A Million Little Things hit the halfway mark on its second season with a tense hour that left multiple members of the friends group in precarious places. The episode started with a trigger warning for those with depression and ended with a PSA featuring the cast, as well as Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and Talinda Bennington, the widow of the band's former frontman, Chester Bennington, as the episode featured PJ (Chandler Riggs) hitting rock bottom after finding out that Jon (Ron Livingston) was not really his father.
It turns out that Barbara (Drea de Matteo) did not lie about PJ's paternity to her husband or Delilah (Stephanie Szostak) and Gary (James Roday). Jon's Harvard sweater that PJ had tested actually belonged to his best friend and Barbara's ex-boyfriend, but the revelation that the man PJ had spent months researching wasn't his dad sent him into a tailspin that nearly led to him jumping off the roof of Rome (Romany Malco) and Gina's (Christina Moses) apartment building. However, Rome's counseling training kicked in at just the right time and he was able to convince PJ to step down.
The moment was a terrifying one for Barbara and Mitch (Rhys Coiro), as well as Delilah, who was inspired by PJ's heartbreak to take Eddie's (David Giuntoli) and Katherine's (Grace Park) advice to tell the kids about baby Charlie's real father. However, as Delilah predicted, they didn't take it well. The episode ended with Sophie (Lizzy Greene) absolutely destroying Eddie's music studio.
Sophie is not the only member of the group dealing with a broken heart, though. The midseason finale also led to a breaking point for Maggie (Allison Miller) and Gary, who split up at the end of the episode. Eric (Jason Ritter) returned to help Maggie move into her old apartment, and a secretive phone call he took while helping her unload her boxes revealed that he's hiding another secret.
TV Guide spoke to A Million Little Things executive producer DJ Nash about the tense episode and what comes next for this fractured group when the show returns in 2020.
Since Jon has committed suicide, you have been very careful about how far you go with people's emotional state. Why did this feel like the right moment to go as far as you did with PJ?
Nash: The compliment the show gets that means the most to me is "authentic." As we're telling stories about depression and suicide, I think it's really important to capture the different issues that people who are suffering from depression or people who contemplate suicide face. [Another reason is], by design, PJ exists to be a cautionary tale for Delilah and Eddie as they watched Mitch and Barbara lie to PJ about his paternity, wondering how they should handle the kids and what they should do with the kids. I wanted Delilah to see just how devastating it was for PJ to find out later in life. So, as you saw, that was the catalyst that Delilah needed to finally come clean with the kids.
In terms of the depiction of suicide in our show, it's something I have spent a lot of time thinking about. The episode is very intense and if the roof scene doesn't move you, then the breakup of Maggie and Gary will. And if that doesn't, [there is] the guitar's smashing at the end. I was very quick, even before the script was released to be shot, I went to ABC and said, "We have to put a warning before this episode. And we want to do the PSA at the end." I knew going into it, I had to find the 30 seconds to put the PSA in at the end. It's all very, very careful. I do not want this to be a trigger for people. I would like it to be an affirmation that sometimes we have dark days, but it's OK to step down.
Do you see this as sort of the conclusion of PJ's story with our family, or are we going to see him again in the second half of the season?
Nash: We will see him again. I want to give him time to start [therapy] and get to a better place and then we'll see him again.
Is he going to take Jon's money?
Nash: That is a really good question. We'll see what he does with the money.
How much is Sophie's intense reaction going to cause some regrets for Eddie and Katherine about forcing Delilah to tell the kids?
DJ Nash: It's everything, because Katherine, who is a saint, according to every meme on the internet, is the one who was pushing for this. We see that as much as the kids deserve to know the truth, this truth is devastating and heartbreaking. Delilah's greatest fear appears to becoming true. She knows that they already lost their dad, and she feared that [in learning] the truth, they would lose their mom. It appears as though that's exactly what's happened.
Is trashing Eddie's studio as intense as Sophie's reaction is going to be? Are we going to see an even more intense downward spiral as she starts to process this?
Nash: The moment she smashed the guitars, Sophie went from being an innocent child to being a woman who is now forced to deal with the realities of life. While Delilah had tried to shield Sophie from Delilah's mistakes, now she can't do that anymore. So, we will see Sophie struggle quite a bit as she comes to terms with the fact that her mother did this, as she comes to terms with the fact that her one outlet to her father's suicide was music, and the person who taught her music was having an affair with her mother.
We see the kids walk away from Delilah in a really powerful scene. Is there anyone who's going to be there for Delilah as they work through this and don't want anything to do with her?
Nash: The friend group rallies, including Katherine, who will feel remorse for what's happened and want to try to make this family work. Katherine's goal of having them be this new family doesn't change. It just gets a whole lot harder.
Theo clearly sees Sophie wrecking the music studio. Does this change how Katherine and Eddie are going to tell him, or sort of does it make them want to hold off?
Nash: There's some lines that we had last season where Theo says, "Just because it looks like I'm not listening doesn't mean I'm not hearing things," and what we'll discover over the course of this second half of the season is just how much Theo was aware and is aware of what's going on. When he says, I think it's Episode 4 this year [that] he took the suitcase so mom wouldn't leave again, I think you realize with little snippets that he's put a lot of this together. We will see just how much of it he's put together. Katherine and Eddie have to try to remain a united front even though the issue Theo is struggling with is the affair.
They're not the only ones having a terrible time in this episode. We also end up with Gary and Maggie breaking up, and Eric teases a bit of a secret. What can you tell us about what he's been hiding from us?
Nash: Listen, not everyone in their show is honest, huh? Some people call it "A Million Little Lies." There's stuff that Maggie doesn't know that Eric needs to tell her. Maybe it's his feeling for her, maybe it's things that happened before they ever met, but we will be following the mystery of Eric through the second half of the season. And Jason Ritter is phenomenal... He is the perfect person to play this, because there's something inherently going on, but there's something inherently likable rather about him as all of these questionable things seem to be going on. So there must be more to the story.
How has this breakup going to affect the friends group?
Nash: That scene of them breaking up was the scene I spent the most time writing in two seasons of this show. I probably spent more time writing that scene than I have spent on some episodes. It just took so long to present both sides as being right and wrong, to have a breakup that didn't really need to happen. In the sliding doors of our show, if she hadn't applied to Oxford, she wouldn't be looking for her passport. She wouldn't have found the ring. She wouldn't have brought that ring out. She wouldn't have had that reaction. They wouldn't have broken up. Just how fragile life is, I think, is captured, hopefully, by that scene, and they've both been struggling.
I said when Maggie went into remission, the challenge for them this season would be, what are we without cancer? That's something that Maggie has struggled with and made some choices that aren't exactly perfect. We wondered whether she was sneaking off with Eric. There's just a hole in her life, a hole in her heart that has been caused by the death of her brother and the survivor guilt that comes with [that]. I think Gary's attitude is life is short, let's start it. From her side, she wants to make sure she knows who she is before she can agree to be half of him. So both make these very compelling, correct arguments, but they don't seem to be able to coexist right now. What we're going to watch after this, the next episode picks up three months later, and we'll see the aftermath of this breakup and how it affects our friend group.
I want to end with Rome and Gina, because they have a big breakthrough in this episode. How soon are we going to see them sort of dive into this adoption process?
Nash: Right away. We jump three months ahead, and we catch it right away. Rome's mom dying was such an important part of this story because it made Regina reflect on her own mother and the way she was raised and how they want to do things differently. And it also allowed Rome to realize that while he was sad from his mother's death, obviously that's a natural appropriate response to have. Unlike his depression that he didn't have control over when we first met him, he now has control over how he's doing.
So it was sort of the perfect storm of events that had to take place between him helping PJ and him mourning the loss of his mother to get into the place of, "If I can't be on the son side of this parent-child relationship, maybe I can be on the parent side of it." It's going to be a beautiful story. People love this couple, and there will be challenges because that's what happens with adoption, but they will deal with them like they dealt with everything — together.
A Million Little Things returns Thursday, Jan. 23 at 10/9c on ABC.