The following contains major spoilers from SEAL Team‘s double-episode Season 4 premiere.
“There’s a lot that’s threatening Bravo Team as we know it, and when they get through these first two episodes, the audience will be surprised at what Bravo looks like.”
Those words from SEAL Team executive producer Spencer Hudnut proved quite true during Wednesday night’s XL season opener, as Bravo Team and its extended HAVOC family faced no fewer than four big changes.
New homeowner RAY (played by Neil Brown Jr.), for one, is heading off to Warrant Officer training, having made the cut for the coveted, pay-raising promotion (and in the clear since Clay took the fall for the Marsden letter). MANDY (Jessica Paré), coming out of the latest deployment (during which she tragically lost another asset), revealed to Jason that she has decided she has in fact served her share of time; no longer can she just keep “moving forward.” CERBERUS (Dita) was stranded with Jason amid enemy combatants for a harrowing stretch, and though he eventually emerged “cleared for duty,” the feeling is that the brave canine has more than earned the simple life of a civilian doggo.
And then there is JASON (David Boreanaz) himself, who at the close of the premiere announced to the extended team that he was stepping down as an operator.
Mandy’s decision didn’t come as a complete surprise, given a recent report that Paré, an original cast member, was not returning as a series regular for Season 4 (which because of COVID interruptus technically gets underway next week). Still, many fans were preemptively upset about losing the savvy CIA vet — in part because of her undeniable and growing connection with Bravo 1.
“Look, we are all sad to see Mandy go,” executive producer Spencer Hudnut tells TVLine. And while the EP acknowledges that, because of how Season 3 got cut short, “It did feel like we were setting something up” between Mandy and Jason, “One of the things about this show though is that we really do strive to honor the experiences of our service members. And by dramatizing the combat, the trauma, all the emotional stress, there need to be consequences.
“Losing a CI in Venezuela, and then losing another one in Afghanistan… it has taken a toll on Mandy,” Hudnut explains. “The choice she made was a brave one, realizing much like Jason that this job has cost her so much, and she has the opportunity to break away and find a life for herself. As you can see in the moment, it’s a really difficult choice for Mandy, and one that maybe a day later she might not have made. But in that moment, she found the strength to walk away.”
Though she has walked away, that doesn’t mean viewers have seen the last of the character. “There are plenty of ways to close the door on a character, and the door is still open for her,” Hudnut says. “Mandy will be seen again in Season 4.” In fact, Pare — whom Hudnut hails as “one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with” — will direct an episode later this season.
“I get people’s disappointment, and she and Jason have such a clear connection,” the EP notes. “But that connection influences what Jason decides later in the episode.”
Ah yes, Jason’s decision. It was no small one, either! “War has been my refuge for too long, and I’m done,” he shared with everyone in the back corner of the bar. “It’s time for Bravo 1 to take a step back from operating, and find a life for Jason Hayes.”
The next episode of Season 4 (airing Dec. 9) won’t lead right out of this significant series of decisions, departures and diversions but instead “pick up a bit down the road, where everyone is settled into their new lives,” says Hudnut.
But what will SEAL Team as a show look like, if Jason isn’t leading the good fight? “At the beginning of Season 3, he re-enlisted for a couple more years, so you can’t just walk away,” Hudnut reminds. “He is still a part of the Navy, so he needs to find a new way to ‘burn off’ his enlistment. And the struggle for him will be: Does that bring him any sense of satisfaction the way operating does?”
Said another way: “This is a character who really has evolved to realize he needs to put himself first. It’s a more balanced Jason Hayes than we have seen in the past. But can he maintain that balance without Bravo Team? He’s really going to be ‘all in’ trying to have a life, but circumstances might not allow that to happen.”