‘Mom’ Finale: Showrunner Gemma Baker Reflects On “Light And Laughter” In Recovery, Bonnie’s Evolution & Missing Characters

Alison Janney, Breaking News, CBS, Chuck Lorre, Gemma Baker, Mom, Recaps, Series Finale, Television

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoiler for the Mom series finale, “My Kinda People and the Big To-Do.”

The mother of all Mom episodes brought the gang together for one final, emotional testimony from “grateful alcoholic” Bonnie Plunkett.

From Chuck Lorre, Gemma Baker and Eddie Gorodetsky, Mom wrapped up its eight-season run with a finale ringing in new beginnings, more challenges and fresh faces looking for a new start. “My Kinda People and the Big To-Do,” written by Lorre, Baker, Nick Bakay and Warren Bell, begins with Bonnie (Allison Janney), Jill (Jaime Pressly), Tammy (Kristen Johnston), Wendy (Beth Hall) and Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy) sharing their latest woes and wins until newcomer Shannon (Melanie Lynskey) guffaws at the ways of Alcoholics Anonymous. She reluctantly agrees to a cup of coffee where she opens up and learns that she has more in common with the AA vets than she first thought.

Pleased with how the chat went Bonnie returns home to Adam (William Ficthner), who surprises his wife with the ever-dreaded, “We need to talk.” Dispelling Bonnie’s suspicions that he’s with another woman or broke, Adam shares that his doctor found a concerning spot on his chest X-ray. Distressed by the news, Bonnie calls Marjorie to vent. However, one comfort call becomes a convoluted ordeal as Shannon calls to Bonnie to say she’s attempting to escape from her drug-abusing mother Jolene (Rondi Reed) and then Jill phones to invite her friend to her impromptu city hall wedding.

At the doctor’s office, Adam reflects on Bonnie’s selflessness – from her concerns for Shannon to the fish swimming in the lobby’s aquarium of nasty water.

“You’re not the same woman I met five years ago,” he says.

Later at city hall, Tammy crosses paths with the judge who sentenced her to seven years of jail for robbing a steakhouse, and Shannon and her mother involuntarily join the ceremony after they’re released into Andy’s (Will Sasso) custody. Instead of their bickering and roughhousing ruining the couple’s wedding, the mother-daughter duo’s arguments add a pop of energy to the intimate ceremony.

The gang sends viewers off with one last group hug at a meeting before Bonnie’s final testimony, where she reflects how far she’s come and where she’ll go.

“When I walked in that door eight years ago I was so filled fear, self-loathing, shame – but now I kinda like me. I kinda love me. I love my husband, my daughter, my friends, my grandkids, I even love those two crazy bitches in the back row,” Bonnie says. “I always heard people in meetings say how they’re grateful alcoholics and I never understood it – it actually kind of pissed me off but now I get it. My name is Bonnie and I’m a grateful alcoholic, and if that pisses you off just keep coming back. Thank you.”

Mom executive producer and co-creator Gemma Baker spoke to Deadline about Bonnie’s road to recovery, ending the series without  and a live audience and Anna Farris’ Christie, and more. Read the full interview, which has been edited for length and clarity, below.

DEADLINE: How did you arrive at Bonnie’s final speech as a series closer? 

GEMMA BAKER: A lot of times, when we wrote an episode there would be a lot of changes from Monday to what we actually shot on Friday. But that speech didn’t change much, and we wrote it pretty quickly but it just sort of flowed. That is what we felt like Bonnie would be feeling in the face of everything that she encountered not only in that day, but over the last eight years.

DEADLINE: How did the group’s happy endings compare to what you, Chuck, and Eddie had discussed for a series finale from the get go?

BAKER: I mean we hadn’t talked about the finale yet. We had no idea when we first started out that we would get to do this show for eight seasons. When we first started and we were talking about a comedy about recovery and addiction we weren’t convinced that it was going to work. So, we weren’t thinking this far ahead. We had a wonderful journey together and it is ending a little sooner than we had hoped. So we didn’t have a lot of time to write an arc of the ending for the characters really. We were just honoring the stories or honoring the characters in the best way we could with the time that we had. But it sort of worked out because what the show really is about is these characters facing life on life’s terms.

Some of that is going to be good news and some of it’s going to be bad news, so there’s a little bit of both and some of it’s going to be good news that looks like bad news. So, there’s all of that in the finale, which seems like the best way to end and not end it tied up in a bow neatly, happily ever after. You know that these women are going to continue to show up for each other no matter what. That’s the happy ending.

DEADLINE: Amid all the happiness her friends are experiencing, Bonnie learns that Adam may potentially have cancer. Why address that and how does it play into the series’ bigger themes?

BAKER: I know that the series began with a question, which was could we do a sitcom that was about hope and redemption? I think that the finale answers that question. I think that we got to see how much Bonnie has grown and changed over the years with the relationship with her husband and her family and her friends but also her relationship with herself. I think that there’s a message of hope in these newcomers, mother and daughter, sitting in…if it wasn’t the exact seats it was close to the seats that Bonnie and Christy were sitting in, in the pilot. So there’s a message of hope there, too.

DEADLINE: Was it always intentional to bring it full circle with another mother-daughter duo coming into AA?

BAKER: No. We didn’t have a lot of time to grapple with questions or really plan anything out too far in advance. We got a chance to write the finale with Chuck, which was great. We wanted to tell a story about how much Bonnie had grown and how much she had changed, so I think that for us it was not so much that her life has changed but her reaction to life has changed. Her focus in her life has changed.

Yes, she had challenges before and she has challenges now, but the difference is that she is willing to help someone else in the midst of her own problems. She’s willing to celebrate a friend who’s having a dream come true, and she’s willing to ask for help from Marjorie and be honest about what’s going on for her. In the past, when she had a challenge, Bonnie would often either go off on her own or come up with her own solution that sort of made the original problem worse. I think we get to see how much she’s changed in the course of this series, which you don’t always get to see and she also gets to recognize that change in herself.

DEADLINE: Circling back to Adam’s X-ray, is he in the clear?

BAKER: I think Adam is in the clear. I think it’s going to be tough and that it’s going to bring them closer together, but ultimately that he is going to survive this. But I think that Bonnie is going to lose someone at some point. I think that she’s going to have, as we all have done this year and in general, to face tremendous difficulties at times. I think the takeaway is that she is going to handle it better than she would have eight years ago.

DEADLINE: Missing from the finale are a number of characters viewers have come to meet over the years, such as Roscoe, Violet and of course, Christy. Were there any conversations about potentially bringing back Anna for Christy?

BAKER: I think first of all we really just wanted to honor Anna’s decision to leave the show. So, that wasn’t a discussion. But there were so many things that we wanted to address that we didn’t get a chance to. Perhaps, if we had a little more time we would have gotten a chance to address those things. But I do think we addressed the big questions that our audience has in the last few episodes.

DEADLINE: What do you think Violet and Roscoe are up to now?

BAKER: That’s so funny. I’m just trying to think about that. I think had we gotten more time I would have loved to revisit the character of Violet because I think there were definitely stories we could have told there about how she was shaped by her childhood and what challenges that created for her and how she overcame them or didn’t. So, that is definitely one of the things we didn’t get around to. I think Roscoe is off to college by now, which is crazy. Eight years is a long time because when we met him he was just a little boy.

DEADLINE: Is Christy doing all right in Georgetown? Is she getting on the Dean’s list and doing well in her courses?

BAKER: I think that Georgetown probably presented a lot of struggles for Christy but that she has in her what it takes to ultimately succeed. I don’t think that it as easy for her in any way. I like to think that she also got into a happy and healthy relationship and that she is very much still a part of her mother’s life and her friends’ life. We didn’t see her in the finale but she is still part of that group.

Anna Faris Mom

DEADLINE: The last time we saw Christy was in the season 7 finale, which is also where Bonnie reveals that she’s working on a memoir. In your mind, do you think she ends up writing that book? 

BAKER: We visited that a lot. I think that Bonnie will absolutely use her story to help other people and whatever form that takes. Whether it’s a memoire or just helping people like Shannon and Jolene. I think that Bonnie’s stories and her life experiences will be used for good.

DEADLINE: How did the lack of a live studio audience, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,  impact the final chapter of Mom?

BAKER: I think one of the hardest things about ending during Covid was that we didn’t have an audience and an audience was so much a part of what we did and this whole season we missed them. We already knew how important the audience was but it really was a huge loss to not have that energy and feedback and laughter. It would have been great if we could have ended the season in front of a live audience. We did get the opportunity to have our writers on stage. So, that meant our audience was 10 times bigger than it’s been all year, but it wasn’t the same.

DEADLINE: What did those final moments behind the scenes look like?

BAKER: The meeting scene with Bonnie’s speech was one of the last scenes that we shot, and it was really emotional for all the reasons you would guess. I know for me as Bonnie is talking about what she was like eight years ago, I can’t help but think of this incredible journey that we all got to go on together and how much we’ve all grown and changed and gone through in our own lives and how much we’re going to miss each other.

The actual last scene we shot was outside. It was the scene where Bonnie is chasing Shannon down the street. Not only was it outside but it was night and there was rain, all things that we don’t normally do, but it was a wonderful way to finish. The cast surprised Allison and everyone by showing up. We were outside and the Mom theme song came on and we got to applaud. I think we got to recognize the cast and James Widdoes. Allison said something lovely about Jamie. It was really great. I think everyone who worked on the show is really proud of what we were able to accomplish and how long we got to do it. It was more than a job. We’re all so grateful for that opportunity to have made this show.

DEADLINE: How do you feel knowing that your stories have resonated so deeply with viewers that they’ve started social media campaigns and petitions to keep the show on air?

BAKER: The cast and the writers and everyone was really moved by the fact that there was a petition started to save the show. I can’t tell you how unexpected and lovely that was. At least 50 thousand people wanted us to stay on and I’m just grateful that it wasn’t a petition to get us off the air. So, I don’t usually read comment sections, but we did read some of the comments. To hear that we were part of a show that people found helpful in this year and in general meant more than we can say. Over the years, we had heard comments like that, but to see sort of that effort was remarkable.

DEADLINE: What have been the rewards of centering a story about drug addiction and the road to recovery? 

BAKER: It was important for us to portray recovery as a place where there is hope and light and laughter. I think that we sort of found the show as we went. Where we found that the show lived was in this group of friends and this group of women who were willing to show up for each other and walk through life together no matter what. Though they may tease each other from time to time, they really love each other and were supportive of each other.

DEADLINE: What is one main takeaway from your time serving as a showrunner on Mom?

BAKER: There’s no way I could possibly narrow it down to one main thing. Chuck gave me my first job as a writer ten years ago and taught me almost everything I know about being a showrunner. The rest of it I learned from our incredibly talented writers, cast and crew. So I’m taking away thousands of lessons, as well as bunch of friendships that mean everything to me. But I guess, one thing would be, when I’m lucky enough to be eating lunch in a writers’ room again, remember not to order fish.

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