The following contains major spoilers for Mrs. Davis’ Season 1 finale.
You know how Google Maps sometimes sends users down nonexistent streets or off an actual cliff? That’s what happened with Simone (played by Betty Gilpin), as revealed in Mrs. Davis’ Season 1 finale, now streaming on Peacock.
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As it turned out, Simone’s far-fetched journey across continents to find the Holy Grail was the result of the titular algorithm misinterpreting marketing copy for… Buffalo Wild Wings.
A skilled coder named Joy (Ashley Romans) created Mrs. Davis as an app for the popular restaurant chain. When her idea was rejected, she uploaded Mrs. Davis to an open-source platform and it became the highly regarded tech that now ruled more than half the population.
Simone, despite learning that her mission was complete nonsense, finished her quest with a greater sense of faith. She drank from the Holy Grail without her head exploding, got the algorithm to shut down, reconnected with her mother Celeste (Elizabeth Marvel), and rode off into the sunset with Wiley (Jake McDorman).
For Owen Harris (Black Mirror, Misfits), who directed the episode, bringing Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof’s absurdist story to a close in grounded fashion allowed the audience to better understand its central characters.
“We throw so much at the audience across this show. You learn a lot about this crazy ride and the backstory to Mrs. Davis and all this stuff,” Harris tells TVLine. “I think that you end up in scenes that settle down. They become human in a way, and you start to resolve some of the core human stories within it. I think Damon [Lindelof] did a similar thing with The Leftovers, where in the last episode of that, he brings everything down. As an audience, you get a sense of reward because you start to understand not only what’s been taking place across the story, but you also understand why it’s been told in the way it’s been told.”
Read on for our full interview with Harris, who shares his thoughts on that finale reveal and why we should reexamine our relationship with artificial intelligence.
TVLINE | When did you find out Mrs. Davis’ origin, and what was your reaction to that reveal?
OWEN HARRIS | In my first conversation with [Hernandez and Lindelof], when they sent me the pilot, they spilled the beans about everything. When I read the pilot, it’s like, ‘Wow, where on Earth is this going to take me?’ So when they explained the backstory to Mrs. Davis, I got a really clear idea what this show is trying to do in terms of storytelling, and it felt incredibly original.
It just gave us a way of looking at technology that hadn’t been done before. I think whenever we have A.I. in a film, there’s always some sort of lurking, sinister [thing]. And when you then reveal what this thing is, I always feel it’s something anticlimactic. I love this notion that an A.I. that is now running half of the world, that what we’re putting all of our faith into was actually developed just to sell Buffalo Wild Wings. It says a lot about where we are right now and our relationship with technology and how much of our trust we’re willing to put into tech without ever really asking enough questions. And I think that’s a really fun way of looking at where we are today when it comes to technology.
TVLINE | I think Simone summed it up best when she said, “This is so dumb.”
We like to think the technology does have all the answers, but we’ve got to remember that we’ve given it all the answers. It’s not some superbeing. I mean, what it can do is amazing and it’s incredibly rapid, but it’s still ours. It still reflects our knowledge and our lives now, and we’ve got to try and maintain that relationship, that we stay in control of it in that way. For instance, to go on a quest for the Holy Grail, for people to invest their entire lives in this thing and all this sort of stuff and you realize that it’s actually dumb, that’s quite eye-opening. And it should make us all think about what our relationship is with technology and how much of our time we’re willing to invest in it.
TVLINE | Right now, I feel like there’s a growing excitement and fear of what A.I. could do, how it could replace us all. Were you thinking about those things as you were working on this finale?
We were probably thinking about it less than we are all thinking about it right now. I don’t think when Tara and Damon wrote this that they were aware of just how prevalent this was going to be when the show came out and how it’s completely hit a zeitgeist. It’s joined this moment where we’re all having to start looking at it like, ‘What is this going to mean?’ It’s a really interesting time to be opening up this debate because I think that we’ve got to have conversations about it. We’ve got to be aware of its potentials. We’ve got to be mindful of what it can mean to us in terms of creators working in an industry, or anyone working in any sort of field where ChatGPT or one of these A.I.s could be used, because it’s going to be used. There’s no point trying to regulate it and hope that it’s going to go away. It’s out there and we’ve got to figure out how we develop our relationship with it.
TVLINE | I thought that Wiley’s journey in this episode was beautiful. He walks out of the expiration process a totally changed person. Can you talk about his evolution and what he drew from that experience?
His arc is very much about a journey that he goes on with Simone. What you realize by the end is how much he has grown as a character because of this journey that he has taken with her. I think that when he checks in, he’s finally stepping up. He’s finally confronting his own demons, his own fears. Although he still maintains this façade or bravado, which is carried throughout, you realize that he’s actually doing something far more personal to him in terms of taking on this challenge. And even though he keeps saying, ‘I know you’re not going to kill me,’ there’s definitely a growing sense that maybe this is what’s going to happen. But he sticks to it and he completes something that he thought was going to be bigger than him, and he’s rewarded for it. In that sense, it becomes much more than the roller coaster itself; it becomes a much more psychological hurdle that has to overcome.
TVLINE | That scene in the church after Simone destroyed the Holy Grail brought both of her mothers — Mother Superior and Celeste — together in an interesting moment. Do you remember any conversations with Betty [Gilpin] about how Simone viewed both after all that?
With Mother Superior, it was it was very much about creating this connection and this real sense of this closeness and this camaraderie between them and the unspoken bond that they had. In doing that, then use that contrast with what she’s lacking from her mother. I think it was really important that both those mothers fulfilled those positions in her orbit, where she comes to Mother Superior to take on the biggest challenge of her life and you realize just how important that relationship is.
In surviving that, she probably then realizes that she has the strength to then confront the other mother in her life and a relationship that doesn’t have this strength of bond and this connection. In the final scene, maybe we start to see the first roots of something that could be meaningful between Simone and her real mother.
TVLINE | It looks like Mrs. Davis shuts down officially, but do you think that’s the end of it?
Who knows where Mrs. Davis has gone. I love the fact that the show doesn’t try to wrap that up entirely. I love the fact that the grander themes of the show in terms of faith, religion, technology, it’s not a question we posit at the beginning and try to answer at the end. The answers we try to find are in the personal, intimate stories, but the bigger questions, they’re carried by the breeze at the end, and who knows what’s happened to Mrs. Davis. We’ve turned her off, so that’s the only thing I know with any certainty. But what does that even mean?
TVLINE | In the immediate aftermath of that, you see the world collectively losing it and unable to function on a basic level without Mrs. Davis. What do you think the show is saying about our dependency on technology?
I don’t know about you, but sometimes if I look at my phone and I’ve got no signal, I’ll have a little flutter of anxiety, even if I don’t need my phone in that moment. It’s bizarre. Why do I need to be connected all the time? I think that we that we’ve become absolutely hooked up to technology in a way that maybe — even if we feel that we’ve got a healthy relationship with technology where we’re able to regulate it — none of us really quite understand how much we’re giving away.
Now, I’m not saying that makes technology bad. In fact, we wouldn’t be having this [Zoom] conversation if it wasn’t for technology. But I certainly think that we need to challenge ourselves in terms of what we’re getting out of this relationship. And we should ask ourselves some deeper questions. I’ve got kids. That’s a good way of looking at it from a distance and saying, ‘Wow, how is this going to shape their lives?’ I feel like we’re at the beginning of that conversation, and with Chat GPT and this sudden, big leap forward, I think it’s given us all the necessary wake-up call.
TVLINE | We end with Simone, after realizing this journey was built upon a giant misunderstanding, riding off with Wiley — and it feels like her faith is even stronger than before. Where is she at, mentally?
It is a journey of faith, and I think her faith is probably stronger. It’s less reliant on a particular aspect of her faith that she probably felt was vital to her, which was an interaction with Jay. The faith had to become something greater than that and allow her to then interact with the parts of her life that she didn’t have confidence with — like her mother, like her relationship with Wiley. By discovering a greater sense of faith in herself, it allowed her to look at the parts of her life that she hadn’t managed or come to grips with in the same way. It’s funny how, considering the steps we take to get her there, that’s the takeaway that you end up with her story, is that you actually feel that you’re looking at someone who’s got an even greater sense of faith by the end of it.
TVLINE | And how great was Betty Gilpin in the show?
I literally can’t imagine a Mrs. Davis [without] Betty Gilpin. She’s our energy. The way she pivots, the way she elegantly moves from humor to emotions, it makes my job incredibly easy. You just have this great confidence in terms of building a show around someone like that [and] what they’re going to be delivering. The strength of character she produces really feels like you can go on a crazy ride with her because she’s going to keep bringing it home.
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