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‘Apples Never Fall’ Showrunner Explains the Show’s ‘Emotional Hurricane’ Ending

The finale of “Apples Never Fall” on Peacock fills in all the gaps left behind by the six episodes before it by pulling back the curtains of what happened to missing matriarch Joy Delaney (Annette Bening) from her own perspective.

After Joy, mother and core of the Delaney family, goes missing, her husband Stan (Sam Neill) and four children — Amy (Alison Brie), Troy (Jake Lacy), Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner) and Brooke (Essie Randles) — are forced to hash out long-simmering resentments and regrets while trying to figure out where Joy went.

The series is divided into standalone episodes through each family member’s perspective, with Stan and Joy’s episodes being the climactic final two as the mystery finally comes together.

“Getting to the Joy and Stan of it, what is true is how many of us kids ever see our parents as people? Of course, you have the kid episodes, but the episodes in which the parents are revealed to be flawed people were really important,” showrunner Melanie Marnich told TheWrap. “And at the end, of course, for the kids to both challenge Joy, ‘What were you thinking?’ And then she lets them have it and says, ‘This is what I was thinking, I’m a person, and you ignore it.’ It was really fun to write to that goalpost, that ending.”

Marnich says the four separate installments named after the Delaney children are not meant to feel “isolated.” They were meant to dovetail back into the central mystery: Joy’s disappearance. This included the revelation that a mysterious new stranger in their lives named Savannah was actually Lindsey Haddad, younger sister to tennis prodigy Harry Haddad, who attended the Delaney tennis academy before he fired Stan as his coach.

“When stuff wasn’t tied to the Delaneys, it felt extraneous. So enriching the Delaney story with the Haddad information and backstory was great, but it had to always serve the Delaney story,” Marnich said. “Even Savannah’s backstory, rather than being handled separately, comes out as the questions of what happened to Joy and why. The revelations of who Savannah is, what she’s up to, what she did to each of the siblings, what trouble she caused in the past, all serves the mystery at the heart of the Delaneys. It was always about feathering that stuff into our primary mystery.”

The “Apples Never Fall” showrunner shed light on what Joy’s return achieves, how Savannah’s car accident unfolds and the layer that Stan adds when he makes his confession about his father.

Do you think Joy gets the recognition she deserves once she returns home?
Only in Joy’s absence do the kids see her. She had to cause this cataclysm. She had to cause this upset. They had to think she was dead to see her, appreciate her and understand what she did. In her absence, everyone’s wounds, pain, darkness comes to the surface and has to be contended with, and even when they were ignoring their mother, there’s something about her presence that kept the family functioning. She leaves and everybody blows apart.

The irony is, Savannah damaging the family, blowing up the family, is then what gives the family a chance at survival and the marriage a chance at survival and each of the kids a chance at love outside the family. Hopefully, everything was brought into the open and exorcised or healed to a certain degree that gives them all a chance.

Can you take me behind the car accident scene and how you approached its construction?
We think Stan killed [Joy]. Then we think maybe Savannah might do it, but Savannah is not going to kill her. It’s in this moment of forgiveness that Joy starts to give to Savannah that disarms Savannah, that makes her drop her guard, that makes her drop her anger, that makes her drop everything. She turns to Joy, and before Joy can even finish what she’s saying, there’s this moment of grace given to Savannah. The irony is, that’s what causes her to take her eyes off the road, which causes the accident. Just when Savannah’s given a gift, she’s hit by a truck.

And we don’t get closure for Savannah in terms of where or how she ends up.
No. She bolts from that car accident having granted forgiveness to Joy and asking for forgiveness. I don’t think she’s a different person now, but I think she had a moment of growth and a moment of insight thanks to her time with Joy and the love she got from Joy. When Joy says to her right before the crash, “You deserve love,” I don’t think that girl had ever heard that in her life.

What layer does Stan’s confession add to the whole story?
Stan has lived with this deep shame his whole life. It has driven his ambition, it has made him a taskmaster. It has made him see emotion as weakness. It has made him protect his family. It has built his ego, but he does, at his heart, have a profound shame for what he fears is in him. That his father’s violence may live in him. When he says, “I think it is in there,” he’s right, and he knows Joy’s whole disappearance, how quickly the kids thought, “Well, of course dad did it.” The kids saw that even though they didn’t know his history. That is the blow and that is the irony and the sorrow of Stan that he left all those years to not do anything bad, but ultimately, people saw this darkness in him. He couldn’t outrun it.

He had a taste of losing Joy when she walked out, and he knows now that she also had visited a divorce lawyer, and he has one card to play. He has one card to make her stay, and that is telling this dark secret and saying, “This is the truth of why I left.”

Conor Merrigan-Turner, Essie Randles, Sam Neill, Annette Bening, Alison Brie and Jake Lacy in “Apples Never Fall” (Peacock)
Conor Merrigan-Turner, Essie Randles, Sam Neill, Annette Bening, Alison Brie and Jake Lacy in “Apples Never Fall” (Peacock)

Tell me about the decision to have the duality of the hurricane and family mess in the final scene.
It [was] really important that Joy came home not just to an emotional mess [but] to a physical mess. The hurricane was what happened to the Delaneys in a sense — the emotional hurricane. And Joy comes home to see the physical manifestation of that. The tennis court also being the metaphor and iconography for their whole lives. That court had always been perfect, it had always been pristine, and she comes home and it is destroyed by the storm they went through when she was gone.

She doesn’t tell Stan, “I’m staying.” She doesn’t tell anybody, “It’s OK.” She says, “There’s a big mess,” and she doesn’t start to clean it up for the first time in her life. She doesn’t just do it. She says, “Hop to it.” And they do. They work as a team. They come together. I think Joy and Stan ultimately wind up together. Do I think it’s still a conversation? I do, but this is the start of the conversation, and it [was] imperative that she stands there in this mess, and they all pitch in to clean it up. That’s what it’s going to take.

All episodes of “Apples Never Fall” are now streaming on Peacock.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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