The penultimate episode of “Shining Girls” took the already tantalizing show to new heights by giving Harper (Jamie Bell) the upper hand, thereby allowing him to go absolutely haywire on Kirby (Elisabeth Moss) and Jin-Sook’s (Phillipa Soo) realities. In an attempt to save Kirby’s mind, Marcus (Chris Chalk) even gets her fired so that she can stay away from the investigation and restabilize herself. Then tragedy strikes as Harper kills Dan (Wagner Moura) after realizing that he’s getting too close to connecting the dots regarding his backstory. That sends another ripple through Kirby and Jin-Sook’s reality, which apparently only changes Kirby’s appearance and radically alters Jin-Sook’s past and present by relegating her to her post-graduation days.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Harper Finally Brings Leo To The House
Titled “30,” the finale of “Shining Girls” begins in Lake View, Chicago, 1848, where Britta’s husband (Ulrich Thomsen) comes across the house for the first time while looking for flowers to preserve (which is an indicator of his intention to freeze time in a way). He comes across someone dangling from the ceiling and then finds a suicide note that reads “All Yours.” He drags the body outside, and after closing the door, the episode seamlessly cuts to Harper entering the home after killing Dan. Harper notices Grendel (Harper’s dog sitting there). After looking around for any break-ins and wondering how the dog got in, he gets Grendel out of the house and locks the door behind it.
Jin-Sook panics about the alteration of their reality, and she asks Kirby what she’s supposed to do now. Kirby informs her that for the time being, she has to live the life she is in while Kirby tries to figure out what’s going on. After sending Jin-Sook to her new address, Kirby goes to what’s supposed to be Dan’s house and finds someone else living there. Then she goes to the Chicago Sun-Times office. Unable to get into the main space (since it’s locked), she goes to the archives department and tries to call her mother, Rachel (Amy Brenneman). But even that doesn’t work out. So, she sleeps on the floor and is woken up by the archival assistant (Jack Lancaster). Assuming that she still works in archives, she starts to push the clips and then finds out that she’s a reporter at the Sun-Times now.
The realization is bitter-sweet because Kirby always wanted to be a reporter. Bitter because she is in Dan’s place, indicating that Dan doesn’t exist in this timeline. The bitter part of this alteration is confirmed when Dan’s news comes in the homicide cases of the week. Amidst all this, Kirby also finds out that she’s not together with Marcus in this timeline. This triggers a panic attack, and she falls to her knees in front of the elevator. Jin-Sook comes to her rescue, though, and asks her if she’s okay.
At the nursing home for people suffering from dementia, Harper pays Leo (Christopher Denham) a visit to find out about the tape with Klara (Madeline Brewer) on it. Leo either feigns his lack of memory or actually doesn’t remember where he has kept the tape. Either way, he uses that as leverage to make a deal with Harper, who is getting increasingly angry. Leo says that if Harper takes him back to the house, he’s going to let him know the location of the tape.
We briefly see Jin-Sook and Kirby talking about Dan’s death and coming to the conclusion that they need to remove Harper from the equation in order to release themselves from this cursed time loop. Then we cut to Harper bringing Leo to the house, where he starts remembering who he is as soon as he steps inside. But instead of telling Harper about the tape, Leo demands Harper send him on his way. Harper refuses, and they get into a fight, which ends with Harper gutting Leo.
Kirby Understands The Reality Of The House
After killing Leo, Harper restarts his time-traveling killing spree. Now, this part can be a little confusing because, initially, I assumed that the women Harper has killed are victims of his inability to woo them. But in this montage, he just kills them. That could be the case because Harper knows the women he needs to kill to maintain the time loop. Or because he is venting and killing randomly to impact Kirby and Jin-Sook. Whatever the reason, this montage is chilling. Meanwhile, Kirby and Jin-Sook go back to the Chicago Sun-Times and see that their reality has changed. Kirby sits Jin-Sook down at the desk, which is supposed to be hers, and goes to the archives to talk to Marcus about Harper’s Vietnam connection.
As they talk, Dan’s image starts to appear in the photos Marcus is developing. Kirby asks who is working on Dan’s death and realizes that she’s back in the archives in this reality. Lakshmi Awad (Sadieh Rifai) questions Jin-Sook about sitting at her desk (yes, in this reality, it’s not Kirby’s desk) and taking information out of it. The police appear almost out of thin air and escort a panicked Jin-Sook out of there while she keeps saying that she’s waiting for Kirby, who works there. Kirby finds out that Dan stole something before dying. When she goes back to the office, Kirby’s reality changes again because even Marcus doesn’t recognize her this time.
Kirby goes to the mortuary to meet Iris (Hanna Dworkin) to see Dan’s body and go through the last things he had on him. After some initial hesitation, Iris leaves the room while subtly nudging Kirby in the direction of the evidence and the body. Kirby finds Harper’s wallet that Dan had taken off him while Harper was stabbing Dan. In it, he finds the photo of the owner of the house, with the address on it. She takes a moment to see Dan before leaving the mortuary, and we see that Iris has changed into Howard (Marc Grapey), which means Kirby’s reality has changed again. She doesn’t mind that and makes her way to the house. After breaking into it, Kirby opens one of the windows of the house and sees through space and time.
‘Shining Girls’ Season 1: Ending Explained – What Does Kirby Do To Beat Harper At His Own Game?
Harper returns to the house and sees that someone has played the tape (yes, the tape he has been looking for) on the TV and left it like that for him. As he gets closer to inspect it, Kirby attacks him from behind. As the fight goes on, where the weapons of choice keep changing, it becomes clear that Kirby has been in the house long enough to understand its physics as she uses it to her benefit. When it looks like Harper is going to choke Kirby to death, Kirby pulls a knife out of her boot and guts him. And then “Shining Girls” Episode 8 cuts to black.
The narrative shifts to the moment Harper went to meet Klara after her performance, gave her the handkerchief he had stolen from a dead soldier, and lied to Klara about going all the way to Paris in the war. When he starts lying again, Klara actually predicts everything Harper is about to say. Shocked and taken aback, Harper leaves Klara’s green room and goes to steal the digital watch and get the address to the house on his own. But, unlike last time, Britta (Meighan Gerachis) not only notices Harper sitting outside her window but also leaves the watch on the bed, as if she wants Harper to find it. The only difference here is that the photo with the address on it isn’t that of the house’s owner, but of Harper finding the photo (just like the stuff he did to haunt Julia Madrigal).
For some reason, Harper doesn’t dwell on it and goes with Leo to break into the house. Things go sideways in the house as Kirby appears and shoots Harper on the shoulder. Leo runs. Harper begs for his life and pleads with Kirby to let him live. Kirby says that why should she when she knows he is going to become the person he has always been, i.e., a murderous psychopath? Kirby tells Harper that he’s wrong for thinking that the world owes him something and that he can take whatever he wants out of it. Kirby says that this is her world, and that is her house. Harper says that he doesn’t understand why or how Kirby is doing it as he doesn’t know who Kirby is. Kirby says the classic line that Harper doesn’t know her today, but she is always with him. She tells Harper to get out or else she is going to kill him because she has done it before.
As Harper goes out, back into his original timeline, it becomes clear that the house doesn’t obey him anymore. Outside, he finds Leo. They quarrel about Leo failing to back him up in the house. Leo asks what Harper found in there, and he reveals the Pegasus, which is poetic because that’s technically the first thing Harper gave to Kirby while traumatizing her. As Harper falls to the ground due to the pain of the gunshot wound, his reality changes. Harper asks Leo about the sudden disappearance of the uniform he was wearing, and what Leo says makes it apparent that in this reality, Harper never made it to the war. Harper attempts to convince Leo that he did go to war and ends up in the same mind space he put his victims in.
In the final moments of “Shining Girls” Season 1, we see the ripples of Kirby’s crusade. Julia Madrigal (Karen Rodriguez) is seen having a happy time with her father. Summer Francis (Madeline Baird) is alive and with her roommate. Jin-Sook is back as the keynote speaker at the Adler Planetarium. Kirby seeks out Dan, who is drinking himself to death again. She has a lengthy heart-to-heart with him, which feels like her way of not just saying “thank you” for being with her through thick and thin, but also an attempt to set him on the right path and away from the road to alcoholism. Kirby leaves a note in Dan’s notebook, which we don’t get to see. She finally arrives at the house to see Grendel knocking at the door. She sits down with Grendel, evidently satisfied with how things turned out, as Angel Olsen’s “One Too Many Mornings” plays.