‘One Day’ Ending Explained & Series Summary: How Did Dexter Cope With Emma’s Absence?


Netflix’s new series One Day, an adaptation of David Nicholls’ 2009 novel that goes by the same name, closely follows a heartwarming friendship that spans over fourteen years. 15th July, St. Swithin’s Day, is significant in the lives of our protagonists, and we watch them evolve and get a glimpse into their lives through that one particular day. Starring Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall in the lead roles, this binge-worthy romantic drama will leave you with a bittersweet feeling.

Emma Morley had always fancied college heartthrob Dexter Mayhew, but it was only on the night of their graduation that Dexter took note of her. On July 15, 1988, their paths crossed, and Dexter was eager to introduce himself. Emma struggled to figure out why the most popular man on campus showed interest in her, but she decided to go with the flow nonetheless. She felt conflicted after bringing him up to her apartment—should she take part in the obvious, or should she spend the time to get to know the man she had always seen from a distance? Emma chose the latter and thus began an epic friendship with an unforgettable beginning and a heart-aching ending.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Emma decide to remain just friends with Dexter?

Emma and Dexter were quite the opposite—she was a literature nerd who believed in bringing some change into the world, while he got easily bored of serious discussions and did not think about his future as long as he was rich and famous by forty. The first night they spent together, Emma decided she did not wish to be on the list of women Dexter slept with at university. She would rather get to know him better and be his friend if they managed to stay in touch. The profound discussion they shared intrigued Dexter’s interest all the more, and he wrote down his number for her to contact. A year later, we found out that the two remained in touch. She wrote him long letters describing her experience acting in a theater troupe, while he sent her postcards from Europe with brief notes. Emma realized she was not meant to become a theater practitioner, and she decided to settle in London and become a writer. Dexter, too, decided he had enough of the fun and frolicking in Europe and that it was time that he focused on a career. While Emma took a break after a failed attempt at playwrighting and settled for a part-time gig at a Mexican restaurant, Dexter ended up a television presenter. At times when Emma doubted herself and her talent, Dexter always boosted her confidence. His faith in her was comforting, and that was all the more reason why she did not wish to jeopardize their friendship.

Throughout One Day, there was a constant spark between Emma and Dexter, but they were too afraid to indulge. Emma, more so than Dexter. Over the years she had known Dexter, his girlfriends constantly changed, and perhaps that made her all the more fearful of giving way to romantic affection. She did not wish to destroy what they had built, and she was also quite aware that she would be devastated if he abandoned her all of a sudden. Friendship was safe; it was comforting and constant. During their trip to Greece, they confessed to having a crush on each other, but Dexter was honest about his inability to maintain relationships, and he suggested they give a chance to a no-strings-attached night. Emma was not ready to see herself waiting over the years for Dexter in the hopes that he would one day come back to her, and deep down, she believed that would be the case if they ended up sleeping together.

What led to the fallout between Emma and Dexter?

On July 15, 1994, Emma and Dexter met up for a fancy dinner. Dexter had gained celebrity status as a television presenter by then, but his late-night show was infamous for being crude and offensive. Emma was now a teacher, and she intended to write her first novel, but she had a rocky start. Her relationship with a local comedian, Ian, started to overwhelm her. They had recently moved in together, and his overbearing presence affected her. She hoped that meeting with Dexter would help her clear her head, but instead, it made her feel worse. 

The fancy restaurant was anything but what Emma was used to. She was disturbed by the objectification of the cigarette girl, and Dexter’s inattentiveness made it worse. Every ten minutes, he rushed to the washroom and returned in a jittery state. He showed off his lavish lifestyle, but Emma was left unimpressed. When Dexter quite bluntly stated that Emma was not doing enough with her life, she felt insulted and stormed out of the restaurant. Dexter followed her in the hopes of mending their friendship, but Emma had had enough. She missed the old Dexter she knew and was tired of dealing with the obnoxious person he had become. Dexter believed it was envy that affected their friendship, and that left Emma all the more disgusted. Even though she sympathized with him after his mother passed away from cancer, she could no longer tolerate being around him. She was disappointed with the way he tried to cope with her absence and decided it would be best if they ended their friendship.

Did Emma and Dexter end up together?

After two years of staying out of touch, Emma and Dexter’s paths crossed again at their friend Tilly’s wedding. Tilly was Emma’s best friend, and Dexter attended the wedding in the hopes of mending his friendship with Emma. Dexter was in a relationship with Sylvie, the daughter of an aristocrat. He was finally sober and a lot more mature. Dexter lost most of his television gigs and, with it, his arrogance about his success. Emma, too, had evolved over time. She was a lot more in control of her life after she broke up with Ian and started working on her novel. Dexter and Emma walked through the maze at the wedding venue, and they admitted that they thought of each other every single day. Emma was surprised to find out that Dexter was engaged to be married to Sylvie. She was elated when he handed her the wedding card. To add to her surprise, Dexter announced that he was going to become a father. Emma was overjoyed, but simultaneously, she realized that maybe they could never go back to being friends. She believed Dexter would have too many responsibilities as a new father, and he would enjoy the company of other married couples more than his single best friend. Dexter promised Emma that he would make sure that they remained friends regardless of all the factors she mentioned. They shared a brief kiss in the maze; they were too ecstatic to have each other back in their lives, and somehow, it manifested into an intimate physical gesture.

A year later, on July 15th, 1998, Dexter discovered a mixtape that Emma had made him during his Europe adventure. It brought back fond memories of the past, and it comforted him at a time when everything in life seemed to be falling apart. Dexter started working at his old friend, Callum’s cafe. His income was not enough to rely on, and the frustration was evident on Sylvie’s face. She was tired of having to answer her parents and look after their toddler. We later find out in One Day that Sylvie was already having an affair with Dexter’s old friend, Callum. A year later, Sylvie and Dexter filed for divorce, and he had a tough time coping with missing out on the important milestones in his daughter’s life. He could have her every fortnight, and he realized that he had no clue how to take care of his daughter. Amidst all the pent-up frustration, Dexter and Emma met in Paris.

Emma was living a decent life after her critically acclaimed novel was published. She was briefly staying in Paris to gather material for her next project. We all of a sudden learned that Emma and Dexter had spent a night together, and Dexter was eager to discuss it, which was primarily why he traveled to Paris. Emma believed it was just a drunken mistake that they must move past, and it left Dexter shattered. Emma was afraid that Dexter was settling for her simply because he had run out of options and was emotionally drained after the divorce. She introduced him to the man she met at a Parisian Cafe, Jeanne Pierre. Dexter teared up, and he decided to stay back while Emma and Jeanne Pierre went out for lunch. Within a few minutes, Emma returned to her apartment. She realized that she, too, could not bear the thought of parting ways with him. After they made love, Emma warned Dexter to never break her trust, and if he did, she would “eat his heart.”.

How Did Emma Die?

Emma and Dexter’s romance brewed to perfection for the next couple of years. After being in a relationship for a year, they decided to move in together. Emma’s writing career took off with her second published novel, and Dexter decided to do something that he was truly passionate about—food. With the money his mother left him, Dexter got a place to start his Parisian deli and cafe. While his father was a little hesitant about his business endeavor, knowing how whimsical his son was, Emma assured him that Dexter was up for the job and that she had complete faith in him. A year later, the wedding bells rang at what they defined as an intimate party with fifty invitees. While preparing for their wedding and spending time with Dexter’s daughter, Jasmine, Emma decided that she wanted to become a mother. Dexter was glad to hear her say so because he had been waiting for her to propose the idea.

A year into their marriage, Emma was disappointed that she was still not pregnant. It slightly soured the relationship between them, but they were quick to apologize. They were planning on shifting to a better space, and on July 15th, 2002, they decided to meet up to check out a place with a breakfast bar. The morning after Dexter and Emma met for the first time, Dexter mentioned that if it rained on St. Swithin’s Day, a long period of rainfall would follow, and fourteen years later, it was cloudy on the 15th of July. Soon it started to pour, and Emma left a voicemail to Dexter informing him that she was running a little late, that she loved him, and that nothing could ever change it. Towards the end of One Day, a car ran into Emma while she was cycling to meet Dexter. Emma succumbed to her injury, and in the most devastating manner, their little paradise was destroyed in the blink of an eye.

How did Dexter cope with Emma’s absence?

A year had passed since Emma’s demise, and Dexter was miserable. He passed out at a strip club, and Sylvie booked a cab to drop him off at his father’s place. His father could relate to the pain Dexter experienced, and his only advice was for him to live life as if Emma were still alive. It pained him to hear his son cry to sleep, but he knew that only time would heal his pain. The next year, all of Emma’s loved ones gathered at Dexter’s house to give him company. They decided to make it an annual routine, a day dedicated to sharing their fond memories of their beloved Emma. Once they left, the emptiness of the house started to get to Dexter, and he resorted to drinking away his pain once again. He was in the room where he stored all of Emma’s belongings, and he imagined her by his side. He realized how disappointed Emma would have been if she had seen him in such a pathetic state. Time was meant to heal the aching pain, but it was important for him to have control over his life.

Four years later, Dexter decided to commemorate the day Emma passed away, which also happened to be the day they first met. Dexter travels to Edinburgh with his daughter and hikes up to Arthur’s Seat, the same spot where he and Emma had spent time together the first time they met.

During One Day‘s ending, all the beautiful memories Dexter had of Emma started to flash before his eyes, but it was not just the pain of not having Emma by his side that he experienced but also the joy of having those memories to always cheer him up. Life took a tragic turn, but Dexter could not have thanked his stars enough for having met Emma on the night of their graduation. Even if he knew what fate had in store for them, he would choose to fall in love with Emma all over again.

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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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