal is to go deep, go dark, do what she can to bring Henry down and bring Henry to justice in a way that can help Arthur and vindicate.
Was faking her own death the only option for Annie at this point?
Corman: As you'll see in this back six, she did see it as the only move available to her and she knew firsthand through talking to Helen how grueling and lonely this type of existence can be. What's exciting to us is this back six, she's truly in the dark. She's separated completely from the CIA and all the support systems that were available to her. She's going to act very differently than we've ever seen in the show. She's going to look very differently. I don't know if you've seen pictures ...
She changes her hair color, right?
Ord: Yeah, pictures have leaked.
Corman: Her hair is dark and her behavior is dark. She's moving into a different echelon as a spy and an operative and making choices we've never seen her make before and having to work completely alone as a deep cover operative. She's elevated beyond anything we've ever seen on the show. Our hope is fans will really respond to it because the tenor and the vibe of the back six is a decided change for us.
It was also nice to see Oded Fehr come back into the fray, and be the one to help Annie along with her new existence.
Corman: It was great. We love Oded. He's part of the family. He's always so additive and the fans love him.
How is Auggie (Christopher Gorham) dealing with all of this? What is his state of mind at the moment? I imagine it won't be an easy road ahead for him.
Ord: Auggie's a good soldier and he wants the same thing all our characters want at this point, which is to bring Henry to justice, but he knows what transpired in [the finale] means. I think he knows what going dark means. That means Annie's going way off the grid and that's a) dangerous -- he's going to be concerned about that -- and b) he can't be there to support her. He's going to have to find ways to support her in his own way back home even though he can't be in touch with her. It creates an interesting dynamic where Annie and Auggie can feel one another and they can think about one another, but they can't communicate. To us, it's strong the longing that's there, yet the shared goal and the shared duty they owe to the country to take Henry down is the main driver moving forward and they both have to honor that.
Will we see Annie and Auggie communicating and connecting in unique ways?
Ord: It's been on the forefront of our minds. We don't really want to spoil anything in the back six in terms of how they would communicate or how they'd see each other. We'd rather the audience speculate how that'd happen or when, and I think there will be some great moments in the back six where they'll connect or not connect. Both are really interesting.
What's next for Joan (Kari Matchett)?
Corman: She'll be out of the hospital in short order. She has a lot on her plate, as well. Professionally, she's going to take a little bit of a hit but stay inside the CIA. She's helping Arthur manage his grief. Joan, as portrayed by Kari, is amazing because she's so intrepid and proud in the face of everything. We'll see that continue in the back six.
Is Teo 100 percent dead? Is there a chance he could return?
Ord: I know we've done some fake deaths this season, but Teo's really dead. Ardent fans remind us that we haven't seen the body and we really love the fact that people really took to Teo so much, and we love Manolo and the job he did on the show. But for the high-flying spy game between Henry and Arthur and the rest of our characters, we felt it was something that needed to happen.
Oded's character, Eyal, asks one of the big questions of the episode: "Is this really the end of Annie Walker?" Is this the end of the Annie as we've known her?
Ord: You make a decision like this, you are giving a certain part of yourself. You're literally faking your own death; it's not a real death but it's a death, of sorts. No matter how she emerges from this, the effects will forever be part of her. At the very least, Annie's making a decision that will change her life irrevocably.
Are there traits or aspects to her personality that she will completely abandon as she assumes this new version of herself?
Corman: It's an interesting question. As humans, it's very difficult to just abandon traits but I think in the past, she's been a very empathetic person and I think that's less a tool in her arsenal in the back six. That doesn't mean she's callous. It doesn't mean she lacks empathy. [She's] sort of trading on that, and [her] trying to make those human connections is less a trick that she's pulling. It remains to be seen whether that becomes her new default or if she goes back to the Annie that we have come to know. I don't personally think you can abandon parts of your personality. We're sort of programmed in one way. That's more of an existential comment.
When Covert Affairs returns, how soon after the events of the finale do things pick back up?
Corman: It's not that far in the future [in episode 11], but we'll sort of pick Annie up on this adventure.
Ord: We still have a [Washington] D.C. portion left to shoot, but we're really excited about what that episode promises in terms of the journey. And really, every episode and every script we've been doing is exciting because we get to see a whole new side to Annie and how she operates and the choices she's forced to make are a whole new chapter. She's never been faced with many of these challenges and she doesn't have the support system to help her. It's very interesting how she copes with this new paradigm.
More struggles than ever before?
Ord: Inherently more struggles because she has to do it all on her own. That'll come into high relief very quickly in 411.
Covert Affairs returns on Oct. 17 on USA.