[Editor’s note: This article contains spoilers for “Jett” Season 1, including the ending.]
One of the joys of “Jett” is watching its title character think five steps ahead of anyone else in the room. Even in conversation, the audience can see her look past whoever she’s speaking to, plotting out all her possible moves.
So it’s a bit surprising when “Jett” ends its first season with Carla Gugino looking directly at the camera, as Jett wordlessly works through how to deal with the recent kidnapping of her daughter. For writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez, that last look — echoing the final moments of the show’s first episode — was the only way he wanted the nine-episode season to draw to a close.
“Jett is nothing if not practical. And tactical. It's always interesting to have someone who is so good at planning contingencies and potential scenarios be put in situations where at some point, that will all go out the window,” Gutierrez said via email. “In that sense, she's the opposite of a gambler. Which makes the ending really shake her to her core. She makes a snap decision that very well may be the correct one, but the risk is enormous, and so in that moment she truly becomes a parent. With all the terrible weight that entails.”
Following a grand noir tradition, “Jett” has treated its timeline like an obstacle course, bobbing and weaving through past heists, trysts, and fateful first meetings. Even if this means that no one is truly gone, there’s a shocking kind of finality in seeing both the elder and younger Baudelaires Giancarlo Esposito and Gentry White murdered by unfeeling gunshots, not to mention the same fate visited on season-long villain Miljan Bestic Greg Byrk.
“I knew Bestic was going to die. Charlie's fate was up to Charlie. But the more complex the relationship between Jett and Charlie grew, the clearer it became that tragedy was the only convincing end for Charlie. Junior was his weak spot. In this case, the sins of the sons become the sins of the fathers,” Gutierrez said.
Whether cosmic punishments or the result of split-second moments of revenge, none of these characters’ endings are tidy or pleasant. The world of “Jett” is one of consequences, and they often come via violent means. It’s always a delicate line to draw, but for the series so far, Gutierrez said he’s tried to draw clear distinctions about how that violence manifests itself, in both a sensory and storytelling way.
“Film does violence really effectively. Sound/image/music/editing all come together to really pack a punch. It's one of the things it does best. My guideline with this was always: The show's look is stylized and not naturalistic. The acting and emotions are naturalistic,” Gutierrez said. “The violence, when it happens, is shown, and it has real consequences. If the violence doesn't have consequences, none of it makes sense to me. Violence is horrible. It should be swift and brutal and make us want to look away.”
Still, Gutierrez said that one of the season’s most fulfilling characters to write is one who is still very much present in the story. From her introduction, Phoenix Gaite Jensen has become not only a core part of helping Jett protect her life away from her work, she’s shown what Jett, and by extension the show overall, values in her central orbit.
“Phoenix is the kind of irrepressible character that keeps you on your toes because you want to make sure you never get too cutesy and that you don't fall into the actual cliche of writing a ‘hooker with a heart of gold’ — even if at one point she refers to herself as that. But she says so much about Jett's instincts and faith in people not that Jett would ever admit to that in a court of law, that if she's drafting this person into her home, she really must be a person of substance. So the push-pull within Phoenix, between convincing herself she's ready to be a new kind of person and pulling that off, is really exciting to write,” Gutierrez said.
For characters like Phoenix, trying to be someone different is a conscious choice. As much as some of the people in Jett’s orbit are shown to have some of the same preoccupations and scores to settle as they have years before, showing these characters across a wide timespan also highlights the ways they’ve also changed. This season finale clarifies some of the story’s biggest loose ends — the identity of Alice’s father and the source of Bestic and Charlie’s rivalry chief among them. Much as the show has taken advantage of an episodic structure, this season does feel like the clear close of one chapter, a feeling that likely comes from how Gutierrez wrote the season as a whole.
“I don't think I dipped into any Season 2 potential ideas, as much as I came up with ideas for Season 2 while making Season 1. Once you have the characters matched to actors and are setting all the elements on a collision course, it thankfully! became clearer what things need to happen next,” Gutierrez said.
Part of what comes next would be using the well-established visual language and character Rolodex of the series as a means to build out this corner of the show’s interconnected network of criminals and past companions. Gutierrez hinted that there are plenty more individuals in Jett’s world who have yet to make an appearance.
“Of course, there may be new cinematic tricks we'll want to incorporate, but I think the split screens and saturated color palette and music are in this story's DNA,” he said. “Oh, there are many more introductions and flashbacks and visual cues to still play with in showing how the pieces fit.”
“Jett” Season 1 is now available to watch via MAX GO. Season 2 has not yet been renewed.