‘Baby Reindeer’ Ending Explained: Did Donny Turn Into Martha?


Baby Reindeer, which has been written and created by Richard Gadd and is partially or completely inspired by his own life, is not an easy watch. It tells the story of Donny Dunn, an aspiring stand-up comedian, who is harassed by a serial stalker called Martha. Donny is a survivor of sexual abuse that was inflicted upon him by his mentor, Darrien, as well as Martha. And the mixture of all these complicated issues disallows him from forming a healthy relationship with Teri, who is a trans woman. At his lowest, he blurts out the truth about his life on the stage during a stand-up comedy competition, and that changes his life completely. The video of his act goes viral. His career improves. His relationship with his parents becomes stronger than ever before. And when Martha sends a death threat to Donny and his family, she gets jailed. However, the absence of Martha causes Donny to go into a downward spiral that causes his unraveling.

Spoiler Alert

In order to imprison Martha, Donny had to listen to hours of voicemails from her. And he got weirdly obsessed with it. He categorized her voicemails according to the emotion that she was feeling at the time of recording them. He threw his whole career away to “figure Martha out.” When his ex-girlfriend Keeley and her mother, Liz, asked him to move in with them, like he used to until Martha infiltrated their house, things took an even stomach-churning turn. Donny found the script for the show that he had pitched to his abuser, Darrien. That motivated him to meet with him again. When he showed up at Darrien’s doorstep, instead of confronting him about what he had done to him in the past, Donny accepted Darrien’s congratulations for a compelling set (that was about Darrien assaulting Donny) and he even agreed to work with him in the future. Then, in the most bone-chilling turn of events, right after Donny learned that Martha kept calling him “Baby Reindeer” because he reminded her of her toy reindeer, Donny’s interaction with a bartender mirrored his first interaction with Martha. Donny looked up at the bartender with an ambiguous reaction, but I think he realized that he had become like Martha.

The entirety of Baby Reindeer is a head spinner. It’s funny, sad, and triggering. It unabashedly talks about the complicated nature of ambition, talent, love, sexual abuse, drug abuse, identity crises, the lack of support male survivors of abuse get from the system, and more. But that ending is something else entirely. I don’t think I have seen anything like this before. The only thing that comes close is Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, where Stanton starts his career by capturing a Geek, reaches new heights of success, and then becomes a Geek. That’s an oversimplification, though, isn’t it? In a twisted way, Richard Gadd condones the actions of stalkers and abusers and then also shows us what makes them who they are. It’s not like somebody wakes up one day and decides to become a stalker or a sexual abuser. It’s an ugly and gradual process. And, much like bullying, where a person who has been bullied processes their trauma by bullying someone else, an abuser not only makes the abuse they’ve faced a part of their identity but also passes it on to another person so that their identity is defined by that horrible act as well.

I’m not a therapist or someone who has extensively studied the abuse that men face on a daily basis. So, my reading can be completely wrong and maybe even a tad bit insensitive. Hence, I apologize in advance. Now, I think Baby Reindeer’s ending shows how tough it’s to overcome abuse. Humans have a finite life, and it’s pathetic that someone decides to be an abuser and ruin every life that they can get their hands on. No, I don’t think that “understanding them” can make the world a better place. Darrien had access to everything that he wanted, and yet he chose to do what he did. Martha could’ve accepted Donny’s empathy and strived to become a better person. Yet she chose to be a monster to him. And even though Donny somehow managed to turn his wounds into armor, he couldn’t stop them from harming him. Yes, you can say that with a better support system, quicker police work, and an efficient channel for artists (of all kinds) to make a living, Donny’s fate could’ve been avoided. But, I guess the only way to stop this cycle of abuse is with sex education and an overhaul of every institution that harbors abusers.

It’s true that even though there’s a reason behind someone’s abusive nature, their actions are not justified. But if there’s a pattern behind a certain set of reasons leading to abusive behavior, then that should be addressed. For starters, people who are too immature to handle a baby shouldn’t be allowed to get married. Schools should have sex education as a part of their curriculum. People should constantly learn about consent, sex, and gender. Religious institutions that have a history of abuse should be shut down. Professions that are synonymous with protecting and celebrating sexual abusers should be shut down. We, as a species, need to learn how to treat each other like humans, not lab rats who can be toyed with, before we try to reach Mars or pool our resources to achieve some stupid and flashy technological marvel. Because once the damage is done, it’s irreversible. Those who manage to avoid the situations that are shown in Baby Reindeer are lucky. Those who overcome abuse are incredibly courageous. There are many who don’t, and they succumb due to a variety of factors (with the most insidious one being victim blaming). And the bottom line is that nobody deserves to go through an ordeal like that.

I know that this whole article on the ending of Baby Reindeer is a bit scattershot because I have been shaken to my core. You can say that that’s effective storytelling. But I hope all the artists involved in the making of the miniseries, especially Richard Gadd, have successfully battled their demons and are in a better place. I can’t even imagine the mental toll it must’ve taken to make a show like this. We live in a time when media literacy is almost dead. Everyone wants an ending that’s black or white. So, to leave viewers in a very conflicted space where they have to think and discuss before coming to a conclusion is, in a strange way, impressive. I pray that whoever is going through a tough time manages to overcome their issues. I want everyone to watch the miniseries on Netflix, especially those who are ignorant about sexual abuse, and learn how to look out for people who are going through a tough time and do their best to give them the help they need.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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