HBO’s The Undoing: Season Finale Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
On the season finale of HBO’s The Undoing, The Bloody Truth, Grace’s (Nicole Kidman) discovery of hammer used to murder Elena (Matilda De Angelis) in Henry’s (Noah Jupe) violin case sends shockwaves of doubt and accusations throughout the group as the truth finally comes to light.
The finale starts right where we left off as Grace discovers the missing murder weapon and Henry has a lot of explaining to do. His story is that he had found the hammer in the outdoor fireplace of Franklin’s (Donald Sutherland) beach house, where they stayed when Jonathan (Hugh Grant) went missing, and then put it through the dishwasher twice in order to destroy the evidence fearing that his father might be guilty. It’s certainly a story that’s a tad hard to believe being that he’s kept this a secret for so long, but it seems to be genuine with how scared Henry seems and with how Jonathan admits that he and Elena used Franklin’s beach house for their affair – which rightfully infuriates him. Haley (Noma Dumezweni) tries to wash all of this over by telling everyone to remain calm and keep this piece of information hidden, but Jonathan is pretty ready to point fingers.
Look, while I’ve been suspicious of Henry from the start, I certainly wasn’t ready to just proclaim that he killed Elena. However, Jonathan is and after being really mad at Henry for tainting the evidence as well as pulling Grace aside to try and get in her head about Henry possibly killing her, his true colors are starting to show. Even though, at this point in the episode, I wasn’t willing to fully believe that Jonathan was the killer, there’s no doubt that he’s truly a monster. The way he goes from blaming Henry to trying to paint it like he wasn’t shows how much of a manipulator he is and it’s just making him look even guiltier. He’s honestly such a manipulator that he makes you overlook him as the murderer because it’s just so obvious, but it ends up being that obvious. Yep, Jonathan is the one who killed Elena.
Although they don’t explicitly say it until the final moments of the episode as we see what really transpired, the finale gives us the bloody truth – Jonathan was the one who killed Elena. There really hasn’t been a point where Jonathan hasn’t looked suspicious and that his charming behavior hasn’t made him look like a narcissistic sociopath, yet there’s always been something about him that’s made him either too obvious or just not that kind of evil. He is though and this finale does an excellent job showing how Grace has finally become aware of it and now has to look past it for the right thing to be done. The way that Grace enlists the help of Sylvia (Lily Rabe) to tell Stamper (Sofie Grabol) to push her contradictions while on the stand was masterful and so subtle that you don’t even pick up on it in the moment. It’s a legitimately empowering moment to see Grace openly admit her true feelings on Jonathan and not be blinded by his charm or the idea that her perfect life is no more. Not to mention, it’s finally the moment where Jonathan unravels, and the main point of the series comes to light.
The Undoing is more than just another thrilling murder-mystery, who-dun-it scandal and rather a strong showing of how appearances can be deceiving. There’s a term brought up when Stamper is questioning Grace that deals with how people look past someone’s flaws and solely focus on information or beliefs in order to maintain their own perceptions called confirmation bias. This concept of confirmation bias is literally the epitome of the entire series. Jonathan has legitimately had Grace wrapped around his finger from the start and used the idea of her precious life evaporating if he’s convicted to keep her in his corner when everyone has warned against it. It’s really like an awakening for Grace and the fact that she has to pull all of these strings just to get herself free of his control speaks to how much he gaslights her and how he uses his friendly charm and position for control. All of this culminates to have Jonathan finally just lose it and attempt to make one final escape that doesn’t end well for him.
Now, all of these great themes about control and Grace’s big move to reveal the truth would make for a slam-dunk finale, right? Well, not exactly. Honestly, having Jonathan just be the murder at the end is kind of underwhelming and makes all of the framing throughout the season kind of pointless. The great sequences of Haley questioning Fernando (Ismael Cruz Cordova) and Miguel (Edan Alexander) and Henry having the hammer lose a lot of their weight when Jonathan is revealed to be the murderer and now feel more like pointless plot diversions. Even the whole idea of Jonathan having an affair from someone else literally goes nowhere.
The finale also gives Grace too easy of an out with Jonathan being the murderer and not have to fully come to the realization that he’s a monster without having to kill anyone. Don’t get me wrong, the scene of her getting one over on him is still just as empowering with this conclusion, but it’s hard not to say that the series missed out on making her realization more powerful with her finally standing up against his control without him having to be labeled as a monster. Like if he wasn’t the killer, would she be able to look past his flaws again or would she still cut him loose? It’s much more interesting fallout than the kind of bland ending we get and plays into the psychological elements of the show much better. Also, as award worthy as Grant’s performance is, the show just kind of makes him into a goofy psycho towards the end that didn’t really feel right.
The Undoing delivers a finale full of empowering revelations mixed with lackluster realizations and answers that don’t always stick the landing but are still incredibly thrilling to watch. Grant and Kidman continue to deliver incredible performances and the series’ showcasing of control and gaslighting are as thought-provoking as ever, but it’s hard to say that the series doesn’t ultimately fall back on easy choices that create some underwhelming conclusions.