‘Shining Girls’ Episode 4: Recap And Ending, Explained – Does Harper Have No Control Over How He Affects Time?


“Shining Girls,” tells the story of Kirby (Elisabeth Moss), the survivor of a horrific attack by an apparently time-traveling murderer called Harper (Jamie Bell). Kirby thinks that her ever-changing reality is a result of her brain playing tricks on her. But it’s likely the ripple effect of Harper’s actions that are causing the significant shifts in Kirby’s life. Unable to explain this to anyone, Kirby starts tailing Dan (Wagner Moura), a journalist who’s looking into the murder of a girl who is one of Harper’s victims. Episode 3 of “Shining Girls” ended with a revelation that Jin-Sook (Phillipa Soo), someone who was clearly killed by Harper in the first episode itself, is still alive and a key that she misplaced a few weeks ago has been found in a photo that’s 20 years old.

Kirby And Dan Try To Piece Together The Puzzle

Do you remember the photograph of one of Harper’s victims in which Kirby and Marcus (Chris Chalk) found Jin-Sook’s missing key chain? Episode 4 opens at that moment in 1972 when the bloodied body of a girl is on the ground. Then the timeline shifts to 1974, where the body of a nurse is seen in the hospital’s boiler room (?). Then we jump to 1984, where another one of Harper’s victims is found in a parking lot. And then finally, we see Harper in 1986, walking into the hospital where Kirby is admitted after his attack on her. That’s where he notices Rachel (Amy Brenneman), trying to keep it together while asking the doctors to give her updates on Kirby, and approaches her. He talks to Rachel long enough to get her agitated and distract the guards so that he can check on Kirby. And while it looks like he’s there to “finish the job,” he creepily stands there and asks her unconscious body, “How did you get here, Sharon?”

Then we cut to the present timeline where Kirby is back pushing documents because she refused to go from being Dan’s source to being the face of Dan’s articles. Dan is seen aggressively pushing for the serial killer angle to the entire team of the Chicago Sun-Times. And he does such a good job of connecting the dots that Abby (Erika Alexander) decides to drop all pending stories and put everyone’s focus on the can of worms that Julia Madrigal’s (Karen Rodriguez) murder has opened. Kirby comes to talk to Dan while he’s tending to his wounds that he got while being pursued by Harper. Kirby fills him in on the connection between the 20-year-old photo and Jin-Sook’s missing keys. Dan asks if it’s flimsy stuff since he has to go through multiple cases because Kirby is refusing to be the face of the investigation. He says that if she really wants to help him, she should go and get the Madrigal tapes that have been cleaned up by a sound editor.

Marcus assists Kirby on her trip to the sound editor for the Madrigal tapes. While working on the potential Madrigal article, Dan finds out that one of the writers has already made the names of the serial killer’s victims public. So, he rushes to make a holding piece that they can publish that night by superficially crafting a case about the Madrigal murder and connecting it to the murders of all those girls. At the sound editor’s place, Kirby and Marcus listen to Madrigal’s 911 call. Marcus makes the observation that there is a kind of echo in the call. The sound editor says there can be a variety of technical reasons, ranging from faults in the wires to network hops. Just so that everyone is sure it is a technical issue, he plays the call without the echo and with the echo. While listening closely, Kirby concludes that it’s not an echo but a recording of a version of the call (probably from the past or an alternate timeline) playing along with the actual call.

See More: ‘Shining Girls’ Episodes 1, 2 & 3: Recap And Ending, Explained – Is Kirby Aware Of The Shifting Realities?

Harper Is Probably Not As Smart As We Think He Is

The narrative shifts to the apartment that Kirby thinks she used to live in but is now inhabited by an elderly gentleman. Harper breaks in and violently interrogates that man, asking him about how long he has been living there and the whereabouts of Sharon (Kirby’s original name). When Harper doesn’t get satisfactory answers, he gets more violent as he seemingly can’t believe that Sharon doesn’t live there. Harper even asks who used to live there before the old man moved in. The old man says that it was some other guy, but not Sharon. Realizing that the old man is telling the truth, he leaves him. This little interaction indicates that Harper is not shifting the timelines or the realities to torture Kirby. He’s probably completely unaware of the impact he’s having by going from one timeline to another, which makes sense because his motivation is erratic and random.

Kirby remembers the time she got several weird calls when she was working at the Tribune and before she got attacked. When Marcus asks if she’s gotten any calls similar to Madrigal’s, Kirby takes him to the spot Rachel used to play in. It’s not exactly clear if Kirby means the past she remembers or the one that has been created due to the restructuring of the timeline. Either way, since both versions of the past involve Rachel being a singer, Kirby goes to the green room to check for something. “Shining Girls” goes into flashback mode to show Rachel prepping for a rehearsal of her set while a young Kirby (then Sharon) visits her. She sees an inscription near the mirror that states, “Sharon Is Gone, Like The Smoke.” As Rachel takes to the stage, a phone call comes, and Rachel tells Kirby to get it. It’s the call where Kirby hears everything that’s unfolding before her eyes before it unfolds. We cut to the present, and Kirby states that now she knows the inscription is Harper’s doing and that he followed her long before he attacked her.

Dan goes door-to-door to interview the known associates of seven of Harper’s victims and hits dead end after dead end after dead end. It’s quite reminiscent of the montage of Kirby and Dan sifting through all the cases to show how many women have been killed over the years and whose deaths have remained unresolved. This montage, though, shows what happens to the loved ones of the victims; how little or how much they remember about the dead, and how they’ve been impacted by the horrific deaths. While talking to the ex-roommate of a girl named Summer, Dan makes a little headway in a productive direction when he finds an object that was part of a make-up kit. When Kirby and Marcus return to the office, Dan pulls her aside to show that Harper basically took one thing from one of his victims and left it inside the next victim. Based on this knowledge, Kirby finally agrees to be the face of Dan’s article series and give a first-hand account of the assault.

‘Shining Girls’ Episode 4: Ending Explained: Kirby And Harper’s Revelatory Showdown

On their way to Pawel’s hearing, Abby, Dan, and Kirby are followed by Harper. But when Harper decides to go to Jin-sook to warn her, he starts tailing her. Kirby reaches Jin-Sook’s house to talk all about Harper. As a side-note, from the point Kirby leaves the office, the camera takes on a very voyeuristic attitude. Even though Harper is somewhere else, the camera moves like Harper is watching, probably to give the feeling that, as he promised, he is, in fact, everywhere, all the time, all at once, like an omniscient demon. Coming back to the conversation between Kirby and Jin-Sook, Jin-Sook says that she hasn’t been getting any weird calls, and if there’s a heavy breather near her house, she’d know. Kirby says that she thought similarly and still got assaulted by the same person who is apparently after Jin-Sook.

Although Kirby doesn’t say it out loud, she does insinuate that Jin-Sook’s keys have traveled through time and into the body of one of Harper’s victims. Jin-Sook obviously doesn’t get it, and hence she asks what Kirby wants her to do. Kirby borderline orders Jin-Sook to stay with her family and friends, to not go out on her own, and to carry a weapon like she does. Although this sounds rational, this is the kind of headspace violent men want women to be in. What Kirby is saying is out of genuine concern, but she’s ending up propagating the fear Harper wants to instill in, maybe, every woman in the world. And going by Jin-Sook’s reaction, it seems like Kirby’s message didn’t get across, which is also a sad side of trauma. Victims of violence are so psychologically bruised that even though their intentions are pure and well-meaning, it is met with aversion because they can’t present it to the person who hasn’t lived it yet.

On her way out to the planetarium, Kirby warns Jin-Sook to look into the missing keys. Jin-Sook asks Kirby that if the killer left something in his victims, what did he leave inside Kirby. Kirby says she got a matchbook with the address of a bar that doesn’t even exist. Jin-Sook says that just because something hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t. She says that it always takes looking at something a few times before it makes sense. Kirby looks at Jin-sook as she goes out into the rain and buys a red umbrella (the same red umbrella Harper left for Jin-sook on the terrace railing in the first episode when she got stuck in the rain).

As Dan sees Kirby’s face being printed on the following day’s paper, Kirby goes to the laundromat that’s in the location where the bar is supposed to be. She encounters Harper there, and they get into a fistfight. At one point, Harper notices that with each hit, the surroundings of the laundromat are changing. Finally, when they tumble through a glass window, Kirby enters a timeline where the laundromat has become the bar whose address is on the matchbox that was left inside her by Harper. Also, Harper’s nowhere to be seen. This is further proof that at this moment, Harper isn’t exactly controlling time as he doesn’t know what’s going on and why the reality is changing. “Shining Girls” is known for messing up the chronology of events. So, there’s a fair chance that this is the altercation that vastly changes Harper’s idea of how he time travels and that it’s not as simple as he thinks. Or maybe it’s not, and this is actually a new revelation for Harper and Kirby, as it is for us.

See More: ‘Shining Girls’ Episode 5: Recap And Ending, Explained – Is Kirby’s Changing Realities A Peek Into The Future?

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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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