‘Palm Royale’ Ending Explained: Star Ricky Martin and Showrunner Unpack ‘Delicious Cliffhanger’

Note: The following story contains spoilers from the “Palm Royale” finale.

After a tumultuous season of ups and downs, “Palm Royale” went out with a bang for its finale — literally.

Episode 10, titled “Maxine Throws a Party,” centered on the long anticipated Beach Ball, cohosted by Maxine (Kristen Wiig) and Evelyn (Allison Janney), with Norma (Carol Burnett) serving as hostess emeritus as some of her own secrets began to spill out at the seams.

During the ball, Ann (Mindy Cohn) paid homage to Norma in a presentation of her life, giving Robert (Ricky Martin) an opportunity to approach a past lover of Norma’s and ask why things didn’t work out. The man explained how the trauma of finding her diabetic boarding school roommate, Agnes, dead at the bottom of the stairs changed Norma forever, leading Robert to piece together that his companion was, in fact, Agnes, who appeared to be responsible for the real Norma’s death and subsequently stole her identity.

With Norma’s proposal of marriage in mind — guaranteeing he would inherit her fortune over Maxine and Douglas (Josh Lucas) — Robert found himself “disappointed and hurt” by the reveal, according to Martin, who explained Norma had reminded him of his mother.

“Robert is very pure and doesn’t want to break that glass,” Martin told TheWrap. “It could be amazing for him — He could marry her and they don’t even have to get intimate and he would inherit all that. But he’s like, ‘Oh, that’s not me.’ He’s going to stand for justice and he’s going to say ‘No, this is wrong, for as long as he can.’ “

While the realization crushed the remaining hope within Robert, the twist also poked a striking hole in the shimmering illusion of perfection and glamour crafted by Palm Beach high society.

“It is a town of imposters … and the woman who runs the town is the biggest imposter of all,” showrunner Abe Sylvia told TheWrap. “Maxine has been trying to get this person to love her [and] has been trying to be worthy of this other person’s identity, only to discover that this thing that she was chasing doesn’t actually exist at all.”

In the midst of Robert’s realization, President Richard Nixon arrived at the Beach Ball, excited to meet the astronaut who saved Maxine after she was knocked overboard by Norma.

Everything was status quo at the ball — besides the emotional tumult between nearly every relationship — until impassioned housewife-turned-activist Mary (Julia Duffy) turned her plot to assassinate Nixon into a reality. As Nixon positioned himself to leave the Ball, Mary took her shot, which is subsequent intercepted by Linda (Laura Dern), prompting the shot to hit Robert. Whether he survived the injury remains a mystery.

Sylvia revealed the dramatic gunshot sequence was a “wink” to a real-life assassination attempt on President Gerald R. Ford by housewife Sara Jane Moore, which was thwarted by Oliver “Billy” Sipple, a former Marine and Vietnam vet who was later outed as gay. While Sylvia noted the team was playing with history — replacing the assassination attempt on Ford for one on Nixon — the events also stayed true to the time period, as Nixon frequented the Palm Beach charity ball circuit.

“Everyone’s trying to keep the outside world at bay, the Vietnam War is going on — the brutality of the world will find its way even into the most rarefied of spaces,” Sylvia said. “It’s this slow burn … Nixon is on the TV, but we’re not listening.”

With the civil and political unrest of the late ’60s finally catching up to the “rarified world” of Palm Beach, Sylvia noted the best among them — Robert — was the one to take the bullet. “The most authentic, decent person is the one who will always pay the biggest price when when the violence comes,” Sylvia said.

With Robert’s life on the line, Sylvia said the show embraced a dark, cynical ending, teasing he wanted to “give the audience a really delicious cliffhanger to go out on that also broke their hearts.”

And while “Palm Royale” has not officially been renewed for a Season 2, Sylvia said he “can’t help [himself] but think about it,” sharing some hefty topics that could be explored in a potential sophomore installment.

“The big questions will be, ‘Who are we now in the wake of tragedy?’ ” Sylvia said. “‘How does a person define themselves after coming so close to danger and tragedy?’ ‘In this country, who are we now?’ ‘Are we forever changed?’ ‘Are we just more ourselves?’

All episodes of “Palm Royale” are now streaming on Apple TV+.

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