‘The Sympathizer’ Showrunner, Stars Unpack That ‘Horrifying’ Finale Reveal

Team Downey also tells TheWrap there’s opportunity for Season 2 of the HBO series

Duy Nguyen as Man in "The Sympathizer" (Hopper Stone/HBO)

Note: This story contains spoilers from “The Sympathizer” finale.

The “The Sympathizer” finale revealed where Man (Duy Nguyen) has been all this time.

Sunday’s episode of the HBO series showed that the Captain (Hoa Xuande) and Bon (Fred Nguyen Khan) were caught after the General’s covert mission to take back Vietnam goes awry. The Captain has been writing his confession the entire season, reading it out loud to a guard at the reeducation camp to be considered by the Commissar. It’s later revealed that the Commissar is none other than Man, who is deformed after falling victim to a napalm strike and wears a mask over his face.

“When you’re writing, you want to surprise people, but you also want to give them enough hints and want to make it make sense,” showrunner Don McKellar told TheWrap. “The problem with seven, the final episode, is that there are quite a few revelations that you don’t just want to stack up on top of each other. When we revealed him, we wanted it to be ‘Oh yeah, of course. That’s who it is. I knew that on some level.’ “

Throughout the course of the series, Man is seen in flashbacks through the Captain’s own manifestations.

“Man was always the philosophical, deep thinker, the person with the passion to drive even a nation, and I think the Captain found that gave him purpose, it gave him meaning to his own life,” Xuande told TheWrap. “We see manifestations of what we believe Man to be now, after the war, until we discover at the end the reality of his situation and its horrifying, it’s disturbing and in the series I think it’s captured well from the book.”

Upon learning of the Captain’s return to Vietnam, Man tortured him in an effort to tap into memories that he’s repressed and teach him an important lesson — that nothing is more precious than freedom and independence.

“[Man] is broken, he has suffered through a lot and couldn’t see his friend for many years and he thought, in his mind, sending his friends away is saving them and now they are back. So what else can he do to save his people?,” Duy Nguyen told TheWrap. “The only way he knew how is to make them experience the thing that he experienced, to be tortured the way he has been tortured, so that they can finally learn the lesson and finally move on with their life and be themselves, be free finally.”

McKellar emphasized that the Captain’s friendship with Man and Bon is the “emotional heart” of the show.

“The Captain is conflicted. He’s drawn to both sides of the political spectrum, but the one consistent thing is his love of his friends, which is almost the thing that finally breaks him down. That’s almost his fatal flaw,” he added. “So that relationship and sustaining the three of them throughout was a lot of work in the room.”

The series ends with the Captain and Bon escaping the reeducation camp after the former swapped places with Man, and leaving Vietnam on boat. Though “The Sympathizer” is a limited series, Team Downey teased there’s always an opportunity for more story to be told through Viet Than Nguyen’s other books.

“We’re so in love with these characters and I think with Hoa as our are Captain it would be amazing,” producer Amanda Burrell told TheWrap. “There’s three books, there’s going to be more, Viet is obsessed with these characters.”

“But we are right now focused on just getting ‘The Sympathizer’ out to the world and seeing hopefully that everybody appreciates it,” Susan Downey added. “There’s more story to be told for the Captain’s journey in this world, but right now it’s like anything. I’ve been part of other things that have had sequels, you just have to get the first one right, you can’t look too far past that or you’re going to mess something up.”

All episodes of “The Sympathizer” are available to stream now on Max.

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