Baby Reindeer’s Ending is the Perfect Cap for this Staggering Netflix Series

The drink at the bar wasn’t the first time Donny had mirrored Martha in Baby Reindeer. Parallels are drawn between them through the eyes of his ex-girlfriends Keeley and Teri. After Martha is convicted, Donny continues to obsessively catalogue her messages to him, telling Keeley “you really do get a sense of how mad she was,” while coming across every bit as unhinged. In an earlier episode, Teri had described Martha as “a fantasist who’s constructed an entire identity for herself” – the dramatic irony being that she didn’t know Donny had done exactly the same by posing as a builder named Tony on the dating app where they met.

There’s remarkable empathy in Baby Reindeer’s choice to show where Donny and Martha overlap, and remarkable frankness in the scene that precedes that final moment. Before Donny walks into that bar, he’s at an extremely low ebb and so chooses to listen to a playlist of Martha’s voicemails tagged as ‘complimentary’. Through his earphones, he hears his now-convicted stalker – the woman who violently attacked his girlfriend, harassed his family and sexually assaulted him – tell him how attractive, talented, special and funny he is. At his lowest point, Donny finds comfort in Martha telling him that he shines.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Gadd pressed play on those messages in real life; it’s a neat TV way to express how his damaged psyche finds validation from his stalker’s attention.

Confronting Darien O’Connor

Donny needs bolstering in those final scenes because he’s just visited the man who, years earlier, drugged and sexually assaulted him over a series of attacks that culminated in rape. After publicly sharing his experience of abuse in an unplanned monologue at a comedy competition (in reality, Gadd wrote and performed a celebrated Edinburgh show about it), Donny goes to his attacker’s flat. Fresh from glimpsing the violent revenge fantasies he’s scrawled on notes posted around his bedroom wall, we anticipate a confrontation. Is Donny about to really lay into this piece of shit? Will he expunge all the rage, self-hatred and doubt he’s suffered since the attacks, and come away a new man?

No, is Baby Reindeer‘s gut-twistingly honest answer. Donny marches in to his rapist’s flat… and does nothing. He finds himself right back in the same screwed-up power dynamic from years earlier and behaves just as he did back then. He doesn’t castrate the man, he accepts a drink and an offer of work from him, and even apologises for having disappeared from his life. Even when his rapist comes close to acknowledging the assaults when he describes Donny’s confessional viral video as “very brave”, and promises that their new venture “won’t be like last time”, Donny is unable to do or say a thing. He leaves the flat and breaks down in the street outside.

It’s crushing, for Donny and for us, but it’s also one of the most truthful scenes on screen about the poisonous power sexual abusers continue to hold over their victims. A cathartic confrontation between Donny and his rapist might have been the expected TV version of events, but this frozen regression is the honest one.


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