‘The Resort’: Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper Break Down the ‘Claustrophobic and Intense’ Finale

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SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched “The Disillusionment of Time,” the Season 1 finale of “The Resort.”

As intricate and text-heavy as “The Resort” is, Andy Siara’s adventure-comedy series manages to say a lot about love with almost no dialogue on the subject.

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“I hate a romantic monologue. It is exactly the kind of thing that makes me want to throw up,” William Jackson Harper, who stars in the series as Noah opposite Cristin Milioti’s Emma, tells Variety. The two travel to the Yucatán peninsula for their 10th anniversary, but their marriage is quietly on the rocks. As they miscommunicate again and again, they find themselves investigating the disappearance of two teenagers at the resort 15 years prior — a mystery Siara uses to get at the root of the couple’s problems more subtly.

“I live in a place where I don’t necessarily say everything that’s on my mind. I hardly ever say what’s on my mind; I’m lying most of the time,” Harper laughs. Siara’s writing, he says, emphasizes actions over words: “The moment isn’t the confession. The moment is just the execution of something, or the anticipation of someone’s needs. That’s [how we say] the things that we need to say, and it’s more fun to play.”

Milioti adds: “When I watch things, I get taken out [of the moment] if the characters seem — for lack of a better term — therapied, like they’re perfectly able to succinctly describe what they’re feeling. I don’t find that exciting to watch. And Andy does that so well, especially in that cave sequence. So many things are unspoken.”

She’s referring to the finale episode, “The Disillusionment of Time,” where Emma goes rogue in search of Pasaje, a mythical “room outside of time” from a book written by Illan Iberra (Luis Guzmán) and owned by Violet (Nina Bloomgarden), one of the missing teens. Noah finds and follows her along with Baltasar Frías (Luis Gerardo Méndez), the resort’s former head of security, and Murray (Nick Offerman), Violet’s father. Pasaje, or “passage” in English, ends up being a milky pool at the end of a tunnel in the wall of a cave, deep in the middle of a jungle. There, Violet and Sam (Skyler Gisondo) are floating, asleep, unaged despite the years that have passed.

But to reach the tunnel, Emma must first get onto Noah’s shoulders. As her fixation on this mystery and his reluctance to pursue it have been a running conflict throughout the season, that moment says it all: “She asks for help for the first time,” Milioti says. “He has to let her go. She has to let him go.”

Though Noah and Emma barely ever discuss it in front of each other, we also know that one of the rifts in their marriage is the result of the child they had and lost a few years earlier. Because the baby was whisked away for treatment so quickly, only Noah got to see her before she died, which subtly impacts Emma’s obsession with finding Sam and Violet. Instead of relying on “therapied” explanations of the connection between Emma’s lost chance at motherhood and her care for the missing teens, “The Resort” communicates that through Milioti’s strained performance combined with realistic production design by Bret August Tanzer.

THE RESORT -- Episode 108 -- Pictured: Cristin Milioti as Emma -- (Photo by: Peacock)
Emma (Cristin Milioti) crawls through a tunnel to look for Pasaje.

“It was claustrophobic and intense. I can’t stress how intense that shit was,” Milioti says about shooting her crawl toward Sam and Violet. At one point, she gets stuck, fully up to her chest surrounded by rock and mud. “I’m always reticent to be like, ‘That was difficult!’ because we’re lucky to get to do this, but like that tunnel scene was really a hard day. I remember going home to the hotel at night and being like, ‘Am I okay? Am I going to be okay doing this for 18 hours a day?’ It was brutal.”

“I had crazy food poisoning,” Harper adds. “We’re in the underground lake, there’s a crazy staircase to get down there, then you have to get on a boat and go across a little pond, and then go down into this standing water. My attitude was so bad.”

The depth of their struggle against nature mimics both characters’ frantic desires to fix the unfixable. Learning that Violet sought out Pasaje in hopes of reconnecting to her dead mother, Emma realizes that she could get in the water herself to meet the baby she lost. But she makes the selfless choice, rescues Violet and Sam, and returns them to their families as she returns to Noah.

“She is so desperate to go back in time and get her child back. But in a way she brings someone else’s child back into the world,” Milioti says. “I thought that that was such a fantastical metaphor for the ways that we get stuck in our past. We all have moments of sitting at the side of your Pasaje and staring in the water, thinking about a time that you thought was better. Or what you should have done, if only you could go back. I just thought it was such a brilliant way to physicalize what happens to us the older you get, when you’re thinking about where you stand in the world.

Harper thinks there’s an argument for both sides: whether to leave the world and enter Pasaje, or to embrace real life.

“The possibility of something that defies human explanation is something Noah’s not prepared for,” Harper says. “The thing that I love about it, as a viewer, is that sometimes things that just exist cause us pain. They’re not good; they’re not bad. This room outside of time, it’s not nefarious. It’s not an evil that’s meant to steal time from people. The way that we interact with it causes pain and distress, but it just exists. Like, we look at earthquakes as a bad thing, and when there’s a human cost, of course! But when there’s no people there, what is it? Is it just a necessary part of the crust expanding?”

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