‘Expats’ Ending Explained & Finale Recap: Why Did Margaret Decide To Stay Back?


After the brilliant penultimate episode, Expats‘ finale felt less impactful but nonetheless conclusive. The final episode puts all our doubts to rest. The hour-long finale is not about the protagonists unexpectedly finding joy in their miserable existence but rather about how they learn to live with the pain.

Expats, directed by Lulu Wang, revolves around one incident and its effect on the characters introduced in the series. There can be nothing more devastating than losing one’s child in a foreign country. A feeling of hopelessness immediately settles when thinking about the helpless condition of the one who was taken away. The sudden disappearance of her youngest son, Gus, left Margaret completely devastated, yet she also had to find the strength to not give up on her search for him. Hilary, Margaret’s friend, found it exceedingly difficult to adjust to the social expectations in the foreign country. She had grown up in an abusive household, and from a young age, she knew the kind of marriage she did not wish to settle for. In the course of the six episodes, we bear witness to Mercy learning to take accountability for her decisions and making peace with her reality.

Did Charly break up with Mercy?

After the night at the hotel, Charly and Mercy had been together. Charly had introduced her girlfriend to all her friends, and Mercy’s Korean ancestry intrigued them. They were happy and in love, but the problem was that Mercy had not disclosed her pregnancy to her partner. The baby was growing inside her, and all Mercy wanted to do was ignore it. She was confused, and letting it be was her solution. That was how Mercy had lately been dealing with most of her problems in life. Living with the constant pain of having caused irreversible damage to a stranger had taken a toll on her, and she could not fathom making a life decision at that stage. It was almost as if things were happening to her, and she had no control over them. She had stopped trying, and she was ready to be punished in any way or form for the terrible mistake she had made.

Mercy was surprised to see David waiting for her at her apartment. They had not been in touch lately, but he looked forward to taking care of her and the baby. David had always wanted to become a father, but that was not something Hilary wished for at that point in her life. After Hilary showed doubt in David when Margaret accused him of being involved in her son’s disappearance, he found solace in Mercy. He could relate to the guilt she suffered from. They were both immensely lonely, and they developed a no-strings-attached relationship. After failing to get Hilary pregnant, David assumed he was infertile and was shocked when he realized that Mercy was carrying his child. Even though the situation was not ideal, David wanted to play his role as the father, but Mercy was not willing to accept his help. She had made up her mind to deal with the pregnancy all by herself. David offered her money, knowing her financial situation, and hoped for her to consider his proposition.

Mercy soon realized it was high time that she confessed the truth to Charly. She tried to portray herself as the victim of the curse she often spoke of, but Charly was too disappointed in her to take it seriously. She believed that Mercy used the curse to not take accountability for anything that happened in her life. She accused Mercy of being too selfish to even recognize the privilege she was born with. As someone living Hong Kong, Charly believed Mercy would never understand her struggles. She gave Mercy a second chance, but she once again proved to be a disappointment. Charly stormed out of the apartment; she no longer wanted anything to do with Mercy. 

What was Mercy’s plan?

Even though Mercy’s relationship with Charly ended on a bitter note, she helped put things into perspective. Mercy realized that the baby growing inside her did not deserve to be punished because of the pain she was suffering from. She finally consulted a doctor and found out the baby’s gender. It was almost as if Mercy woke up from a dream, and she realized that everything she saw in it was real. Her pregnancy was real, and she was about to become a mother. For the sake of her child, she had to be the one in control of her life.

Mercy met Margaret and Hilary, and in a way, she believed she owed them. Meeting Margaret helped her realize that she must live and find happiness for the sake of her daughter. Margaret wished nothing but the worst for Mercy after the Gus incident, but with time, the hatred dissipated. Mercy was ready to offer her child to Margaret to compensate for her past actions. As a mother who had lost her son, Margaret could never punish Mercy by taking her child from her. There was no possible way to compensate for the loss, and the only way forward was to keep on living and accept that the pain was there to stay. Mercy learned that it was Hilary who had complained to her boss about her. Hilary accepted that, as petty as it was, it felt only right to hurt Mercy in some tangible way. Hilary eventually made peace with the situation; maybe she realized she and David were not meant to be regardless of Mercy’s presence in David’s life.

Mercy’s mother was dumbfounded when she found out about her pregnancy. She did not expect to be bombarded with such life-altering news right after landing in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, she was supportive of Mercy and planned ways to provide the right nourishment to her daughter and her unborn child. She suggested that Mercy return to New York and get a spacious apartment for her to stay in. Mercy was initially against her mother staying with her throughout the pregnancy, but she eventually realized that her life was quite a mess and that it was only her mother who really understood her. At the end of Expats episode 6, Mercy broke down as she hugged her mother. It was only in front of her that Mercy could be vulnerable and cry her heart out without being judged. Even though she did not have an ideal relationship with her mother, Mercy’s “umma” proved what it took to be a mother.

Was Hilary guilty of killing her father?

Brinder convinced Hilary to meet her father, as his health was deteriorating with time. Hilary traveled to Los Angeles and was surprised to see her stepbrother and sister in the hospital room. Upon their father’s request, they traveled all the way from Delhi to meet him. Hilary was appalled to see her mother adjust to the situation. Brinder did not blame her husband as much as she cursed his second wife and her children. She believed her husband had changed, and it was the “gold digger” who brought misfortune upon her. Hilary wondered why her mother settled for such a pathetic existence instead of living independently. Brinder could not imagine being a single mother, especially because of the judgmental comments and stares. She preferred to live in an unhappy marriage rather than be single.

Hilary was surprised to hear Sukhi and Fauja praise their father. They further added that their father had only good things to say about Hilary. Hilary did not have respect for her father, and even after meeting Sukhi and Fauji, her opinion did not change. The next morning, when she met him at the hospital, she lied about being pregnant. She could not watch him die peacefully, thinking he had been an exemplary parent to his children. She was not ready to forgive him, and she hoped for him to suffer till the very end. Hilary reminded him of his monstrosity and of how she had spent days aiding her mother’s wounds and broken bones while he fell in love in another country. Hilary despised him, and she made sure that he knew about her true feelings.

David and Hilary were on good terms once again, and he waited for her at the airport to welcome her back to Hong Kong. Hilary confessed to David that her words had killed her father, and she felt guilty about it. But at the same time, she believed that whatever she said came from a place of complete honesty, and she was simply too tired of holding back her anger all these years. 

In Expats episode 6, we find out that David and Hilary have decided to be friendly neighbors. Divorcing him was not an easy step, but it was necessary for her well-being. After marrying David, she had always imagined her life with him regardless of the circumstances, and the sudden change in their dynamics was not easy for her to cope with. As difficult and painful as it was, Hilary focused on the little joys of life to keep herself motivated. Puri helped her get rid of the dull old carpet, and at the end of Expats, we watch a joyful Hilary carry her new colorful carpet back home. She did not know what life had in store for her, but she was not afraid of the challenges. She prioritized her mental peace over societal expectations. Maybe she finally felt in complete control of her life, and she was glad that she did not settle for anything less.

Why did Margaret stay back?

Margaret finally decided to head back to the United States after realizing that she was not considering the wellbeing of her children. It was an agonizing decision because leaving the country meant giving up on finding Gus. As a mother, she struggled to make peace with it. Before leaving, she met Mercy and advised her to find the strength to continue living because, no matter what, they had to try. Margaret experienced a sense of gloom while packing her belongings. She knew how important moving out of Hong Kong was for Daisy and Phillip, and she did not wish to disappoint them any further. 

At the airport, when it was finally time to board the plane, Margaret realized she did not want to leave yet. She could not imagine abandoning Gus, even if it meant separating from the rest of her family. Margaret knew that Daisy might hold a grudge against her for a long time, but she could not forget her responsibility towards Gus. Clarke did not force Margaret because he knew exactly what she was going through. Essie accompanied the rest of the Woo family to the States. Maybe it was her attachment to the family that made it difficult for her to leave, or she was afraid of the family falling apart if she stepped out. She knew how deeply Margaret was suffering, and maybe that was all the more reason for her to stay.

During Expats‘ ending, we saw Margaret walking on the streets of Hong Kong. Even though she barely had any clue, staying in the city where she lost Gus made her feel hopeful about finding him someday. She wanted to be there in case he ever turned up. The way Margaret’s story ends suggests that the sadness will remain. She could not think about chasing happiness, knowing that her son might be in danger. It was almost as if she decided to punish herself for making a wrong decision, and she would continue to do so until she found Gus. Not everyone can overcome trauma, for some, it becomes their entire life.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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