Last week on The View, Ryan Phillippe said that the Secrets and Lies finale was “devastating” and would leave us “affected.” Was that just another lie? After the hairpin curve we were just thrown, I’d say not—at least partly. Whether or not you are in the camp that had it all figured out weeks ago (or at least like to think you did) or, like me, have been going back and forth all season on how this would play out, I think we can all admit that the ending was, indeed, devastating, especially if you’re a parent. There have been countless dramatic sound bites over the past 10 weeks, but perhaps none so chilling as the last words of the season: “None of this would have happened if I’d just gotten Tom to the river.” The fact that the person uttering them was 12? Let’s just say I’ll be a lot nicer to the irritating kids sitting behind me at the movies from now on. Guess that means I’m definitely “affected.” Thank you, Ryan Phillippe. You nailed me. (Heh. I’ve always wanted to say that.)
Regardless of what you’ve thought of the entire season or what your opinion is of the twisty finale, it’s fitting, isn’t it, that everything ended with a big secret and an even bigger lie? Somehow it validates everything, no matter how infuriating that ending was.
Things picked up where we left them last week, right outside Jess’ door, with a hysterical Ben demanding Jess give him his monkey back. There’s a call made to a much calmer Christy, a rape accusation from Jess, a suddenly and strangely subdued Ben being taken away in a cop car after breaking into Jess’ house to confront her, and of course, an unemotional and steely detective standing just outside of the action, observing it all. Before she can follow Ben to the station, she’s called into Jess’ house. Seems Jess left some laundry soaking in the sink in the form of a blood-soaked blue jacket.
At the precinct, Cornell meets with Ben and tells him that Abby is fine, which he seems relieved to hear, yet not nearly as relieved as I’d expect a frantic parent who thinks his daughter has been taken by a suspected murderer to be. But as usual, no one asked me. Apparently Abby went for a walk and didn’t tell anyone. My annoyance at the flip way this dramatic event gets brushed under the rug and how quickly we move on to the blue jacket discovery is big, but not nearly as large as it is at Ben’s reaction (or non-reaction) when Cornell reveals to him that she knows he didn’t kill Tom. “Okay,” he mumbles, when she tells him he’s free to go. Wow. All season the man’s been trying to clear his name and get her to believe him, and all he’s got is a quiet “okay.” Of course he’s stunned, but I can’t help but feel emotionally duped. Anyone else?
Later, Abby apologizes to Ben for worrying him. She tells the same sad story about not wanting him and Christy fighting and tells him she needed to take a walk. Good grief.
Christy, who is back to being nice again now that she knows Ben didn’t kill Tom (he told her about what he discovered in Jess’ house), brings the girls back home to celebrate Christmas with Ben. After a quick mention of the divorce papers and a pleasant quip about the demise of their marriage, the suddenly amicable pair gathers the family for dinner, making light conversation about poison secrets and Tom’s murder. It’s a real Norman Rockwell moment. And it lasts for about two minutes.
When Ben steps out to put the ladder away, he discovers a pair of bloody tennis shoes hidden under the guest house (really? In all the meticulous investigating, no one thought to pull out the loose vent cover?), and it’s no secret who they belong to. Marching into the dining room, he drops them on the table (so gross). “Abby, is this blood on your sneakers?” he asks with horror. “I’m so sorry, Daddy,” she says. And there you have it, folks. It was the little monkey all along. Go ahead, all of you who have been insisting on this exact fact to us all along, take your lap. Go ahead and gloat. If you deduced this by not reading spoilers or by having watched the Australian series, you deserve it!
NEXT: The big secret is finally revealed[pagebreak]
After apologizing profusely and insisting she didn’t mean to do it, Ben makes Abby come right out and say it. “What did you do?” he asks. Cue the wavy flashback lines one last time.
See Abby sneaking over to Jess’ house, letting herself in with the key and waking up little Tom. See her telling him that if they run away his daddy will come back. See Tom happily agreeing to go with her and grabbing his favorite toy tank. See them both putting on jackets before they venture out into the rainstorm. See Abby grabbing Jess’ blue jacket from the coat rack. See them walking into the woods, and Tom wanting to look for the tank he dropped. See Abby telling him they can’t look for it. See Tom starting to cry and wanting to go home. See him threaten to tell on her and run away. See Abby crack him on the skull with Ben’s flashlight to get him to stop. See her crying over Tom’s motionless body and trying to drag it away, getting blood all over the jacket. See her scream for help. See me shaking my head knowing that Ben will believe her.
Hearing her story, Ben wonders angrily why she’d think Scott coming back would fix things. Christy reminds him that the girls overheard their fight and that Abby thought that Ben was going to be with Jess. Both parents nod a little as if that all makes perfect sense. Thank goodness for Natalie, who has now become the only voice of reason in this entire show. She suggests they call the police. (BTW, can we give Indiana Evans, the actress who plays Natalie, some serious love for her performance in this episode? She was fantastic, and I’m really not saying that because she’s the only character I respect.) Christy disagrees, saying they can’t let Abby go to jail; she’s just a baby. “Who killed one,” Natalie points out. Touché.
Continuing to insist they contact the police, Natalie uses Ben’s words against him and reminds him that secrets are poison. She’s right, I know she is, but she is also awfully quick to want to prosecute her little sister, isn’t she? Ben tells everyone he’ll fix things, and with Abby following, goes into the woods and burns the bloody sneakers. I think at this point we all knew how the rest of the show would play out, didn’t we?
I’ll make it quick: Ben sends Abby away with Christy, takes a rightfully troubled Natalie to Michael’s, and confesses to Tom’s murder, which Cornell now knows he didn’t do. Cornell is getting heat from the prosecutor to convict Ben, but Cornell knows the real killer is Abby, and tells Ben that Tom was killed with six blows to the head. Did you get that? SIX blows. Cornell also knows that Abby didn’t just “go for a walk to cool down” when she disappeared, she has video evidence that she took a bus to Jess’ house to plant the jacket in the laundry sink to implicate her. Who says 12 year olds can’t be sociopaths? Yikes.
Cornell begs Ben to reconsider and tries to make him see that covering for Abby will just allow her to do this again in the future. Ben doesn’t agree, and there’s a quick scene with Cornell showing more emotion (not to mention hair) than we’ve seen all season. Via a conversation with her ex-husband, we learn that the Ben/Abby situation mirrors what they went through with their own daughter. It’s interesting and too brief, and if the show is renewed I hope we’ll get to explore this more next season. But for this one, things end how we were led to believe they might from the beginning, but for very different reasons: Ben is in jail for the murder of Tom Murphy.
Cut to Christy driving in the car with Abby, who is still voicing concern over the family being together. “None of this would have happened if I’d just gotten Tom to the river,” she quietly says. Christy keeps driving, but I’m betting she sleeps with one eye open from here on out.
It’s an interesting conundrum, no question, especially if you are a parent. Do you protect your child at all costs, even at the expense of the other one? I think it’s easy to think Ben and Christy are fools to make the decision they made, but I’m not so sure if I was actually in that situation it would be as clear. Your thoughts?
You watched Cornell: Confidential, didn’t you? The four-minute addendum picks things up a year or so later, on Natalie’s 18th birthday. While she’s celebrating in a diner with Dave, Cornell walks in (in the same pantsuit, BTW, so I’m kind of hoping it really hasn’t been a year) and tells Natalie that since she’s now an adult she can help clear her father’s name. (Her father that I kind of got the impression is now dead.) Natalie agrees, and the last scene we see is Cornell interrupting a girls’ day out for Christy and Abby by appearing out of nowhere (as she does) and trying to burn a hole in Abby’s soul with her glare.
That’s a wrap on the Murphy murder, folks. There’s certainly lots of aspects to discuss, and I’m sure you have your opinions on how things ended up, so let’s get talking!