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[Warning: The following containers spoilers for the latest episode of Emergence. Read at your own risk.]
As expected, Emergence is already starting to fill in a few of the blanks from the series premiere, but now we have even more questions. In Tuesday’s episode, Jo (Allison Tolman) learned more about who’s been sending goons after Piper (Alexa Swinton) and erasing all evidence of her existence, and it turns out, it’s not a shadow group at all. Rather, the team of tech mogul Richard Kindred (Terry O’Quinn) has been dispatched to deal with the crash coverup, and the man got particularly cagey when confronted with the metallic, glowing card Jo found in his minions’ crashed vehicle. The real reason for his concern, it seems, lies with what that piece of equipment signals about who — or what — Piper is.
After Piper fell ill with an inexplicable and untreatable flu, Jo teamed up with Benny (Owain Yeoman) to track down Kindred and confront him. The tech mogul feigned disinterest, but Jo’s compassion caught the eye of his employee Emily (Maria Dizzia), who later tipped her off about what medication would help Piper but not cure her (two milligrams of copper — now there‘s an unconventional prescription). Jo then reached out to Emily for more information and was stunned to hear that Piper isn’t a typical girl; she is one of the company’s robot designs. A robot! Take, that Boston Dynamics.
At first, Jo didn’t believe this news. But then she tried Emily’s suggestion to completely rid Piper of her ailment — putting the yellow stone on her wrist — and it worked like a charm. Piper popped up from her hospital bed, good as new, and those pesky visions of herself fall into nothingness stopped — for now, at least. But as the final shot indicated, Jo is going to have to do some thinking about how to handle Piper from here on out. It was one thing for her to be a danger to the family when it was about protecting Piper from outsiders; now, everything’s changed. It could be Piper who’s the real danger. (Even she suspects she was the one who took down the plane herself, and her magnetic talents have already been well-documented.)
To make some sense out of this bombshell revelation, TV Guide spoke to co-creators Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas over email to find out exactly what is going with Piper and what it might mean for her relationship with Jo going forward.
So is Piper a robot or an android or something new altogether?
Butters and Fazekas: She’s AI. But her origins aren’t immediately known or understood. The explanation of who made her and why is a really important factor.
Are her visions simulations of some kind or real hallucinations that she’s experiencing?
Butters and Fazekas: The [Episode 3] “hallucinations,” where the world was dissolving around her, were her programming breaking down, and that’s how it manifested to her. Those are different than the little pieces of memory Piper sometimes has.
Is Jo afraid of her now? Or does she still have a maternal instinct for her?
Butters and Fazekas: I’m not sure those are mutually exclusive concepts. I think it’s complicated for Jo — I think you can both fear something and love something. And it’s a big question that’s addressed in a huge way in [Episode 4]. In some ways everything is different — but in other ways it’s not. Jo is still Jo, Piper is still Piper. And it’s a mind-blowing thing for Jo to handle. [The next episode]’s central question is “what is real” — are Jo’s feelings about Piper real? Is Piper real? Does it matter?
Are we going to find out more about why Jo and Alex (Donald Faison) split?
Butters and Fazekas: Haha, everyone always asks that. There’s not one definitive answer to that question — there was no affair, there was no huge incident that predicated their split. They married young and drifted apart. We want to make sure talking about it feels organic and not expository, so you’ll see moments where they clash on how they approach things, you see windows into what their marriage was like, and why they divorced. It’s funny, people always guess that Jo was the catalyst for the divorce, and they’re not wrong. But it wasn’t really acrimonious — they both realized it had run its course.
It seems that they still enjoy each other’s company. Is there any chance that this incident brings them back together in a romantic way?
Butters and Fazekas: We love keeping Jo and Alex in this gray area of being recently divorced, but not always knowing how to be divorced. They are really successfully co-parenting their daughter, and there’s obviously still love there, and when you’re stressed or tired it’s easy to fall into old habits. In many ways these events will bring them together, and in other ways it’ll drive them apart. That said, we all ship them hard.
Emergence airs on Tuesdays at 10/9c on ABC.