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Mrs. Davis’ holy love triangle opens up about romancing Jesus

The divine love affair is an ambitious emotional throughline

Jay (Andy McQueen) leans behind a counter and smiles at Simone (Betty Gilpin) who’s sitting at the diner counter in a still from Mrs. Davis season 1 Photo: Elizabeth Morris/Peacock

[Ed. note: This post contains some light spoilers for events in episode 6 of Mrs. Davis.]

It’s not often you’re having sex and are then magically transported to the diner where your husband is working. But then again, it’s not often that you’re a nun on a quest for the Holy Grail, having sex with your ex-boyfriend, only to find yourself magically transported to the spiritual diner where you meet your husband, Jesus Christ. That’s what makes the love triangle at the center of Mrs. Davis so tricky.

In episode 6, Simone (Betty Gilpin), neé Lizzie, is at her wit’s end after running into an obstacle on her quest, and winds up having sex with Wiley (Jake McDorman), her ex-boyfriend. During the act, she’s transported to the diner where she usually meets up with Jay (Andy McQueen), also known as Jesus Christ. Although she regularly goes to the diner, it’s the first time she’s there mid-coitous. The result is classic Mrs. Davis: zany, heartfelt, unexpected, and possibly vaguely sacrilegious. For Gilpin, it’s exactly what she wanted for Simone.

“I think that sometimes a modern writing overcorrect is: for a woman to be badass, she has to always have the answers, and always have status in the scene, and be super sarcastic and dry all the time. Nothing vulnerable about her — to kind of make up for all the years of us sobbing and cardigans with no answers and only vulnerability,” Gilpin says. She sees Simone’s backstory as being very much in line with that. “But her faith really dissolved one of those walls at least, and against the fiber of her being made her love the world and love Jesus and have this attachment and connection to the things that she had maybe spurned.”

Still: How do you sell a love story with Jesus Christ? By playing it as straight as absolutely possible.

“I just saw it as a love story; I saw everything that was happening within the walls of the falafel restaurant as its own thing,” McQueen says.

Jay (Andy McQueen) smiling and laughing at Simone (Betty Gilpin) Photo: Elizabeth Morris/Peacock

That means that even when she’s popping in mid-sex, Jay still treats her with the same glowing warmth he always does. The falafel joint — and, interestingly enough, even the King of kings himself — is a safe place away from all the madness of the rest of the show.

“When we see all of these different worlds and how they work and how they collide, I feel like it’s so balanced, and it feels like it’s time to breathe when you get to falafel,” he says. “And it’s this moment where everything kind of wishes away and you’re just here with these two people.”

Of course, the complication in episode 6 is it’s not just two people: Wiley is also there, sorta. And in this case, he’s not so pleased that he’s made his partner see god while they’re having sex. McDorman, on the other hand, loved it.

Wiley (Jake McDorman) sitting on a train seat next to Simone (Betty Gilpin) in a still from Mrs. Davis Photo: Sophie Kohler/Peacock

“I like the idea of the archetypal hero, who isn’t the hero of this story, but really thinks he is and wants to be, and is constantly reminded that he is not,” McDorman tells Polygon.

While Wiley’s arc has frequently jumproped with the humor and pathos of his life story, in episode 6 he comes to the crushing realization that “the love of his life” might really, actually be committed to another guy: the one and only Jesus Christ. In this case too, McDorman says showrunners Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof encouraged him to take even the zaniest twist “for real.”

“Like, it would really be devastating if the love of your life is married to God!” McDorman says. “Or, there is no god and she’s crazy. Both are not good scenarios for Wiley.”

Simone (Betty Gilpin) sitting on a couch in her nun habit Photo: Greg Gayne/Peacock

Of course, this all goes back to the heart of the show: What can you believe in? Is any higher power real, and is an algorithm better to have faith in than a god? Mrs. Davis, at its best, mulls these questions through its characters, letting them stumble and fumble their way around to answers. Though on paper “a love triangle with my childhood boyfriend and Jesus Christ himself” might seem ridiculous (and — at least some of the time — it is still one of the more ambitiously absurd parts of the series), it’s also the heart of the show, the drop in the wacky roller-coaster ride that is Mrs. Davis.

For Gilpin, it was the “ultimate acting exercise” to do line reads in the first few episodes that nodded to Simone’s lover’s identity without fully divulging it. But Gilpin has gone further, describing Simone as the type of character she was waiting for, one that showed her “what it feels like to be alive,” and the tender kernel at the root of all the Looney Tunes chaos of the show — even when she’s just spiritually dropping in on her husband while her ex-boyfriend goes down on her.

“She has proof of Jesus’ existence — there’s no faith, for her, there’s no risk, actually, like there is for Mother Superior,” Gilpin says. “And I think she learns that being alive and loving someone — you have to take in the possibility that they aren’t always going to be there, or that it’s not only comfort and only safety. And I think that’s being a nun, and that’s being a person. And I think she learns that lesson, the hard way.”

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