Warning: This post contains spoilers from A Million Little Things‘ Season 4 finale.
Anyone who’s watched A Million Little Things for a while could’ve guessed that the show might end Season 4 with a cliffhanger. But honestly: Was anyone prepared for this year’s to be so absolutely gutting?
Thursday’s season-ender, titled “Just in Case,” was an emotional rollercoaster that rivaled Space Mountain. Gary and Maggie thought she might be pregnant. But when Maggie got her period, they grieved the failure of their in-vitro fertilization efforts. But then the doctor told them that the bleeding was normal, and she actually was pregnant with their baby!
However, ahead of the doctor’s visit, Gary had returned the camera that Rome lent him. After all, with no baby, there’d be no need to document everything, right? And when Rome was checking the camera’s memory ahead of Tyrell’s graduation ceremony, he saw something he wasn’t supposed to see: Gary’s videotaped message to his future child, in which he mentioned that he might not be alive by the time the kid came into the world.
And that’s when the show revealed that although the lump in Gary’s breast earlier this season was benign, a scan done around that time revealed a mass in his lung. So he’s secretly been going through chemotherapy ever since — that food poisoning in last week’s episode was just a cover story — and keeping it from his friends, because he doesn’t want them to treat him differently. Maggie isn’t psyched about this arrangement, but she’s going along with it… for now.
TVLine chatted with series creator/executive producer DJ Nash and executive producer Terrence Coli about Gary’s new illness and how it might play out in the just-announced Season 5.
TVLINE | When you decided that you were going to put Gary through the wringer again — along with the audience — did you know you were coming back? Was this a decision that was made with the knowledge you’d have another season to tell this story?
DJ NASH | We went in to the network at the middle of the year and said, “Hey guys, we’ve been on again for a while. Are we coming back, or are we not coming back?” And they said, “Please don’t end this show now.” I said, “OK.” And TC and I talked about it and we said, we have a really, really big cliffhanger that oculd possibly top bag-over-someone’s-head and someone-getting-hit-by-a-car. But it’s a cliffhanger, it is not a series finale, and are we all prepared to go that way? And they really, really pushed for us to do it. I know that we were a last-minute pickup. There’s no question we were a bubble show. But everybody creatively at ABC was so supportive and wanted to see it happen, and we knew that if it didn’t happen, our fans would be like, “You can’t end a series like that!” So we put all of our eggs in the Gary basket.
TVLINE | Talk to me about the card-flip aspect of the clues you laid. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t pick up on any of them.
TERRENCE COLI | We definitely constructed it so that it would both be shocking at the end of the shocking but then if you go back and watch the last four episodes, you will see that we have been signaling a little bit what’s to come. There’s the storyline where Gary and Sophie are rushing to the clinic and he’s having back problems. If you look at it through the new lens that the finale presents, you sort of understand what that was. Likewise when Maggie and her mom are trying to get to the clinic for the harvesting of her eggs and Gary has “food poisoning,” it was all very intentional with those building blocks so that it would feel both surprising but also earned when we got to Episode , the end of it.
TVLINE | Gary and Maggie finally being together and able to have a child is something you could have dined out on for quite some time, I would imagine. Talk to me —
NASH | [Laughs] That’s a Cheesecake Factory-sized entrée right there! Yeah.
TVLINE | So talk to me about why you chose to layer that and Gary’s cancer at the same time.
NASH | For us, a couple things. One: Our series, if there is a formula, it’s just when you think it’s A, it’s B. If you look back historically, “Is Eddie going to drink or not? Oh thank goodness, he didn’t. He got hit by a car!” So in the magic trick that it is, we’re trying to get you to look at this hand with the shiny object while we do this other thing over here. I also think that’s really true of the way life is. The happiest moments of your life sometimes butt up against some of the saddest moments of your life, and just when you think you can’t take anymore, sometimes the world gives you a reason to laugh. You just have to be open to it.
So for us, the decision to combine those two was based on A) not wanting the show to be so sad, because there’s great power and control in Maggie and Gary deciding that despite cancer always being a part of their lives in some way, that’s not going to keep them from living life. When Maggie had her abortion, she talked about, “I can’t believe I’m still having cancer determine things about me.” And right now, the day they come home from having that bad diagnosis, they’re lying in bed and he says, “I think we should move in together” and she says “I think we should have a baby.” So they’re making these decisions and they’re going to live life on their terms for as long as they’re allowed.
TVLINE | How often do you think the show will revisit these videos Gary is making for the baby? I’m not sure how many I can handle before I turn into a permanent mess.
NASH | When we pitched this to the network, unbeknownst to anybody, we shot a version of it with James [Roday Rodriguez]. We had our director, James and one camera operator on set. We dismissed everybody else and shot a mock-up of this so they could see what this looked like. James is so adept at using humor to get through a sad moment, he just does it so effortlessly that the videos are captivating. I don’t see a world in which we couldn’t go back to those, not only for sadness but truly for some of the funny that is captured with them. I can’t imagine not doing that.
COLI | It’s too compelling. We have to go back to them.
TVLINE | Rome and Gina see this, even though Gary doesn’t want everyone to know. And this is not a friend group that is great at keeping secrets from each other. How long are we thinking Gary’s wishes are going to be honored?
COLI | It’s interesting, because Rome and Gary and Eddie had that conversation in the pilot about how “we need to talk to each other. We need to tell each other what’s going on.” We’ve revisited that idea so often over the course of the series. And now Rome’s finding out that Gary’s holding a really big secret from him and the interesting thing to explore is: If somebody wants something about their health kept private, or kept to themselves for the moment, do you have to respect that?
NASH | I can think of four different times when I was at dinner with friends and I knew she was pregnant, and I couldn’t say anything… [Laughs] There are just times where, even for the happiest of occasions, it’s really hard to do. There are these moments that we hopefully capture that are so much like the friendships that we really have, and this is the perfect opportunity for one of these right here. Rome and Gary both have these diseases, and for both of them, they’ve recurred. And both of them are determined to not let it get them, and not get the other person. So it’s going to be really hard for Rome not to say something. And yet, as someone who has needed his own privacy as he struggled with his disease, it’s also going to be hard for him not to honor his friend’s wishes.
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