“The reaction to Danny and the Stevens brothers, totally, we knew that that was going to come,” co-showrunner Ben Nedivi told TVLine, “[but] I don’t think we knew how big a reaction, just like we didn’t know, by the way, how big the reaction to the Danny/Karen thing [would be]. What’s amazing to me, as a writer, is seeing how, now, the reactions to Karen have almost totally died down, and now it’s all about hating Danny. I think there’s something in our nature as viewers that we want to hate someone. We need that villain.”
At the end of season three, when the other Happy Valley colonists found out about Danny’s involvement in the drilling accident, they made a choice to exile him from the colony, and he was sent to live alone in a crashed North Korean space capsule on Mars.
Speaking after the season three finale revealed Danny’s comeuppance, the showrunners defended his character arc. “I know he’s a controversial character, but I’m really proud of what Casey Johnson did with that role, because it’s sort of a thankless role in some ways,” Matt Wolpert said. “That character is very easy to hate, but he, also, is going through so much, and there’s such pain inside that character that is driving those really negative actions that he does.”
Nedivi added, “A tragic story of the character is really what we set out to tell, and that’s why the ending felt fitting for him.”
With Danny left in the crashed North Korean lander and season four now underway on Apple TV+, fans might have expected a pretty solid update on what happened to Danny Stevens. But mysteriously, the season four premiere only mentions Danny enough to deepen the mystery surrounding his fate. The traditional opening montage doesn’t single him out as the show jumps forward a decade, but does reveal a newspaper clipping that doesn’t count Danny amongst the crew who returned to Earth from the Mars mission.
Just two scenes in the season four opener confront Danny’s death. The first is when Commander Danielle Poole visits Danny’s wife Amber at their daughter’s birthday party. The two women spark a conversation about moving on from their husbands’ demise, and Amber says that it gets a little easier to cope with every year. The scene ends with Danielle furrowing her brow while staring at a picture of Danny in happier times. Later, Danielle visits NASA for a meeting, and expresses reluctance to return to Mars after “what happened to Danny”. She doesn’t get into details.