‘The Recruit’: Noah Centineo and Laura Haddock Break Down Cliffhanger Ending and Their Characters’ ‘Forbidden’ Relationship

Noah Centineo for "The Recruit"

SPOILER ALERT: This piece contains spoilers from the Season 1 finale of “The Recruit.” 

In the final scene of Season 1 of “The Recruit,” CIA lawyer Owen Hendricks (Noah Centineo) wakes up bound to a chair in a dark, decrepit room and finds fugitive Max Meladze (Laura Haddock) — with whom he’s formed a tenuous alliance and nascent sexual relationship — also tied to a chair beside him. After Owen has gotten just enough time to register his own surroundings, a mysterious blond woman walks into the room, wielding a gun.

“Karolina?” Max gasps, uttering the name of her long-lost daughter. Karolina (Maddie Hasson) gives her mother a long look before shooting her in the chest.

She then turns her attention to Owen, who’s reeling from the shock of what’s just transpired. “Who are you?” she demands. “And what the fuck are you doing running around with my mother?”

So ends Season 1 of the Netflix series, which was inspired by the experiences of journalist and former CIA lawyer Adam Ciralsky, who also executive produces the show. Centineo plays a 24-year-old rookie lawyer who, shortly after starting work at the Office of the General Counsel at the CIA, stumbles across a graymail letter from Max, a convict imprisoned in Phoenix who threatens to spill agency secrets if she’s not released. Owen and Max form an unlikely partnership that begins as primarily transactional — Max needs Owen’s pull at the CIA to get out of prison, Owen needs Max’s knowledge to tackle what he’s identified as a threat to national security — but the lines become blurred as their personal and professional lives overlap, becoming nearly indistinguishable.

Concluding the first season of a TV show with a cliffhanger is a risky move, but showrunner Alexi Hawley argues that the decision was necessary.

“You have to always try and make the most dramatic choice,” he says, “even if it’s hard, and even if it does leave you with a cliffhanger — even if it does turn the story 180 degrees. Yes, you can worry about what happens after, but at the same time, I think you have to be bold, especially in this day and age where there’s 9,000 shows.”

Haddock and Centineo recall their initial reactions to reading the final scene. 

“Do you remember when Ross in ‘Friends’ saw Monica and Chandler snogging, and he was like, ‘No, no, no’?” Haddock says. “That was me in the apartment reading it. Got to the last page. ‘No!’ Threw it. Then I just left my apartment, went straight round to Alexi’s. And,” she says jokingly, “I just killed him.” 

Centineo says that a bunch of different questions raced through his head when he read the ending. “Is this like a ‘Game of Thrones’ instance, right? Are we killing off one of the lead characters, or is this, like, a crazy point of deception?” 

Duplicitous and savvy, Max carries herself throughout the show as one who’s constantly two steps ahead of her enemies; Owen, a new hire in the Office of the General Counsel at the CIA, is always racing to catch up. The twist ending subverts this dynamic. But even though it’s entirely plausible that Max has indeed met her end, neither Haddock nor Centineo rules out the possibility that her death could have been faked.

The Recruit. Laura Haddock as Max Meladze in episode 102 of The Recruit. Cr. Philippe Bossé/Netflix © 2022 PHILIPPE BOSSÉ/NETFLIX

“What I love about this show is that there’s always another little back pocket secret card to play,” Haddock says, adding, “Who knows? She may have even organized this with her daughter.” 

The “Guardians of the Galaxy” actor reveals that she only had one or two chances to perfect her character’s death due to the mechanics of the squib, a small explosive that triggers fake blood release. “From a technical point of view, that’s quite stressful going into as an actor, because you’re like, ‘I better get this right.’”

Max’s death holds even more emotional heft, given the intense nature of her relationship with Owen. After a slow burn throughout the series, Max and Owen have sex in Episode 7. This suggests that though their alliance is caught in the crossfire of warring interests, their attachment has transcended — or been aided by — their struggles to maintain power over the other and succeed in their individual missions.

Haddock says that Max’s desire for intimacy with Owen stems from emotional, social and sexual needs that went unsatisfied during her stint in prison. “It seems like Owen would be a perfect person for her to explore that with,” she says.

Of their relationship, she notes that much of its appeal lies in its illicit nature. “It’s forbidden. It’s forbidden for both of them. And that’s always the most desirable, I guess.”

As for what could be next for their characters, both Centineo and Haddock say they don’t know what Hawley has planned.

“We haven’t really been informed one way or another,” Centineo says. “We’re in the same position as anyone else who’s watched the show.”

Should “The Recruit” land a second season order, though, Hawley states that he’s well-prepared. “I have a plan for Season 2,” he says, adding, “If there’s any one thing that I always try and do, it’s be unexpected.”