'The Big C' Finale: Is Paul Really Dead?

Executive producer Jenny Bicks tells THR that while Oliver Platt’s character may have flatlined in the final episode of Season 2, “we don’t know” if he died or not.
Mark Seliger/SHOWTIME
Oliver Platt

On Monday’s Season 2 finale of Showtime’s The Big C, Oliver Platt’s Paul Jamison – Cathy’s (Laura Linney) “cancerierge” -- flatlined after a season in which he lost his job and began working retail at – and stealing form – an electronics store.

A number of factors contributed to Paul’s heart attack: stress from battling his wife’s insurance company, cocaine use and admitted extra weight all certainly played a role but executive producer Jenny Bicks is leaving the door open to whether or not Paul really has “crossed over.”

“He passes over but who’s to say ultimately whether he lives or dies,” Bicks told The Hollywood Reporter. “But he did have a heart attack.”

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While Bicks notes that the scene is a culmination of everything coming to a head for Paul, the story represents what many Americans are forced to contend with. “He stands up for what a lot of Americans are feeling right now about insurance companies who make these decisions – and you can never fight back; he becomes the man fighting back.”

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“That story is less about the death or life of Paul as it is about the struggle of the spouse trying to deal with the pain that the other person is going through,” she adds.

While Dr. Sherman’s (Alan Alda) clinical trial has had positive results for Cathy, Paul’s decline also reflects what happens to many people who have a friend or relative with cancer. “It’s not just the person who has cancer who gets sicker mentally and physically, it’s also the people around them,” she notes.

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Bicks, however, leaves the door open for Paul and how his apparent death will be interpreted during Season 3 the way Marlene’s (Phyllis Somerville) reappearance has been handled this year after her suicide in the dramedy first year.

“We have so many interesting discussions in the writers’ room about life and death and what you believe happens and what’s the possibility of what can happen,” Bicks explains. “You’ve met some of our characters after they’ve crossed over and whether or not that means that we actually believe that there’s an afterlife or whether we believe it’s a fiction that we create in our minds, we want to leave the options to our viewers to question how they feel about it.”

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“It’s a long way of saying Cathy may see Paul in a very different situation: he may be crossed over, but do we know whether he’s died or not? We don’t know,” she says.

With both Lee (Hugh Dancy) and Marlene appearing in the finale, the producers are leaving the door open to question what happens after death. “These people stay with you even after they’re gone in different forms,” she says. “We really want to always raise these questions of what happens next.”

While each year of the series takes place over a season and explores the stages of grief -- Season 1 was denial, Season 2 anger – Bicks noted that next year will explore bargaining. “We’re looking at the winter of Cathy’s content,” she said. “She can actually start to enjoy being alive. When you start to get positive results to a medical problem, whether it’s denial or not, she’s going to feel like there’s an opportunity for her to really live.”

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit

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