What the Hell Happened to Jackie?! Nurse Jackie Boss Reveals All on That Series Finale Cliffhanger

Showrunner Clyde Phillips talks about the cliffhanger after Showtime drama ended its seven-season run with "I Say a Little Prayer"

By Jenna Mullins Jun 29, 2015 3:27 AMTags
Nurse JackieDavid M. Russell/SHOWTIME

SPOILER WARNING: If you have not yet watched the series finale for Nurse Jackie, turn right around and run away because we are obviously going to talk about what happened. Last chance to get out before we ruin everything before you had a chance to watch it.

Well, Jackie Peyton's (Edie Falco) journey has ended. And not in a pretty way whatsoever. As the hospital celebrated/mourned the final moments of All Saint's Hospital, Jackie went into the bathroom stall where she had spent so many secret moments and snorted Raven's (the homeless patient) heroin stash.

She then took off her badge, her stethoscope and walked out of the hospital and through the streets of Manhattan until she got to Times Square, where she laid down with a bunch of people doing yoga. And you think she had found a good spot to enjoy her high, except she's actually hallucinating all of it because in reality she has passed out on the floor of the hospital and Zoe (Merritt Wever) and Eddie (Paul Schulze) are begging for her to wake up.

And just when you think that Jackie overdosed, she does wake up. Her eyes open ever so slightly as Zoe tearfully strokes her and says "you're good, Jackie." Fade to black. End series.

So what exactly happened there?! Did Jackie end up dying on the floor of All Saint's? What's next after she wakes up? We have a lot of burning questions from that cliffhanger, and thankfully Nurse Jackie showrunner and the writer of the final episode, Clyde Phillips, talked to us about what we should take away from the final episode of the Showtime drama.

E! Online: Jackie's story really ended on a dark, down note.
Clyde Phillips:
 We wanted to end the show with authenticity. Basically, Nurse Jackie is a show about a sociopathic drug addict. And you would think that that would be a character that an audience would shy away from, but they welcomed this character in the show into their homes for seven years. And the reason they did is Edie Falco.

One of the words to describe how we want people to feel about this show is compassion. Compassion for storytelling, compassion for the character of Jackie Peyton and compassion for this horrible disease that she has. And indeed it is a disease.

So Jackie did overdose?
She did overdose, yes. When you say overdose, do you mean dying?

No. At first I thought she did but then she woke up, so I assume she is alive as the season ends.
Well, that's interesting.

Are we supposed to not know if she is alive or if she dies? Because she hasn't been rushed to a hospital or anything so are those moments on the floor her last?
Well, they're putting in a line and giving her oxygen and calling Bellevue and all that. To me, personally, I think she's still alive. Many people I've spoken to have thought that she had died. If she's still alive she's still screwed, because her way of life as she knows it is now over.

David M. Russell/SHOWTIME

So since the show ended on that cliffhanger, can you tell us what happens next for Jackie?
If she's alive, she's certainly going to lose her job. She's either going to get clean or not. I mean, she's a drug addict. There really is no knowing what she will do. You don't get cured of being an addict; you just stop using for as long as you can.

Were there any other endings you guys were thinking of using?
There was another ending. We were going to do a whole other ending until about halfway through the season. We realized we weren't doing it right. [The alternate ending] was Tony Shalhoub's character plugs in his e-cig to recharge it, and because the hospital is in such terrible shape, it catches fire. The hospital starts burning. Raven, who is the heroin addict, is handcuffed to the bed. Everybody starts wheeling patients out and running out and the fire gets worse and worse and they're outside and they look in and realize they don't have Raven. So Jackie runs back in because all souls are worth saving. She runs back into the hospital and it's falling around her and she can't physically save him because he's handcuffed to a bed. The roof falls on him and people are screaming at her to come out.

We see the ER collapse and then we cut to an alley and that window [in the basement] getting something thrown through it and Jackie comes through that window head first at ground level, almost like a birth. And she sees her friends and colleagues on the sidewalk to her left and starts running down the alley and then stops halfway and turns around and runs the other way and merges with the uptown traffic of humanity and anonymity.

And we were going to end on that, which in it of itself is fine, but we realized we weren't ending on character. We weren't ending on Jackie Peyton. We weren't ending on consequence, so as we realized that we turned the boat around a little bit.

David M. Russell/SHOWTIME

One of my favorite moments of the season and one the most frustrating was when finally Jackie got her license back and the very next scene she's popping a pill! Can you talk about the importance of that scene?
She was fighting for all this and staying sober so she could become a nurse and regain her identity. And once she regained that, it was appropriate within the boundaries of her character to cross that line again. And it's also dynamic storytelling and you're reaction was exactly the reaction we wanted. It shows the grip and the bite that this disease has on her.

Was it important that Jackie not "get away" with everything she's done?
Yes, it was. I think one of the themes of the show is consequence and we couldn't have it end blue skies and pie in the sky. That would have really been a disservice to the viewer and to the authenticity of storytelling. And we debated this for months. We would just sit around and talk about it all the time. And we didn't necessarily want to end with her being dead. I'll say this, we were not afraid to end with a question mark and that question mark is really the look on Edie's face when Zoe says, 'Jackie, you're good.' Because in the beginning she says, 'Make me good, God.' And her eyes flutter open…and she moves her lips just enough to say that she heard that. Now, is that the last thing she'll ever hear? We'll never know. But this brilliant actress gave us that moment.

When you sat down to put together the final season, what were you hoping to accomplish and do you think you accomplished it?
What we wanted to accomplish was to tell a story authentically, emotionally, compassionately and to have our faithful audience who lived with this morally ambiguously character for seven years think that it was time well spent. And I think we did accomplish that.

What did you think of the final episode of Nurse Jackie? Do you think she lived through that or do you think she died? Let's debate and speculate in the comments below!