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Single Drunk Female Boss Explains Why Sam Chooses Herself in Bittersweet Season 1 Finale

Sobriety has saved her life

Jean Bentley

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Single Drunk Female. Read at your own risk!]

By the end of the first season of Freeform's Single Drunk Female, the epnymous character had one year of sobriety under her belt. Twenty-something alcoholic Sam (Sofia Black-D'Elia) was forced to move back home to Boston after a spectacularly public flame-out at her New York media company. After a stint in court-ordered rehab and a small relapse, she ultimately started embracing the teachings of the recovery meetings she began attending, reconnecting with old friends Felicia (Lily Mae Harrington) and Brit (Sasha Compère) along the way. When sparks flew with recovery buddy James (Garrick Bernard), the couple waited the required year to actually get together — only for the years-sober James, not Sam, to relapse in the finale, causing Sam to break off their budding relationship.

The show, from executive producers Simone Finch, Jenni Konner, Daisy Gardner, Nora Silver, Phil Traill, and Leslye Headland — who also directed the pilot — also stars Ally Sheedy as Sam's mom, Carol, and Rebecca Henderson as Sam's sponsor, Olivia. Below, showrunner Gardner discusses the finale with TV Guide and reveals a few hopes for a potential second season.

Sam ends this season being the most stable person in her friend group. Is she even able to see that?
Daisy Gardner: I really wanted to take her from this place at the beginning of the season where it was so uncomfortable to just live daily life — where being in your own skin is hard. And then she has done the work while other people have been spinning out, so ironically, yes, at the end of the season she is the one who's in the best place.

That's definitely what the audience is hoping for at the beginning of the series, but it definitely wasn't the guaranteed outcome. You definitely showed a realistic journey — it wasn't guaranteed that this girl was gonna get it together.
Gardner: No, and we had always talked about the fact that relapse is part of rehab, and it's part of recovery. We also didn't want to treat it lightly and use it as a plot device. So because she had been trending upwards, it was hard to get her to that place and it seemed like it was going to be a Deus Ex Machina. It seemed like it was going to come out of nowhere and we didn't want it to feel cheap and unearned. To us, one of the most together characters you meet early on is James. He's charming, he's witty, he's smart. He's got a cool, high-tech background and job and him as a functional person with a deeper secret seemed interesting to us.

The thing about James as a character is you think he is this really intelligent, really well-put-together person who's got it all together, and it turns out that even those people can can screw up too, can relapse too.
Gardner: And I think one of the differences between them is when Samantha is off the wagon, she is a hot mess — like, she is a mess mess. And James is someone who can still keep it together and go to work the next day. He maybe at the moment isn't keeping it together, but he can fake it in the rest of his life, which I think is interesting and I think is actually more of a challenge.

Sam makes a very mature decision to break it off with him once she realizes he's been drinking. In a potential second season, what would that relationship look like? Especially if he's starting over with his sobriety.
Gardner: I think their relationship is all about trust, but to go back for a second, I think Sam knows that this person that she is in love with and cares deeply for is going to mean the end of her sobriety if she chooses him in this moment. So in the last episode, she basically has to choose between the person she loves and her sobriety — her life. Those are the stakes for her: my life or this person I love. So she does the hard thing. She bets on herself. She chooses her sobriety, and in doing so that's going to push away James. It also means that their clock has reset. They can't be together until each of them has a year and a day of sobriety. So this season, it was Samantha who did not have it. And next season, it's going to be James, and the big question is going to be does she trust him enough? And can she wait that year and a day for him the way that he waited a year and a day for her?

Sofia Black D'Elia, Single Drunk Female

Sofia Black D'Elia, Single Drunk Female


The tables have turned and it feels like a really great way to show how Sam, who was kind of skeptical about this whole situation to begin with, has really embraced it.
Gardner: Yeah, it saved her life. So by the end of the season, that's where she is and that's why she makes the decision she does.

Brit chooses Sam to lean on at the end of the finale after she does actually go through with the wedding. What it is about Sam that Brit keeps returning to?
Gardner: I think Brit, on a deeper level, knows that her critique is wrong. In the dressing room she says to Sam, "You're really bad at this type of thing," which wounds Sam deeply, and Brit showing up to Sam's house is an admission of like, "Oh, this person actually does have her shit together and maybe she does know something." I think there's something in their friendship that's interesting where Sam being the screw up has always been comfortable to both of them. It means that Brit can feel good about herself because there's always her friend who's messed up worse than she has. And it means that for Sam, when she gets approval from Brit, who she thinks is this good, ideal person, that maybe Sam is this good, ideal person too. Maybe she's worthy if Brit finds her worthy. And so when Brit calls her out and says "You're really bad at this," that is devastating and it's also not true, which is the admission of Brit showing up to her house.

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We still don't have a full picture of what went down between Sam and Joel before he got with Brit, and I'm wondering if that's a story you're still hoping to explore or if it's irrelevant.
Gardner: None of us want to explore it in a romantic context, but we think there's something fun about Sofia and Charlie being friends and what their friendship looks like from here on out. And the same way that Sam let Brit down, she also let Joel down, and they bonded over caretaking of Sam so that was where their connection was and that's where they came together. What does it mean for their relationship that this thing that brought them together, the screw-up, is no longer screwed up?

Now that we see Sam a year sober and she seems to be on solid footing, what challenges does she have ahead after reaching such a milestone?
Gardner: Some of the challenges ahead are being afraid to move out of your nest and your safety zone. She knows that rehab is the thing and recovery is the thing that has brought her here. It's the reason that she's able to live, it's how she got her life back and some of her relationships back, and she's going to cling tightly to it. And at a certain point, that's going to make her world smaller rather than larger. And at a certain point, the biggest risk is to stay where she is and not do anything, and I think that is something we'll explore in Season 2. If your work and your life and your friends are all recovery, you're making your world smaller rather than larger. So we'll have to break free from that.

Getting sober seems like such a private experience. It seems so internal, and so much work you're doing on yourself. It's really interesting to see it play out and actually be talked about in a way that's relevant to young people's lives instead of what we've seen of alcoholics on TV before.
Gardner: So much it is internal, but it also is external in the fact that it's your community and these meetings and these programs that get you through, and it's putting all your internal out into the world in a safe spot, in a meeting. What I've heard from a lot of people is one of the hardest part of the pandemic for people in recovery is the fact that everything's online. Human connection, and your group, and your community are kind of what'll help pull you out of this. I think it's really interesting, the idea that a lot of this is now on Zoom. It makes it one step harder for some people and one step more accessible for others, just in terms of the internal versus external, showing the community, showing recovery, showing the fact that it takes a village to pull someone back out and onto their feet, I think is crucial. The sober trudging buddies are a huge part of the show.

Sofia Black-D'Elia, Single Drunk Female

Sofia Black-D'Elia, Single Drunk Female

Freeform/Elizabeth Sisson

It's so true, the pandemic has made things easier to hide. Like, you can wear your business casual on top, and below you're still wearing your pajama pants. What has been the most meaningful part of this experience for you?
Gardner: I love hearing from friends and family who are like, "We're enjoying the show! We love Felicia! She's hilarious!" or, "Samantha's so fun to watch," or, "I love seeing Ally," or they love Sasha, they love Brit. So that's all fun, but it's also been great and gratifying to hear from friends and family members in recovery that we haven't screwed it up. And I hope that's the case. And that is a huge testament to Simone and to Jenni for just treating this with intentionality and trying to honor what it truly means for someone in their 20s trying to get sober.

Also, thank you for putting a fat woman on television and just not mentioning her body size at all, ever.
Gardner: She is so fabulous and such a goddess, and all I want for Season 2 is to get into her fun life. We have so many great characters where I'm like, "We need the episode about them! We need the episode about that!" Like, 10 episodes is not enough. We need to know all of these people. We have just been blessed. Lily Mae Harrington is hilarious and fabulous, but also brings gravitas to it. We were so lucky with our cast. Everybody is great.

Single Drunk Female Season 1 is streaming on Hulu.