‘Mea Culpa’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Did Zyair Kill Hydie?


Mea Culpa is a new crime thriller film streaming on Netflix that relies a lot on the steamy scenes to cover for an unconvincing and unrealistic story. At its center is a criminal defense attorney, Mea Harper, who is currently struggling with a slew of problems in her personal life, when she gets the opportunity to defend an artist named Zyair Malloy. The case is quite difficult and has severe consequences, as Zyair, a public figure, is being charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Hydie. Overall, Mea Culpa is a superficial thriller with twists that do not work and might be suitable only as a light, mindless watch.

Spoiler Alert

Plot Summary: What is the film about?

Mea Culpa begins with an introduction to the protagonist, Mea Harper, whose marriage is in shambles and her personal life is terribly strained. Mea is married to her long-time sweetheart, Kal, but the relationship has been suffering for some time now, especially since Kal has reportedly grown close to his childhood crush, Jenna, having held hands romantically with her on a recent outing. When the couple seeks the help of therapy, more of Kal’s childish problems come out in the open, for he is too attached to his family, which is clearly hurting his marriage. Kal’s mother, Azalia, has been suffering from cancer in recent times, which has made him extra close with her. However, Azalia is evidently very hateful towards Mea and also her other daughter-in-law, Charlise, who also happens to be Mea’s best friend. Early on in the film, the whole family comes together to celebrate Azalia’s birthday, to which she invites Jenna and even treats her like her soon-to-be daughter-in-law, only to make Mea jealous. The protagonist is also angry at Kal for having bought a terribly expensive gift for his mother, since she has been paying all bills for the last six months, and Kal had been fired from his job for his alcoholism.

At such a disturbed time, Mea suddenly comes across the chance to represent an artist named Zyair Malloy, as she is a defense attorney working for a leading law firm. A public figure currently facing tremendous hate and persecution by the masses, Zyair is the suspect in the murder of his girlfriend, Hydie. Zyair repeatedly denies the charges, though, as he keeps claiming that he has no idea what happened to Hydie; she went missing one sudden day. Although she does not initially want to take up the case, Mea looks into the matter and learns that no body of Hydie was ever found. But when considerable blood stains found in Zyair’s apartment were examined, the blood type and DNA both matched Hydie’s. As Zyair repeatedly keeps asking Mea to take his case, for he believes she is adept enough to prove his innocence, she considers the matter solely for the financial benefits. However, Mea’s brother-in-law, Ray, is the prosecution lawyer in the Zyair Malloy case, and he also intends to run for the mayoral elections based on the success of this case. Therefore, Kal, Ray, and Azalia sit Mea down to sternly tell her not to represent Zyair in a supremely misogynistic manner. This spurs Mea to finally make the decision to take up the case, defending Zyair Malloy against the prosecution of her brother-in-law, Ray.

How does Mea grow close to Zyair?

As Mea takes up Zyair’s case, she has to regularly meet with the man to know his version of the events and to figure out the best way to defend him. As the artist is a public figure, currently facing public backlash, he is told not to leave his house unless there is an unavoidable emergency, and so Zyair cannot come for meetings at the law firm. Therefore, Mea decides to go to his apartment instead and listen to whatever he has to say. However, it does not take very long for Zyair to start flirting with Mea, and he eventually reveals that he finds her very attractive. He believes that Mea is attracted to him as well, for Zyair can read all the physical signs of attraction in her body, but he acknowledges that Mea can apparently hide her feelings very well. He states this to be the reason why he chose Mea as his lawyer, along with the attraction that he feels towards her. 

Mea does not pay any heed to these flirtatious comments initially, but her character is very superficially written to make her express an interest in Zyair eventually. She keeps stopping herself from the thoughts of her longing desire, both because she is married to Kal and also because Zyair is a client of hers. At first, Zyair wants to get a different lawyer to represent him, and then he goes full pervert mode by getting intimate with another woman in front of Mea, all because the woman had rejected his advances. Mea Culpa‘s flimsy storyline does not have anywhere else to go than the doubts in Mea’s mind about her husband, as this is the most convenient point to take the story forward. Mea already suspected that Kal was having an affair with Jenna, despite him stating otherwise, and now she receives a photo from her private investigator friend in which Kal and Jenna are seen entering a hotel room together. This emotionally hurts Mea so much that she makes up her mind about Zyair, as if women know nothing better than to get back at their cheating spouses with their own infidelity.

Mea throws all caution to the wind and gets intimate with Zyair in an extended scene, which honestly feels like the main purpose behind the writing of Mea Culpa. Being an artist who keeps painting women and finding philosophies in such paintings, Zyair made his first physical contact with Mea by making her paint waves and getting her to talk about her personal life. He now follows up with a portrait of Mea’s face and sticks the canvas right over the bed at his apartment to make her feel special. He also mentions how Mea is the love of his life and how he has been on the lookout for someone like her throughout his life, making her more invested in their affair. 

But this feeling of romance does not last long, as Mea starts to realize her mistakes one after another, starting with the fact that Kal was probably not having an affair with Jenna. The photo of them together was actually because they were going to meet Azalia at the hotel, as the latter felt sick and had gathered her whole family at the hotel. As part of the defense case, she also meets with a woman named Renee Carter, who is the owner of a gallery that has a number of Zyair’s paintings on display. Renee was the one to have given Zyair a chance and the money to become a professional artist in his younger days, and in the meeting, she revealed that he had done the exact same things as he recently did for Mea as proof of his love for her. This makes it clear to Mea that Zyair was actually a womanizer who made similar efforts with a lot of women, and she decides to leave the case. But before she can take any major steps, Ray and Azalia find out about her affair with the artist, and they inform Kal of the same, leaving Mea’s life in a complete mess.

Who had killed Hydie?

The case against Zyair was not extremely strong because Hydie’s body had not been found, but the DNA and blood type evidence would surely get him behind bars. Therefore, Mea’s first step is to find out what actually happened to Hydie, and she takes the help of her private investigator friend, Jimmy, who is like a brother to her. Zyair reveals that he had met Hydie in Mexico and that she had come to the US with him, but he had no idea about her address in the country or about her family members. To make matters more incriminating, Hydie had sent a video to her sister, asking for help against Zyair, revealing that her boyfriend had been abusing her. Naturally, Mea starts by trying to track down Hydie’s family, and particularly her sister, for whom Jimmy goes to Mexico. But he does not find anything about the woman, for there was no record whatsoever, official or otherwise, about anyone named Hydie. 

This is immediately suspicious, for Hydie now seems to be a made-up character, but then there were an ample number of photos and videos of her with Zyair. It seems like Hydie has been using a fake identity to get close to Zyair, but the real matter is revealed later on in Mea Culpa, when Mea goes to the Dominican Republic for a vacation after falling out with her family. At the hotel, she suddenly comes across Hydie, who is clearly a staff member at the place, but the latter evades the scene as soon as she is referred to by the name Hydie. Although Mea was no longer involved with the criminal case, she immediately informed Ray about the matter, as he was still the prosecutor. By this time, Zyair was ready to admit guilt and strike a deal with the prosecution, despite having a clean conscience. However, Hydie was not even dead, and was actually living in hiding in the Dominican Republic.

What does the email sent to Mea contain?

Ray tells Mea to return to their house in the US, where he will take more help from her in defending Zyair, but it seems to be a hostile environment as soon as she steps in at her brother-in-law’s house. At this very time, Jimmy sends her some scandalous revelations via email, which makes her run into Ray’s closet to find the painting canvas of faces from Zyair’s apartment. As the plot twists in Mea Culpa go completely haywire, the real secrets behind Zyair’s case are revealed. Zyair turns out to be a real Casanova, or womanizer, depending on whom you ask, and he did indeed get intimate with numerous women by using the same tactics. The painting frame, with multiple canvases of portraits of the women he dated, was indeed a real piece of evidence from his house, but among the portraits, Mea finds one of her best friend and sister-in-law, Charlise, as well.

A few months earlier, Charlise had gotten physically intimate and romantically involved with Zyair Malloy, cheating on her long-term husband and the father of her children, Ray. But Ray had found out about this and had decided to make an extensive plan to punish his wife and also the man who dared to take away his possession (for the Hawthorne family really treats women as possessions), the artist Zyair Malloy. This plan included planting a fake individual named Hydie in Zyair’s life and then making her disappear suddenly one fine day. Ray ensured that the incriminating evidence was planted and later found in Zyair’s apartment, so that there would be an airtight case against him. In reality, Hydie was paid dearly to participate in this plan, and the video she had sent about her abusive boyfriend was also a fake one.

In fact, Azalia also knew about this entire matter and was also part of the planning, even faking her cancer along the way, only to make people more sympathetic towards Ray for the sake of his political campaign. Since she and Ray did not like Mea at all and were actually planning to replace her with Jenna, they did not genuinely stop Mea from taking up the case and only pretended to do so earlier. The desired outcome was to get Zyair proven guilty in court, which would massively help Ray’s further plans of becoming mayor. Along with this, it would also give them an excuse to have Mea divorced from Kal, for they were confident that Zyair and she would get intimate. It is suggested that the whole family staged the photo of Kal and Jenna at the hotel so that she would receive it via Jimmy and commit adultery herself. Jimmy does not seem to be working with the Hawthornes, though, and his concern for Mea was genuine, as he had been stalking Kal for her earlier, too. In fact, the email that Jimmy sends to Mea contains evidence about Charlise’s affair with Zyair and also about the fact that Azalia had been faking her illness all along.

What Happens To Zyair And Mea?

After the truth is revealed, Ray and Azalia turn fully violent, attempting to kill both Charlise and Mea. Charlise is indeed stabbed fatally by Azalia, but Mea somehow manages to escape. She knew that Kal was driving towards the place, and when she eventually meets with him, she begs for his help. Kal pretends to be calling the police while he is actually on a call with Ray, revealing that he has been conspiring against Mea together with his family for all this time. Seeing no other means of escape, Mea manages to get their car crashed, which kills Kal but allows her to escape with minor injuries. 

During Mea Culpa‘s ending, the authorities are informed about all of Ray’s misdemeanors through an anonymous email, obviously sent by Mea, who has seemingly gone into hiding to stay low after the whole fiasco. As the authorities investigate Ray, they find significant evidence against him and immediately arrest him, bringing an end to all his political ambitions. On the other hand, Zyair Malloy is acquitted of all charges, and when asked by the media, he mentions the name of Mea Harper as the one who had helped him the most to prove his innocence. Mea Culpa‘s last scene shows the protagonist receiving text messages from Zyair, thanking her for the save and also asking to meet him soon. But Mea has learned her lesson, and she simply throws the phone away, suggesting that she had shared the email with the authorities only to side with the truth, as a responsible citizen and lawyer, and not to specifically help Zyair out of trouble.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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