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The Ark showrunners unpack season 1 finale and look ahead to season 2

Warning: This post contains spoilers from The Ark season 1 finale.

Proxima B has always been the destination for the survivors aboard Ark One, but the crew needs to find a new home after The Ark‘s explosive season 1 finale. In the final moments, Proxima B was deemed uninhabitable when it began to burn after Ark One started the planet’s rotational devices. Shortly after, Proxima B exploded, destroying any chance of becoming the new home for the human race.

Ark One survived the initial blast, but the ship could not avoid the aftershock, when it was hit by debris from the explosion. To make matters worse, the bridge was isolated from the rest of the ark, so the majority of the crew’s fate is unknown. The only confirmed survivors are Lt. Sharon Garnet (Maid’s Christie Burke), Lt. Spencer Lane (The Outpost’s Reece Ritchie), Lt. James Brice (The Sandman’s Richard Fleeshman), and Alicia Nevins (Aneni’s Stacey Read). The episode ends with the four crewmembers staring out the bridge at the neighboring Ark 15 as they await rescue.

To unpack the season 1 finale, creator/co-showrunner Dean Devlin (Independence Day) and co-showrunner Jonathan Glassner (Stargate SG-1) sat down with Digital Trends to discuss the action-packed episodes and tease what to expect in season 2.

A group of people huddle around a computer in a scene from The Ark.
THE ARK -- "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back" Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Richard Fleeshman as Lt. James Brice, Reece Ritchie as Lt. Spencer Lane, Tiana Upcheva as Eva Markovic, Stacey Read as Alicia Nevins, Christie Burke as Lt. Sharon Garnet -- (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Digital Trends: First of all, I want to say congrats on season 1 and the season 2 renewal.

Jonathan Glassner:  Thank you.

Dean Devlin: We’ve been celebrating. [laughs]

It’s worthy of a celebration.

Glassner: Busy trying to start up season 2.

Was there a moment during the first season when you knew this show was starting to hit with the audience?

Devlin: It was very interesting because we started out huge, and then we lost a bunch of people. There was a bunch of people who said, “This show’s not for us.” But Syfy was very smart in the way they handled the show in that they allowed it to be on a variety of different platforms for people to discover it. And what ended up happening is that the community started to grow and then migrate back towards Syfy, where we ended up with an even bigger audience.

Again, I think this is a show not for everybody, but for the people who really like this kind of show, it fills a need. People like us wanted to write a love letter to the kind of science fiction shows that we loved growing up that you don’t really see anymore. And apparently, there was a big audience out there that wanted to see the same thing.

Looking online, it seems like the show has a tight-knit community with all the forums and recaps, and the reception from Twitter and Instagram.

Devlin: There are certain types of shows that people enjoy watching. But there’s another type of show — Star Trek was one of them, and Doctor Who is another one — where people feel like it’s their show. They have ownership of it, and that creates a different kind of fandom. That’s what’s happened with The Ark. They’re not just fans of the show; it’s their show.

Glassner: The characters are their buddies that come over once a week for dinner.

Devlin: It’s so much fun watching the episodes and the character arcs. We get a kick out of when [fans are] second-guessing where the show’s going and when they’re wrong. We go, “Oh. That was kind of an interesting idea. We should’ve thought it.” Other times, they’re spot-on. We’re going, “Oh wait till they find out that they were right.”

Four people stand next to each other and stare in The Ark.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

That has to be a little scary, thinking that some fan is doing this better than you.

Devlin Oh, you want that. That’s what you want. Fan fiction is one of the most beautiful things because it means you’ve inspired their imagination.

I want to get into some of the final moments of the episode. Proxima B is no more. It explodes.

Devlin: Proxima B gone. [laughs]

That should be the title of a recap. 

Devlin: We should have named the episode Oops.

Was that always the plan on how to end season 1?

Glassner: Yeah. Not all the little teeny details of how we were going to do it, but we knew that we were going to get there, and it was going to be a disaster. That it [Proxima B] wasn’t what we thought. Along the way of working out the whole season, I did a little bit more research on the actual Proxima B. They’re getting more and more information about it as we get better telescopes and things.

It’s amazing how fast it’s changed. We know more about it now than we did a year ago when we started writing the show. It came out that it is actually an eyeball planet, and that it’s probably only inhabitable on the edges of the eyeball. And that’s what kind of set us up on this. Well, what if you could get rotating? What if the other side that we can’t see is not something good?

Were there any other ideas on how to end season 1?

Devlin Well, we like the idea of bookending the first season. It opens with something going terribly wrong. So we wanted to end it likewise.

Glassner: But with a little bit of hope.

Devlin: Well, in both scenarios, it brought out the best of people.

A man stands next to a woman in The Ark.
The Ark showrunners unpack season 1 finale

So it’s safe to assume that Ark 15 and [Evelyn] Maddox will have a prominent role in season 2, as they were seen sending a rescue ship to Ark One.

Devlin: I think the one thing that is absolutely consistent with the arc is it’s inconsistent. [laughs] The fun that we have is that it never seems to go where you think it’s going to go, and that’s what I think people are going to get a kick out of the show.

I look at the show through the eyes of the three leads: Lt. James Brice, Lt. Spencer Lane, and Lt. Sharon Garnet. They all go on separate journeys, but they’re linked at the hip as they wind up in leadership positions together. For Garnet, toward the end of the season, and especially in that last episode, she becomes the captain of the ship. Why do you think Garnet rose to the role of Captain by the end of season 1?

Glassner: Because she’s a good leader. That’s what we wanted, to make sure it became clear she was the best leader of the three, and the other two are mature enough to see that.

Devlin: It’s an interesting thing with her in that she didn’t take leadership for popularity or for her ego. She did it because she saw a need, and she needed to fill it. Garnet, because of her background as a clone, she’s lived a very lonely life. Suddenly, by the end of this season, she has a real family, a family she never had before. I think that made her an even better leader.

With Lane, he went on a redemption quest after the mutiny to win back the crew’s trust, especially that of Garnett. Why was it important for Lane to go on this redemption journey to close out season 1?

Glassner: It was always planned that way. We don’t think of him as a bad guy. Like everybody, he’s a flawed person. And he thought he was smarter than everybody else and, as a result, was insisting on doing things his way and getting more and more frustrated by A), nobody doing it his way, and B), finding that what Garnett says turns out to be right anyway and gradually realizing that he’s got to let go and let her do it because she’s good at it.

Devlin: In the pilot episode, when Lane is talking to [Baylor] Trent, he explains his philosophy. He says this is survival of the fittest. But Garnett has said we’re all in this together, and that’s a real fundamentally different approach to life. Lane’s approach led him down some really bad mistakes because he thought that was the survival of the fittest — the strongest, smartest, [and] the most powerful. He has to come to appreciate the differences of his philosophy and Garnet’s before he can come around.

The Ark | Official Trailer | "We're in a War For Survival" | SYFY Original Series

Finally, Brice starts with a brash, tough personality. He has some great, witty one-liners. At the end of the season, he has a softer, more optimistic side. He’s in a relationship, his disease is cured, and he’s hopeful for the future. Take me through Bryce’s journey from where he started to now and where he is going forward.

Glassner: His journey was that he knew he was going to die anyway. He had a bit of a death wish. He wanted to die a hero, so he kept volunteering for everything that would kill him. Along the way, he found something to live for in Eva. Once he was cured at the end of the season, now he’s going to be a very different guy because now he has a reason to live, and he’s gonna live. Maybe he won’t be so careless … or maybe he will [laughs].

Jonathan, your daughter Samantha ended up playing the crucial role of Kelly. First of all, what was it like working with your daughter? How did that casting process come about? Did you just turn to her and say, “Hey, I think you would be good for this?” 

Glassner: Well, it’s funny. I have refused to cast her in anything I’ve ever done. She’s been an actress for a while, but mostly onstage. I just didn’t want to be that guy, so now I’m that guy. [laughs] But as we were writing the character, the writers would pitch that she would do this and do that. I’d come up with something and I’d go, “Guys, this is my daughter. She’s never going to forgive me if I don’t let her audition for this.”

But she had to audition. She had to be approved by the network. They liked her, and then she came on the show. Originally, the part was only a two-episode arc, and she was going to get killed. We kept seeing these nuances and things that could go further and become more interesting. We had another character that was going to come along and do a lot of what she ended up doing. We ended up just saying, rather than kill one character and bring in another character to do the same thing, why don’t we just keep going with her? So she kept getting calls from me saying, “Well, Sam, you’re going to stay in Serbia another month,” or whatever. It worked out.

A man in a spacesuit screams at another man.
THE ARK -- “Everyone Wanted to Be on This Ship” Episode 101 -- Pictured: Richard Fleeshman as Lt. James Brice -- (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

I would say that relatively most of the cast is unknown. What is the secret to making an audience invest in these characters, especially if the actors don’t have previous relationships with the audience?

Devlin: Well, the advantage is that they have no baggage. Certain actors, if you’ve seen them enough in enough other things, you have certain expectations, whether they’re funny or they’re tough guys. There were no expectations with these characters because, with the exception of a few that were on another show we did, there wasn’t really this sense of, “I know who that guy is going to be.” In fact, what we tried to do in the pilot was lean into archetypes, so that the audience was convinced that they did know where those characters were going to go. They would be so surprised by episode 3 that it went a very different direction.

Where are you in the process of preparing for season 2?

Glassner: We’re writing it. We’re writing away, and they’re starting to redo the sets. We’re moving forward [with everything].

Devlin: We’re very excited about the idea of season 2. I can’t wait for the audience to see it. Again, I think it’s going to be surprising and fun, and staying with our theme, can we be the best of us?

With that theme, is it tough to stay optimistic when it seems like after every episode something goes wrong?

Glassner: Well, I think that’s the best way to illustrate people having optimism and, you know, persevering.

Devlin: It’s easy to be optimistic when everything is going well.

It wouldn’t be a journey, then. The show would be over.

Glassner: Yeah.

Devlin: There was a great line in Chris Nolan’s Batman when he said, “Why do we fall down? So we can learn how to get back up.” To me, that’s our whole series.

Do you have a plan for how long this show could go?

Devlin: Well, Jonathan and I are both big believers that a show shouldn’t overstay its welcome, to not go beyond its shelf life. We planned it out, and we made a decision. No matter how popular the show is, after 18 seasons, we’re going to stop. That’s it. Eighteen is enough. But 17 would be awesome! [laughs]

So the series finale is in 2040. I think I did the math correctly.

Devlin: Unless, of course, we get inspired and then maybe another 18 seasons. You never know. Never say never. [laughs]

Glassner: There will be three spinoffs along the way.

Devlin: The truth of the matter is two guys who grew up loving sci-fi, getting to do our space show finally, we can’t get enough of it. We love it. We’re having so much fun doing it. Every episode is a love letter to something that we saw in our life that inspired us. To get to basically say thank you week after week after week is a very joyful job to have.

Two people shake hands in a scene from The Ark.
THE ARK -- "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back" Episode 105 -- Pictured: (l-r) Christie Burke as Lt. Sharon Garnet, Reece Ritchie as Lt. Spencer Lane -- (Photo by: Aleksandar Letic/Ark TV Holdings, Inc./SYFY)

So then what can you tease for season 2?

Glassner: That it’s going to be very exciting. No, I don’t want to tease anything. I don’t want to give anything away. The big question at the end of this season is who lived and who died. The only ones we know about are the ones that are in the bridge. We’re going to find that out very quickly in the next season.

Devlin: Some shows, and a lot of very good shows, do a very slow peeling of the onion. These dark and edgy serialized shows that very slowly unravel a long story. Those are compelling shows. They’re good shows. But our show is intentionally the exact opposite. We try to pack more into each episode than is comprehensible. [laughs] The thing I can tease about season 2 is we don’t let up. The roller coaster rides every week.

Stream all episodes of The Ark season 1 on Peacock.

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