Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for the CW series finale, In the Dark.
After the quirky crime thriller In the dark fell victim to the CW’s unusual spring 2022 ax shift, the series’ producers announced that they had filmed two possible endings for season 4. One would function as a typical cliffhanger, while the other would attempt to bring a sense of closure to the series. Show of maximum tension and vertiginous rhythm. Regardless of the events that preceded it, few viewers could have predicted the series’ shocking conclusion. In what essentially amounts to a simple revenge thriller, Murphy (perry mattfield) swears revenge on Max (casey deidrickthe burial of ) She finds out it was Josh (Theodore Bhat) who called off the deal and caused Max’s death. So, she convinces Felix (Morgan Krantz) to take her to Josh’s hidden cabin in Missouri and brutally murders Josh with a butcher knife. The sheer absurdity of this ending recalls that of Saint in another place, rosaanneY Newhart, although there is no evidence that this is all just a dream. A more precise comparison can be made with the end of Thelma and Louiseas Murphy and Felix walk off into the sunset, blissfully indifferent to their likely demise.
Is the outrage of the fans justified?
The fan response to In the darkThe series finale seems to transcend the boundaries of the “polarizing” and “divisive” nature of, shall we say, the infamous Lost final. In fact, In the darkThe gruesome stab-fest invited near-universal disgust (as far as the internet can tell), the series’ subreddit awash with claims that the ending essentially retconned the entire series. However, such analysis is based on a subjective and emotional response to the series. In the darkThe unique place of in the primetime canon has always lied with its seeming disregard for the expectations of the viewer, which really gives the fugitives of Guiding Hope a mind of their own. Despite its abrupt and disturbing nature, it can be argued that In the darkThe series finale is, tragically, the perfect way to end the series, and to track why, one must look at the consistently irreverent nature of the show.
Although it spent its four seasons on the CW and shared a similar visual style and editing pace to other shows on the network, In the dark eventually came to resemble the irreverent nature of Ozarks Y Better call Saul both in its theme and in the decisions of the characters. The Guiding Hope team arc in seasons 1 and 2 might just seem like a group of twenty-somethings embroiled in the hottest messes. However, Season 3 sees the group descend in a full downward spiral, past the point of no return. It’s likely that many viewers became even more disengaged from the show as time went on, progressively losing empathy for these initially endearing characters. However, like his friends who are eternally in their messes, Murphy has managed to engage a sizeable portion of the audience in the same way.
In essence, the narrative “trick” that In the dark What she’s managed to do is make the audience feel for Murphy the way her friends feel compelled to stick with her even as she leaves a trail of destruction in her wake. The limits of unconditional love are tested when Jess has her final encounter with Murphy at the end of Season 3. The truly unconditional love that Max and Felix feel for Murphy is what allows Murphy to feel something beyond herself, even if only for a fraction of a second. The audience also feels this unconditional love, as they faithfully support Murphy so that she has a redemption arc and does not kill Josh. She feels because she is just human nature. However, the ending demonstrates that Murphy will act of her own free will when her soul demands it, regardless of the people who support her (as well as the audience that keeps her show going).
Josh vs. Murphy
As season 4 descends into the Bolt saga, Josh’s obsession becomes dangerously pervasive, to the point where his only modus operandi is to make sure Murphy “rots in prison for the rest of his life.” His madness is shared even by Chelsea (lindsey broad), and a mid-season arc has them both reveling in their obsession with Murphy. The utter absurdity of Josh’s fixation requires an equivalent ending to his story. Josh sent Murphy to prison, ruined his life, and now killed the only man who had the ability to break the cracks in his severely fractured ego. At this point, it can be argued that the only way for Murphy, and the show itself, to really “win” is to kill Josh.
When Felix suggests that Josh feign sympathy for Murphy, the content of Josh’s speech, no matter how false, is not technically incorrect. Of course, Murphy would be no better than him if he chose murder. These are the very words that the emotionally engaged audience is likely shouting at Murphy. She doesn’t care, and the fact that it’s coming out of Josh’s mouth (and that it’s just a survival ploy assisted by Felix) underscores how much he needed the ending to sidestep the troubled protagonist/antihero trope taking the best path. at the end.
Much anger has been directed at the show’s producers for their promise of a “satisfying ending”. Certainly not a very satisfying ending if the viewer has been constantly rooting for Murphy to “do the right thing”. However, looking at the series from an analytical and retrograde point of view, one can see it as a fascinating character study on narcissism and relationship exploitation brought on by internal and external trauma. Murphy’s entire personality from the beginning was characterized by his self-destructive responses to various circumstances in her life: her progressive blindness, as well as her feelings of abandonment by her biological parents. Josh’s murder is simply an insane response to an insane situation: a twisted defense mechanism. The proof is in the episode’s synopsis: “Murphy manages to distract himself with a new motivation: revenge.”
A moment from ‘Thelma and Louise’
A final season statement in the midst of such a wild story offers the possibility of a truly out of the ordinary ending with no ramifications. This brings to mind the classic ending of Thelma and Louise, in which the titular duo heads straight for the Grand Canyon. There is a wry sense of humor to this kind of ending, in which the viewer is asked to suspend all disbelief and freeze the last shot in their mind for eternity. Even in the dark finale provides an interesting spin on this concept, with the final scene serving as something of a whimsical epilogue. Murphy’s Thelma and Louise The moment is the stabbing itself, and as she and Felix ride into the Missouri farmlands to the soothing beat of Johnny Cash’s “Flesh and Blood,” there’s a sense of pseudo-closure in which one could let a exasperated but cathartic sigh. It is the realization that in this brief moment, now forever etched in stone, all is well.
In the grand scheme of things, In the dark’the series finale s is probably one of the most genuinely shocking final episodes to ever appear on television. Regardless of how the ending might have “worked” structurally in the writer’s room, it actually plays out as a surreal, dreamlike ending sequence of a darren aronofsky movie, with the viewer wondering if what they are witnessing is real. Slowly the viewer realizes that yes, it is real. It’s a bold, weird, canonically dangerous, and possibly brilliant choice that can only be afforded with the certainty of a series ending order.