Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Monday's season three premiere of Bull.
Bull isn't messing around.
On Monday's season three premiere, Dr. Jason Bull (Michael Weatherly) returned to work three months after suffering a heart attack on the steps of the federal courthouse and with his near-death experience brought him a new-ish outlook on life. While he embarks on the long road to recovery, those around him made drastic life changes in the months Bull is away: Marissa (Geneva Carr) is now a married woman and Cable (Annabelle Attanasio, who left the series before the season began) has suddenly gone missing. It takes a while for everyone to learn what actually happened to Cable -- and the mystery of what happened to her comes to a tragic end: She was one of 37 fatalities in a bridge collapse.
Cable's unexpected death rocks the Bull team to its core, affecting each member of the team to different degrees. After Bull wins his first case back from medical leave, he's prompted to give the $2 million retainer check he receives from his new wealthy insurance company client to the woman, dying and in desperate need of a liver transplant, he was going up against in court. Why? He's not quite sure, but we're nearly certain the loss of Cable and his almost-fatal heart attack had something to do with it.
Showrunner Glenn Gordon Caron spoke with ET about the biggest developments from Monday's season opener, why killing Cable off was the only option and how Bull's heart attack changes his approach -- if it does at all -- with his life and career.
ET: What went into the decision to have Annabelle Attanasio's character, Cable, killed off in the season three premiere?
Glenn Gordon Caron: We didn't make the decision to kill Cable off. The actress came to us and said she had an opportunity to do something that she very much wanted to do and that would involve a tremendous amount of time on the calendar, probably more than a season's worth of time and that she would like to be let out of the show. The only way to explain the character not appearing for that period of time is to have her die. Remember, three months have gone by in Bull's life and none of the other characters know where Cable is. I don't think there was another choice. You can't have everybody show up one day and say, "Oh, she decided to move to Tucson!" That seems kind of unrealistic. She wouldn't have said goodbye to Bull? She wouldn't have sought him out somehow? She wouldn't have sent an email? It felt like a really interesting story opportunity, and by the way, the episode is the beginning of a much longer story about how it is that Cable came to die on the bridge that day. It wasn't something that we wanted or sought out, so much as we were asked to react to.
You mentioned that Cable dying was the only way to explain her abrupt absence. Did you entertain keeping her alive at all?
I think we would've broken a trust with the viewer. The show is fundamentally reality-based. That's not to say we don't have the occasional flights of fancy, but for the most part, it's based in life. People don't just disappear. Frankly, we're also a show that revolves around a courtroom and revolves around life and death, so the experiences seem like a story opportunity. I very much responded to the synchronicity having this heart attack and now having to deal with this recovery and this happening at the same time. It spoke to something important. The title of the episode is "The Ground Beneath Their Feet," and everybody in the episode is going through a period wherein the things they took for granted are shifting. In Bull's case, his own mortality is taken away from him and he's like, "Oh my goodness, I could die. I should pay attention to all these things I've never paid attention to." It's very much about that idea that we, for periods of time in our life, that we understand how everything works and how everything is going to be, and some outside force comes along and rocks us and changes us because we didn't see it coming. That's really what the episode is about and Cable not being there contributed to that in a meaningful way.
It's interesting to see Bull's reaction to the loss of Cable at the end of the episode. He surprises even himself when he gives the $2 million check to the woman he won his case against, admitting to her he's not quite sure why he's giving her the money. Is Bull trying to sort of start anew?
There are two answers to that question. The showrunner manual says I'm supposed to say, "Please watch so you can see what that would be." But the second answer is, I don't think he knows. He's as startled by his decision to give her that money as she is and I think it's a compendium of things -- that discovery that he's still alive and that if he does these certain things, he'll be alive for a long time. It's the realization that he lost Cable, that she's never coming back. That his relationship with the people around him are shifting, as evidenced by Marissa's marriage. The words that his ex-wife left him with. It's all of that. It's a stew in his head. The big two by four that hits him in the head this episode is when Marissa looks at him and goes, "You're rich. You're different." That was the capper.
Does this force Bull to take a new approach to his life?
I believe we are who are. We do change but the changes are more incremental than dramatic. Bull is going to keep wrestling with a lot of the demons he's always wrestled with. He's always going to be impatient and short-tempered, but maybe a little less so. He'll have moments of realization that will surprise him, just like this one does when he gives the woman the money. But he's still Jason Bull. He's still the product of that 49 years that preceded this moment.
Let's talk about Marissa's new marriage. Is this a long-term relationship you're looking to explore?
Every marriage is forever. (Laughs.) We have to move forward under that assumption that it's her intention and her husband's intention that they be wed forever. I'm not signing anything, but we have to move forward based on that.
How does Bull handle this news?
He's honest when he says to Marissa he's jealous. He's not jealous of her husband, he's jealous of her happiness. When his ex-wife says to him, "You're not good alone," he takes that to heart. He thinks she's on to something there, so when he sees someone who he also assumed would be making this journey by themselves and sees them suddenly married, he's like, "Oh, is there something I'm missing here?" You'll see more and more of that as the season goes on.
Now there's the threat of Bull's health looming throughout the rest of the series. How big of a factor will that be? Will there be something far more serious?
The threat of a health crisis is much more of the forefront of his mind. It's a television series and if he dies, it's going to be tough to do. I think you only do it once. I think the audience would feel like you were messing with them if you did it more than once. What's important about that heart attack and what stays with him is mortality: "I'm not going to live forever. I'm not bullet-proof. I drink too much. I don't sleep. Let me look at the way I live my life." That's going to take us a long way. I would never say never, but I couldn't imagine having him have another heart attack and have him live.
You mentioned the bridge collapse that led to Cable's death is actually a greater mystery for the season. What can you illuminate about that?
There's a bigger mystery there and that will be explored in the next few episodes. This is just one shocking moment that you see in the premiere, there's a lot more to the story.
What else would you like to tease about the new season?
I'd like to continue doing what we did last year, which is hopefully making the characters deeper and the court cases twisty and compelling and satisfying to the viewer. I'm hoping to spend a little more time exploring Danny's [played by Jaime Lee Kirchner] character this year. We weren't able to give her quite as much attention as the other characters got, but it's about getting to know all of them together. There might also be a new character.
There might be a new character?
Yeah. Wink, wink. (Laughs.)
Anything you can reveal about this new face?
I love surprising people so no, there's not much I want to say. Once the reality hits that Cable is gone, there's a need to fill a tech. That's all I'm going to say about it.
Bull airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.