Daybreak, a post-apocalyptic dramedy that's also Netflix's best comic book adaptation, is perhaps not the first place you'd expect to find a robust and nuanced conversation about sex, consent, and first times. And yet, there it is, nestled happily between a giant mutant pug whose sh-- can demolish entire living rooms in one go and a kid-killing cannibal terrorizing what's left of the Glendale High student population. In fact, after nearly an entire season of building out, via flashbacks, a magical romance epic enough to fuel Josh's (Colin Ford) quest to find and save Sam Dean (Sophie Simnett), the eighth episode of the surreal series, "Post Mates," brings the fever pitch of teenage emotions crashing back to earth.
That's because, despite the fact it's narrated by Josh, "Post Mates" is really about Sam's feelings about and perspective on their budding situationship. After being nominated for homecoming queen due to her viral kindness video fame, Sam convinces Josh to play hooky for the day. She feels trapped by the perfect image people have of her and wants to spend time with a person who's really trying to know her. However, as the two spend a classic ditch day getting high, dancing around in their underwear, and trying to have sex (despite the many awkward obstacles they encounter), the uncomfortable realization that Josh might want the girl from the video more than her keeps popping up.
In this tangled web of intense teenage crushes, sexual desire, and unrealistic expectations, what this episode nails is the very real struggle of trying to reconcile the fantasy of who your crush is with the reality. In Daybreak, we get to watch Sam negotiate this discrepancy in real time: Do I want to sleep with him? Do I not want to sleep with him? He's really pissing me off, but there are these sweet things he does. I think, maybe yeah, he really gets me and we're just having difficulties talking about it right now. And how this internal back-and-forth is actually expressed — in one short, straight-forward conversation gaining consent, and a series of long, heated, meandering conversations about what kind of sex Sam and Josh should be having — is what makes Daybreak's coming-of-age story a game-changer.
Daybreak showrunner Aron Eli Coleite sat down with TV Guide to tell us how the episode came together, what Sam's perspective brings to the series, and how the writers diligently kept the episode from becoming an after-school special.
We finally got a peek of Sam's point of view in this episode, but it still begins and ends with Josh's voiceover. Why just a hint of Sam, and not a whole episode?
Aron Eli Coleite: We've been looking at Sam through Josh's ruby-colored glasses all season long, really. Episode 8, the consent episode, is the first time you get any kind of hint of Sam's point of view on their relationship. You get inside of, "well, this is what really happened, and this is what's really going on."
You see that Josh has failed to understand her point of view because he can't. It's an impossibility when you're separated from somebody to understand what they've been going through. All you have is your perception of the events, and your hopes and dreams and wishes for what is to be. And then he takes over the story at the end and confesses that he broke up with her, he's still holding onto that dream of, "rescue her, move to Montrose, live happily ever after." You realize, oh these two are really living two different lives and two different stories.
I was surprised to see Sam using a consent app in the episode. There's been some great discussion about whether consent apps are simply allowing rapists to legally cover their tracks. What was the back-and-forth like in the writers' room about including apps in the consent conversation?
Coleite: We totally talked about all those things. Is this just an excuse to ignore a retraction of consent? Is this a legal loophole around rape and assault? All the criticisms about it. Because it began with, "You know there's consent apps now," and I was befuddled that they existed.
But what it allowed us to do was poke fun at it. Especially in terms of the way that Sam and Josh talk about it in the episode, it comes from a place of absurdity. The notion of, "Oh, now there's an app for this?" with all the humorous items that they go through.
The more meaningful thing it did for us was it gave us an entry point to talk about consent as a really important part of teenage sex. That's what was at the core of the episode, actually getting Sam and Josh to talk about consent, rather than really dive into the politics of a consent app. That felt like we were telling the "lost afternoon, let's ditch and have sex" story, but in a way that made it feel relevant, without getting preachy in a fashion.
But even though the conversation takes a long road to get there, Sam and Josh actually get on the same page with three simple sentences. Sam says, "I want to have sex with you. Do you want to have sex with me? We have achieved consent."
Coleite: It really is that simple sometimes! Getting consent involves actually having a conversation about it, that's the most important thing. Especially from Sam's point of view, she's a wonderful communicator and really good at expressing, "OK, let's talk about it before we do it."
Considering that you were dealing with a very sensitive subject and a younger audience, did you work with any experts to craft the episode?
Coleite: Definitely. To give some background in the making of it, we had an intimacy coordinator on set the whole time. First, we wanted to make sure Sophie and Colin were really comfortable with everything they were asked to do and that the crew was also really comfortable with everything that they were being asked to do. Second, we wanted to nail the tone of well, we're making a really crazy, teenage, apocalyptic, coming-of-age story, but this is a very serious moment. In talking with our intimacy coordinator, she was so helpful in terms of ... this is how you talk about consent on television shows so that people can understand. Asking for these things is crucial.
The fact that Sam goes to such significant lengths to have that conversation with Josh honestly makes Josh's reaction at the end of the episode — calling Sam a slut after they've had sex for the first time — so much more worse. She put so much work into getting Josh to understand what, and who, he's saying yes to.
Coleite: Look, I agree. I also think he is — because I'm defensive about both of them. It's so weird to be on both sides of this debate.
For the outsider, they don't know why Sam is even with Josh. Josh even asks, "Why are you even with me?" ... He's so honest and he's so simple. There's no playing games with him. His insecurity about who he is rears its head at the very end. His father dying spins him, but what's really under the hood for me at that point is he's saying, "Woe is me." He's saying to Sam, "You have everything. You have everything that you could ever ask for and you're saying, 'poor me'. I'm actually a nobody, I'm nothing, I'm the outsider, so you don't know what it feels like to be me." While Sam's saying "Nobody understands me," he's saying, "Nobody understands me more."
I think that for me it was an attempt of putting them, not both on equal footing necessarily, but exposing both of them in terms of, "Here's my pain, and here's my pain. Here's why you hurt me, and here's why you hurt me." They both get to show their anger and who they are underneath, and that usually what leads to honesty and breakups. Showing your own vulnerability.
Hopefully it goes from apocalyptic love story to apocalyptic breakup story, in a really natural way. Cause that's exactly what it feels like when you break up in high school! Who gets whose friends? Who's right? Who's wrong? How can I hurt them even more now? We are going to war with each other.
Daybreak is now streaming on Netflix.