'UnREAL' Finale: Creators Talk Unleashing "Full Dragon" Rachel, Season 2 Plans

"There's such a balance. Everything is just how far to push [the story] and if we pushed it far enough in terms of shock value [while] also keeping it believable," co-creator Marti Noxon told THR.
James Dittiger

[Warning: This post contains spoilers from the season one finale of Lifetime's UnREAL.]

Best Everlasting finale ever?

After weeks of edge-of-your-seat drama — from love triangles to tragic deaths — Lifetime’s summer watercooler drama UnREAL wrapped its freshman season Monday with a finale to remember, if not a happily ever after.

The episode picked up as Rachel (Shiri Appleby) plans to runaway with handsome suitor Adam (Freddie Stroma), leaving boyfriend Jeremy and the world of Everlasting behind. Happily ever after? Not so fast.

Quinn intercepts Adam and suddenly, the Everlasting wedding is back on, with Anna (Johanna Braddy) as the Cromwell family (and producer) approved new fiancée and Rachel completely determined to make the spectacle the best finale in the show’s history.

“We had [that] point in mind way back in breaking of the arc,” co-creator Sarah Getrude Shapiro told The Hollywood Reporter. “The scene with Rachel watching Adam propose to someone else, that was mandatory to us, that was really the moment she went [Breaking Bad’s] Walter White — like when Walter White burned down the factory.”

“That was the moment we were driving to, Rachel in full dragon [mode] and just giving up any hope in love," she added. "It doesn’t mean there’s no hope for her in her love life, it’s just the place we wanted to leave her at the end of season one.”

So what does full-dragon Rachel do? Moments before the live fairytale wedding ceremony, Rachel tearfully confronts Adam about his betrayal. Adam, unfazed, still plans to move forward, but Anna, who Rachel ensured overheard the whole thing, does not. In the end, Anna leaves a humiliated Adam at the altar while Rachel and Quinn reluctantly celebrate their victory.

For more on what went down, who’s coming back and those comments from The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison, THR caught up with UnREAL co-creators Shapiro and Marti Noxon.

The show spent the season building to both its finale and Everlasting’s finale. How long did you know that this is how you wanted to end it?

Noxon: The [Everlasting] ending was one of the hardest things for us because we really pushed our [limits] in the season — we dropped people off buildings already — and it was like, "Where do we go?" and also, "What’s the right satisfying ending?" We went back and forth but I think what we ended up with was a really good expression of Adam getting what he deserves as a player and a manwhore and everybody getting the reality of the situation as opposed to the fantasy. Both Quinn and Rachel were going to be hoisted on their own petards. They were going to fall for their own crap and that was going to go south on them real bad. The idea that Adam would end up marrying nobody came out late in the game.

The love triangle became a big part of the show, but now, between the Adam debacle and Jeremy’s public rejection, it’s a bit in disarray.

Shapiro: The interesting thing is that when Shiri found out there was going to be a love triangle, she was actually really concerned because she’s played a lot of love triangles. She was like, "Oh no, I don’t want to be a love triangle girl anymore, I thought this was a different kind of show," and what we assured her is that more than anything these guys are blank slates she’s projecting all of her issues on. She fantasizes one guy is “Prince Charming” and one guy is “Good Ole Boy” and she’s playing with them like dolls.

Noxon: The great thing is that you have people almost playing their own version of Everlasting but with the mole people [behind the scenes] … The joke was that Rachel ends up winning Everlasting. It’s the best season finale ever, except it didn’t feel honest if she ran off with Adam. We ended up feeling very encouraged that people grasped on to the game within the game.

Shapiro: We can really all relate to that fantasy, and we really worked on that last scene [in the finale], where [Adam] asks her to run away, to just to make it the most irresistible thing. [Rachel gets] fairy dust in her eyes. What girl doesn’t want to hear: "I can give you the world if you let me, so let me." 

Will Adam be back for season two?

Shapiro: Yes. We’re still talking about what season two is going to be, but we love Adam and we love Freddie and that door is wide open.

Noxon: There’s not going to be a Royal Renovations, [but] we’re still talking about what the format will be for [season two]. It will still be Everlasting, Rachel and Quinn are our main focus, but we’re not exactly sure what format the show is going to take yet. There’s always ways to bring back those guys.

Does the same go for the contestants?

Shapiro: We liked the tidiness of one season of Everlasting is one season of UnREAL. I don’t think we’d rule anything out but that’s not necessarily what we’re trying to set up in terms of how the show’s going to work.

Noxon: Though we definitely have the joke that Faith will have some kind of Bravo lesbian coming out spinoff.

You mentioned that the finale would have a clear message on whether love can exist in this world. So, can true love exist in this world or is it doomed to fail as a fantasy?

Noxon: No, not at all. I think the barrier for a lot of people to actual, real, lasting love is the fantasy. The problem is that we think in “happily ever after” love, but real love grows over time, and priorities change. If there’s hope for Rachel, it’s that she’s going to eventually learn how to do that and there’s still hope for her — maybe not so much for Quinn — but absolutely, love exists in this universe, just not [the love] they’re selling.

Rachel told Quinn she loves her at the end of the episode. Is part of that "real love" between Quinn and Rachel?

Noxon: Definitely.

Shapiro: Marti and I have always talked about Quinn and Rachel as the primary relationship of the show and actually the only even close to honest relationship on the show, and Rachel has never said, "I love you" to anyone since we’ve know her. This is the first time. It’s the most messed up version of I love you as possible and I’m going to destroy you.

After Quinn’s betrayal with Adam, is that I love you totally sincere? Is there still part of Rachel that is angry with Quinn?

Shapiro: We had so many conversations about that line because when we wrote it, Marti and I knew exactly what it meant … It’s got every form of things inside of it and one of them is maybe thinking that Quinn did the right thing, because actually, for Rachel, being on a beach in Tahiti using her panties as a pillow is not a good idea for her mental health. But also, [there’s] a lot of intense betrayal because it is the only honest relationship Rachel has. Also, [there’s] just truly love. Rachel’s relationship with her work mother is really complicated. She needs her, she loves her, she’s mad at her, she wants to grow up and be free, she wants to still be protected. There’s so many things in that line.

Marti, you also showrun Bravo’s Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, what has it been like juggling those shows?

Noxon: It’s actually great for me because I’m a little ADD, and I always have more then one thing that I’m working on at any time. So, if one starts to feel like a chore, the other one is my relief. I do think that both shows are linked thematically. I am fascinated by sexual politics and the balance of power between men and women and also the fact the culture isn’t changing as fast as women’s roles in the world. We’re still being bombarded as females with the ideas of having it all and being perfect and keeping firm and looking good for consumption and then we’re also working as many hours as anybody else. I always say that Girlfriends is like light roast [coffee] and UnREAL is dark espresso (Laughs.)

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The show has received a lot of positive feedback but recently The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison ranted against the show. What was your reaction to his comments?

Shapiro: We were flattered. It’s interesting that he’s choosing now to talk about it — and I’m not sure why or what happened — but we’re really proud of this show. The critics seem to like it a lot, so it’s too bad that he didn’t, but he’s definitely entitled to an opinion.

Have you heard any other feedback from the Bachelor/reality world? Perhaps from former colleagues, Sarah?

Shapiro: All the people I used to work with love it. I think they know that it’s fiction … For a lot of people, it’s that life on any kind of set. It feels like a summer camp and you’re all living on location and eating craft services and hooking up. It’s awful, but there’s a nostalgia for it. Our goal — it was never to really nail the reality bit or to do an exposé. It was really about making an awesome, female Breaking Bad but having a reality background.

What are you most excited about going into season two?

Shapiro: For more Rachel, and for Rachel in her full-Walter White, full-dragon, she’s not even playing anymore [mode]. [There’s] the possibility of a tropical location, some more time dealing with the race issue, which is something we dealt with pretty quickly this season and we feel is really important. Both Quinn and Rachel are on fire at the end of this season and we can’t wait to see what they do.

Do you think Rachel made the right choice? Sound off in the comments secton below.

Twitter: @NotPhelan

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