‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ Season Finale: Creator Austin Winsberg Breaks Down Surprise Heart Songs, Teases Potential “Romantic Entanglements”

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains details about the season two finale of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye.”

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is no stranger to elaborate music and dance numbers, but the heart song at the end of the season two finale has its lead, and possibly viewers, asking, “what the [guitar shrill]?”

Written by showrunner Austin Winsberg “Zoey’s Extraordinary Goodbye,” sees Max (Skylar Astin) preparing for a new chapter in New York with girlfriend Rose (Katie Findlay), while Zoey (Jane Levy) feels even more conflicted and isolated by her powers. After co-workers McKenzie (Morgan Taylor Campbell) and Tobin (Kapil Talwalkar) announce their relationship as “HR legal” to the rest of the SPRQPoint crew, Zoey and Simon (John Clarence Stewart) decide it’s time to discuss their relationship. They eventually coming to terms that it’s best if they split, for now, and agree that neither will regret the time they’ve spent together.

The event at the center of the season two finale, Mo’s (Alex Newell) grand going away party for MaxiMo his business partner, brings a huge Taylor Swift musical number and its own complications. Perry (David St. Louis) appears to make things right with a reluctant Mo, Zoey shares with Max and Rose that she and Simon broke up and Danny Michael Davis (Noah Weisberg), Leif (Michael Thomas Grant) and Tobin reveal the truth behind Zoey’s acceptance at SPRQPoint.

“I saw your passion, intelligence from minute one and knew instantly that you belonged there because you were a great coder who’s meant to be there and I wasn’t going to take that opportunity from you, even if we had just met that day,” Max confesses.

Peter Gallagher’s Mitch, who returned in the penultimate episode of the season, comes to Zoey in her dreams and encourages her to shift her perspective and to take risks, even if they can be scary and unpredictable. After an emotional performance of OneRepublic’s “I Lived,” where Zoey and her late father waltz and sashay around the SPRQPoint office, she realizes must tell Max how she really feels.

However after hearing Max sing Michael Bolton’s “When A Man Loves A Woman” to Rose at the airport, Zoey realizes she’s missed her shot. Also learning to move on and take risks are Maggie, who looks to re-enter the dating scene, and Mo who decides to work things out with Perry, his kids and his ex-husband. Simon also decides to spearhead new SPRQPoint initiatives that will amplify and uplift POC-helmed tech start-ups.

But even when things seem to be falling in place and characters find their peace, a shocking appearance shakes things up. After calling things off with Rose at the airport, Max meets Zoey by the Golden Gate Bridge, where she takes her chance.

” I’m not going to run away from you because I’m afraid of feeling too much. I have no idea what the universe has in store for you and me but what I do know is that there is someone very special looking over us,” she responds – just before breaking out into her very own heart song.

“Uh, Zoey, I think you just sang a heart song to me,” Max says, much to Zoey’s surprise.

Ahead of the season two finale, Winsberg chatted with Deadline about what went into choosing Zoey’s heart song, possible returning characters and more. Read the full interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, below.

DEADLINE: How did you decide that flipping the script on Zoey, and reuniting her with Max, was the way to go with for end of the season?

AUSTIN WINSBERG: You know, we had been talking about giving Max the powers for a long time. It was something that had been discussed since midway through season one, and we had dropped a lot of hints throughout the season, in these conversations, and fights between Zoey and Max, about the inequality in the relationship. About the fact that it is unfair for him, that she gets to hear what’s going on in his head, and he doesn’t get to hear what’s going on in hers.

So we’ve really planted that a lot, and then, with her dad coming to her, in the finale, and talking to her about being part of the universe. Maybe, the universe does everything for a reason. To have that happen at the end is just an interesting way to finally give them that equality, because I think that, in any relationship in life, there needs to be equality.

And I feel like they were never going to be able to fully make it, unless he could at least empathize, or understand what she’s going through.

DEADLINE: Were there other finale ideas that just didn’t make the cut? 

WINSBERG: No. I think that was always the plan. The ending was to get them back together, and then, to have him be the one to get the powers. That had been established for a while. I don’t think we deviated from that. There was definitely things in the other storylines about wanting to make sure that we were wrapping up some of the season arcs, but also, setting a stage for what could come next. That was part of the plan for the season finale.I think just in terms of the final moments, that was something that had been in the works for a while.

DEADLINE: Does Max’s powers symbolize how much closer he and Zoey are, now?

WINSBERG: I think it generally signifies the connection between the two of them, and I think the other thing that it could signify is the idea that the universe has a plan for Zoey. That maybe it’s all happening for a reason.

DEADLINE: How did you land with “I Melt With You” as Zoey’s heart song? What were the other songs in contention? Any Kelly Clarkson there?

WINSBERG: Oh my God. You’re asking good questions that I just don’t remember the answers to. I feel like, for whatever reason, that was the song that stood out to me. I think we had, you know, played with a few other ones, but I really liked this idea that the first song that we hear, in the pilot is  “It’s The End of the wWorld as We Know It.” I liked the idea of “I’ll stop the world and melt with you,” as sort of bookend to that for the end of season two.

Both songs talking about what’s happening with the world, and how the world is shifting, and I liked the parallel of that. There’s also that second line of the song in “I’ll stop the world,” Making love to you was never second best. I also liked that as just sort of, I might have had my time with Simon, which was something that I felt like I needed to go through, but you’re the one I choose.

DEADLINE: Can you walk me through the decisions to have Mitch return for the last two episodes. Why is he the one who helps Zoey realize that she needs to take risks?

WINSBERG: Anytime that we can bring Peter back to the show, I’m all for it. I feel like he’s amazing, and adds such a great, other layer of emotional depth, and complexity, and familial understanding to the show. I wanted to bring him out in a time, and in a way, where we could really use him, and I knew that I had this idea for the flashback, in my head, where we would not only see the first day of Zoey meeting Max at SPRQ Point, but also, get to see the family, and get to see a live and vibrant Mitch, and what the family dynamics were, when it was healthy.

We never got to see that in season one, and I thought it would be an interesting thing to see, and to also, see why he’s so important to Zoey, and why he’s so meaningful in her life, and also, in that episode. We just wanted to steal a page from my own life, because my own mother had a quintuple bypass, years ago, and my dad and I spent a lot of years worrying about my mom. I said in therapy, one day,
“wouldn’t it be interesting, after all this time, worrying about my mother, if something happened to my dad,” as a joke.

I want to reflect the truth of our family, and I also wanted to flip the script a little bit, and after seeing a whole season of Maggie kind of, being a caregiver for Mitch. But it was like, if we did it the other way around. To have him there for episode 13, I just feel like, in life, in death, with this power connection that Zoey and Mitch had, in season one, I do feel like he’s always kind of, been a guiding light for her. The person that she can really listen to, and lean on.

Zoey’s seen so much loss, and she’s seen what it looks like to love somebody, and to lose them. For her dad to be the one to tell her, you know, that’s life, you’ve got to live your life, and you’ve got to go for it, and to put her fears aside, it just felt like it would be the most impactful, coming from him.

DEADLINE: What does the dream sequence mean in term of Zoey processing her father’s death? 

Winsberg: I think that this season has been a season long journey of grief, and recovery, and even when I mapped out the season, and pitched the season, I talked about the stages of grief with a lot of R-E words. I talked about recovery, relapse, regression, rebirth and redemption. I kind of, always wanted her to go to a place at the end of the season where she had gotten over her dad’s death.

You never get over it, but I do think that it gets a little bit easier, and I think there are versions of acceptance that start to creep in, and the wound maybe isn’t as deep. I think just in terms of her own growth and the character’s growth, I thought it was important to get to a point, by the end of the season, where maybe, she was more okay.

DEADLINE: Everyone around Zoey, Simon included, seems to have new chapters ahead of them. How did you decide where they’ll land for the end of season two?

WINSBERG: I wanted to end the season on a hopeful note, and also, on a looking forward note. Mitch told Maggie, and the family, in the first episode of season two, that he wanted them to carry on. I think this season has been about the struggles to carry on, and the ways in which we try to carry on.  I just like this idea of looking forward and setting the path for the future. Maggie going to try to go back out into the world again, that’s something that Mitch would want her to do.

I’m excited about the prospect of seeing Mo dealing with kids, in season three, and of David and Emily, who have been through their own struggles this season ending them in a place where they’re kissing, and happy, and looking and the baby, and the crib. Everybody is on the path to live, and to keep living.

Simon, too. Even though, you know, Simon and Zoey broke up, it was really important to me to carry on and to not drop this systemic racism as a as a front point threat that we established in this season. For him to start this incubator for new businesses, that he’s also in a place where he’s looking forward, and excited about the future, and excited about his ability to kind of, change things at SPRQ Point, too.

DEADLINE: What does the finale mean for Simon and Zoey? Are they close enough for her to tell him about her powers?

WINSBERG: She clearly felt like she wasn’t able to tell him about her powers when they were together, and I think that could be an ongoing question of will she, and when would she tell him.

I would hope that going forward, they’d work together, and I would hope that they would try to find a way to move past this, and become friendly again.

Going forward, I would try to find ways that they can continue to be in each other’s lives, and be a unit, in some way, but I imagine, you know, going from dating somebody to becoming friends, there’s always going to be some bumps in the road.

DEADLINE: For Simon’s story, do you envision a genius journalist coming back into the picture?

WINSBERG: Are you talking about Tatiana?

DEADLINE: Yes.

WINSBERG: I love Tatiana. You know, Alvina August was another one where we just had some challenges with scheduling, and stuff, but I really, absolutely thought about bringing her back for the finale, and we weren’t able to make it work. So, she’s definitely somebody I would love to have back.

I also have some ideas for some new characters that I can bring into SPRQ Point, that can lead to some new complications, and perhaps, romantic entanglements for him, as well.

DEADLINE: What threads would you like to explore, in the potential third season? 

WINSBERG: The show exists in a few different spaces. It exists in, kind of, the romantic story lines, in the work place, and the home stories, in the family stories. To be able to tell stories every week that are comedic, and emotional, and musical, it’s a tight rope we walk every single time.

We would continue, in a real way, to explore Zoey and Max, going forward, and what this power shift paradigm means for them, and their relationship. We would continue to explore Zoey at work, and story lines with Simon, at work, and his new initiative, and stories with Leif and Tobin, and more stuff in the bull pen there.

We would explore what it’s like for Mo to be in this relationship with kids, and then, similarly, with Maggie, what it would be like to start to go back out into the dating world again, and hopefully bring Bernadette Peters’ Deb along with her. New complications for David and Emily, as well, as David trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, and the ramifications that it has on the family.

DEADLINE: Is Rose staying in season two, or do you see her coming back?

WINSBERG: Don’t have any immediate plans for Rose.

DEADLINE: It seems you have a number of plans ready for a future season. How confident are you that NBC will renew the series for a third season?

WINSBERG: I would say I’m cautiously optimistic. You know, we have a really strong, passionate fan-base. The show won both the USA Today and the TVLine save our show polls. The show’s being considered in a lot of, or at least talked about, as potentially being nominated for awards. So, it does feel like there’s a lot of passion around the show, and the people who know the show really, really love the show, and we have a lot of internal support, at NBC. So, I’m hopeful, but you never know.

DEADLINE: What was one of the major takeaways, or themes that you wanted viewers to walk away with from this season?

I think that the whole show is about compassion, and empathy, and not judging a book by its cover, and really starting to see people for, you know, what’s going on beneath the surface. For Zoey, it’s a whole journey of understanding human emotions, understanding happiness, joy, and pain, and all of those things in between.

I think if there’s any big take away from it all, it’s that we have to have empathy for each other, and that we have to have kindness. There’s going to be sadness, and struggle in our lives, but we always have to balance that with some joy, and comedy, and happiness, too. Life is messy, but we need to take care of each other.

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