SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Let’s Meet,” the first season finale of “Made For Love,” streaming now on HBO Max.
For seven-and-a-half episodes Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti) was on the run from her controlling tech-gazillionaire husband Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), but in the final moments of the first season finale of “Made for Love,” she went back to him — and she dragged her cancer-riddled father Herbert (Ray Romano) along with her.
In the premiere episode, Hazel fled her marital home-slash-hub of a decade after just as many years of emotional and psychological abuse and imprisonment, with the final straw being that her husband implanted a chip inside her brain so that he could not only monitor her whereabouts but also eventually “merge” with her. The claim was that it would provide better understanding and more togetherness. The reality was he did it without her consent.
In the finale, Hazel agreed to meet Byron in person to get divorce papers signed, but during an uncomfortable sit-down at a diner, Byron revealed to her that her father had cancer and was no longer getting treatment, only managing the pain. Byron offered her a deal that, in the end, she was unable to refuse: come back to the hub and bring her father, who would get state-of-the-art treatment and care there.
Although Hazel and Herbert had an extremely rocky relationship while she was growing up, he had been there for her during this debacle and he was still her father. She arrived home from the diner and drugged Herbert so Byron’s team could come in and transport him back to the hub, where they built an exact replica of his house and changed the digital scenery so he’d think he was in his own neighborhood, too.
“She definitely learned things — the way that she weaponizes. Whether or not you agree with the way she’s learning is another thing,” Milioti says.
Here, Milioti breaks down the Season 1 finale of “Made For Love” and hypothesizes where Season 2 could go if renewed.
Obviously consent is something we’re talking about more as a society now, so we often consume fictional stories through that lens. How important was a discussion around consent with the team behind the show, on set or in prep?
We definitely talked about consent, and also how so much of this series is about power, too: how power is used and wielded, and power dynamics in relationships. And when I think about it in terms of what she does to Herbert, we didn’t dive too deeply into it. Hazel is someone who doesn’t think before she acts, which was one of the things I really love about her. I wish I could think less and she’s someone who just does it, without really understanding why. So I think that’s how we approached that too: I think she gets that vial, goes home, sees him on the couch and decides in that moment. I don’t think she thinks about it for a second, because in a little bit of a way she sometimes seems to be a witness to her own life, as opposed to an active participant.
How did you approach Hazel’s decision at the end, given that her relationship with her father wasn’t always the best, but the decision she makes is to save him, even if it means going back to a bad situation?
Hazel has not been, for lack of a better term, loved a lot in her life: her dad was completely absent; her mom died when she was young. Byron doesn’t love her in a way that she can ever receive outside of the fact that somebody was actually paying attention to her for the first time. That’s what I love so much about their first date: you’re like, “I get that. I get why that person would be like, ‘Wow, this is so different than what I have known. Someone has actually found out about me and has an opinion about me and says that I’m special.'” When someone shines a light on you like that, that can be really tricky. But one of the other things I was so excited to explore in the series was, here she is this numb Stepford wife and when she escapes she’s reborn, and a little bit has to return to the place she was arrested. So, she returns to being a little kid again and that made sense to me that even though her relationship with Herbert is so fractured — and she really is so at sea — when push came to shove our little kid self can come out swinging in ways that surprise us. And that is how I wrapped my head around it: “If I lose him, I lose it all. I actually can’t do this alone.” That was very compelling to me. Now she has a triple challenge: the chip is still in, she has to lie to her dad, she has to lie to Byron still. It’s the ultimate Boss level.
That being said, it seems like it could go in two extreme ways: her trying to be a puppet-master or shutting down completely, given over to grief and trauma. Which would be the bigger challenge in a potential second season, not just from a performance perspective, but also for the character, given how far she’s come?
Probably to turn everything off and go back. When I’m able to step away from this show and get a bird’s eye view, something I’ve always found an interesting lens through which to view it is the chip is trauma and we carry it around and it’s always there. I was interested, too, to return to the scene of the trauma with these new tools that she has. I’m very interested in that, but I guess the challenge of the character would be to go back to what it was; she’s too beyond that.
And theoretically Byron would be able to see through some of the performance now. He understands the real her a little better.
Right and that’s another thing I like: it would be very easy to paint Byron as an arch-villain, but she is so starved for love that even though she’s starting to receive it from Herbert, I don’t think she’s receiving it from herself; I think she’s very far away from that.
At the risk of spoiling the book for the audience of the show, this is a very different ending. At what point did you know that would be the case and how did that affect how much you wanted to pull behavior or personality pieces from the book, in addition to the scripts?
I always knew how it was going to end, which I found very compelling and sad. I read the book in prep, right before we were shooting and then it became clear the show was going to be its own thing and take from the book in ways that it wanted to, so I eventually let the book go because I felt like I was getting caught up in the minutiae. But even though there were different plot turns, I found the spirit of Hazel to be intact.
The world Hazel is in is heightened, given the futuristic tech. Is that a story area you pushed aside and didn’t want to think about too much, to avoid being distracted from the grounded emotional piece at its core?
I tried to understand it so I don’t have to think about it. So for example, with the orgasm review, I had to understand all of the things about it: how does it work? I remember sitting and being like, ‘I want to understand, the rooster is here, there’s another one in the ceiling, she’s trying to get it over with as fast as possible, she knows the footage goes here…’ As long as I understood all of the inner workings of it, I could understand what she lives with everyday. It’s my nightmare — in terms of being watch, in terms of having no autonomy.