Proof that ABC needs to renew the sophomore drama Body of Proof for a third season: that cliffhanger!
Last night’s season finale, “Mind Games,” had one doozy of a cat-and-mouse game between resident medical examiner Megan Hunt (Dana Delany) and convicted serial killer Wilson Polley (Peter Stormare). Polley, a killer who used an Egyptian Hook in his killings, resurfaced after a new victim appeared with similar findings to his past victims. In the final moments of the hour, Polley escaped from prison and managed to weasel his way into Megan’s place of business, engaging in a full-on hostage situation (Egyptian Hook included!) before co-worker Peter Dunlop (Nicholas Bishop) came to Megan’s rescue. Unfortunately for Peter, his fate was more omoinous: while in a dramatic scuffle, Polley managed to stab the hero with the case’s murder weapon before plummeting to his death, with Megan rushing to her friend and colleague’s aid. Then, in a rather ambiguous move, the show cut to black. C’mon!
To discuss the important episode at hand, Supervising Producer (and writer of the episode) Allen MacDonald, a former CSI producer, hopped on the phone with Shane Saunders to discuss the big moments and the future of the show.
Shane Saunders: Last night’s season–and potential series finale–took an interesting direction. What kind of discussion was there as to how big of a cliffhanger you guys would end on?
Allen MacDonald: We intially had a pickup of thirteen episodes, and it was toward the end of last year ABC called and picked us up for three more. The math is a little complicated; we had an original thirteen order, and then we got a script pickup for two more scripts. When you get a script pickup, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a production order. When we got the pickup for the back three episodes for a total of sixteen episodes for the season, which it’s really a twenty-episode season because four of the episodes from last season never aired, that last episode was a surprise. When I found out I was writing it with [Writer’s Assistant] Caren Rubenstone and once we knew we had that one additional episode, we kind of thought to just go balls out with it, like we had done with the two parter. If people look at this season, they’ll see we really upped the ante with “Going Viral”; wanted to make it exciting and action-packed as possible. We didn’t want to lose the momentum so we upped the stakes even more. We definitely, almost immediately spoke of having a cliffhanger at the end. We knew immediately that we were going to put Megan’s life in jeopardy.
Saunders: You just mentioned getting the additional script order, so what was the finale set to be originally?
MacDonald: The two parter.
Saunders: Did the writers always know it was going to be Peter in the state of peril at the end?
MacDonald: No, interestingly enough it was originally going to be Aiden Wells, played by Jamie Bamber. When Caren and I did the outline, and when I wrote the original draft of the script, it was all going to be Aiden Wells whose life is put in jeopardy. As we wrote it we had so much going on, that if you’re going to put someone’s life in jeopardy like that, you need them to have a real presence to kind of wrap the episode so you feel the dramatic and emotional impact. There just wasn’t a lot of room for Aiden, plus Peter was very heavy in the story. We all looked at each other and thought there would be more of an emotional impact because the audience has known Peter longer. Peter and Megan have always had a close relationship, and that was one of the reasons we amped up that tension. If something happens to someone you don’t want that last memory to be an argument or disagreement.
Saunders: Were you guys able to talk about the resolution to the cliffhanger, should the series get renewed? Do you have any idea how that will play out?
MacDonald: Yes, but I can’t talk about that, obviously. [Laughs.]
Saunders: I had a feeling that something might happen to Peter. There was such a conflict between them. At one point I just assumed, “Shit is about to hit the fan.”
MacDonald: Yeah, it did. That’s interesting that you say that. The thing we did in editing that editor Tirsa Hackshaw did I thought so brilliantly, it was her idea to add that flashforward in the very beginning of the episode. She added that shot of the elevator opening and you hear that ding of the elevator, and then you see someone attack Megan, so the audience assumes that when the elevator opens it’s Wilson coming out of the elevator, but when the audience sees it later on it’s actually Peter coming to help her. I thought that was great, because it kind of helped work against the expectation that you just mentioned.
Saunders: The big bad was Peter Stormare, and he’s so terrific at playing villainous roles. Was he always considered for the role or did you have other actors in mind? He certainly had a Hannibal Lecter vibe to him.
MacDonald: It was obviously intentional that the episode was loosely inspired by Silence of the Lambs; we were looking to recreate that Clarice/Hannibal dynaminc with Wilson and Megan. I did not have him in mind for the role; a lot of people were considered. In casting sometimes, it can get very complicated and decisions aren’t made up until the very last minute. Peter was someone we were pursuing during the pre-production of the script, but the deal was not made until the night before we started shooting.
Saunders: How confident are you guys feeling on a Season Three?
MacDonald: I think we are a true bubble show; it could go either way very easily. Certainly, the fact that the ratings have rebounded with the last three episodes is really a feather in our cap.