'The Undoing' Finale: The Killer Is Revealed (RECAP)
[Warning: The recap below contains spoilers for The Undoing Season 1, Episode 6, "The Bloody Truth."]
For as harsh as I've been on HBO's The Undoing at times, I have to give the series credit for not pulling out the twist ending. It would have been so easy for the show to take a last-minute turn, revealing the murderer to be anyone other than Jonathan (Hugh Grant). I'd read theories speculating Lily Rabe's Sylvia, and I've had my own suspicions about Donald Sutherland's Franklin, However, while providing initial shock value, neither of those options would have been as narratively satisfying as the ending we got.
Once the murder weapon is found in Henry's (Noah Jupe) violin case, it all but seals Jonathan's fate. As we speculated last week, Henry was simply trying to protect his dad. He found the hammer stashed at the family beach house and has been hiding it ever since. Worse, he ran the hammer through the dishwasher, thereby removing any DNA evidence. And yet, even at this point, Jonathan continues to deny, first accusing Fernando (Ismael Cruz Córdova) of following him to the beach house and planting the weapon, and then stooping to the gutter and suggesting that maybe Henry himself killed Elena. Jonathan later apologizes to Henry, explaining that those were the words of a desperate man, not "the real" him, not "the real dad."
Meanwhile, Hayley (Noma Dumezweni) "advises" the family to "conceal or destroy" the murder weapon, ethical implications be damned. That's because Hayley knows once the hammer goes into evidence, the case is as good as over. And Hayley still has a couple of tricks up her sleeve that might just win Jonathan the trial. The first is putting Jonathan himself on the stand to explain his side of the story. Jonathan talks of his love for Elena (Matilda De Angelis) and her son, Miguel (Edan Alexander), who he not only cared for as a patient, but says he grew to love as a son. He states that he has no history of being violent and has dedicated his life to helping others. This is the charming and caring doctor version of Jonathan on full display.
Hayley's next and perhaps most crucial move, is calling Miguel to the stand. The prosecution's attempts to object are denied, and Hayley questions him about the night of the murder and his family history. Miguel reveals that he slept through the night, suggesting there was a chance Fernando could have left the apartment without his knowledge. More importantly, Miguel admits that his parents sometimes fought and argued and that he'd told his teachers that this scared him. It's a dirty and desperate tactic from the defense, one that Fernando calls "vile" when he charges into Hayley's office and trashes the place.
However, while the jury might be starting to believe Jonathan's innocence, one person is no longer fooled. That person is Grace (Nicole Kidman), who has struggled to come to terms with Jonathan's guilt, or lack thereof, all season. She wanted to believe her husband so that Henry wouldn't see his father as a monster. She had been grappling with whether the family was fixable, and finally made up her mind.
Early one morning, she calls Sylvia for a mysterious favor, and then tells Hayley that she will testify on Jonathan's behalf. Grace says she will tell the jury that she doesn't believe her husband could be a killer. She takes the stand and talks of his non-violent past, his gentle nature, and his empathy. But it backfires — just as she seemingly has planned — when the prosecution begins to question her. They bring up Jonathan's aggressive grabbing of Grace's neck at the beach house, her "terrified" call to the police, her conversation with Jonathan's mother about his lack of grief and remorse over his sister's death, and Grace's confession to Sylvia that she believes her husband suffers from narcissistic personality disorder.
Of course, this was all intentional on Grace's part; she knew this would all come to light should she take the stand. It's obvious she asked Sylvia to clue the prosecution in on the narcissistic personality disorder confession. And by making sure she was called by the defense, it meant that the prosecution could cross-examine her without restrictions.
"She took him down on purpose," Henry tells Franklin, and this time, it doesn't seem like Henry is mad about it. I guess when your own dad tries to pin a murder on you, it makes you less likely to defend him. Jonathan is furious about it and blames Hayley — who loses her cool quite a few times during the cross-examination — for "losing Grace," though she fires back that he lost her because he didn't get rid of the damn hammer.
The climax of the series sees Jonathan taking Henry, before they're supposed to arrive in court, for "one last breakfast" — and then attempting to flee with his son in tow. A dramatic police chase follows as Jonathan spins out of control, flipping between the "fun dad" and the short-tempered killer.
"This will not be my legacy," Jonathan yells as we cut back and forth from the car to the night of the murder, where we finally see that Jonathan did indeed bludgeon Elena to death.
"You murdered a person," a scared Henry tells his dad. "Not the real me, not the dad you know," Jonathan says, the closest we'll ever get to an admission of guilt.
The chase — and the season — ends on a bridge as Jonathan gets out of the car and looks to jump over the ledge. Henry pleads with his dad not to jump as Grace and the police arrive (Grace, natch, in a helicopter, as it seems money can buy you just about anything but a good marriage). Jonathan eventually climbs back down as Grace takes Henry and runs to safety while the police close in on Jonathan. While some might complain of not getting to see Jonathan convicted, I think this makes for a more exciting ending. We got answers, Jonathan finally admits to the murder, and it provides some last-minute drama while keeping the Fraser family the focus. And for a series that has been predictable at times, I'll take the unexpected chase over more courtroom drama.
As for The Undoing as a whole, I still believe it was a series with top-level performances and high production values that told a competent if uninspiring story. It was another tale of murder upending the lives of rich white folk, and nothing here felt necessary or original. And while I appreciate the show sticking to its guns and not pulling a last-second swerve, I hope this is the last we see of Jonathan and Grace et al.
The Undoing, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO