NBC’s Superstore returns for its fifth season on September 26, but, to be honest, I’m still not over how the series ended its last season.
For those that missed the finale of the underrated comedy starring America Ferrera (which you should definitely watch), the episode concluded with Mateo (Nico Santos) being seized by ICE in the store and then being taken away in front of his employees. But does this mean Mateo (and Santos) are really leaving Superstore?
Superstore had revealed Mateo was undocumented in the second season, but his capture in season 4 raised the stakes on the show. So, fans of the series spent the summer pondering what Mateo's fate would be in the fall. Now that the premiere has almost arrived (with a glimpse of Mateo — thank god), let’s look at what Superstore’s executive producers have said about whether Mateo will return and what we can expect from his storyline going forward.
After the season 4 cliffhanger, Superstore creator and then-showrunner Justin Spitzer gave multiple interviews about the decision to have Mateo’s story become darker and more realistic. In his talk with TV Line, Spitzer said, “A lot of people will perceive it as Mateo being taken away in a van, driven to the airport and flown directly to the Philippines, and that’s not really the case. There’s detainment, there are proceedings.”
He also spoke about Santos’ place in the cast. “Nico Santos is not leaving Superstore, so I think people can at least rest assured about that,” he said at the time.
This assertion should be a major relief, but then Spitzer admitted that he won’t actually be the one determining what happens the sassiest Cloud 9 worker. When speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Spitzer said he's not sure what the new showrunners, Gabe Miller and Jonathan Green, are planning. "In terms of Mateo's arc, or the part about him being undocumented, it felt like we'd done a number of stories about him trying to hide it and him keeping this secret or it being an obstacle towards him doing something he wanted to do. It felt natural that we would take the next step and find something else to do with it," he said.
So, with the two executive producers stepping into a new position, we can't exactly rely on Spitzer's past comments entirely. But there is hope! Mateo will still play a major role in the show.
On his own Instagram, Santos also posted a Superstore season 5 teaser clip from the upcoming season that included some of the main cast members speaking about new storylines. In the trailer, Santos teases what’s coming up for his character, saying, “They are going to be dealing a lot with Matteo trying to stay within the Cloud 9 world and within the country.”
In the video, Superstore star Lauren Ash (who plays Cloud 9's resident hardass, Dina) also shared why Mateo's situation, and other true-to-life struggles like Amy's inability to get maternity leave from Cloud 9, can and should be included in a comedy that thrives on madcap comedy.
"They’re living in the same world you are and it would be weird if we didn’t address the things that are going on that affect everybody,” she says.
While this is true, it definitely wasn’t an easy decision to have the series dive into more serious territory. “There was a lot of debate about whether we should do it at all,” Spitzer told TV Line. “And then by the end of the season, America [Ferrera, who is also an executive producer] strongly endorsed it. I was excited… it felt good to have her say, ‘Yes, I believe in this. This is an important story and a story our show can tell in this specific way.’”
Mateo might not be with the rest of the Cloud 9 gang when season 5 premieres, but the fact that he's still in the cast does offer some hope that he won’t be detained forever. Beyond not wanting to see his life turned upside down, Mateo and Cheyenne’s (Nichole Bloom) schemes and banter are part of what makes this series so great.
Wherever the new showrunners take Mateo’s storyline, Superstore’s history confirms the writing will honest, heartfelt, and, of course, hilarious.