‘Tracker’: Justin Hartley Breaks Down Finale Cliffhanger That Will “Lead To A Bigger Mystery” In Season 2

SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the Season 1 finale of Tracker.

Colter Shaw is off the case — but just until the next fall broadcast season begins.

Season 1 of CBS‘ Tracker ended Sunday night with one of Colter’s (Justin Hartley) hardest and most personal cases yet when a family friend’s daughter goes missing while storm chasing with a friend. Officials are certain that she and her friend were lost at sea, but Colter isn’t so sure.

Not only does he use his unique skills to bring Lizzy’s daughter home, he also is able to expose the seedy underbelly of the town that’s covering up her disappearance, which is linked to a string of other crimes.

Audiences were left on a cliffhanger as, at the end of the episode, Colter uncovers yet another cryptic fact about his past, leaving him with more questions about his family’s involvement in his father’s death.

As it turns out, Lizzy (Jennifer Morrison) had been keeping a box of his father’s things, which she recently sent to his sister Dory, who had failed to mention anything about that last time she and her brother had spoken about their dad. In fact, she’d even brushed off Colter’s concerns about the details of their father’s death when he’d found new information that connected his dad to some shady government dealings.

Star and executive producer Justin Hartley spoke with Deadline about that finale episode as well as what’s in store for Season 2 as Colter continue to unravel the mystery surrounding his family.

DEADLINE: The episode ends on a pretty big cliffhanger about Colter’s family, insinuating his sister and mom may be covering some things up. How did you feel about where it all left off?

JUSTIN HARTLEY: I feel great about it, to answer your question. When you have a show like this, and you end it in such a good way, and you wrap up all these stories in a pretty little bow, it’s cool, and it’s great. But we have a whole other season to shoot that we have to make better than Season 1. So…while we wanted all those storylines wrapped up, we also wanted those bows to sort of lead to other questions— bigger, deeper questions — about his past. So I think we did that in answering some of these questions that we had built up all year. I think we did a good job of making sure that the answers to those questions then lead to a bigger mystery, something that we can unpack in Season 2.

DEADLINE: In an earlier episode, Colter was able to reconcile a bit with his brother. Do you think that Colter really believes his brother is innocent now? Where does he stand on that familial mystery?

HARTLEY: I could be totally wrong, but now that the season’s over, I’ll tell you what I what I did. What Colter does is he finds people, and he reads people. He reads body language. He can look at people. He looks into their eyes, and he understands people. He’s a soulful guy himself as well. I chose in that moment when Jensen [Ackles] was looking at me, and the way that he was playing it, I chose in that moment, just based on his performance, basically, that I was going to really, really want to believe him.

So I think that’s where Colter is. Obviously, he doesn’t have all the answers. He’s the kind of guy that he will turn every rock and make sure that it’s 100% one way or the other. He’s a percentage guy. But I think if he was putting a percentage on it, I think he would say, he’s 85% sure that Russell didn’t do it. I think that by the end of Episode 12, he’s 95% sure that Russell didn’t do it. In the finale, you find out that Lizzie has been talking to Russell every once in a while. There’s something else is going on. So maybe he didn’t push him, but did he plan something? He knows a lot of information about that night that Colter doesn’t know. It’s very odd. There’s their stuff in this box that they’re not sharing it with Colter. There’s a reason for that. So does Colter think that he pushed him off the cliff now? Probably not. But does he think that he had nothing to do with anything or doesn’t have any knowledge about his father’s death? And that he’s completely in the dark just like Colter is? I don’t think that’s the case either.

DEADLINE: As an actor, do you prefer to know where the story is going and what the real answer is, or do you prefer to stay in the dark as well?

HARTLEY: Well, I’m a curious guy. I can’t really help myself but to brainstorm. Also, it’s tough because I’m behind the curtain a little bit too, being an EP. So I kind of know the story. I can make up stories in my head, but I do know some of the facts.

DEADLINE: So you already have it all planned out?

HARTLEY: We have information there. But then there are things that happen throughout the year where, for instance, you might have a guest star that comes on, and it just clicks…Okay, now we’re using more of that. So all of those stories, those aren’t things that we have mapped out for five years going, ‘Okay, he’s going to interact with this characters 17 times from…’ We don’t have that. We just kind of know where that’s going. But as far as the actual event that happened, and who’s responsible for it, we have that. Now, the way that you get there changes throughout the season, because you might have something going on, and you plan it a certain way, and you have all your ducks in a row, and then all of a sudden, something pops in, you’re like, ‘Whoa, this is special, we should hang out here a little bit longer than we thought.’

Then there are other times where you have an idea, and you think it’s going to be amazing on paper, and then you see it, you’re like, ‘Okay, we should move on from this, because I think we’ve told that story, and it’s time to go.’ The guys that I work with, Elwood and Ken, they’re very collaborative. I guess no idea is a stupid idea, but I have had a couple of really, really stupid ideas. But sometimes those ideas lead to better ideas. Sometimes someone can take your stupid idea and go, ‘Well, what if this?’ And then all of a sudden, it becomes something a little bit better than what you had.

DEADLINE: Some of the cases this season are pretty wild. They’ll start in one place, and end up somewhere I never expected. Is that what you mean?

HARTLEY: It’s tough, because you have to make these cases smart, because the audience is smart. You have Colter, who’s very smart and resourceful. You have Bobby, who’s very smart and resourceful. You have Reenie, who’s very smart and resourceful. And you have an audience who’s really smart and resourceful. We make every effort to nail every single point. We’re not 100%. We make mistakes all the time. In every episode, we make mistakes, I’m sure. I know that I do. But that’s not intentional, it’s not for lack of effort. We’re trying to make it perfect. Eventually, we’ll get there. When we make it perfect, we’ll stop. But until we make it perfect, we’ll keep doing more.

DEADLINE: So you got to act alongside your wife, Sofia Pernas, again. How did that idea come about, and how was it to be back on set together?

HARTLEY: She hated it. [Laughs]. No, we have a great time together. I just thought it would be a really cool idea. It was sort of my idea from the beginning to have this character that comes on that you just mentioned. I think it was in the second episode, there was a big reward for a car…there was a line that one of the ladies said, ‘Word on the street is that Billie is circling the case.’ And then Coulter kind of eye rolls. If you’re really paying attention, you go ‘Oh, he’s got a rival, this guy Billie.’

So my idea was to tease that and intentionally named the character Billie, and then reveal that Billie is, of course, Sofia. We didn’t get to tease that as much as I would have liked, just because we were so pressed with time. But that was the intention. Then when she came on, to be honest with you, I’m not sure how much of that character aspect that she brought was actually written. I think you’re just watching a talented actor. There were a few things we had the benefit of discussing privately that, normally, you don’t have time to do that. But when you live with the person, you can talk about that stuff at dinner, and go, ‘Hey, what about this?’ So we really got a chance to dialogue that.

DEADLINE: Can we expect Billie back in Season 2?

HARTLEY: She’s definitely coming back. We have some pretty cool stuff for her to do next year. She’ll be back several times next year. We have plans to bring back my whole my family…We have a lot of questions to answer with Colter’s mother. Jennifer Morrison does this really wonderful performance. I think we’d be remiss not to bring her back. We built this really great group of actors [who are] hopefully more than willing to come back, because we’d love to play more with them. We have a bunch of stories to tell with all [of them].

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