Cinemax just aired what is technically the “Hunted” series finale, as the BBC declined to renew the series, which they were producing in partnership with the American cable channel.
But though the series, and some of its characters, may be done with, Cinemax and “Hunted” creator Frank Spotnitz intend to move forward with the character of Sam Hunter, the private spy played by Melissa George, and certain aspects of her origin story that were introduced over these eight episodes. I emailed Spotnitz a few questions about the finale, and about what the new show (whatever it”s called) might include.
You’ve built this show around a strong female heroine, but Sam spends a good chunk of the finale drugged and unconscious before she ultimately winds up saving herself. Why did you decide to structure the episode in that way? And what specifically did you like about Sam’s ability to hold her breath that you wanted to make it this crucial moment in the finale (and one that you very carefully set up in the premiere)?
Frank Spotnitz: After seeing how strong Sam is, I thought there was nothing more dramatic or distressing than seeing her unable to defend herself. The drugging also seemed an elegant way for Sam to recover the childhood memories she’d been afraid to face — and for the Blank-Faced Man to offer a needle that would ironically come to her rescue.
I originally conceived of Sam holding her breath as a training exercise — a way for her to increase her lung capacity. I later realized that same training could end up saving her life if Jack tried to drown her, in a variation of the way he had Tyrone kill his son’s wife.
As a side note that no one seems to have picked up on, I very consciously followed narrative elements from “Notorious,” which is one of my all-time favorite Hitchcock films. If you watch it again, you’ll see what I mean. That’s why the key Natalie gives Sam in Episode 7 is stamped “Unica,” just like the key Ingrid Bergman steals from Claude Rains and gives to Cary Grant. And of course, “Notorious” ends with Ingrid Bergman nearly being poisoned to death until Cary Grant comes to her rescue.
Had you known that the relationship with the BBC was going to end and that you would be trying to make a different show built around Sam going forward, would you have structured anything about this season differently?
Frank Spotnitz: There’s no question I would have structured the series differently. The show was originally sold to the BBC and I very much wanted it to work for that audience. I’d say that writing the series this way was challenging and rewarding in equal measure.
I know it’s early stages yet, but what can you tell me about the plan for the new series? Are there any characters or story elements who are off-limits now? Will she still be working with Byzantium? Looking into what happened to her mother and why so many people are interested in her? Or will this be structured differently from Hunted, but just featuring Melissa in this role?
Frank Spotnitz: I loved “Hunted,” but we really are talking about a completely different series. Having Cinemax as our sole broadcaster is really liberating — we know we’re writing for an audience that’s looking for thrills, action and suspense. Those things were always a big part of the show, of course, but so was a heavily serialized story structure that I don’t think we’ll need in the spinoff.
Viewers who are eager for answers to the outstanding questions from “Hunted” — about Sam’s mother, the Fingerless Man and Hourglass — won’t be disappointed.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org