‘La Brea’s Showrunner Breaks Down the Biggest Moments of the Series Finale


[Editor’s note: The following contains major spoilers for the series finale of La Brea.]

The Big Picture

  • The final season of ‘La Brea’ remained focused on reuniting the Harris family, even though other aspects and details of the story had to change.
  • The finale aimed to be the biggest and most emotional episode, throwing everything at it to satisfy the audience.
  • Time and budget were the biggest challenges in pulling off the back-to-back moments, but the production team found creative ways to make it work.

Wrapping up a TV series where you’re tying up loose ends and bringing storylines to a satisfying conclusion is challenging on every level. On a series like NBC’s La Brea, in which families were separated by a sinkhole that transported people to 10,000 B.C., portals were opened to different time periods, individuals who previously preferred to blend into the shadows had to step up as leaders, and you had to survive dinosaur attacks if you were ever going to make it home, it’s been a wild ride. And over the course of three seasons and after many attempts to try to make it back home, fans of the series finally know how it all ends up for the Harris family and all the friends and enemies they made along the way.

Collider got the opportunity to chat with showrunner David Appelbaum about finally reaching the ending he’d always seen for Gavin (Eoin Macken) and Eve Harris (Natalie Zea) and their two kids (Zyra Gorecki and Jack Martin), telling the best story you can with the resources you have, pulling off so many big moments in the finale, what they weren’t able to do, how they came to Levi’s (Nicholas Gonzalez) fate, the challenge of introducing and integrating new characters in the final season, and what a possible spinoff could hypothetically be (there are currently no plans for a spinoff, but it was fun to speculate about).

La Brea

When a massive sinkhole opens in L.A., the Harris family is split in two. Eve and her son are sent to a mysterious world. Gavin discovers that his visions may hold the key to bringing them home.

Release Date
September 28, 2021

David Appelbaum


‘La Brea’ Has Always Been About Telling the Best Story Possible With the Resources Available

Eoin Macken as Gavin Harris, Natalie Zea as Eve Harris, Zyra Gorecki as Izzy and Jack Martin as Josh in Episode 6 of Season 3 of NBC's La Brea
Image via NBC

Collider: When you found out that you were making your last season and that it was going to be six episodes, do you feel like you told the same story you were planning on telling in the final chapter, whenever that ended up happening? Did you just condense things? Were there aspects you couldn’t get to? How did that work?

DAVID APPELBAUM: It was a mixed bag. There were definitely some things where I told the story that I wanted to, like the reunion of the Harris family. The show begins with a divided family. I wanted the show to end with them reunited, finally in their home. That was always my guiding light for the series, but a lot of things around it changed in the last season. We weren’t anticipating, at the beginning of the season, that it would be our last. We didn’t know it would be six episodes. There were three different main cast members who didn’t come back for the final season. It changed a lot of the plan, but that’s just what we’ve done the whole time. We’ve had to be malleable. There are so many different variables that go into making a show on this scale with this many actors. It’s a game of trying to tell the best story you can with the resources that you have.


‘La Brea’ Series Finale Sneak Peek Takes Eve and Gavin Back to Happier Times

The Eoin Macken and Natalie Zea-led series will draw to a close on February 13.

When you did find out that it would be the last season and you knew you had this last episode, did you just want to throw everything you could at it, between the T-Rex, the big hand-to-hand fight combat sequence, and piloting a plane to get them out of there?

APPELBAUM: Yeah, I wanted to make the finale the best of what La Brea can be, which is an epic adventure show. We wanted to throw everything we could into making this final episode the biggest adventure we could do and also make it the most emotional show that we could do. The show has been really defined by how much we feel for these characters and the family at the center of it, and trying to make all their stories and how we wrap them up as emotional as possible. So, yeah, it was very conscious to try to make it the biggest and give the audience the most feels that we could.

What were the biggest challenges that came with pulling off several big back-to-back moments in the finale?

APPELBAUM: A lot of it is time and budget. Our resources are not unlimited. We only have a certain number of days to shoot the show, so we wanted to do these big sequences, but had to figure out how to do them within what we had. That’s the biggest challenge. Often, my eyes get really big at the idea of fun sequences and things that I haven’t seen before, like a plane in a chicken match with a dinosaur. I was like, “I’ve never seen this. How do we pull that off.” It’s really a credit to our great production team in Australia and our director of that episode, Dave Barrett. Everyone was on the same page. We wanted the show to go out with a bang and really honor the commitment of the audience that have been in for so long and give them a great episode that’s going to give them everything they want in a finale. It was just resources. Some streaming shows, maybe not these days, but maybe before the strike, had $30 million an episode and 30 days to shoot. We never had that. We did have a nice budget for a network show, but it was not unlimited.

Showrunner David Appelbaum Reveals the Little Changes He Would have Made to the ‘La Brea’ Series Finale

Was there anything that you wanted to do in the finale that you couldn’t, for whatever reason?

APPELBAUM: There were some little moments. When everyone is flying home in the plane towards the end of the episode, we see Gavin and his sister in the cockpit, but the rest of the people are also on the plane. In our minds, there’s a seating area in the back of the plane that we wanted to show, but we didn’t have the budget or the time to shoot them in that section, so we couldn’t feature them. There are some scenes that were shot in oners, with one shot, that we would have liked more coverage in certain moments. The final scene of the teaser is an example, where they come in and fine Eve. Dave Barrett designed a really great shot, but ideally, we would have had a few more pieces of coverage that might have emphasized certain moments. We just didn’t have the the time. Ultimately, we were able to tell the story we wanted to tell. There were just some details along the way.

As much as it would have been nice to see more of Eve in the season, her reuniting with her family at the end wouldn’t have had the same impact. Would we have seen more of that, had that been possible, or did you want to have the full impact of that moment where everyone is wondering whether she’ll be there?

APPELBAUM: We knew what we had in the beginning of the season, so we crafted it around that. We shot with [Natalie Zea] for one day, and we shot those two scenes with her, so we crafted around that. If we knew we had her for longer, the story might have been different. We would have told a different story that might have been satisfying in a different way. But it’s the challenge of making television. We’re not doing it in a vacuum. There are so many variables that go into it, and you just have to make the best story that you can. I’m definitely happy with the way that it came out. You don’t see her for the whole season until the very last moment, and there’s something nice about that, for sure.


‘La Brea’s Eoin Macken Says Season 3 Is Building Towards a “Nutty” and “Awesome” Series Finale

Eoin Macken feels both satisfied and melancholic about leaving ‘La Brea’ behind.

How did the idea come about, to bookend the episode with them at the tree?

APPELBAUM: From the pilot, we’ve used the idea that there are things in 10,000 B.C. that will exist in the future, in 2021, when the story takes place. There were moments during the body of the season, like in episode five when Gavin goes up to the place where the wisdom tree is and reflects on Eve, where we’ve shown things in one time period and another. Just as a motif, we’ve always thought was interesting. But we were really looking for an emotional anchor for the family, a place that speaks to who the family is. We found this beautiful location in Los Angeles, which was this isolated tree at the top of a hill, that just spoke to the emotion of this family, the beauty of that place, and what they wanted to get back to. We start episode six with Gavin and Eve hiking up there, and Eve revealing that she’s pregnant. We wanted a place that stood in for the happy moments of the family and that they wanted to get back to.

What Made ‘La Brea’s Showrunner Decide Levi’s Fate Before the Series Finale?

Nicholas Gonzalez as Levi in Episode 5 of Season 3 of NBC's La Brea
Image via NBC

It’s interesting that you chose to say goodbye to Levi before the finale. What led to that decision? Did you ever consider a different ending for that character?

APPELBAUM: Yes, we did consider lots of things for that character. From Season 1, we wanted to let the audience know that not everyone makes it out of here alive. Mary Beth died in Season 1. We had various characters die in Season 2. Part of the thrill and the aim of the show was to make the audience go, “Who’s going to make it?” For Levi, particularly, one of the reasons we chose that death was that he makes a great sacrifice, so that Gavin and his family can be united reunited. That moment is really earned because of what he’s done to the family. Earlier, in Season 2, he basically destroyed the building that was everyone’s chance to get home. He caused great strife for everyone down there, including the Harris family. And also, from the beginning of the show, the way we met him was that we found out he had an affair with Eve. He had done a lot of things to this family and to Gavin that might not be right, so it was the ultimate sacrifice. That’s what made the moment of his death so emotional. Every time I watched that scene, it always got me because of the history of these characters and this is him ultimately giving back to Gavin and cementing their bond, in a great way.

You brought in pivotal characters like Helena, Gavin’s sister, and Maya Schmidt in the last season. We didn’t really know what to expect from either of them, and they were both complex and interesting women. How tricky is that to do, in the last season? When you have such limited time as it is, what was it like to with them in with everything else going on?

APPELBAUM: It’s a big challenge to immediately be able to define a character and to have a certain conception of them and spend a little bit of time with them. In the case of Maya, they were talking about her in earlier episodes, and then you meet her for the first time in episode three, but by the end of episode four, you twist the conception of what she is. We really tried to make sure there wasn’t a feeling of whiplash in the audience. With characters like that, who are entering the story at this point, the audience is on guard for these kinds of twists and turns, particularly in a show like La Brea, where it’s all about the twists and turns. It’s really just having a clear idea of what their story purpose is and trying to set up an expectation for the audience, and then twisting it, in a satisfying way.

The series closes on the Harris family going home. What do you think their next day would look like? After everything they’ve been through, how do they go back to mundane life?

APPELBAUM: I don’t know how you do that. I think that would be a real challenge. There has to be some kind of shock. No one knows what you went through. Ultimately, what we want the audience to feel is that this has brought the family together. In my mind, they go to a park or a museum or a movie and spend time together in a way that they hadn’t before. Before the story began, Gavin and Eve were separated and the family was divided, but now they’re back and they understand the importance of family, their relationship, and everything that they did to get back to each other. I think the next day for them is about spending time with each other. If I had to distill the message of the show, it’s about the importance of family and what that means for everyone, but particularly for this family.

‘La Brea’ Creator David Appelbaum Has a Definite Idea for a Possible Spinoff

Eoin Macken as Gavin Harris in Episode 2 of Season 3 of La Brea
Image via NBC

You’ve mentioned that you have ideas for possible spinoffs and I know that it’s hypothetical, but would you want to do a spinoff with an already existing character or would you want to use a concept from within the show with a different cast, if you were ever able to do something?

APPELBAUM: If given the opportunity, I have an idea that would use certain members of the cast, and use an existing concept within the show, and spin it off from there. In the way that The White Lotus does it, and other shows like that, the seasons are different, but you would take along some of the key players into the next story and continue that line. The essence of what the show is, that it’s about a family and that it’s an adventure story, would remain within any spinoff idea of the show. I certainly would love to do that, but for now, this is the end of this story.

La Brea is available to stream on Peacock. Check out the trailer:

Watch on Peacock


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