Maya Stern In ‘Fool Me Once,’ Explained: Is Maya Dead Or Alive?


Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once has been adapted by Danny Brocklehurst, with the episodes being directed by David Moore and Nimer Rashed, and the protagonist of the miniseries was Maya Stern. Throughout the eight very long episodes, Maya tried to figure out how it was possible that her recently deceased husband, Joe Burkett, had come back from the dead to meet their daughter, Lily. So, let’s see what kept her motivated during the investigative process, whether she was innocent or guilty of any kind of crime, and what the result of her altercation with the Burketts was.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Maya Stern suffer from PTSD?

During Maya’s stint as a helicopter pilot for the British Armed Forces, she ran into a sticky situation where she had to ensure her team was rescued safely after a brutal attack that had left several of them injured. While keeping a check on the perimeter, she was informed that a vehicle was approaching the rescue site. Nobody was sure if the car had terrorists or civilians. So, it was up to Maya to take the call. If she shot it down, she would risk killing a bunch of innocent people. If she didn’t shoot it down, she would risk a second attack on her team’s convoy. Eventually, she decided to hit the vehicle with a rocket and avert a potential assault on her team. However, while going through the aftermath of her attack, the team found out that the vehicle actually had civilians, and that always haunted Maya Stern. She had sleepless nights, and she had to take therapy to deal with her demons. It was a classic case of “white guilt,” i.e., a sympathetic portrayal of white aggressors or invaders after they unleashed an unnecessary amount of violence on innocent people. This trend in movies and shows has been going on for the past decade as countries with a history of invading others are being critiqued by those who have been victims of their actions. That said, given how shallow this trope is becoming because Maya’s PTSD doesn’t have any real bearing on the plot of Fool Me Once and the character development of Maya, it’s possible that it’s going to die a slow death.

What Was Maya Stern’s Connection With Corey?

Maya’s PTSD was exacerbated by the fact that she was fired from the British Armed Forces after the video of her attack on innocent civilians was leaked to the public by the ethical hacker known as Corey Rudzinski or Corey The Whistle (because he was a whistleblower). Just when Maya thought Corey’s wrath was over, he returned with the threat of leaking the audio from the attack. However, Maya’s sister, Claire, intervened and struck an arrangement with Corey to keep the audio a secret and not torment Maya anymore because she was still suffering from PTSD. Corey thought that the threat of the leaked audio was enough to keep Maya in check, and that was why he didn’t make it public. That wasn’t all, though. Claire gave Corey the opportunity to expose the Burketts, their pharmaceutical empire, and Joe’s murderous past. Claire was an employee of the Burketts, and Maya was married to Joe Burkett. So, when Maya tried to connect the dots between Claire and Joe’s murders, she found out that Claire had made calls to a gaming arcade a bunch of times. Corey used to occasionally work from there, and when Maya tracked a car that was parked in front of the arcade, it led her to Corey, thereby bringing him into her life yet again. That said, instead of threatening her with leaking details from her past, Corey helped Maya solve the mystery surrounding Claire and Joe’s deaths. He led her to the body of Tommy Dark, i.e., the captain of the yacht, who had witnessed Andrew Burkett’s murder at the hands of Joe Burkett. Still, Maya cast doubt on his intentions when she was accused of killing Tommy Dark. Thankfully, that didn’t dissuade Corey from helping Maya expose the Burketts and their fraudulent activities.

What were Maya Stern’s personal and professional relationships like?

Maya seemed to have an amicable relationship with her sister, Claire. But they weren’t close enough to share every detail about her affair and her illegitimate child. I mean, it’s not like that whole subplot went anywhere, and it wasn’t integral to the main storyline anyway. If Claire had an affair with Joe, then the screen time of that subplot would’ve been justified. Given that there wasn’t anything like that, I guess the writers of Fool Me Once forgot to develop the dynamic between Maya and Claire. To be honest, most of Maya’s family and friends were very underdeveloped. Her mother-in-law, Judith, was both caring and manipulative, but that was because she wanted to know the truth behind Joe’s murder and since she was the architect of Claire’s death. Caroline and Neil had a cordial relationship with Maya, but things began to change when they had to talk about Joe’s will. Maya’s bond with Joe Burkett was pretty surface-level. There was nothing deep or emotional going on in there. Maya’s friend Eva played a somewhat important role with her nanny cam, but the way Maya entirely sidelined the harassment that Eva was facing from her ex-husband was weird. Maya’s other friend, Shane, was ready to go to any extent to help her. He helped her with the investigation into the people who were linked to Joe Burkett. He inadvertently helped Maya determine the identity of Claire’s killer. Briefly, he started to stalk Maya as he appeared in and around her house at odd hours of the day. It was revealed that he was just concerned about her mental health. Maya had a shrink, but they probably had just one scene together, and that’s not enough to judge what their relationship was like. Maya and her daughter, Lily, were cute together. In addition to all that, Maya forged a friendly bond with DS Sami Kierce, as the latter was trying to determine Maya’s role in Joe’s death, but he eventually helped Maya get her revenge after learning about her backstory.

How Did Maya Stern Find Out That Joe Burkett Had Killed Claire Walker?

Maya grew suspicious of Joe’s actions when he didn’t seem distraught about Claire’s murder and also because he was the first person who informed her about Claire’s death. Then there was the case of the gun with which Claire was killed, i.e., a Glock 17. Even though there was no reason to use the gun that was hidden inside the gun locker, Maya noticed that it had fingerprints on it. Only Maya and Joe had access to it, and since Maya was away on a mission, it was obvious that Joe had used it. Still, just to be sure, Maya asked Shane to match the bullets from her gun with the bullets that were found in Claire’s body, and it was a perfect match. Maya cornered Joe in a park and made him confess to killing Claire because she was aware of the Burketts’ pharma fraud as well as Joe’s violent past. Her doubts about Joe’s innocence were completely erased when he wielded his gun (which was empty) and pulled the trigger. That was when Maya decided to kill him to avenge her sister. She made it look like a robbery. However, she was spotted doing all this by one of the two bikers (who was tangentially linked to Maya because he was there with the son of the coach of Claire’s daughter’s football team), Rambo, who had crossed her path on that fateful night. That said, Rambo didn’t expose Maya’s criminal actions because he didn’t want to link himself to a murder, and yet, Sami found him and made him spill the truth about Maya.

Why Did She Launch an Investigation Into Joe Burkett’s Resurrection?

Throughout the course of Fool Me Once, the audience is forced to think that Maya had nothing to do with Joe’s death and that she was genuinely losing her mind because of her PTSD and whatnot. The writers thought that the big twist about Maya being the one to kill Joe would be mind-blowing. However, it just made her an unsympathetic character because revenge doesn’t whitewash her heinous act of killing a bunch of civilians on the battlefield. She tried to present herself as this morally upright person while painting the Burketts as the villains, even though she was a villain herself. Anyway, I digress. I guess that Maya was really sure that she had tied off all the loose ends after murdering Joe. She thought that it wouldn’t come back to bite her and that she would live a peaceful life with her daughter, Lily. However, Judith magically learned about the nanny cam. Then she got Lily’s babysitter, Izabella, and Izabella’s coworker (I suppose), Luka, to wear Joe’s clothes and deepfake Joe’s face onto Luka’s face in order to mess with Maya’s head. So, I am guessing that Maya was always sure that Joe was dead (because he bled out in front of her), even though she kept saying that she wasn’t allowed to see Joe’s body, and she just wanted to know who was trying to make it seem like Joe was back from the dead. Now, why did Maya go on this long-winded journey to learn about Joe’s past and how he had killed Andrew after killing a kid called Theo Mora? I don’t really know. Maybe she knew that it was Judith who was toying with her head, and she wanted to give Judith a taste of her own medicine by dismantling this perfect image of Joe that she had in her head.

How Did Maya Stern Die?

Yes, Maya is dead. She is very, very dead. She was shot three times by Neil Burkett because he thought that killing her would bury the fact that the Burketts were responsible for selling drugs with dangerous side effects and that Joe Burkett was responsible for the deaths of three people: Theo Mora, Andrew Burkett, and Claire Walker. Thankfully, the villainy of the Burketts was captured on the nanny cam set up by Maya, with the footage being live-streamed to millions of people by Corey. She sacrificed herself so that the Burketts couldn’t take Lily under their wing and corrupt her soul. But that’s a nice way of looking at things because, to be fair, it was her comeuppance for killing a bunch of civilians on the battlefield. She wasn’t a hero. She was a villain, and she deserved to die. So, even though Fool Me Once wants us to perceive Maya as an avenging angel, I’ll treat her as a murderous and trigger-happy soldier who died a bloody death.

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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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