IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SEASON-ONE FINALE OF GOD FRIENDED ME, LEAVE NOW AND COME BACK LATER. THIS IS YOUR ONE AND ONLY WARNING.
CBS’ Sunday-night dramedy God Friended Me ended its first season on Sunday, April 14, with a lot of things tied up in bows and other things left open. That was by design.
As co-creator (with Steven Lilien) Bryan Wynbrandt told me last Friday, “Our thinking going into it was that we wanted to tie a bunch of things up in bows and leave some thing open.”
Anyway, as we left the trio of atheist podcast Miles Finer (Brandon Micheal Hall), journalist/new-girlfriend Cara Bloom (Violett Beane) and computer whiz Rakesh Singh (Suraj Sharma), they had discovered that the tech trio of Simon Hayes (Adam Goldberg), Pria Amar (Parminder Nagra) and Henry Chase (Derek Luke) didn’t create the Facebook “God account” that has been sending the three friends on adventures all over New York to help people.
Rakesh got a new gig heading up an R&D team for Simon; Miles’ podcast, The Millennial Prophet, looks to bust wide open; and Cara got an offer to go to her dream city of Paris to write the story of how Simon, Pria and Henry re-create their potentially world-changing software (yes, she went; no, she and Miles didn’t break up). Miles’ father, Episcopal Rev. Arthur Finer (Joe Morton) stepped away from ministry and proposed to girlfriend Trish (Erica Gimpel).
As I mentioned, saw the finale early and caught up with Wynbrandt (an agnostic/atheist) and Lilien (a practicing Jew) to talk past, present and future (talked to them a few months ago also, click here for that). Here are the highlights.
On the intent for the God Friended Me finale episode, Que Sera Sera:
Wynbrandt: Most importantly, going into the finale, we knew we wanted to end the season with a big question and with the opportunity, as storytellers, to open up the language of the show and to reinvigorate not only the audience in the mystery of these behind the God account, but Miles, who had come to a place where he was ultimately had truthfully gotten to a place where he was OK with the God account, not knowing the mystery.
But now that Joy has been sent his direction, it changes everything for him and for us, and for the show. So, I think that was the big driving force for us.
Has your Catholic wife ever mentioned to you that “It’s a mystery” is one of our favorite phrases?
Wynbrandt: You know, she may have mentioned that.
But, you didn’t break up Miles and Cara — you just put them on pause. Why?
Lilien: There’s no reason just to break up people just to break up people. … It’s about testing their relationship. Cara’s gonna go off to Paris. She’s gonna have her own story. And then when she comes back, it’s gonna be. “Where are they and has this distance changed them? Will it make them stronger or will it rip them apart.?”
The exciting thing for storytellers is to see the challenges you can bring to a relationship. You don’t have to just break people up for conflict. There are other ways to do that, and I think, more interesting ways to show characters growing without one another. And then, how they are when they come back together?
Wynbrandt: That was another opportunity for her, and one that felt organic because obviously we, for a very long time, have been planning on her going to Paris with Henry and Simon and Pria.
We wanted to make sure that it felt earned and that the audience understood how she could walk away from Miles and the God account to do something. And being invested in Henry, and Simon, and Pria, it felt like something that you buy, her wanting to to go off.
Will Miles visit Cara in Paris?
Lilien: Of course, he could go visit. That’s obviously an option. But, as you know from the last moment of the season, he’s got a little bit on his table right now.
Wynbrandt: Not to mention, as we say, everything is in the God account’s plan. So, who knows? There might be a need for him to go there sooner rather than later.
Have you always known who’s behind the God account?
Wynbrandt: We have known who the God account is from the day we came up with the idea for the show. We’ve known who’s behind it. Now, maybe not the day, but when we were pitching it — let’s put it that way. We have always known who is behind the God account. We have an answer and it’s an exciting one.
Lilien: It helps, having that answer, helps being able to tell stories a certain way. ‘Cause you’re not guessing. You’re not having to waiver. We’re very firm on that answer, and it allows us to tell stories in a certain way. because we do have a plan.
Of course, if the God account does not have a supernatural or alien origin, that means there’s someone on Earth who has the capability of doing what the God account does. And while that’s cool, it’s also a little scary.
Wynbrandt: Well, I mean, scary, yes, but they are going very good things. So, the means to the end, I think, is justified.
Don’t you know the ends never justify the means?
Wynbrandt: Well, and, if as you say, it isn’t supernatural or an alien. Which … who knows? I mean, we know, but that’s the fun for us.
Aside from the trio, Arthur’s life has taken a turn — away from full-time ministry at Harlem Episcopal and into a possible new marriage. What was the thinking behind that?
Wynbrandt: We didn’t start the season off knowing we wanted him to leave the church. It was something that came organically through the story. But again, we’re firm believers that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Just because Arthur wants to get married, wants to leave the church … part of the fun for him is, is that the plan that life has for him?
We look at Arthur and Miles, they’re metaphorical opposites, who are on a very similar journey. Arthur thinks his path in life has been crafted by God. And Miles is seeing his life being crafted by the God account. But it doesn’t mean that what’s there, what they want, is ultimately what the person or, in Arthur’s case, what God has planned for him.
Lilien: The story led us there, just like it led Arthur there. He’s genuinely excited and firm about his decision ’cause he does see it — as Miles points out in the church toward the end of the season finale — he was just reading the situation maybe slightly wrong. That going to that diner all those years ago, it led him, yes to Harlem Episcopal, but it led him to their mom.
That this choice, when he lost the [election for] bishop, and he thought that was his path, it actually led him to Trish and this new journey. So I think it’s just about reading the situations and when bumps in the road or forks in the road happen, it’s about understanding that this is an exciting new choice to make in your life.
Wynbrandt: Steve and I have always talked about that, ’cause I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of, when bad things happen that lead to wonderful things, it makes you realize that sometimes bad things have to happen for good things to happen.
That’s something we want to explore also in our show. In some ways, where Arthur leaving the church is a wonderful thing, but where is that going to lead him? It is so exciting to explore that story for us. And we have a really exciting game plan for Arthur moving into season two. And we’re really excited to tell the story. And of course, we have Joe Morton, who you can give him anything and he’s gonna make it great. So, that storyline is one of our favorites, for sure.
As you have the God account send Miles and his friends here and there, do you ever feel like the story itself is sending you in one way or another, like your own God account saying, “Yeah, maybe that way now”?
Wynbrandt: Yeah, that’s each other — and our writers and our network and our studio and our actors, and everybody, our collaborators. We feel a responsibility to all of those people, so when we make choices, we make sure that we’re feeling good. But if it doesn’t work for them or, like you’re saying, if the organic DNA of the story says, “No, it’s not going to work.” We listen to it.
That’s the beauty of storytelling. It is an organic, living, breathing thing. When you’re a TV writer and a showrunner, you have many people you’re collaborating with, and it’s so important to always keep your mind, keep an open mind to things. But again, having a plan for us allows us to both keep an open mind and always keep the vision of what we felt was central to the show at the heart of the show. And that’s what we’ve been able to do and season one has been a really great example of that.
What’s your theory on who’s behind the God account?