SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the finale of Peacock’s Mrs. Davis.
Peacock wrapped up Mrs. Davis on Thursday, finally giving audiences some answers about the origins of the all-powerful AI.
As it turns out, Mrs. Davis wasn’t crafted by some nefarious engineers who plotted to take over the world. In fact, she (it?) was actually developed as an app for Buffalo Wild Wings. No, seriously.
The final episode opens with a character we’ve yet to meet — who we soon learn is Joy, the coder who created Mrs. Davis, and the person that Simone (Betty Gilpin) has truly been looking for this whole time. Remember the very strange rendition of Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” that Simone was confronted with after she washed up on shore in Episode 7? Yeah, that was leading her to Joy, who is now one of the few people left on Earth refusing to engage with her own creation.
But in 2013, Joy is just an eager young coder sitting in the Buffalo Wild Wings corporate offices, pitching executives an app that can “service us without harming us” by constantly evolving to get to know its users better and prioritize community care and mutual aid. It’s a moving speech and all, but this is just a restaurant chain, after all.
The company tried to pass, but Joy was determined to “shoehorn philanthropy into this app for chicken wings,” so she redeveloped the app to suit those needs. That definitely explains a few things. Like those expiration dates that can fast track people’s wings? Yeah, those are just coupons. And the Holy Grail? That’s actually the company’s policy of 100% customer satisfaction. As Simone puts it, “This is so dumb.”
“I loved it,” Gilpin told Deadline of the revelation. “It knocks Simone on her ass in terms of realizing, I think in her head she thought she was defeating this evil soulless mother thing — like she thought she was fighting her mother in a way. When actually, Mrs. Davis is like a little robot kid that just wants to please its mom.”
In the end, Simone does complete her goal of destroying the Holy Grail and shutting off Mrs. Davis for good. Gilpin spoke with Deadline about why Simone hesitated when she finally had the chance to get rid of Mrs. Davis, how Simone’s faith journey evolved throughout the final episodes, and how her perceptions of AI changed with this story.
DEADLINE: We haven’t spoken since the first four episodes debuted, so before we get into the finale, I want to ask about Episode 5. All we really see of Simone and Wiley in that episode is their reactions to the story of Matilda and the Sisters of the Coin. But their reactions are hilarious and such welcome intercuts. How did you film those? Was it mostly improv with Jake?
BETTY GILPIN: That was the last scene we shot in the whole series. We shot Episodes 3, 4 and 5 in Spain, and that was at the tail end of our shoot. So we had filmed Episode 6 already and knew that basically Episode 6 is when Wiley and Simone hook up. So we realized ‘Oh, in Episode 5, even in these reactions, we sort of have to get from being enemies to having something sizzling there.’ And we didn’t want Episode 6 to come up and the audience to be like, ‘Well, what the hell? There’s old feelings?’ So we knew that, even though the star of Episode 5 is really the backstory Matilda and the Sisters of the Coin plot, we knew that we also had some movements to do in our arc. We wanted to see the way in which Simone and Wiley worked and had fun together and couldn’t help but enjoy each other — hich was not hard to do with Jake McDorman. Yeah, it was a lot of improv. It was also Jake and I really saying goodbye to this experience and wanting to milk every moment possible. That was some of the funnest days that we had on the whole shoot.
DEADLINE: When Jay actually gives Simone his blessing to reconnect with Wiley and act on those feelings, she does not take it well. Why do you think it’s so hard for her to accept?
GILPIN: I think that in many ways, Simone has compartmentalized [hers and Jay’s] relationship and chooses not to think about certain aspects of the relationship. I think she knew in her heart that she wasn’t the only person who went to falafel. But I think that, for Simone, she wishes she could just freeze like how it is in the pilot before everything explodes, literally and figuratively. She had her compartmentalization brain perfectly set up that, ‘We’ll just not talk about these things and life will continue on, and I will visit falafel whenever I want. This is my boyfriend and no one else’s, even though I’m in denial that probably it is.’ I think that Jay’s acknowledgment of Wiley and hers connection, it’s sort of pointing to another crack in their armor. This isn’t a perfect relationship between Jay and Simone. Or that it’s not going to be like this forever. I also think that Simone has been compartmentalizing herself as a nun that. It’s not about cloistering yourself and shutting yourself off from what you didn’t like about the world. From what I understand, the nuns that I talked to [said] quite the contrary. You’re connecting, yes, to the beauty of the world, but also opening your arms to the ugly of the world, just as much as you are to the beauty. I think that she wasn’t really doing that part. I think she still had her middle finger up to much of the world. Her having to go out there and conquer Mrs. Davis and find the Grail, it made her a better, more honest nun.
DEADLINE: Ok. So, the second half of the series really flips everything we thought we knew about the show on its head. In the finale we learn that Mrs. Davis is actually the beta version of an app created originally for Buffalo Wild Wings…which seems like a ridiculous sentence to even say. What was your initial reaction to that revelation?
GILPIN: Well, I knew very little about AI going into this show. It’s, of course, now more a part of our headlines and dinner table conversation than it was even when we were filming six months ago. I think I, similarly to Simone, had very kind of specific ominous connotations for AI in terms of like, ‘Oh, it’s this evil supercomputer that’s going to take over us all, and we can’t give it too much power.’ Like it was this outside thing separate from us over here and [from] humanity. And I think what Tara and Damon have so expertly and also ridiculously crafted is this idea that, you know, it ain’t that deep. It’s actually just a robot puppy that’s mimicking our darkest needs and wants. We are the ominous evil supercomputer, and this is just a kind of wish fulfillment robot that just wants to make us happy. It’s sort of up to us to determine what its thesis statement and purpose is. So I loved it. It knocks Simone on her ass in terms of realizing, I think in her head she thought she was defeating this evil soulless mother thing — like she thought she was fighting her mother in a way. When actually, Mrs. Davis is like a little robot kid that just wants to please its mom. It’s this sort of helpless manufactured thing. And I think it makes it a more complicated decision for her of whether or not to turn it off.
DEADLINE: I’m glad you mentioned the hot topic that AI has become. Like with any tech advancement, it’s something that can be used for good, but it can also be used to exploit people. How do you think this show and its ultimate message fits into the AI conversation right now, especially in Hollywood?
GILPIN: It’s something I think about a lot as a person, as a mom, and as an actor in the entertainment industry that, to me, one of the most beautiful and necessary parts of the human experience, and thereby one of the most beautiful and necessary parts of creating something, is connection. Capturing connection and the inexplicable thing that happens between two people when you’re in love or upset or questioning or building a friendship or in an existential moment in your life. It’s sort of like this grasping between two people that is hard for a machine to capture. But attaining that sort of human connection requires risk and vulnerability. And I think that having a manufactured to work around to avoid that risk and vulnerability, to sidestep the part of life where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, that you can kind of scroll and click and buy your way out of risk and just be in a sort of wish fulfillment echo chamber…. I think AI knows that it’s hard for us to avoid that temptation. More and more we’re faced with this choice of: You could attempt to experience connection or attempt to, on your own, find your brain and heart’s fullest potential, or you could hold this screen in your hand and feel like God for a second and not have to do any of the risk involved in the former path. It’s very scary and all happening so fast, so much faster than we thought.
DEADLINE: We previously talked about how Simone thought she was at the end of her faith journey when this series started, only to be confronted with the fact that it was only the beginning. The scene with Mother Superior, where she says she doesn’t need to see or hear Jesus because “such is the strength of my faith,” kind of drives that home. What did you make of that scene’s impact on Simone?
GILPIN: in her scene with Mary in Episode 7, and in talking to Mother Superior [in the finale], I think she realizes she had been cheating the system, really. Starting your journey of faith with proof of existence of God — actual, tangible, across-the-counter-from-you proof — is maybe not safe. I think she thought ‘Oh, the nuns are wonderful and have faith, but I have the Faith+ plan. I’m a sort of VIP.’ When, actually, their faith was even stronger than hers because they didn’t need constant visual confirmation. For Simone, what led her to her life of faith was the realization that she was going to lose Wiley, who she loved very much, and realizing ‘Oh, part of loving a mortal is accepting the idea that they’re not always going to be there. They could die or leave or betray you or go on a personal quest when you need them.’ I think that that terror and the fear engulfed her when she realized she was not willing to have that be part of the contract of loving someone. She then found a relationship where there was none of that fear. She could close her eyes and see him at any moment she wants it and be held by him and protected by him in this sort of cocoon in the sky of safety and joy. I think Mary helps her understand, ‘That’s not loving my son.’ And I think Mother Superior helps her understand that’s not faith. I say all this as a non person of faith. But, that I understand, Simone at the end is on Day 1 of her falafel sobriety. It’s not like she’s this amazing person of faith who has it all figured out. She’s on newborn deer legs. I also think in that moment, probably, it’s tempting to not turn Mrs. Davis off. If there is this other thing that is always going to be there for you trying to fulfill your wishes and telling you what you want to hear, that’s probably an everlasting gobstopper in that moment for her… But she turns her off.
DEADLINE: She does hesitate though. More than I thought she would.
GILPIN: I think that it’s important that she’s not this infallible, bullet-proof person. We’re all susceptible to this thing. We all feel lonely and confused. There is a pull for all of us towards something that just tells us everything is going to be okay. You know, it’s a hard temptation to turn down.