Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of History’s SIX.
Did you gasp? How could you not. In the Season 1 finale of SIX, SEAL Team 6 managed to rescue Rip (Walton Goggins), Na’omi (Nondumiso Tembe), and the schoolgirls. Back in the States, Rip took full responsibility for the 2014 incident that set the story in motion, forwent the party held in his honor (and Jackie’s guacamole), and said he was going to drive to Idaho to see his father. He made a stop at the pier, where he was standing alone in the dark when a young woman approached him asking if she could take a video. And then she shot him. It was Marissa (Christine Lane), the young woman from Oregon who we’d seen Michael (Dominic Adams) recruiting over the computer earlier in the season. The final words of the hour? Marissa on the phone asking someone, “Who’s next?”
The show’s creators — David Broyles and screenwriter William “Bill” Broyles Jr. (Jarhead, Apollo 13) — say it’s a cliffhanger. After all, we don’t see Rip die. (And, let us not forget that Goggins is the man whose Justified character, Boyd Crowder, was originally scripted to pass in the FX drama’s pilot; he lasted all six seasons). But, for now, Goggins sounds very satisfied with the powerful journey he was able to take with Rip in eight episodes.
Here, Goggins and co-stars Barry Sloane (Bear) and Dominic Adams (Michael) — who are both definitely returning for Season 2 — join the creators in looking back at key scenes from the season’s final hour.
Was Rip really heading back to see the father who we learned in Episode 7 had been physically abusive? “I think great journeys in a person’s life… Lord knows I’ve been on a few where on the other side of it, you just need distance from it to truly understand how you’re impacted,” Goggins says. “I think Rip was in a place of deep reflection, and a part of that for a lot of people is going back to these great wounds in our life and trying to understand them, because you’re just trying to understand your place in the world because of them. I think that that was a part of his decision to go back and see his father. Whether he actually would have made it or not, I don’t know.”
The cast received two versions of the finale script: one in an email, which had the real conclusion, and one that was printed, which ended with Rip on the pier lighting a cigarette and smiling. Sloane admits he lost it reading the second one: “I immediately texted the producers like, ‘You pulled back, you’re not being brave enough!'” he says, laughing. “They were like, ‘We’re not giving the crew the actual script, you idiot.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, of course, I know that.’ But also, Walton didn’t want the crew knowing until they filmed it as well. I just loved that whole last segment because of the Americana of it all, the way that he is onscreen, you’re kind of living there with him, happy and sad for him and wondering where he’s gonna go next. And to have him shot on American soil…”
The creators did legitimately weigh other options for Rip’s fate, including having him succeed in sacrificing himself for Na’omi and the girls during the raid or having him reunite with Na’omi to start a school. The latter “happy ending” didn’t feel earned (“One of the things we talked about from the beginning is that there is a cost of war and that there are consequences for our actions. Eventually someone has to pay the tab,” David says). The former wouldn’t haven given David, a military special operations vet, the chance to explore the feelings of disorientation and loss in coming back from war and leaving the military.
Take, for instance, Bear’s interrupted conversation with Rip, when he asks Rip if he’d really meant what he said about SEAL Team 6 in that video Michael made him film earlier in the season. In the end, Bear didn’t want to know the answer, Sloane says. “I don’t want to know the truth now, because if he says that he did mean it, I don’t know what that does to me. I don’t know if I can function around him. That’s a big moment,” Sloane says. “And also, the degree to which Bear’s grown from the start of the season to here — he doesn’t need to know. He’s his own man. It’s like, ‘We’re good. I’m glad you’re home. I’m gonna move forward. You just take care of yourself, because I’m good.’ I want people not entirely sure what was going on in both of their heads, and we’ll never get to resolve that obviously.”
Goggins’s favorite scene (which is saying a lot, he notes, because he had moments with the actors that he’ll carry with him always) is when Rip is in the restaurant alone. “Someone, having just seen these news clippings of this guy, comes up to Rip and refers to Arabs as ‘ragheads’ and offers to pay for Rip’s dinner. The look in Rip’s eyes — what he’s saying is, ‘You have no idea what the world is really about because you have chosen not to really look at it. You don’t know what I’ve seen, and you have cloistered yourself,'” Goggins says. “And in some ways, it’s what we’re experiencing in our country, regardless of what side you’re on, if you’re a liberal or a conservative, you just live, as so often said, in an echo chamber. [Rip’s saying], ‘Well, you know what? I’ve seen the world, and I know better now than to honor your overture,’ and that really meant the world to me. I really needed for Rip to have that experience.”
The biggest debate producers had in the end, Bill says, turned out to be whether Rip should get out of his truck at his welcome home party. “Some of us, me for example, argued wrongly that he should come into the party,” he says. “That scene between him and Ortiz [Juan Pablo Raba] was really one of my favorite scenes in the whole show.”
Together, those interactions capture what David wanted to convey. “I think a lot of people come back and they don’t recognize anything anymore. They don’t fit in anymore. They’re not a part of it anymore,” he says. “And to see that through Rip and to explore it in those moments was really fulfilling for me and for us, and it seemed to make sense within the context of him. He could never go back. He had given up too much. When he was on that video and giving that confession — you can’t go back after that. To see his displacement and the realization that he doesn’t really have a home anymore, it couldn’t end any other way.”
As for having Marissa shoot Rip, Bill says it was a bit of a Chekhov’s gun thing: “You put a gun on the wall in Act 1, you need to fire it in Act 2. We had Michael recruiting that girl in Oregon from Episode 102, and again in 105. And she was like the gun that he was putting on the wall, and her path from innocence to involvement went the reverse direction from Rip’s from involvement to redemption,” he says. “It’s just a feeling that it was the right thing.”
One thing to be clear about: Although Rip felt alone, his redemption had brought him peace. “I think that was the most uplifting thing for me about this entire journey,” Goggins says. “I think in the course of being given the opportunity to not just save the girls — that’s one element of it, for sure — but really to lean into [Michael], the person that he thought was his enemy, and see the similarities that they both shared, that was the journey that saved him. In saving other people and listening to the person that he was told not to listen to, he himself was saved.”
Rip’s life was literally saved by those skillfully crafted conversations between him and Michael in Episode 7. As the SEALs closed in on Michael in the finale, he could have shot and killed Rip, but he couldn’t pull the trigger.
It’s an important moment for Adams because, just like when Michael has expressed guilt over his brother’s death, it shows that Michael isn’t a man who has lost all sense of humanity. “He understands that death is a part of what it is he’s trying to achieve. However, he is not beholden to or defined by or fixated on death and torture,” he says. “He is trying to lead things in a different way, which we see through the social media, the recruiting, the much more modern, sophisticated elements. This man is not a savage.”
That’s what drew the British actor to the role in the first place: “It’s just such a complicated and fascinating idea to me that this person isn’t just mindless, crazy, and bloodthirsty,” Adams says. “It’s also been fascinating to watch people’s reaction as they watched the show and started to realize that, and became confused by how they view Michael. That’s really been the greatest nod to what the creators, the writers, myself, all of us have tried to work towards in portraying Michael — to have people confused as to what he represents and how he represents that. It was important for me that we try to get across this notion that people might actually empathize or sympathize with Michael. Because ultimately, for me, it all comes back to humanity. It’s not about politics, it’s not about which side you’re on; it’s about humanity and human beings, and that’s what we share in common. We’re all humans, and we all deserve the same level of respect and understanding. And the minute we do that, the better the place we’re gonna be in, in society.”
Sloane looked back at Bear’s journey in our finale preview: He’s a man who worries that his baby’s life was taken because his job requires him to kill, and viewers wanted to see him heal. The big moment came when Esther (Tyla Harris) was suddenly caught in the crossfire between the SEALs and Michael’s men. “The whole season is about Bear saving his brother, saving Rip, being there and making sure that Rip is taken care of. The fact that in the end, he risks his life for the girl and he chooses to stay and save the girl rather than going to save Rip is a big shift in his psyche,” Sloane says. “It’s sort of like redemption for the lost daughter, a lot of the guilt leaving from him. And also, quite matter-of-factly, it’s something he’s proud to do. ‘I’m just gonna go and save the girl because she needs saving.’ That’s how they go.”
The hug that Bear shares with Na’omi after the dust settles is a touching moment, partly because Bear hears the “thank you” she asks him to relay to Rip, and partly because Bear needs that embrace too. “I think Bear has an admiration for what she’d been through in order to save those girls. They have a mutual respect for each other in that moment, and it’s very lovely,” Sloane says.
One of his favorite moments is when Bear goes to see injured Rip before Rip’s airlifted, and Rip asks if Bear and his wife, Lena (Brianne Davis), named their daughter Sarah. “He just says, ‘Yeah.’ Wow, that gets me every time. That’s what you do for a friend. You don’t give them any more s*** when they’re in the s***,” he says. “And also it’s like, ‘Yes, we did call her that.’ It’s a release. It’s a finality. It’s letting her go, letting him go, and becoming a new man. Being reborn, I suppose. Which will be interesting for Season 2.”
Again, the creators prefer to play it close to the vest. But what they will say is Michael will definitely be in the picture. As Adams explains, “What is clear in that ending is that there is still a lot of reach to Michael’s organization. I think in Season 2, we are going to continue to see this is a heavily financed, very deeply connected terrorist organization. It doesn’t just end with Muttaqi [who Rip killed]. It doesn’t end with Michael. There’s a lot of deep, dark connections to be explored and to come to light, and I think that’s going to be fascinating to see how all of that ties in.”
SEAL Team 6 will, of course, have some “really, really, really interesting, dangerous, exciting, and we hope dramatic things” to do, Bill promises. They’re looking forward to exploring all the characters more, including Fishbait (Jaylen Moore), the Muslim American SEAL who’s based on one of David’s own late teammates. “What’s going on in the States is going to affect them,” Bill says. “And clearly we have a Muslim SEAL, we have a Hispanic SEAL, we have an African-American SEAL. We may be adding another SEAL that has a very different point of view.”
If Sloane gets his way, Bear and Lena, who’d left him while he was gone, will reconcile — if only so Bear can have that surgery to help increase their chances of getting pregnant again. “First of all, I can’t wait for the scene where he has the operation or he’s in the waiting room at the clinic. It’d be brilliant. I’m always like, ‘Please put him in places that he doesn’t want to be and watch him squirm.’ His social awkwardness is great to watch,'” Sloane says. (“He loves those doctors,” David acknowledges with a hearty laugh. Adds Bill, “We’ll see how easy it is for them to reconcile. I wouldn’t bet on it being simple.”)
And finally, if that is the last we see of Rip, Goggins is content. “I have been very, very lucky over the course of my career: from The Shield coming on right after 9/11, to Justified and the plight of rural America over the last decade, to Venus on Sons of Anarchy and the plight of the transgender and gay community in the last eight years, to race relations in this country while I was doing The Hateful Eight, to Vice Principals, to this,” he says. “For me, it’s been luck to be at the center of some of these very incendiary conversations that have been a part of our national conversation that we must have, that we are having, whether we like it or whether we don’t. I think this show is a real reflection of that, at a time that not a lot of people really expected to happen. I’m just so grateful and gratified by the courage of this network and these actors and these storytellers to tell the story in this way. I have been reached out to on social media by a number of people on both sides of the issue, and it has served as a real watering hole for people to come together and to begin to say, ‘I’m not going to be dictated to by the filter of news that I’m exposing myself to. I’m actually going to watch this and I’m going to be affected by it. I’m going to be opened by it.’ It’s not easy, and change isn’t easy. The next step, whatever that is, for us as a country and as a united people, isn’t easy. And so I’m really proud to have been given this opportunity to participate in this way.”
A 10-episode second season of SIX will begin shooting in July.
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