[Warning: The following contains spoilers for One Day at a Time's season finale]
Over the course of its two seasons, One Day at a Time has developed a reputation as a series you shouldn't watch in public unless you're comfortable with having everyone in the room see you bawl your eyes out. We're not talking just tear up, we're talking straight-up snot-coming-out-of-your-nose, ugly cry. And never has this been more true than in the Season 2 finale.
In the heart-wrenching episode, Penelope's (Justina Machado) mother Lydia (Rita Moreno) is found unconscious in her bedroom and rushed to the hospital where it remains unclear if she'll ever wake up. As Lydia lays in her coma, each member of her family — and her landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell), who has basically been adopted into the Alvarez clan — deliver their own monologue to Lydia, explaining how much she has enriched their life. Thanks to the cast's powerhouse performances, the episode avoids falling into the hokey trope of a Very Special Episode and feels more like a miniature play — one that will leave you emotionally raw and, for a few minutes, genuinely afraid that the Netflix sitcom would actually follow through on killing Moreno.
"I think it's funny because a lot of people watched the show and tweeted me like, 'We didn't think you'd kill her, but for a second we thought you guys were killing her!'" Isabella Gomez, who plays Lydia's grandaughter Elena, recalls to TV Guide.
But while fans were worried, Gomez and Justina Machado, who anchors the series as Penelope, assure viewers that Rita isn't going anywhere. Not now, and not ever. "I could not imagine the show without Rita Moreno's character," Machado says. "She's delightful in every scene and a show like this needs her."
Even knowing the show never has any intention of killing off Lydia, the emotion of the episode remains just as powerful, both for the viewers and for the cast. "I remember Rita actually told us that when Justina was doing her monologue, it was hard because her eyes were tearing up and she was starting to cry and she obviously couldn't do that," Gomez says.
But tearing up on set is just part of the gig on One Day at a Time. "We cry all the time!" Gomez exclaims. "It's funny, Gloria Calderon Kellett, who's one of our showrunners, and Michelle Badillo, who's one of our writers, us three just cry all the time. We have constant Kleenex on us."
"But they're tears of joy, tears of happiness and tears of 'Wow! This is a great script,'" adds Machado. "So yeah, there's a lot of crying."
Additional reporting by Liam Mathews
One Day at a Time's first two seasons are available on Netflix now.