Viewers who tuned into the new Fox show Monarch were left stunned by the events of the premiere’s final moments.
Monarch follows the story of a powerful family of country music legends. Susan Sarandon plays matriarch Dottie Roman, far and away the biggest star of the family despite husband Albie Roman’s (Trace Adkins) big hit from long ago. Dottie wants to ensure that the family legacy is protected for generations to come, so she starts putting a plan in motion to promote her daughter Nicolette "Nicky" Roman (Anna Friel) as the next face of the Monarch label, with her other children, Gigi Taylor-Roman (Beth Ditto) and Luke (Joshua Sasse) also in positions of power.
The show’s creative team offered an explanation after the shocking series premiere.
SPOILERS ahead for the Monarch series premiere.
Who died in the Monarch series premiere?
There was no question early on in the series premiere of Monarch that Dottie Roman wasn’t long for this earth. After receiving a cancer diagnosis, her future was uncertain. However, she made the decision to end her life on her own terms after the family concert.
It was a very sudden end date, as she dies at the end of the first episode with daughter Nicky by her side.
After nabbing the Oscar-winning actress and featuring her heavily in the buildup to the series, does this mean that Susan Sarandon’s time on the show is over?
What does this mean for Monarch?
Not at all, assures Fox and the show’s production team.
Variety spoke with Fox president of entertainment Michael Thorn, who said that Dottie’s death was always part of the plan.
"It was always designed that the matriarch of the family was going to die at the end of the pilot," he said. "But it was also always designed that the matriarch would then come back in several of the episodes throughout the first season in flashback."
After its special premiere following Fox’s NFL doubleheader, the series follows The Resident on Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT, beginning September 20. As soon as the first episode ended, a look ahead at upcoming episodes revealed that Sarandon was still in the picture, leading many to wonder what it all means.
"There’s two things happening in the series," Thorn continued. "The first one is, as you know, there’s the succession story of who will inherit the crown of country music after Dottie Roman passes away. But the other part of it, which plays out, in part, in the flashback, is Trace Adkins’ character says, the Roman legacy is built on lies."
Fans can expect to see a "mystery-thriller" in the past colliding with the events of the show’s present-day story.
Executive producer Jon Heldman spoke to the Television Critics Association press conference about how Sarandon is deeply rooted in the show's mythology. "Susan’s a part of the show," he said. "She hovers over everyone. She influences everything. She comes in and out of the show. So she will appear in multiple episodes and we have some great stuff planned for her."
"There’s nothing more fun for us than writing for Dottie," added showrunner Melissa London Hilfers.
Monarch isn’t the first series to operate in a dual timeline. Animal Kingdom, which recently bowed after six seasons, featured two timelines that ran parallel to each other across several seasons, even after that show’s matriarch Smurf, played by Ellen Barkin, was killed off in season 4.
The first episode of Monarch is available to stream right now on Hulu.
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Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.
When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.