[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers about Sunday's season finale of Quantico. Read at your own risk.]
The reason? He had become disillusioned and bitter after all the cover-ups (lbr, dude, most of those were covering your ass) within the FBI, and wanted to "kill the cancer that is the FBI before it takes the country with it." His whole plan was to get Alex (Priyanka Chopra) to drop out of Quantico so she would look like the disgruntled trainee who couldn't hack it and had killed her own father (whom Liam insists was a good guy), but Alex never did. Yet another case of Liam being incapable of doing anything right.
Alex shoots Liam in the head right before the nuke, which he had placed in Quantico, goes off. And it does — underwater, after Simon (Tate Ellington) sacrifices himself and drives it off a bridge. RIP, Simon. You were the best of these folks.
There is one final twist in The Betrayal of Liam O'Connor. Vice President-elect Claire (Marcia Cross) had colluded with him on The Voice/nuke part of the plan to secure the election, since she could look like she played a part in stopping a nuclear bomb in New York City, but she never actually wanted it to go off. Alex calls her out on it, but doesn't pursue it further because she decides to move back home — where Matthew Keyes (Henry Czerny) rolls up to her and offers her a job in the CIA!
So what does Alex in the CIA look like? Is Simon really dead? Will Claire be exposed? Safran gives us the scoop below.
The montage at the beginning showing how Liam got away with everything was fun. Did you actually recreate all those old scenes?
Josh Safran: Yes, we did! We should've filmed it throughout the year, but you can't because I would've had to tell Josh, and the studio and network would have to approve the ending. [Director] Larry Teng shot them all for the finale. Josh Hopkins was a trouper. He would do scenes all day and he would jump over and head to a separate crew and do all the Liam flashback stuff. He worked himself ragged.
You had to match all the hair.
Safran: Yes! The hair and the wardrobe. No joke — there were like 30 pieces of wardrobe throughout the year that our costume designer kept. She had them all ready to come out when we had to start shooting. It was pretty amazing. Even Rick Cosnett coming back for two quick shots. And for Agent Goodwin — people were wondering what happened and how she died. It was fun to connect all the dots. I always knew I wanted to do that; I just never thought I'd be able to. Most hour-long shows have somewhere between 40-60 scenes. We usually have 60. This one had 120. I didn't know if we would be able to get it done, but we did. Hats off to everyone.
You said you had the terrorist in mind from the beginning and never changed. Why Liam? Theoretically anyone could've turned with the motivation he had, but you planted the seeds with all his speeches to the class throughout the season.
Safran: Yeah, it's pretty much for the stuff that he says. The show's always been to me about different versions of gray. There's no black and white or good and evil. Everyone starts from a good, honest place and it's about whether you let something take a hold of you to go to the dark side or whether you can keep your integrity and honor on the good side. Even when he talks, he talks about things that were good to begin with. "Let's change the way this is working because it is not working well. This should be able to be changed." He just went too far. I always knew I wanted to deal with that. He was also in a position of power. People who've been in positions of power for so long have their frustration and [feel] helplessness — not actually having power while being in positions of power — and they could start to corrupt themselves.
Patriotism was a major theme — he got jaded and Alex still believes in doing what's right.
Safran: Exactly. You look at Miranda (Aunjanue Ellis), someone who's been able to keep her integrity even though terrible things happen to her or happen around her. She was always able to set the barometer in the right place. And then to have Claire, who's a mix of Miranda and Liam. And then you have Alex, who, you wonder, will she go to the places that Liam went or can she stay on the good and right?
Liam seemed like he was flying by the seat of his pants by the end. Was what Alex said right? He stole the nuke after he saw Claire declare Alex a hero on TV?
Safran: Yes. Marcia Cross is really good at taking details out of the scene with Claire and Alex. She did a pretty amazing job. My initial inclination was to reveal a lot, and it was so much better to dance around it. Claire would never admit to things. She was leaning towards them, but yes, I think what Alex poses is correct. Claire still has good in her. She used this to her advantage. She never wanted people to die. The second she got what she wanted, she basically threw the plan away, thereby throwing Liam under the bus basically, and Liam was like, "F--- that. I'm going to take [matters] into my own hands."
I don't think people were surprised it was Liam, but I don't know if a lot of people saw Liam working with Claire coming.
Safran: Right. But she's not the ultimate mastermind. She glommed onto his plan. We had this one line that if I had put it in, it would've explained everything immediately, but there was a line in there initially where Claire said, "I didn't know Liam was involved until I saw him running out of the bank right before the bomb went off [in Episode 11]." To say that would be to have Claire admit to it, so it's better to not have that. Hopefully it's clear that he was the mastermind and she at some point attached herself to him. She did work with him. Claire is saying no. Alex knows the truth, but is not able to go further with it.
How deep is Liam and Claire's history? Did they team up before this?
Safran: You say "team up"; I say that more Claire discovered it and used it to her advantage, but I know what you mean. It's not a longstanding relationship. It's a recent thing, just for this. It was just for the election.
Caleb (Graham Rogers) also knows. What is their relationship going to be like?
Safran: Clearly very troubled, but I think it's important to know that Claire still pays a price for what she's done because she loses the love and respect of her son — which she should've lost already because she was plying him with drugs. [Laughs] But this is the final nail in his coffin.
It's funny how Caleb's become really likable over the season. A lot of people hated him when the show started.
Safran: I read that. It's so funny. I've always loved Caleb. What I love about him so much is that he's so clearly a vulnerable boy deep down. Any of his sarcasm or jabs at people were clearly projections and deflections. I think people have warmed to getting to know him and seeing what he does for Shelby (Johanna Braddy). He's still the same Caleb. He still makes the jabs.
Is Simon really dead? Did he jump out of the car at the last minute?
Safran: Simon is dead. That's done. That was very, very sad and tough. I love Tate so much and working with him, and I love that character. That character in many ways is closest to me.
I think he was a lot of people's favorite character.
Safran: It's funny you say that because people really weren't whether he was good or bad for so long. I think around Episode 14 was when that changed and people realized they could trust him. I think you were saying even last week that you never really know.
Right, but I think that's why people like him. And Tate played him so well.
Safran: Yeah. I'm really sad to see him go, but there was no one else. His story was one of redemption. It didn't matter when, whether it was Season 1 or Season 5. It just became clear in this situation. We didn't just want to say there's a nuke and it can be magically disarmed. That's not true. We wanted to tell a story that's true, which is you can do a certain things, but a bomb still goes off. We just knew it had to be Simon. Tate knew it too when I told him the story. He said, "That makes total sense. That is what Simon would do."
That's also a callback to the Quantico assignment when he had to disarm the bomb.
Safran: Yup. It was full circle.
Was that also part of your plan from the beginning, to have Simon die?
Safran: No. I knew that Simon would be the one that, if there were ever a life or death situation, he would put his life on the line for everyone else's. It just came to that. Even up to the day before the script came out, I was like, "Oh, my God! Am I really going to do this because I love this character so much?" You have to be willing to do what's right for the character and not what you personally might love. I would've loved to see Simon for many seasons, but in this situation, it was what's right. I do believe that Simon got to do the thing he most wanted to do — a selfless act, which is what an FBI agent does. It felt like an honorable way for that character's journey. But I'm still very sad.
Could we see him or Liam in Season 2 in flashbacks?
Safran: Never say never. It is my hope that both Josh and Tate immediately jump onto new projects because they're great actors and they should be working all the time. But if they were available and wanted to come back for flashbacks, I would love to have them. Definitely Simon is very part of Alex's mental state and mindset.
I'm assuming Alex joins the CIA.
Safran: I think that is a correct assumption. [Laughs] I've always been interested in how our different government organizations work with each other and how they all work with the same goal in mind, but they go about it in different ways. The CIA is very much about getting information and figuring things out before they happen and before they grow into something that will be a bigger problem, whereas the FBI is very much about an immediate problem that arises that they need to fix or keep under control. They work together really well and I thought that was something I hadn't really seen before. That's what's we're going to be dealing with in Season 2.
Does Matthew Keyes have ulterior motives with Alex like Liam did?
Safran: I would say that if he does — Season 2 will be twisty, but it won't be as complicated as Season 1. When people have ulterior motives, you will know them and understand them sooner as opposed to trying to decipher them like in Season 1.
How are her CIA missions going to converge with the FBI's?
Safran: I can't tell you that yet! I'll tell you that in August! But ... we're very much looking at Season 2 as, opposed to a sequel, it's the next novel featuring these characters. It's just a new story. I'm curious for people to see it. It is its own thing and has its own motor. I say "motor," but it's more like a question that is asked at the very beginning of the premiere that will set up the rest of the season.
So they're not investigating Claire?
Safran: Right, it's not that. She's still out there in the world. They will come up against her at some point, but it's not that story. It's a whole new story and new events. We'll still be doing the two timelines.
Is there going to be an attack again or something on a smaller scale?
Safran: It's on a different scale. It's weirdly actually bigger in scope but smaller in energy. I think Alex being on the run as a fugitive took a lot of energy because she was literally running. She was constantly on the move, so we had to be constantly on the move. Who is she going to bump into next? She was like a ball rolling down the hill going faster and faster. Season 2 is much more contained. It unfolds slowly and it is not somebody on the run. We talk about Jack Ryan, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, The Hunt for Red October, Spy Game — those kinds of things when you think about espionage. The CIA is about intelligence. It's about how are you cultivating and using intelligence, which is a slower boil. It still has all of the great twists. It's not a bomb going off every week.
They got rid of those blue henleys. What will be the blue henleys of Season 2?
Safran: [Laughs] If you look closely, Alex takes her henley with her. Everyone disposes of their henleys, but Alex tucks hers in her jacket. But yes, there won't be a uniform in Season 2. But there will be great clothes. In the CIA, you can actually wear your clothes. It's a chance to see Alex's personal style.
She can have her perfect hair in public since she's not on the run anymore.
Safran: She can have many perfect hairstyles!
Quantico returns in the fall.