Spoiler warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen the “Dig” season one finale, titled “Armageddon Protocol.”
After navigating a labyrinthine journey across the globe (both on- and off-screen) and a quagmire of apocalyptic conspiracies, USA Network’s “Dig” finally revealed its secrets in the May 7 finale. In the final installment of Gideon Raff and Tim Kring’s thriller, Peter (Jason Isaacs) discovered that Alison Sudol’s Emma Wilson (aka Rebecca Donaldson) had been manipulating him in a revenge plot against Ian Margrove (Richard E. Grant), for his betrayal of her father many years earlier. Luckily, Peter is an adept multitasker, meaning he was able to thwart the Order of Moriah’s plans to destroy the Temple Mount and figure out Emma’s secret without inadvertently kickstarting Armageddon — although sadly not in time to save Golan Cohen (Ori Pfeffer), who uncovered the truth about Emma just in time for her to brutally dispatch him in the penultimate episode.
But with the world saved and crisis averted (for now), Variety spoke to Jason Isaacs about the climactic season finale and whether he’d consider reprising his role if Raff and Kring came knocking for a second season.
Last time we spoke, you said you had a lot of bumps, bruises and were still waking up to “a gigantic handful of painkillers every morning” — would you return to the role again despite that?
I enjoyed myself. Audiences don’t care — and why should they? — but I got to know some people I liked enormously. Most of the actors I liked enormously wouldn’t be coming back anyway because they’d be dead… but apart from my own sentimental reasons for wanting to do it again, the only reason to do it again would be if someone came up with a magnificent story, and it does lend itself to basically anything, because the FBI could be posted anywhere. But it’ll be fine not to do it; I won’t feel like we didn’t get to finish, I won’t feel like I didn’t get to fully play the character. Peter goes on a real journey and he came from a real place and I think he will be — which is the thing you’re always looking for as an actor — a slightly different person than he was when we found him.
Do you believe that Emma truly did have feelings for Peter in the end, or was it another manipulation?
I think she absolutely had feelings for him — I think it confused her and it wasn’t part of her original plan, but… she was so obsessed and focused and psychotic, and then somebody came along who made her feel like there might actually be life beyond this mission she was on. So I think she absolutely, genuinely thinks — obviously, insanely — that the two of them can go off and have a life together with all this money. I’m not sure she’s thinking that clearly, but I’m not sure she’s been thinking that clearly at any point. He makes contact with her. He sees her. I think he’s the only person who got past her defenses in her entire life.
What do you think the main takeaway from the season was? It felt somewhat like a cautionary tale against zealotry or obsession in its various forms, whether religion or grief.
I don’t think any part of it is a PSA… but certainly it’s about extremism and intolerance and people thinking the ends justify the means. There’s [nothing] more incendiary in that than the topic of religion and Israel. So subtly, and through sleight of hand, whilst it’s actually a roller coaster plot and a traditionally-told adventure tale, it’s really a plea for tolerance.
Peter was told by various sources over the course of the show that by saving the world he’d be able to heal himself in some way. Mostly just seemed weary by the end of the ordeal…
He’s been through massive physical trauma and I know what he feels like, because Peter only had to do one take and I had to shoot hundreds of them. When you nearly drown and you’ve been running all night, it was a bit of an ultra-marathon. He’s physically tired, but I don’t think it’s made him more cynical about human nature, but a little bit like Emma, it’s the first time he’s let anyone past his defenses in a long time, despite himself, and although he’s slightly confused and sickened by being attracted to this woman who initially reminds him of his daughter, he opened his heart to somebody. That was clearly a bad move on his part — he’ll have been stung and wounded by that too, but I don’t think he’s any more cynical or world-weary, just that he’s had a little bit of fresh damage, just when things were healing.
Do you think there’s hope for him to get on the road to healing in the wake of everything he’s experienced?
That’s why Tim and Gideon are great writers — if you’re making an hour-and-a-half movie that’s pitched at 15-year-olds, you’d have somebody that’s completely healed and would go off and open a cake shop. Can anybody ever get over the death of their child? He’s probably the very worst person who should’ve been tasked with saving the world. There’s a certain level of ego involved, somebody whose ex-pupil is now his boss, who doesn’t handle authority very well… but maybe it takes that dogged determination, his own obsession or fanaticism that gets this thing done. Who he’ll be moving forward is the question, and although the whole story does have an ending, it’s not resolved in so neat and simplistic a way. It ties the story up very neatly, but it doesn’t tie Peter up.
Looking back on the season, do you have a favorite scene?
There was a moment that made me laugh so much I could barely carry on talking, when Golan and I had to jump through a window to sneak into the institution. Ori didn’t tell me he used to be part of a fantastic physical theater circus troupe, and it’s a high window, neck high. He was meant to clamber in first, get a leg up and then I was going to clamber in, and he just hopped up like a frog onto the window sill. The camera was rolling, and I just looked at him — I couldn’t believe it, and I had to scramble in like an old man, and the whole crew, you could hear them choking on their laughter.
What was the most memorable?
The dam, that was an extraordinary thing — to arrive at that… They built the shaft and they pumped, I don’t know what it was, a hundred thousand gallons of water over my head… When you’re in there and they’re like, “wait a second and then start trying to climb out of the water,” and suddenly it felt like a liquid version of the entire universe was dumping on my head. Every single time, I had no idea if I was going to make it out. The day went on and we’d done it dozens of times, it got harder and harder, so part of my memory is the sheer sense of triumph that I was still alive at the end of the day.
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