Spoiler warning: This article contains big spoilers about Into the Night Season 1 and the book it is based on written by Jacek Dukaj.
As excited as I was to share the non-spoiler portion of my conversation with Into the Night writer and showrunner Jason George, now it’s time for the real juicy stuff – but only for folks who have seen Season 1! The rest of this article contains huge spoilers for Into the Night Season 1 and also includes some information about the Jacek Dukaj book that the show is based on that could possibly spoil the direction the narrative is heading.
If you’re still with me, that means you’re open to knowing what happens in The Old Axolotl that could be a major game-changer for the Netflix series. Are you ready for it? ROBOTS. Yes, humans survive the apocalyptic event in the book by transferring their consciousness to robots and mechs. Clearly this would be a major leap for the show after a super lean, character-driven first season in which George took a Jaws approach with the apocalyptic event being more of a looming presence than something that’s shown through flashy disaster movie-style visuals.
So now the big question is, is George really going to do the robot thing? And what about all of the other major season-ending events? Did Terenzio (Stefano Cassetti) deserve to die? Did Sylvie (Pauline Etienne) make the right choice? Did Ayaz (Mehmet Kurtulus) tell the truth about his plans for the stones? Find out what George told us about all of that and so much more in the spoiler-heavy portion of our interview below!
How’d you decide which characters got opening flashback sequences?
GEORGE: The opening things for me is, at it’s simplest, one, the opening to be the character’s definition of intimacy. And then from that, in the present story, explain how that unfurls itself. So each person’s idea of what relationship means to them from a longterm relationship to an affair, to a spouse, to the idea of sex being currency as it relates to Ayaz, to Terenzio having no real relationships and it’s all in his head as a dream of having no intimate relationships. So that’s really the simple construct hopefully I was trying to get across there.
Did you write any stories for any of the characters that we didn’t get to see flashbacks for? In particular, Haleigh and I are obsessed with Laura and we’re dying to see her backstory.
GEORGE: I will tell you this first; if we do get a second season, there will be a Laura beginning and I’ve already written it.
Have you been enjoying seeing viewers’ reactions when they first Google what the book is and realize how different it is from the show?
GEORGE: Yes, yes. Jacek who wrote the book, he and I talked about that obviously for the past year; what will people say when they see the book and then see the show? Just to step back, the fact that people are even doing that is super cool. But then when they see … essentially a page of the book is the first season and where the book goes, oh my god, it’s been so, so awesome.
I tried to blow through as much of the book as possible yesterday. I originally made the assumption that your story was the very beginning of the book. It really is just a page!
GEORGE: That’s right! Yeah. Tomasz Baginski, who is our producer on this, a producer on The Witcher, he was kind of the bridge. I’ve worked with Netflix before and knew Jacek, so Tomasz was the one who was really like, ‘I think this would be a cool starting spot,’ so yeah. You think it would be the first paragraph, right? And it’s not. [Laughs] And, you know, we have no idea if we’re gonna get to tell other seasons, but man, that would be fun.
What is it like working with Netflix on a series when it comes to planning for future seasons? Do those discussions have to happen early on or do they like to wait until a renewal is more likely?
GEORGE: Even before the show was green lit the first season, we had kind of a general layout of the first few seasons. And as Season 1 progressed, we’ve obviously talked about what Season 2 or beyond can be, but any writer’s lying to you if they tell you that they knew from the beginning and know where it’s going in my experience with writers rooms. It just kind of changes. And it changes based on the story that you’re telling and what people are saying, and the actors you have and the budget you have. But we were really able in Season 1 to land where we wanted to land, so to speak – literally and figuratively. So, if we got to continue it’d be interesting to see how much of that original pitch we kept to.
A couple of very specific questions now. Hopefully you can answer some! How exactly is the animal that Dominic finds still alive? Was there some sort of material in that bag that was shielding it from the sun?
GEORGE: So the only thing I have refused to talk about is the animal, but I will say your question is on point. There is something very specific to that moment, to the creature, to the situation that made it unlike anything else in the rest of the show.
So now Terenzio. Where do you personally stand on his fate? Do you think that he deserved to die for what he did?
GEORGE: That’s a good question. To me you can’t really answer the question in a vacuum. You have to answer it from the character’s perspective. And I think it’s more of a Sylvie question, actually. So to me, Sylvie wanted to save the other group and believed that Terenzio, having known him through these six episodes, would not remain there, would chicken out or decide he wasn’t gonna do that. So then it becomes a question of character; was she justified? And it’s been super cool to see the different reactions on that. Was she wrong? Was she right? Was she doing the right thing for wrong reasons? Was she doing the wrong thing for right reasons? I think there is obviously an ambiguity there because none of us are in her shoes, so to speak. But just me personally? If I could put my viewer hat on for a second, I really liked seeing her make a definitive decision. And when she says, I’m a leader for the first time there, it is her really taking charge. And what’s interesting is, I guess if we get to continue the story is, are there consequences to that action?
You literally just read my mind because my next question was, what about Sylvie’s decision? Is it justifiable?
GEORGE: It’s a question! What do you think?
I’ll definitely agree with what you said; I was happy to see her step up as a leader. And also, just watching Terenzio’s behavior throughout the entire season and how quickly he was willing to sacrifice those around him to pursue his own agenda. Even at the beginning, I think he was just out to serve himself. He happened to have saved all those people on the plane. I can understand sacrificing him to potentially save the second group, especially because Sylvie didn’t even know what happened to them.
GEORGE: Yeah, I can totally see that. And to what you just said too I think is super smart of kind of tying it to the beginning, which is, this is a guy who starts out trying to save himself and in the process, inadvertently saves these other people. And at the end, in the process of them making him save other people, he loses himself.
I also love how it comes full circle in that he kind of sealed his own fate by what he did to Ayaz. If Terenzio hadn’t had that fight with him, then Ayaz wouldn’t have veered off the road and then the truck might’ve made it there and they could have saved him.
GEORGE: [Laughs] You could definitely see from the show how much I love irony, for better or for worse.
Speaking of Ayaz, is he telling the truth about the diamonds and what he planned to do with them?
GEORGE: He’s the only character who was always telling the truth. However, he is always telling his truth. So of all the characters, he is the one who is never lying or never intending to lie. But again, one of the things I thought was kind of fun to explore is when we come into these situations the idea of who we are and how we define ourselves and the fact that he’s honest repeatedly, you know? He says, ‘I was involved in a lot of things. I was involved in real estate.’ That’s all true. He says, ‘I gave him the stones to pack and he packed them incorrectly. I didn’t kill him. He died.’ You know, there is a truth to that.
One of the things I thought was fun and I really wanted to explore with this show in the first season was, I’d read something about how it’s tough for college students now when they go to their freshman year, they can’t really be new people because social media carries you forward. And there’s that traditional trying new things and redefinition of one’s self in college, [it’s] hampered by the baggage of your social media profile and friends and external presentation of yourself and how you’re viewed. So what was interesting to me is that when you put all these folks together in this situation, because of the massive problem that they’re facing, is that they are kind of blank slates before each other, in that traditional sense, you know? They could be lying about who they are and what they’re into and what they believe. And obviously that’s something that you see with the British soldiers, but that’s also true for all the characters as well. Except, for me, Ayaz. And that doesn’t mean Ayaz doesn’t have a bigger secret behind certain things about who he is, but everything he tells them about his backstory and prison and whatnot, I think is the truth.
So at the very end of the season, the soldier says to them that they’re going to solve the problem. So does them solving the problem open the door to the robot component?
GEORGE: Super, super interesting question. [Laughs] I really love how you synthesized the two pieces and you’ve done some digging in that. And that’s just kind of what we’ve been doing, too! It’s really been the same process of looking at the book, which is super fun, and also, a lot of my approach to the show was journalistically. And of course there’s stuff in the show that, one, you hope would never happen, but also things that are fantastical. However, it’s all based in truth, and we really wanted to shoot it that way, too. There’s no shots of the cast, for example, on the plane that you couldn’t actually shoot on a real plane. We never put the camera on the tip of the wing and shot it through the windows because we wanted to live as if this was real people. I’ve said this so much when we were filming and writing that I should probably get it tattooed, but these are ordinary people and extraordinary events. So, taking that ethos of going from that to where the book goes, oh my god, would be super fun.
It would be so fun! But the other interesting wrinkle that comes with that is that the state of the world before the apocalypse in the book is so different than the state of the world before the apocalypse in your show. So are there certain seeds planted in Season 1 that would suggest that if it does come to that, humans do actually have the capability to pull it off?
GEORGE: Yeah, there are clues, particularly in Episodes 5 and 6 when they’re at NATO, when they’re watching that footage and Rik is watching that footage from NATO, the story that Terenzio tells when they enter the conference room at NATO. There’s clues in Episode 6 from stuff that’s – I don’t want to say too much – but stuff that’s on the doors and on the walls and the people that are there and the flag patches on the soldiers’ arms. There’s just a lot of little things that would be super fun to get to go. And the other thing that we, again, have kind of been keeping it lean through Season 1 is, we don’t, beyond the cosmonaut, have any connection to anyone else after Episode 4, who’s out there, until they arrive at the bunker. But there’s no non-NATO connection beyond the cosmonaut. So that’s the other thing too, of what other folks have done and responding and who else is out there that would be super cool.
Into the Night Season 1 is now available on Netflix.