At the end of the first season of HBO Max's adaptation of Made for Love, Hazel (Cristin Milioti) took on some of her husband Byron's (Billy Magnussen) characteristics by moving her father Herbert (Ray Romano) into the Hub without his knowledge, let alone consent, so the futuristic technology housed there could treat his cancer — again without his knowledge or consent. At the end of the second season of Made for Love, Hazel slipped much more fully into Byron's shoes.
After successfully stopping Other Hazel (a copy of her consciousness that Byron uploaded to a cloud-like network) from controlling her body, Hazel decided to leave Other Byron (a copy of his consciousness that he had also uploaded) in control of her husband's body. In doing so, the real Byron was trapped in the recesses of his body, while Other Byron was content to just lie in a hammock, staring at clouds, and read books about parenthood. That left Hazel free to take control of the company.
"This season was all about Hazel surprising herself with, 'What is her agenda?' She came here with a very specific agenda to cure Herbert, but then as she was back there and then meets FBI agent who she thought was just a guy from the bowling alley, she's realizing that maybe she has some power here. I think Hazel, in a way, is like, 'The last 10 years that I spent trapped in suffering have better been worth something,' and now she's seeing the eye on the prize," showrunner Christina Lee tells Metacritic.
Hazel kicked that FBI agent (Jasper, played by Sarunas J. Jackson) out of the Hub and prepared to lead the company into the future with Fiffany (Noma Dumezwani) by her side. Fiffany, in contrast, did not kick Herringbone (Dan Bakkedahl) out, despite learning he was the one who previously got her in trouble with Byron. Oh, and Hazel also learned she was pregnant, and by the end of the finale episode, was six months into that pregnancy and planning for a very transactional family unit. (When Other Byron asked how her day was, for example, she told him it wasn't any of his business.)
It was certainly a new day at the Hub — and at Gogol Industries on a larger scale. Hazel is now in power, but whether she will use that power for good, or turn out to be more like Byron that perhaps even she imagined, remains to be seen if the show gets renewed.
Here, showrunners Lee and Alissa Nutting break down the second season finale of Made for Love and reflect on adapting Jasper's relationship with a dolphin for the series, as well as tease where they hope to take the show in a potential third season.
Hazel said she wants Byron to die, but he has managed to hang on for six months, which may be longer than someone is expected to be trapped in their own body like that. Is he more of a threat to her than she may realize because he has been able to survive in there?
Christina Lee: With Byron, it's not as simple as being like, "I want him dead" because now she actually is carrying his child and what does that mean? So, it is the question that we posed for Season 3: She has done the things that she did not expect to do, even with her father, in Season 2, and now what is she going to do with Byron in Season 3?
Alissa Nutting: There is this, I think, cautionary theme throughout Seasons 1 and 2 so far that when you think that you're doing something to get revenge on someone else or to run away or escape from a situation, you're actually digging yourself a bit deeper. So, without saying too much, who knows what may happen over time as Byron is suppressed inside of himself?
Speaking of her father, she is told she has the ability to bring him back, and she very clearly didn't want him to die in the first place. Why did you want to leave the season on an ambiguous note of what she would do with that knowledge?
C.L.: In Season 1, we had an understanding of who we thought Hazel was. She was a trapped woman who was on the run, escaping to gain her own autonomy. This season, she's becoming somebody very different, and we were focusing on, what are the steps to somebody coming into power? And what is she going to do with that power? That's what we hope to explore in Season 3, but we wanted to show that this is maybe like an origin story of somebody who comes into power and how they got there.
A.N.: Yeah, is she going to do the hero thing or the antihero thing? One of the fun things about the show is, I think, it really poses all these questions surrounding context and love, and what is and is not loving behavior and the ways that we do things perhaps driven by love or motivated by love or a very connected emotion that can seem very unloving? And so, while all of us, on one hand, have this urge to keep someone that we love alive, she knows that that's not her father's will. We really want to see the character think through and struggle with [this] in Season 3 because it's a really, really huge decision that she has to make.
It's also a huge decision that the other Hazel made already. When you were crafting the story that the other Hazel would honor Herbert's wishes, did the writers' room discuss the Death with Dignity Act?
C.L.: Yeah, we talked about that a lot and the fact that Other Hazel could treat her father in a way that real Hazel probably couldn't because all of [real Hazel's] emotions are applied to her actions, whereas Other Hazel is data: She has all the same information as Hazel, but she doesn't have that emotional tie to it. When we see that Other Hazel sheds a tear after Herbert passed, that's the first time that she's actually feeling a connection with the data and her emotions.
Other Hazel and Other Byron are introduced in a very pure environment. But then in the finale, you have this rocky, dirty, sandy terrain for the inner network. Am I reading into the symbolism? Was this more of a production choice to have diametrically opposed visuals?
C.L.: The fun thing that we had talked about in the writers' room is, if Byron had not put Other Hazel and Other Byron — the consciousnesses — onto the same network, would there have been the same result? We think that answer is no, because they would have these ideas, but they'd have no one to bounce off of. Because they were on the same network, she made clothes and he's like, "Oh, I want that." And he's like, "I can build you a door." And the next thing you know, they're building a world for each other on there, which wouldn't have happened otherwise. And as they're doing that, they're creating desires, they're creating needs. And so, what was so pure and clean in the beginning, she wanted to be in the most raw form of a real world. And how we ended up embodying her consciousness is putting them in rocky terrain and in the forest and places that were hard to run [in].
A.N.: We were thinking about Hazel's mind and Hazel's memories, and what is the landscape that haunts you? It's the thing where what's familiar and home is also linked to your greatest fear.
Going back to the idea of coming into power, Fiffany also is in that position in the finale, but she doesn't exile Herringbone. What does that say about what kind of a person she is versus what those two went through together?
A.N.: It's a little bit of both. It shows a change in Fiffany, who, in Season 1, was definitely not vulnerable with other people whatsoever. Her and Herringbone in the pasture cube and all the experiences they had, she was still planning on doing this until he came clean and showed that he, himself, had grown. So, it was nice that these two characters organically were able to give us a redemptive arc, particularly since Hazel's was a bit messier.
Hazel did kick Jasper out of the Hub, so are you closing the door on that relationship, or is there a bigger plan in Hazel's mind that she just hasn't let the audience in on yet?
A.N.: There's a much bigger plan.
OK because if you were closing the door on that, it would also close the door on Zelda.
A.N.: We would never close this door. We are building a hallway and a city.
C.L.: And busting it wide open.
In adapting that relationship from the book to the screen, how did you determine how close they would get and what changes you might need to make, considering you have a human actor working opposite a CGI dolphin?
A.N.: One thing that we were really interested in is the concept of falling in love despite various barriers. We have Herbert who has fallen in love with Diane, despite the barrier of [her] not being an organic human. Zelda is at least living, so arguably a better position on the spectrum. But we really wanted to show this conundrum, given the fact that Zelda can talk and can be understood, of what would happen if you met someone and you're like, "Oh, they're my soulmate," but it wasn't a person? This season, that species barrier is one that they're not able to cross, and I'll hang that there, but technology in the Hub can do many things, so we do have plans for Season 3.
C.L.: With our approach with Herbert and Diane, and with Jasper and Zelda, we wanted to make sure that it didn't come across as a joke. I think when you think of a synthetic partner, you just think, "Sex doll." And we've all heard those stories about these relationships with dolphins. We wanted to make sure that there was an emotional connection built, and so, that's why we decided we're gonna pace this slowly and care about them and maybe even forget that Zelda's a dolphin sometimes.
People on set were really excited when she professed her love, and then I remember we had somebody in the grip department who was like, "Uh, I didn't see that coming!" We were acting like this was so typical.
A.N.: We were like, "Did somebody tell them? Do they know what they're doing?" It was pretty great. [Laughs] But Ashley Madekwe, who does the voice of Zelda, did just such an incredible job, not only of working as the voice in CGI, which is not an easy thing to do, but also inflecting it with so much warmth and true sensuality. She made Zelda sound really hot and also smart and fun and like someone you would be wanting to spend time with.
I did want to talk about casting Zelda, especially when compared to Paula Abdul, who everyone Jasper worked with assumed he would connect with.
C.L.: We wanted to represent that the Hub can do anything, so if somebody is asked, "Who is your ultimate crush?", then we can deliver that person to you. In our script, we wrote "Paula Abdul," thinking we can't get her, it's a pipe dream. But we called our casting director Leslie Woo, and we were like, "Who can we get like Paula?" And she was like, "Should we just ask Paula?" We were amazed when we found out Paula had seen the show before we even reached out to her, so it was a dream come true. She has such a great sense of humor we wanted to infuse that. Yes, she is Anydoors, the name she is mistakenly called, but there are things that are homage to the legend that Paula is.
While we're on the toping of casting, we have to talk about bringing Oona Chaplin in as Byron's first wife Alice because it adds such a layer that she really does look like Cristin and Hazel. But how integral was the physical resemblance, as opposed to just an essence or way of carrying one's self, to the story you wanted to tell?
C.L.: It was Oona or bust!
A.N.: We would have had to put someone in dropout sweatpants and flannel shirts and combed the hair over like the little girl in The Ring. We really wanted a resemblance, and we were talking about Oona from the beginning of the season.
Hazel didn't get her answers about Alice, but in a general sense, do you feel like she has had enough information and experience to work through some of her trauma and concern to be successful in what she is setting out to do, or is what's to come going to be a rude awakening for her?
C.L.: I think she's somewhat prepared. Of course, you never know until you step into those shoes. But what has happened to Hazel over the course of Season 2 is that she does want something for herself: She got a taste of having people listen to her and care about what she had to say in DC, and she was like, "I'm actually good at something and this feels good. And is it worth all the work that Byron's done to go to waste?" She has plans.
But I think in the same way, Alice has been hiding away [and] there's something about seeing Hazel now come into her power that she's like, "Wait, I suffered like that for nothing!?" Maybe she wants something for herself. We are telling that dual story of the victim wanting to take back their power.
The very end of the finale is six months in the future and Hazel is very pregnant. Do you anticipate picking Season 3 up there and continuing the pregnancy or jumping forward in time and seeing her with a baby?
C.L.: This is what we can say with confidence: Season 3 will not be about Hazel changing diapers. We guarantee that.
Get to know Christina Lee:
Prior to running Made for Love, Lee worked as a writer and producer on television series from Super Fun Night (Metascore: 46), to Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (74), Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (67), and Search Party (78).
Get to know Alissa Nutting:
Nutting first wrote Made for Love as a novel, published in 2017. Her other screenwriting credits include the series Teenage Euthanasia and contributing the story for the feature film False Positive (Metascore: 54).