'Revenge' Writer Talks 'Sins,' Emily's Misstep and Unexpected Sympathy for Conrad (Q&A)

Joe Fazzio tells THR about playing with audience allegiances in the latest episode and what the introduction of Margaux (Karine Vanasse) means for Emily: "As good as she is at manipulating people, she can never control the entire world around her."
ABC/Carin Baer

Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp)'s Revenge takedowns, however sticky, tend to leave the audience still in her corner -- but in Sunday's episode ("Sins," written by Joe Fazzio), the antihero took a misstep that left even her only confidant questioning her actions.

"Check your soul, Emily Thorne," says Nolan (Gabriel Mann), "because when you start taking down kittens, I’m out.”

Fazzio, the only original staff writer left on the ABC drama, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about playing with viewers' sympathies early in the third season and the show's new direction. “We were just looking for these stories that brought the show back to its roots -- which is fun, twisty, and revengey," he says. "We wanted, going into season three, to delve a little bit deeper into our characters and the emotions that they were feeling experiencing and because of Emily’s [actions]. ”

Read the full Q&A below.

What character or dynamic were you most excited to explore this season?

Coming off of the cliffhanger of season two, when Emily reveals her true identity to Jack [Nick Wechsler], the challenge going into season three was deciding exactly how to handle Jack, who has been the moral center of the show for so long. To have been brought into the inner circle and to know exactly what Emily is up to was going to be a big challenge for the writing staff. And I know that we were most excited about what their relationship looked like now that that had been revealed.

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Did you ever entertain the idea that he would support her plan?

We knew that he would go into the season being pretty angry with her. And it’s because that relationship is so precious, to sever that relationship we felt was a really strong way to start the season. You want your characters to evolve, and we want to put them in new places where they’re questioning who they are and what their motivation is. If we severed the Emily and Jack relationship, at least at first, it would be interesting to see if their love for each other would pull them back together.

What has been the hardest scene for you to write on this show?

One of the hardest scenes I had to write was actually in the episode that aired this [week]. We wanted to sort of flip the show on its head...to take a different view and perspective on our characters. Emily, our heroine, is taking a misstep -- whereas Conrad, the villain, is almost garnering sympathy. We hoped that the audience would almost feel sorry for Conrad. And in the second to last scene of the episode, Emily is surprised to find Conrad at church. It was a challenge to open Conrad up, expose him and try to garner some sympathy. What was so great about the scene was that Henry Czerny and Emily VanCamp really, really helped. Henry is such a particular actor. It’s so interesting to see when he can play the soft side of Conrad, and luckily they pulled it off.

Emily can be such a dark protagonist -- how do you stay conscious of making her relatable and sympathetic in every episode?

This was one of the first episodes where maybe the audience isn’t on board with what Emily’s doing. “Check your soul, Emily Thorne, because when you start taking down kittens, I’m out.” That’s the theme of the episode. Nolan is kind of her conscience in that moment, telling her to take a step back and maybe reconsider this takedown that she’s doing. What’s always been great about Emily is that she's a really dark heroine -- but as an audience member, you're well aware of the pain she’s suffered from the past. And always what connected the audience to Emily was the flashbacks and seeing her and her father together when they were young and happy. The key to keeping Emily’s sympathy is really Emily VanCamp’s performance. But we also like to make sure we tie in voiceover and flashbacks to the young girl, Amanda, who was wronged.

Did you have a favorite scene in the episode?

Not specifically my favorite scene, but my favorite mini storyline of the episode was these blueberry muffins. I was probably just hungry when I was writing it -- but on top of that I always love a nice, light runner throughout an episode, because this one is pretty heavy. I thought to balance that out, we'd have Nolan bake these muffins, and then Emily brings them over, claiming that she baked them, to Victoria [Madeleine Stowe] -- who in turn brings them over to Nolan again. Luckily, Gabriel Mann really pulls off that moment when Victoria shows up to his door with the muffins he had baked that morning.

How much should fans read into the episode title?

As soon as we decided Emily’s takedown would be a priest, the title "Sins" came naturally. What’s really fun about that in particular is that this storyline, the Father Paul storyline, is a two-parter. We’re going to see the ramifications of Emily’s misstep with Father Paul in next week’s episode, "Confessions."

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Will we see Conrad come clean?

In "Sins," we are beginning Conrad’s journey, and in "Confessions" we’ll see Conrad get to the place where he’s ready to confess -- but perhaps there’s a step in the way of that.

Is Emily at all jealous of Margaux [Karine Vanasse], or does she just view her as a roadblock in her ultimate plan?

We wanted to add some new blood into the show, and Margaux is just so full of life and takes a new pace for the show. Her character is just the idea that Emily can’t control everything. As much as she wants to be, and as good as she is at manipulating people, she can never control the entire world around her. Margaux poses a threat, and for her to be a roadblock to the wedding,we thought that’d be great for Emily to figure out.

So no jealousy?

Personally, I think in season one Emily had some questionable feelings for Daniel -- but I think throughout the end of season one and through season two, Emily has realized Daniel is only a method for her getting her final revenge. I don’t think she feels any true emotions for Daniel anymore.

What was the decision in keeping Daniel faithful to Emily?

We explore that Emily isn’t perfect, that she does make mistakes, but we do think the one person she has always had a complete hold on and hasn’t made mistakes with is Daniel. We have definitely gone back and forth about whether we felt that Daniel and Margaux should have a romantic relationship. And considering we built in a romantic past together, we thought it would be an interesting obstacle for Emily to have to maneuver. That’s the purpose of stringing along exactly how Daniel feels about Margaux.

Barry Sloan's character, Aiden, changed considerably this season. When did the show decide to go in that direction, and how do you want to see it play out?

We really wanted to force our characters into new dynamics, and the perfect obstacle for Emily is Aiden. He is equally trained and equally prepared, and the idea of a lover scorned is such an interesting dynamic. As we go forward, we’ll learn what happened over the break between these two, because it’s such an opposite from how we saw them in season two.