‘Patrick Melrose’ Ending Explained & Netflix Recap: Is Nicholas Dead Or Alive?

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Benedict Cumberbatch’s Patrick Melrose is a vortex of emotional attacks that leaves you crumbling by the end of the series. Based on the semi-autobiographical novels by author Edward St. Aubyn, the limited series brings to life a story about abuse, compassion, rage, and closure in the most entertaining way possible. The series, which came out in 2018, details the story of a man named Patrick Melrose from 1982 to 2005. Despite its dated nature, the series is quite relevant both in terms of its story and its engrossing dialogue. The show puts an addicted man at its forefront and explores the nature of his addiction through childhood trauma, loss, grief, and suffering. The directors of the show love irony almost as much as the character himself, which makes the show bearable despite its horrendous themes. The show begins with Patrick at his lowest, with the death of his father leaving him elated, a reason to use more and think less. In Patrick’s lifetime, we see him interact with a lot of people, specifically from his parents’ circle, and by the end of the series, we get a full circle moment for the boy and the man he is, finally allowing him to breathe. Let’s recap the most important details of the series and try to understand the ending of Patrick Melrose.

Spoiler Alert


What Happened to Patrick as a Kid? 

In Patrick Melrose, we learn that Patrick was sexually abused by his father as a form of punishment when he was little in their extravagant vacation home. Patrick was always afraid of his father, but we also see him both physically and mentally abused by his father because he has to grow up to be a “proper” man. Patrick suffered at the hands of his father for many years, and nobody was able to help him. Not even his mother, who was an apparent innocent bystander. Patrick’s elation over his father’s death came as no surprise after we learn how he struggled as a child. However, he also loathes his mother, something we don’t quite get an answer for at first, but we’ll get into the details of his relationship with his mother soon. Seeing as he suffered so much as a child and had no chance to speak about it with anybody and, in fact, was forced to bottle it up, Patrick used drugs and alcohol as an adult to cope with his rage and feelings. It is also quite apparent why Patrick struggles in his lovelife, seeing the kind of “love” he’s seen all his life. 


How Does Bridget’s Life Parallel Eleanor’s? 

Two adult women play an important role in Patrick’s life at his vacation home. Firstly, Anne seems to be the only person who notices there’s something seriously wrong with David and that his wife and child need help. It seems at this point that Patrick almost self-harms by accidentally breaking a glass and then purposely falling down the stairs to grab the attention of his mother. He’s been told by his father that if he uttered a word to anyone about what he did to him, he would essentially kill Patrick. Anne notices that Patrick just wants to talk to his mother for a bit when she comes over for dinner after spending the whole day with Eleanor and learning how she’s addicted to alcohol and quietly suffering. Anne seems to be the only adult who sees David for who he truly is—a monster—but she’s unable to convince Eleanor to go to her son because David stops her. In this situation, fear seems to outweigh love, and we’ll soon learn that this always seems to be the case with Eleanor. 

At the same time, David’s loyal confidant Nicholas Pratt (an absolute bellend of a human being) and his girlfriend at the time, Bridget, visited the Melroses. Patrick always found Bridget to be one of the nicest people in his parents’ circle. In the future, when Patrick’s an adult and sober, he gets invited to a celebration of Bridget’s husband’s birthday, a very rich man who cheats on her. On the day of the party, we see a lot of parallels between Bridget and Eleanor. It seemed Bridget had become a clone of Patrick’s mother; fortunately, Bridget wasn’t suffering the same fate with her husband. Bridget’s husband does love his daughter dearly, and despite his cheating ways and his constant nagging, he doesn’t seem abusive. Still, when Bridget sees his “other woman” at the party, she can’t tolerate the disrespect, and despite having it all—the fortune and the status—she decides to take her daughter and leave him right there at the party, something Eleanor never managed to do. If Eleanor had simply interfered, Patrick may have made it out of his traumatic childhood whole. What I mean by that is that he wouldn’t have gone down his path of self-destruction to try and make himself feel better rather than getting comforted by others. 


Was Nicholas an abuser, too? 

I suppose one could say Nicholas was an abuser by association, or some might believe he, too, was an abuser of his own daughter. However, his unperturbed support for David makes him a bad friend either way. It is not certain what Nicholas did, but we know his adult daughter doesn’t talk to him because of Patrick’s friend and psychotherapist, Johnny. He may not be a sexual predator like David, but he’s certainly got the ability to abuse people mentally. Nicholas is the kind of person you’d never want to encounter in your life. He doesn’t know how or when to hold his tongue, and he spends his whole life defending an abuser for seemingly no reason at all. Was David simply the perfect image of the man he’d hoped to be? (yuck). At the end of the series, we know that Nicholas never believed in such things as abuse or mental health. In a completely changed world, he’s unable to accept that the cruelty he believed was second nature to mankind was, in fact, utterly inhuman. At the end of “At Last,” episode 5 of Patrick Melrose Nicholas has a stroke after speaking his mind to a woman who tells him he might have mental health issues. He’s frustrated to know that he’s actually been a terrible human being, and as he lies on the floor, Patrick takes his hand, and it seems to me like Nicholas is desperately trying to apologize. 


Why does Patrick hate his mother? 

Patrick Melrose episode 5 is scrambled between his mother’s funeral and flashbacks from his life that pushed him to become a better person. When Patrick becomes sober, he gets married and has children of his own—two beautiful boys he adores dearly. However, his relationship with them is quite fragile because, at the back of his mind, he’s still stuck worrying about turning into his father, I suppose. When Mary, Patrick’s wife, is pregnant with their second child, Eleanor shows her a letter from one of the girls who stayed at their home as a child. The letter clearly says that David abused the girl, but Eleanor lives in denial of the fact that her husband could violate a child like that. Mary tells Patrick that his mother can’t live in denial all her life, and he should tell her about his childhood, too. When Patrick plucks up the courage and arduously tells her that his father raped him as a child, she simply replies, “Me too.” If this isn’t the most heartbreaking thing a child could ever hear from his own mother, I’m not sure what could be. At Eleanor’s funeral, Patrick is unable to give a speech because he can’t believe everyone thinks his mother was “innocent” and pure when she couldn’t do the one thing you do for a loved one—protect him. 

What’s worse is that before her death, Patrick’s mother disinherited him, and Patrick was enraged by the fact that he would lose the home he was abused in. Maybe this was Eleanor’s way of trying to help Patrick, but seeing her deteriorating condition and the fact that she’s lost the ability to communicate properly, she’s never able to tell him so. Additionally, she claims she’s giving away the house to charity because she wants to “do some good,” but really, the good she needed to do was help her son heal rather than allowing him to become a spitting image of her as an adult, addicted to alcohol and drugs, withering away with no respite. What’s worse is that Eleanor asks Patrick to kill him and then refuses euthanasia after all the procedures are complete. Fear over love, yes? After Mary leaves Patrick, he finally sobers up for real, and I suppose it’s his kids that help him out of this deep, dark, destructive well he’s voluntarily jumped into. 


Did Patrick love Julia? 

I think Julia is a character that pops into Patrick’s life every time he’s at his lowest. I guess, in many ways, she’s like a mirror for Patrick to look into, and every time he wants to feel better about himself, he looks to her for support. I suppose in the end, since Julia hasn’t changed and it’s her character that is somewhat rotten from within, Patrick lets her go and chases after the light instead (though, at the moment, it’s trying to find solace in a waitress who might find interest in a grieving man). 


What does Nicholas’ death signify? 

“Those who deserve blame occasionally deserve the same amount of compassion.” This is what the “healing woman” from the charity group that’s taken over Eleanor’s estate tells Patrick after Nicholas’ death. It seems this phrase is a moment of understanding for Patrick because he finally realizes this is how he feels about both his parents. This is why he could never forgive them or resent them fully. With Nicholas’ death, everyone who would’ve reminded Patrick of his parents is now gone, leaving him to be free of all the pain and pressure that pushed him into hating himself all his life. Before Mary left the funeral, she asked Patrick if he’d join the family for dinner, just the four of them. Patrick lies down, and then we go back into what looks like a flashback, but it’s more like a confrontational dream. In this dream, little Patrick goes into the bathroom when his father calls for him. When he comes out of the bathroom, he tells his father that he’ll never do anything he asks of him again, calling it wrong. He then says, “Nobody should be allowed to do that to anybody else,” words that we’ve heard adult Patrick said. We see David get emotional with Patrick’s words, almost as if he’s immediately repenting of what he’s done. I suppose this implies that this is adult Patrick clearing out his terrible memories to go towards a better future with his children. 

Patrick Melrose ends with Patrick speaking to the waitress and telling her that he’s tired of ghosts and wants to be around people, proving that he’s finally able to move on. Patrick tells Helene that he’s “changed his mind,” and she repeats his son Robert’s words, “That’s what it’s meant for.” Patrick then dons his coat and walks out the white door of his bachelor pad, the place he thought he would end up dying, moving upward, starting afresh.


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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