The FX comedy series Breeders is heading towards its final episode of the season; a two-parter that has effortlessly raised the stakes and kept its audience on the edge of their seats.
Throughout each episode, fans are taken through a whirlwind of emotions as a light is shone on the darker aspects of parenting. As the show’s logline puts it, Breeders “explores the parental paradox that you’d happily die for your children, but quite often also want to kill them.”
Breeders has three co-creators; Simon Blackwell, Emmy Award and Directors Guild of America Award winner Chris Addison (Veep, The Thick of It, The Hustle), and Emmy-winning actor Martin Freeman (Fargo, Sherlock, Black Panther, The Hobbit).
Starring in this series as the main parental figures are Freeman and Daisy Haggard (Back to Life, Black Mirror). Back in April, Haggard was nominated for a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for her role in the show as Ally Worsley.
Joining the parental duo in Season 2 are newcomers Alex Eastwood and Eve Prenelle, who play the loveable children, Luke and Ava Worsley. These two actors were both equipped with the task of transitioning fans throughout a massive age gap between seasons — and tackling very serious topics such as religion, mental health, and confronting verbal abuse.
Speaking on the talent of the two actors, the series co-creator, executive producer and head writer Simon Blackwell shared, “They are both such fine actors and we feel very fortunate to have them in our show. There was a lot of very nuanced, emotionally complex stuff happening for both of their characters in Season 2 and they gave some extraordinary performances. And all under strict COVID protocols and the madness of that. Astonishing.”
Monsters & Critics was able to ask Simon Blackwell a few questions about Breeders ahead of the Season 2 finale. We spoke about the dramatic twist at the end of last week’s episode, what’s expected to come in Season 3, and the challenges that arise with writing for the series.
Blackwell on the penultimate episode of Season 2
Last week’s episode was previously described as a “pivotal” moment for the season. In this episode titled “No Power Part I,” father-and-son Paul (Martin Freeman) and 13-year-old Luke (Alex Eastwood) find their ever-building tensions reaching an all-time high.
After a harsh reprimanding from Paul, who has been battling with his anger management issues since the debuting episode of the series, the two find themselves in a scuffle.
In the last moment of the episode, Luke punches his father and expresses that he feels suffocated and miserable living at home. He tells Paul, “Being happy has made me realize how sad I’ve been the rest of the time. All through my childhood, I’ve been sad, and you’ve made me sad.”
Monsters & Critics: I was blown away by the scene in last week’s episode where the conflict between Paul and Luke escalated. Where did the inspiration behind that twist arise from?
Simon Blackwell: The entire second season was built around that moment. While we were still shooting Season 1, I knew we’d be aging the kids up by six years in Season 2; Luke would be 13. And I wanted to play that moment when a son and a father realize that, in terms of physical strength, they’re becoming equals.
It usually remains unsaid, not articulated, but it’s always there. And I thought the logical conclusion of Paul’s parenting journey with Luke could be that Luke articulates that fact very strongly.
I remember saying to our exec producer Toby Welch on set one day – “Luke should hit Paul.” He agreed, and then we parked it as we were still finishing off Season 1.
I think I was actually still writing episodes nine and ten of that season. But it became the detail out of which everything else in the second season grew. Working out where to place it, how to build to it, what the fallout would be. Originally it was going to be mid-season, Episode 5 – the pivot point, like the point where Michael McKean’s character dies in Season 1.
But then it became clear that it had to come at the end. So we shaped the season to do that. I find these days that I write outwards, from a detail to the wider story, micro to macro. It’s not how you should do it if you follow screenwriting advice – you should start with the broad strokes and then dig into the detail – but it works for me.
The construction of Breeders
This off-beat comedy consistently offers a fresh and unique tone to television. Breeders sticks with a rather traditional, British sense of humor — it is dry and packed with wit, without being farcical or trying “too hard.” However, Blackwell and his masterful team of writers and creators balance this with the backdrop of a complex family dynamic, creating an absorbing program.
The show is gritty but without feeling unrealistic or unattainable; it is simplistic but never boring. Driving all of it is the love that the family has for one another, a love that is shown through longing stares, nighttime tuck-ins and the crippling pressure that is felt when things begin to fall apart.
Blackwell had much to say about the construction of this series and the balancing of its many moving parts.
Monsters & Critics: What is the greatest challenge you come across while writing and finalizing each episode?
Blackwell: Keeping it a comedy – playing the drama but still making sure that there are laughs – proper laugh-out-loud ones.
Monsters & Critics: You speak a lot about how Breeders tends to serve as a cathartic viewing experience for parents — it’s an uncensored portrayal of the good and bad that comes with parenthood. The show also seems to strike a chord with all of those who are unable to find familial representation in “picturesque” family sitcoms like the Brady Bunch, Full House and Modern Family.
The realisticness and grittiness of Breeders is complemented perfectly with the show’s strong comedic writing and the character’s quirks. Do you find it hard to balance all of the different tones of the show?
Blackwell: It’s not the easiest thing to do, and I think I’d have struggled earlier in my career to make all these flavors work together. You need to have been knocking about for a bit I think.
There’s a similar conundrum with another sitcom I showrun – Back, with David Mitchell and Robert Webb. That’s a show with a lot of genuine emotion in it – big emotional set pieces – but you always have to remember that it’s a comedy.
We had a superb team of writers on Season 2 – Fay Rusling, Oriane Messina, Rebecca Callard, Jamie Brittain and Barunka O’Shaughnessy – and they all managed this same balancing act.
In addition to that, Martin [Freeman] and Chris Addison are both razor-sharp on keeping the show in the pocket tonally, and Toby Welch is a genius in story and structure. So you need great people on board to pull this particular trick off, and we’re lucky enough to have them.
What should fans expect next?
Although the finale has yet to air, fans have gotten the hint that this season might end on a sour note. Season 1 played with this, as well, putting forth a two-part finale that landed Luke in the hospital with encephalitis. However, by the end of the season, he was released from the hospital and was back to his joyful self — and Paul was back to his hotheaded outbursts.
Monsters & Critics: The last two season finales were huge for Luke — do you have anything special in store for Ava?
Blackwell: Were we fortunate enough to get a third season – yes, there’s a big story arc for Ava.
Monsters & Critics: With all that’s happened in Season 2, should fans be holding on for a happy ending for the Worsley family?
Blackwell: I’m not sure it ever ends really, happily or otherwise. That’s the thing with breeders, they keep on having kids and carrying the whole circus on.
It’s clear that there’s a windy road ahead for the Worsleys and specifically Luke and Paul, in order to for them to (hopefully) repair their relationship. But this has been the challenge all along, and so far, they’ve managed it.
As Paul expressed at the end of Breeders Season 1 finale, “We’re not solid, but I think that’s a good thing, though. We’re bendy. Solid things get knocked over and bendy things don’t.”
The season finale of Breeders will air on Monday, May 17 at 10pm ET/PT on FX.