The following contains major spoilers for the SEAL Team Season 5 finale, now streaming on Paramount+.
SEAL Team, as it tends to do each season, went out with a bang this Sunday — but not before delivering some incredibly personal and well-deserved moments for most every member of Bravo.
Team leader Jason Hayes — nudged by advice from Sonny, of all people — tracked down Mandy Ellis and expressed his vision for their future, and after the most ill-timed book club interruption in TV history, she got back to him to emphatically declare herself to be on the same page (provided that Cerebus warms up to her!). “I’m not going anywhere,” she told Jason before Bravo spun up again; “That works for me,” he responded. Jason also made amends with daughter Emma, not entirely endorsing her living with her beau, but surprising the two with a range of housewarming gifts.
Clay not only got to hold his son, whom he and Stella named Brian, but he also was surprised with the news that they could finally take him home. Clay swiftly switched into doting dad mode, and was clearly bowled over by the conversion of their bedroom into a lovely nursery. Sonny stopping by to try (but again fail) to mend his rift with his estranged BFF couldn’t fully sully the new parent’s mood, but with nudge from Stella and Jay respectively, Clay reconciled with Sonny as they were re-deployed to Mali, realizing, “You’re not a f–k-up, Sonny; you’re my f–ck-up.”
Elsewhere during the post-Venezuela epilogue, Davis was summoned to the Pentagon, where she learned that her controversial white paper has earned her a “seat at the table” as the military considers (slow, gradual) reforms. Sonny was first to hear that good news from his ex, after which there was a hint of a reconciliation on that front, as they touched hands. (“Some things are replaceable,” he said amid talk of disposable warlords. “But not everything.”) And on a sadder note, Ray learned from Naima that Sam, the homeless vet who gave them the idea to create an assistance center, had died of an OD.
As noted above, Bravo was sent back to Mali toward the end of the finale, and along the way, Clay informed Jason that this would be his last ride with Bravo for a while, that he was going to transfer to the Green Team and spend more time with Stella and Brian — and Jay could not have been more approving of the decision.
But once in Mali, Bravo was traveling in two vehicles when one went kaboom and they then were ambushed by many well-armed tangoes on higher ground. Jason quickly took a bullet to the shoulder, while Clay appeared to take some shrapnel to an eye. With QRF support far too out to be of help, a massacre seemed to be imminent, as Bravo hunkered down behind their vehicles. Then, seemingly sealing the entire team’s fate — and as the scene toggled between the war zone and Stella’s oh-so-happy baby shower, attended by many of the women in Bravo’s lives– the enemy pulled out RPGs and rained missiles down on Jason & Co….
TVLine invited series lead, executive producer and sometime-director David Boreanaz to reflect on a few of the season’s bigger moments, and what the explosive final scene means for the future of Bravo and the series. (UPDATE: SEAL Team got renewed!)
TVLINE | Before we talk about the finale…. You did another bang-up job directing last week’s episode. What specific challenges did that one present for you as a director?
These episodes that we did this year… the biggest challenge was [finishing over] 10-hour days, in seven days. That was our formula. We don’t have nine to 12 days. We don’t have 13- or 14-hour days. We have seven days to complete an episode, and we have 10 hours [each day]. Knowing that in advance, you can feel the vise kind of squeeze a bit as a director. You know you want to get the best out of what you can for these moments, I’ve got to make sure that I’m invested with specific acting moments, and then you have to invest in time in order to get the practical moments. I mean, the biggest practical moment was the big explosion at the end–
TVLINE | I was going to ask, do you only get one take on that?
One take, yeah. That was a practical [explosion sequence], and we were shooting two stories down, so just the reverberation of the gun fire, the noise…. We cut down on squib sounds — we didn’t do half loads, we did quarter loads — but for us it’s always designed to be as real as we can make it. Safety first, obviously, but very practical. We did a dry run without any explosions, just so we had it in case something happened, and then I came back from lunch, and we just shot. It was one shot. All the explosions went off except for one, which was set more towards the beginning of the stairwell, and it wasn’t a huge explosion. It was just an effect, so we added that in at the end. But that was all practical. And it was nerve-wracking. You’re sitting down there firing, then you take off running and the explosions start…. You can rehearse it as many times as you like, but you have to say to yourself, “We’re doing this. That’s it. Let’s go live.” For me as a director, it’s about knowing what you want and just doing it. Don’t squeeze the stick too much. Just go and do it. And fortunately, it came out great. It was loud, it felt big, and it shows.
TVLINE | We also had Jason putting Clay in charge of holding the VSPs at bay — which was a very meaningful moment for the series.
That was big. And it worked because the characters earned that. Max [Thieriot] had hurt himself in a sequence of a stunt the episode prior, I think his back was hurting, so he was not [feeling] one-hundred percent. As you get towards the end of a season, like in a sports game, all your players are banged up, they’re sore, they’re tired, and as a director you’ve got to kind of push that through. But finding that moment there was a good one, because we earned that after four or five episodes of the two of us being at each other’s throats. It paid off nice.
TVLINE | Back in Episode 8, when Jason’s role in the Mali collapse became evident — the RPG hit was actually him accidentally causing an explosion — I was like, “Well, that’s the end of the Jason character. And maybe we’re heading toward the end of the show?” Did you have such worries when you got to that script?
That one I directed, as well, at the hospital in Germany. I loved that episode. It was so different and unique, and it came out of [cast member/Army vet] Tyler [Grey]’s idea. Like, what would happen if everybody was banged up and injured in a hospital? What would these guys do? And that was an intense, tell-tale moment [for Jason]. I was like, “Whoa, this dude is seriously….”
TVLINE | I thought Jason was done.
I was done, man. Like, that was it. It could have been really bad, but somehow we were able to find some light and pivot and take a right instead of a left, and we were able to get out of that moment. That was also a very difficult episode to shoot, but worth it. I think it was a phenomenal bottle episode for the series.
TVLINE | I thought the way this season handled Jason and Mandy coming together was very real, very frank, very adult. Did you and Jessica [Paré] enjoy getting to explore that?
Love it. Jess is great. She is such a unique soul and a great force, what she brings to the character. I’ve always loved when the two of us do our “Jandy” scenes. We have a lot of fun, we have an utmost respect for each other, and we attack it from our own perspective. And the characters make sense [as a couple] in a lot of ways because they are both struggling with where they work and where they are, so to then bring them together slowly…. It was done in a very adult manner. When Jason came back to the Rehoboth Hotel after that episode with his father, and was like, “I can’t put that on you,” it was a very real moment. That’s what I love about the show, the realness that [executive producer] Chris Chulack and Spencer [Hudnut] and myself bring to it. It’s great to be a part of.
TVLINE | How was it playing new scenes with Michaela McManus as Alana?
It was remarkable. Heartfelt. Such a beautiful moment, man. And she is just phenomenal. I didn’t know where I was when I did that take with her, I was just out of it, and it was a magical, beautiful moment. Actors always go, “Oh, I was out of my body,” but I really was. It was so bizarre, and I was so connected with her. And it made sense.
TVLINE | Things needed to be said — and they got to be said.
Things had to be said, and it was addressed, and you know what? It works. It goes back to what you said — it’s real. It’s done in a mature, adult way, and that’s why I like it.
TVLINE | So, this season finale…. There were some incredibly beautiful moments. A lot of closure going on. Until the very final act. Was it designed to possibly serve as a series finale, if need be?
No; I think that it was designed purely for, “This is what happens and could happen in a war situation,” right? Like this is real. And this can happen. We didn’t design it in a way that said, “Hey, we’re doing this, and that’s the end of the series!” I mean, if you did that, no one would know what really happened. With television, as you know, anything can happen — like, “Oh, guess what. That’s the end of the series.” There are a lot of forces that dictate that, but this wasn’t designed [to be a series finale]. Spencer [Hudnut] wanted to go out the way he wanted to go out, for this specific moment. It shows again: Everything is good, and then bam.
TVLINE | I was yelling at the screen, “Clay, don’t say this is your final mission and you’re going to focus on a happy home life! Did you not see Top Gun?!”
[Laughs] It’s like, who knows what’s going to happen now? Who’s going to survive? Who’s not going to survive? How could this affect Bravo? Who could be injured? Who could not be injured? What types of injuries? This is really going to change the fabric of them. But strength in numbers, always. It’s a team. One man out, another man in. That’s real life, and that’s what our show is about.
TVLINE | And in real life, I think, at least one person dies in that attack.
I don’t know. You just don’t know, man. It gives you a lot of palettes when you think about it. It gives Spencer and all of us the opportunity to sit down and go, “How’s this going to unfold? Where do we see it going?” I think the show is again a testimony to the writing and the drive. And look, we’re the only military show on the air, but we just don’t get the respect. We don’t get the chops, man….
The biggest reward I can have out of this show is having veterans come up to me and say, “You saved my life. I was going to kill myself last week.” And I’ve had that, Matt. When that first happened to me, I was like, “Wow. Do you realize the story you’re telling?” These people who are struggling with PTS or TBI, or who on the verge of killing themselves, you have saved their lives [in exchange] for what they have given back to us as our country. That to me is the biggest reward.
I’ve always said, and I say it again: our move to Paramount +, I think, was perfect. I think it was great for the type of show that we are, and I think it’s going to do even better.
TVLINE | Well, that brings me to my last question. Where do things stand with Season 6? What are you hearing? Anything?
Well, listen. I’m an optimistic person… [but] there’s nothing official. I do know that we’ve done great for Paramount +, and I’ll just leave it there. (Read more about the Season 6 outlook.)
TVLINE | Is David Boreanaz signed for Season 6, if there is one?
I am only as good as the call sheet that says, “Hey, you’ve got an 8 am call time,” right? So, we’ll wait and see if that call time pops up.