The back and forth between the Gang Task Force and the Los Angelicos will take a break after Jessica's brutal murder, as both Ryan and Chapel are committed to finding those responsible for her death.
To get some insight into how Gang Related Season 1 will end, I jumped on the phone and spoke with Executive Producer Scott Rosenbaum.
We discussed the decision to kill Jessica, the ramifications of her death, Chapel's willingness to cross the line, Ryan's wavering loyalty, DA Ellis' relationship with Acosta and Javier's claim to want to get his family out.
TV Fanatic: Why did you have to kill Jessica?
Scott Rosenbaum: The reason we killed Jessica was because the arc for Ryan over the course of the season was that he was caught between these two worlds. Was he going to be loyal to his family? His cop family or his gang family? And as they were closer to getting out, Javier was asking him to cross the line more and more in order to help the family. For me, the arc was who is this man and what's his true moral compass? And where does he say no and where does he draw the line? I felt that in killing the one person he was connected to the most and the most innocent and who deserved to die the least was Jessica.
By the time we got to that episode, they had the closest personal connection. It's interesting how the season goes. You write stuff, there's a lot of stuff that never made it to the screen because the chemistry wasn't there. There were other characters who we sort of thought would be that person and the way the actors were together and the dynamic and the emotion that you got from the scenes, we realized it's not going to be the person we first thought it was gonna be.
The part that was working the best in having an emotional connection was her. When I told her "Just so you know, we're killing you and it's not -- you're not the person that I originally planned on being killed, but you were so good and your performance was so good and relationship with Ryan was so strong, I had no other choice to do that." She was bummed she was going to be off the show, but it was the truth. It was literally an example of somebody being so good that they sort of pushed themselves into that position.
Can you talk a little bit about how her death will be handled in the finale?
Essentially, I think for those two, obviously because it's Chapel's daughter, he's more devastated. I think that Ryan was falling in love with her and he was devastated for that reason. I think for both of them, even though it's unfair, have some sense of guilt in that they're going after the Metas. They have been super aggressive with the Metas, trying to be good cops, but perhaps crossing the line a little bit and maybe pushing the Metas too hard has resulted in someone they both love's death.
For Ryan and Chapel, two people who have certainly crossed lines before and been aggressive and broken the law to achieve justice, this is certainly something they have an emotional commitment to and they are going to pretty much do whatever it takes to bring her killers to justice. You will see them both really go off the grid and lose control and the question becomes in that state of rage, how far are they really willing to go in regards to getting revenge?
Ryan's playing both sides, so there's some moral ambiguity in everything he does and then there's Chapel, who's the head of the Gang Task Force, who's supposed to be the law and get justice. Throughout the whole season, Chapel crosses some clear lines. Why did you find it important to have that leader of the task for be willing to play in the dark area to try and clean up the streets?
The reason we did that -- first of all, I think most law enforcement -- a lot of cops have their hands tied when it comes to doing certain things. Since our country has a constitution to protect people's rights oftentimes criminals are the beneficiaries of the laws more than I'm sure the founding fathers intended them to be.
In my mind with a guy like Chapel who is nearing the end of his career, he's probably getting close to mandatory retirement and he's looking at his body of work and he's seeing he hasn't made a dent. Javier Acosta's thriving, the Meta cartel which is even worse than Javier Acosta has sort of infested Los Angeles. All the work he's done of his 40 year career has amounted to nothing. He can't accept that. In order to make a difference, he decided it's okay in his mind to cross the line when the people are bad enough.
And, I think that for Ryan -- part of the reason we did it is that we wanted to draw a little bit of a parallel between Ryan and Javier only in the sense that both were willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. And for Ryan we wanted to balance out that Javier would do a lot of bad things.
He is over the course of the season, as a police officer, starting to buy into the law and buy into being a cop that he would not be happy if he saw what Chapel was doing and the fact that Chapel -- for instance when he found that phone and pushed that person out the window. It would start to have him question his loyalty to the police side just as he's starting to question his loyalty to the gang side.
I think that's a theme and a trope of the show that will go through the entire run of the show. In season 2, it's not like Chapel's suddenly going to put on kid gloves. He's going to probably be more motivated and ask Ryan to cross the line even more to take down the Acostas.
We found out that not only was Ryan working for Acosta, but DA Ellis was working with him too. Was that intended to be out of the blue or were there clues along the way?
We set that up entirely. That was something that before we even wrote the first episode, I go in and pitch the studio and network as much as I can possibly come up with for the whole season before we start writing. Me, the writers and Chris [Morgan] put together a 25-page booklet of everything and that was in there.
You're right, if you watch every scene that she's in, the actress knew exactly what she was supposed to be playing. She will subtly try to protect Javier by steering things away from Javier without being like clearly unreasonable and having people question her. If you look back, you'll see all of that was set up. I wanted it to be a shock, but I also didn't want it to be completely out of the blue. It's definitely laid in there.
Basically, there's little things like when Chapel busts Daniel, she says, "Why did you do that without telling me?" And, he's like, "I didn't want anyone else to know." She's like, "Anything that involves Javier Acosta, you run through me first moving forward." There were things like that. Like with Carter and Ryan, she was pushing him away. Even in the trial, she didn't push as hard as she could, it was Ryan who thought he was going to get busted and came out and testified against him.
For Javier, throughout the season he proclaims that he's doing it for the family and to get the family out, but pretty much every action he took just dragged the family more and more into death and destruction. Is he blinded by his desire to protect his family that he can't see what's happening or does he really enjoy the life?
I think genuinely wants to get the family out and I think he's doing what he thinks he needs to do. He was willing to go to jail and die in jail -- that's why he'd go kill the Meta boss in jail because that would protect the family and Daniel and the rest of them. I think he really does. Part of it, I think what the show is too is that people make decisions that they think are for good. I'm protecting my family by doing this, but ultimately all of these criminal acts come back to haunt you.
One of the things I did when planning the season is I did want it to be a show where bad guys did bad things and they had repercussions. If you look at every single character on the show that did something bad, there was a major repercussion for it by the end of the season. Nobody got a way with "murder."
Stop by after Gang Related Season 1 Episode 13 airs to read our review and discuss the shocking conclusion to the season.