‘Hacks’ Showrunners on the Season 3 Finale: ‘We Like to Have the Audience Feel the Rug Is Pulled Out from Under Them’

[This story includes spoilers for the Season 3 finale of “Hacks.”]

For three seasons, “Hacks” fans have watched up-and-coming comedienne Ava Daniels (Hannah Einbinder) learn the ins-and-outs of finding success as a woman in the entertainment industry by helping aging stand-up Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) revitalize her career. Though Ava and Deborah seem to be kindred spirits, it’s clear they both struggle through their partnership, with Deborah’s old ways often coming into conflict with Ava’s more progressive outlook. Now, at the end of the television series’ third season, Ava finally takes a lesson out of Deborah’s book, threatening to reveal negative information about her to the press in order to assure her dream job as head writer for Deborah’s new late night show.

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Discussing the finale in a recent interview with The New York Times, showrunners Lucia Aniello, Paul W. Downs, and Jen Statsky address this shift in power dynamics and what it means for the future. Aniello said, “We like to have the audience feel the rug is pulled out from under them. That also forces us to push the characters and their relationship further.”

Part of the beauty of this finale is its complexity. Even though Ava is stooping to Deborah’s shark-like levels, she’s doing so for the benefit of both their careers knowing Deborah can’t see the forest for the trees and is merely operating from a place of fear.

“It speaks to the truth of this industry,” said Statsky, “which is that when you start out, you’re like, oh, if I could just get this job, that’s the dream. That would be the pinnacle. But as you work, you start to realize that these career benchmarks, they’re amazing and they’re important, but they do feel hollow without people to share them. Ava is realizing that once you start to succeed, those things don’t satisfy you wholly. You need more. You need to share it with someone else.”

This is a difficult ask in the world of stand-up comedy where so much of the art form is processed through one individual. Staying true to the challenge of finding ways to work with others while still bringing the funny was a priority for the “Hacks” team.

“It was crazy to pitch a show where we’re going to do this character study, but also we’re going to write a lot of good standup jokes,” Downs said to The New York Times. “It was a tall task.”

Adding to this sentiment, Statsky said, “We all love comedy. We feel really lucky to make a comedy. It’s grounded. It’s real. But first and foremost, we’re trying to make people laugh.”

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