We only know a person through the things they tend to reveal to us, but in the shadows lies a buried past that we may never know about. Hence, it brings us to the question of whether we can truly know someone or just pieces of them. Whatever the case, maybe, as curious human beings, we want to put all the pieces together to get a complete picture, which is why Andrea Oliver gets obsessed with her mother’s past and embarks on a journey to find out the truth about her in the Netflix series, “Pieces of Her.”
Based on Karin Slaughter’s best-selling thriller novel, the Netflix series is created by Charlotte Stoudt, who unravels the truth in eight long episodes of 50 minutes each. “Pieces of Her” moves back and forth in time to help the audience and Andy understand her mother’s intentions and the actions she took in her life that resulted in the present she is living in. The threads of a person’s personality are complicated affairs, and thus, without following the series’ linear narrative, we’ll follow the character’s journey that will eventually reveal the end. Hence, without any further ado, let’s find out who Laura Oliver is.
‘Pieces of Her’ Plot Summary
Laura Oliver (Toni Collette) is a divorced mother who lives with her only daughter, Andrea “Andy” (Bella Heathcote), in Belle Isle, Georgia. Andy wants to be a graphic designer but is stuck in Belle Isle to look after her mother, who has been treated for breast cancer. To support their lives, Andy works the night shift at a 911 call center while Laura is a speech-language pathologist at a local clinic, Savannah’s Veterans’ Affairs Center.
On Andy’s 30th birthday, Laura takes her out for lunch in a restaurant and asks her to resume her life again and leave Belle Isle to go back to school and finish her degree. While Laura and Andy are having a little argument, Laura’s friend Betsy and her daughter Shelly arrive at the table. As soon as Andy leaves the table in frustration, a 25-year-old man, Jonah Helsinger, seated a few seats away, suddenly stands up and points a gun at Shelly, and shoots her along with her mother.
A disarrayed Jonah looks at the people hiding under the table and suddenly spots a cop (Andy in her uniform) and threatens to kill her when Laura stands in her defense. Jonah tries to shoot Laura, but she pushes his hand away and, finding an empty barrel, Jonah quickly takes out a knife and stabs Laura’s palm. With an assassin-like impulse, Laura slashes Jonah’s neck and kills him on the spot, thus saving the day.
While Andy and other police officers are quite surprised by Laura’s counterattack, the media praises her for her bravery and makes her famous. But Laura doesn’t cherish the popularity and speculates on the arrival of a dangerous past. She unleashes a gust of anger on Andy to push her away from her with the intention of protecting her, and suddenly the expected tragedy takes place.
A hitman enters Laura’s house at night and tries to kill her when Andy hears the voices and saves her mother’s life. She sends a text to 911 and hits the assassin with a furniture piece, and knocks him down, believing that she killed him. Hence, to save her daughter from an arrest, Laura requests that she leave Belle Isle in the killer’s car. She also hands her daughter some money, a phone, and a key card for a storage facility, Get-Em-Out. For her own safety, she has to move to Carrollton, where Andy will find a car, and from there, she has to move to Maine.
With a heavy heart, Andy leaves her mother behind and embarks on a journey in which she unravels a shocking truth about her mother that makes her question her own reality, roots, and identity. “Pieces of Her” furthers Laura’s previous identity as Jane Queller, who has a dark past that connects to a larger conspiracy.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Who was Jane Queller? Why Did She Become Laura Oliver?
So, Laura didn’t really exist but was a fake identity under which Jane lived for some 28 years to protect herself from her own lover and Andy’s father, Nick Harp. But let’s follow Jane from the beginning of her own life and the mess she got into.
Jane Queller was born into a complicated, rich family with a difficult father, Martin Queller, an American industrialist who founded a pharmaceutical company, Quellcorp. Martin was a controlling narcissist and probably a domestic abuser because of which Jane’s mother, Annette, wanted to leave him. One night, she tried running away from the house along with her three kids, Jane, Andrew, and Jasper, but Martin stopped her. While Annette’s fate wasn’t revealed in “Pieces of Her,” Martin took full custody of the kids and raised them as per his own wishes.
However, the one who most suffered among the lot was Jane, who was often drugged, disgraced, corrected, and probably abused by her father, and hence yearned for an escape. And then heaven heard her cries and sent a man named Nick Harp, who wasn’t exactly a knight in shining armor.
Jane’s brother, Andrew, studied with Nick Harp, whose real name was never disclosed in the series, at Stanford. He ran a cult group called the Army of the Changing World. These leftists with radical beliefs attacked capitalistic mongers who exploited people to make money, and Martin happened to be Nick’s target. During the late 1980s, Martin Queller made millions from controversial life-threatening medications like AZT, Haldol, and RU486, to name a few. His drugs took the lives of innocent individuals, but Martin never acknowledged those deaths. In contrast, he refused to take any responsibility, and hence, Nick wanted to put an end to his fraudulent practices.
Nick gained Andrew’s trust and lured Jane to spy on Martin. Through them, he got access to the Oslo conference in 1988. He made a pact with Jane’s brother Jasper to disgrace Martin with symbolic blood during the International Economic Forum in Oslo. Nick kidnapped Professor Alex Maplecroft and sent a woman named Grace Juno (disguised as Alex), who lost her husband and kids due to Martin’s medications. Juno was instructed to throw a dupe bomb filled with a red substance that would be triggered by Nick seated in the audience, but out of the blue, Juno pulled out a gun and shot Martin and killed herself.
Nick never intended to kill anyone and had no idea how Juno got a gun. Hence, as the FBI flooded the streets, the army of the Changing World went underground. Nick had abducted Professor Alex Maplecroft and also took a ransom of around 600,000 dollars in exchange for her life. However, while Jane was with Alex, she attacked her. Nick tried to protect Jane when Alex stabbed his palm, the same way Jonah Helsinger attacked Laura at the beginning of “Pieces of Her.” Coincidentally, Nick killed Alex the same way Laura killed Jonah, and suddenly, the FBI raided their secret hideout.
While Nick, Jane, Andrew, and other members of the army of the Changing World tried to escape, Andrew got shot, and Nick brought them to an isolated cabin that belonged to Clara and Eli.
At the cabin, Jane found out about Nick’s deal with Jasper through a tape-recorded by Nick to blackmail Jasper in the future. As soon as she heard the tape and found out about Nick’s lies, she decided to leave him and take Andrew to the hospital, but Nick stopped her. Jane’s departure would have exposed Nick’s entire plan, and thus he assaulted Jane. Jane was struck by irony when she realized she had escaped one abuser only to fall into the clutches of another, so she devised an escape plan with the assistance of Clara, who later became her daughter Andrea’s nursing mother.
Jane brought Andrew to the hospital, but he didn’t survive. At this point, Jasper tried to convince her to put all the blame on Andrew and Nick and come out clean, but Jane decided not to. Instead, she blackmailed Jasper to make amends for the people who lost their lives because of their father’s dangerous pharma drugs. She told Jasper to never put any blame on Andrew, and if he did, then she would expose him with the tape that she stole from Nick, along with the ransom money that Nick wanted to use to promote his radical beliefs.
Hence, Jane became a state witness and met US Marshal Charlie Bass. She made a deal with the U.S. Attorney to testify against Nick and served only four years of prison, during which she gave birth to Andrea, who was nursed by her close friend, Clara, in Jane’s absence. After her release, Charlie gave Jane a new identity, Laura Randell, whose parents died when she was just 18 years old, after which she married young to a man named Jerry Randall, whom Andy believed to be her father. According to Charlie’s cover story, Jerry died in a tragic car accident when Andy was just two years old, and thus the mother-daughter shifted to a retirement community in Belle Isle, Georgia. There, Laura met an attorney, Gordon Oliver, and became Laura Oliver, but the marriage didn’t last. However, Gordon looked after Andy like his own daughter and became a supportive father.
Throughout the “Pieces of Her” series, Laura convinced everyone that Nick would come after her to kill her for her betrayal, which is why she was so paranoid and always running. But it wasn’t the case. Laura did indeed betray Nick, but there was something else that she was hiding. The tape? No, the truth.
What Was Jane Hiding? Who Killed Martin Queller?
A sense of danger and a threat to Andy’s life compelled Jane/Laura to contact Nick, who was living as a fugitive. She made a deal with Nick to hand him over the ransom money along with the tape that would help him blackmail the future Vice President, Jasper Queller.
In the meantime, Nick killed Charlie in a car crash and brought Andy to Clara’s cabin in the woods, where she brought up Andy during Jane’s imprisonment. It can also be speculated that Nick killed Clara, probably to get the whereabouts of Jane and Andy, which she might have refused to share. Hence, Nick was not a saint, as he claimed to be.
In the final confrontation scene in the cabin, Andy tried to save Jane from a ruthless Nick, and during the tussle, the cabin caught fire, which burnt the cash along with the tape. Jane wanted to put an end to everything, so she followed Nick into the woods and pointed a gun at him. Jane wanted to shoot Nick, but Andy stopped Jane from committing a crime, unaware of the fact that her mother was already a manipulator and a criminal. Fortunately, the U.S. marshals arrived in the woods and arrested Nick, while Jane and Andy went back to Belle Isle.
Even in the end, Nick stressed the fact that he didn’t put the gun in Grace Juno’s purse from which she killed Martin Queller, as their plan was never to kill anyone but to humiliate them. It was Jane who gave the gun to Juno and manipulated her to kill her father, and Nick figured out the truth, which was why Jane was running away from him all these years. After Nick’s arrest, Jane made a deal with Jasper to bury the facts.
‘Pieces of Her’ Ending Explained: Why Did Jane Plan Her Father’s Murder?
Though Nick was arrested, there was something that disturbed Andy’s peace. She wanted to know if Nick didn’t give the gun to Grace Juno, then who did? Who had the authority to bring a gun into a secure conference? And it was when Andy noticed Juno’s purse in the assassination footage and figured out that it belonged to her mother, Jane. Hence, as Andy discussed her mother’s involvement in Martin’s murder with Michael Vargas, someone else overheard their conversation. Jasper’s right-hand man, who had planted a bug on Andy’s phone, found out about Jane’s secret, which he later revealed to Jasper, who used the information to blackmail his sister. However, Jasper didn’t state the terms of the agreement and probably will in “Pieces of Her” Season 2.
Nevertheless, the question is, why did Jane kill Martin? The answer lies in Jane’s traumatic childhood, where her mother, Annette, tried to escape the clutches of a torturous narcist but failed. The series doesn’t explicitly explore the reason why Annette wanted to run away from the house, but through Jane’s character, it does drop subtle hints.
First of all, Martin humiliated his kids, which is why they hated him so much. Andrew and Jasper tried to take revenge by trying to humiliate Martin in public while Jane took a step forward and killed him. Her hatred slowly built up all these years as she, from time to time, pointed out Martin’s controlling behavior. Martin used to make notes on Jane’s piano performance to make her perform better. Because of this, she stopped enjoying playing the instrument and instead became a slave leashed to it.
It is at our end when we become more self-aware of our guilt and anger, and a similar thing happened with Jane when she became vocal about her feelings when she was being treated for breast cancer. She expressed to a fellow patient, Gloria, that she was raised to be a good girl who was trained to please people. Her father treated her like a trophy who played instruments for his high-society friends, a point that Jasper even mentioned in his book. She further told Gloria that she yearned for freedom and that in Nick, she saw a way out, but the man used her to spy on her father to fulfill his political agendas. And by the time she realized his motives, it was too late. She was stuck between Martin and Nick. Martin even tried to drug her and kill her child, and wanted to start over with her, which is probably when Jane decided to put an end to it.
However, the horrors didn’t end with Martin’s death. She fell into a pit with another abuser, Nick, who lied to her and tried to kill her. Hence, after taking revenge on her father, she tried to frame Nick for Martin’s murder. She became a state witness and testified that Nick gave Grace Juno the gun from which she shot Martin, when in fact, it was Jane who manipulated Juno. And it was probably the same gun that was given to Jane by Nick while he was teaching her to shoot.
By the end of “Pieces of Her,” Andy had probably found all the missing puzzles about her mother’s dark past and, to some length, had a pretty clear picture of what her mother did and, most importantly, why she did it. She wanted to comfort her or maybe confront her, but she panicked when she didn’t find Jane in her room. Hence, she came to the beach looking for her, where mother and daughter finally made peace with each other without directly implicating it.
Andy didn’t want to torment her mother, which was probably why she didn’t bring the confrontation and instead requested a walk on the beach. Maybe Belle Isle will become their permanent abode for some time, until a new tragedy strikes. Or perhaps it won’t happen at all, and it will be the end of all. The thing is, the entire journey was never about the dark past or the twists and turns, but more about bridging the difference between a mother and a daughter so that they could finally understand each other in the end.
“Pieces of Her” is a 2022 Drama Thriller Television series created by Charlotte Stoudt.