'Panic' Cast Dishes on the Cliffhanger Ending and Reveals Season 2 Hopes (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Matt Lankes/Amazon Studios
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched season 1 of Amazon Prime Video's Panic.
Amazon's latest YA series, Panic, ended its first season on quite a dramatic note. Adapted by author Lauren Oliver from her own 2014 novel, the story centers around an annual game called Panic played by graduating high school seniors in a small town in Texas that exploited and manipulated their worst fears. The grand prize for surviving Panic? A hefty $50,000, which brings together an unlikely group of teens with varying motivations to take part and win.
At first, Panic seemed simple in concept (think a more grounded Hunger Games). But as the season unraveled, things got incredibly complicated for the competitors as they realized that there was something far more sinister at play -- Heather (Olivia Welch), with her tight financial situation and complicated relationship with her mom; Dodge (Mike Faist), with his search for answers behind his sister's accident that left her paralyzed; Ray (Ray Nicholson), with a bad boy reputation and Dodge's prime suspect for his sister; and Natalie (Jessica Sula), with her dream of winning the money and moving to Los Angeles.
In the finale, it was revealed that the town's sheriff, Cortez (Enrique Murciano), was pulling the strings in Panic for his own selfish gain, even after losing his own son to the game the year before. After meeting a brutal end at the hands of his wife, it appeared -- for a brief moment -- that Heather, who ended up winning the prize money, and her friends were finally free of Panic. But in the world of YA, nothing is over that simply. Just as Heather was driving down a deserted road, a truck drove past her and someone threw a makeshift scarecrow of Sheriff Cortez onto her car windshield -- imagery of the Panic symbol still all over town, implying that she's not done with Panic just yet. So who's in control now?
"We definitely have enough material. I definitely think it's really important for characters to not walk back on character arcs, I think that's really important. A lot things happen over the course of the season and there's a character who doesn't fare so well, and there will certainly be ramifications for that," Oliver tells ET of the open-ended finale and also referring to Cortez's fate. "There's a whole new class of kids who expect to be able to play the game and they've waited their whole lives to play the game. Who knows whether we'll get a season 2. We really hope so and if so, we're more than fine on material."
Of course, it being YA, there was a fair amount of romance (see: Ray and Heather) and longing looks (see: Natalie and Dodge). As Welch explained, discovering the relationship between Ray and Heather unfold gradually over the course of the season was satisfying to see.
"That's not a relationship that's in the original book and it was added. Lauren kind of wrote that based on Ray and I's friendship. I feel like we have a brother-sister dynamic that she was like, 'Oh, this is good to translate [onscreen].' We're just close and it was very fun and working with him on that because it is so shocking," she acknowledged. "We together did a lot of work on making sure that the relationship was justified and that it tracked for the season and that the things they felt for each other felt very honest and real. I love that it ends up being like that because I think they are kind of two peas in a pod in a way. They really are so similar and they are kind of the only people who understand each other. That was something we wanted to heighten in the beginning of their relationship, that they are the same and that maybe they're the only two people who can understand each other."
While their journey together was rocky at times, Ray and Heather do end up together at the end of the season and he even admits that he could very much be falling in love with her -- a rare thing for a "ladies' man" to confess to someone. Welch said she and Nicholson often discussed how their characters would fare as a couple and if they'd actually have a shot at making it long-term.
"I don't know! I think we're both excited to see if we get a season 2 what Heather and Ray would end up doing, but I think they would definitely end up staying together for a little bit. They made it through some really weird stuff at that point in time that they would at least stay together a little longer, if not forever. I would be so excited to see where they take that relationship because also anything can happen. They're two emotional, volatile people and it could end in anything."
On the other side of it, there's Natalie and Dodge's slow-burn of a relationship -- if you can even call it that. Sula explained why she believes that pairing, though their time together was very brief, tugged at the heartstrings.
"With Natalie and Dodge, it was this thing that I felt -- and maybe that's why it works -- she just really wanted to see him because she's like, 'You think you have stuff going on? I have stuff going on,' and Dodge was like, 'Please get away from me.' But then gets more and more intrigued. And it's strange. You think it really shouldn't work or she's just being a total pest to him on occasion and he's so serious, too serious at points -- you find out the reasons why -- but it does work. Working with Mike, he is very talented and very sweet and a goofball. He's very goofy. And I think the two of us, I don't know, I just liked working with him. He's the sweetest thing ever and so charming. It helped with all those moments that were very strained or tense in between that there's a lot of love and we were having a laugh, so that helped with everything. That's strangely why it can feel kind of charming and you end up rooting for them."
Sula doesn't believe, however, that Natalie and Dodge are suited to be together at this point in time. But maybe down the line.
"For Natalie, her independence is way more important, especially at this young age, than a relationship. But there is something about, 'In another life...,' which I think is a very special type of love. In another life, it would've worked out. The thing is life is long, if they're not playing in Panic games, and we don't know what might happen. But I think that's what Dodge likes about her too because yeah, she wants to get to know him and is very honest about liking him, but at the same time, she's also really OK to be by herself. But I don't know, I would hope that maybe their paths would cross. I think he thinks about her sometimes."
Panic is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
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