The drama series based on Harlan Coben’s novel follows an expected narrative structure, which is quite evident in all of his works. In his pursuit to leave behind his dark past, the hero starts living under a new identity in a new city with new people, but suddenly a familiar face from the past makes an appearance. From thereon, the protagonist struggles to hide his secrets to protect his present life and relationships. Netflix’s Spanish series, The Innocent, based on Harlan Coben’s, followed a similar premise, and the 2021 British Crime Mini-Series, Stay Close, adapts the same pattern.
Stay Close is an 8-part mini-series where a middle-aged woman, Megan Pierce (Cush Jumbo), excitedly prepares for her marriage with a man, Dave Shaw, with whom she has been living for 17 years and has three kids with him. While other characters in the series also raise their concern about why Megan never married Dave years before, the creators try their best to ignore the fact because, apparently, there isn’t any logical reason to justify it. One can subtly say that maybe she wasn’t ready until now, or struggled to move on from the past. Whatever the reason is, it’s not the conflict of the series, just a flawed set-up for the story.
‘Stay Close’ Synopsis
Megan Pierce (Cush Jumbo) lives a peaceful life with her three kids, Jordan, Laura, and Kayleigh, and her soon-to-be husband, Dave Shaw. He is the kids’ father and has been living with Megan for 17 years in Livingstone, England. One day, as Megan returns from hen night, she finds a blank greeting card on the doorstep with Megan’s former name, Cassie, written on the envelope. Soon after, Lorraine Griggs, Megan’s former employer, visits her. They two revisit their memories when Megan was known as Cassie and used to work at a nightclub, Viper.
Seventeen years ago, Stewart Green, obsessed with Cassie, used to assault her physically. On a dreadful Carnival night, Cassie found Stewart’s dead body in the woods and decided to run away. She buried her past, changed her identity, and decided never to look back. However, at the present time, Lorraine reveals to Megan that Stewart is very much alive and is looking for her. Megan panics in fear and searches for Stewart to protect her new identity.
In the meantime, DS Michael Broome and DC Erin Cartwright get the case of a missing person, 20-year-old rich lad Carlton Flynn. In a conversation with Carlton’s father, Del Flynn, Broome finds out that Carlton attended the Carnival at Viper’s on April 16th and disappeared on the same night. Strangely, it is the exact date on which Stewart Green disappeared from the Viper 17 years ago. Broome tries to find a pattern in these two missing persons’ reports and feels that these disappearances could be the work of a serial killer.
Stay Close further follows an investigation to find Carlton Flynn and his connection with Stewart Green. Will Broome be able to solve the case? And will Megan be able to save her relationship with Dave? Let’s explore further.
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Happened To Stewart Green?
Seventeen years ago, on the night of the Carnival, Megan found a note in her make-up room left by Ray Levine, Megan’s lover from a past life. However, the message was written by Lorraine Griggs, who stabbed Stewart Green in the woods and wanted to relieve Megan of her misery.
Megan found Stewart Green’s dead body covered in blood in the ruins and panicked. She believed that police would arrest her for the murder because she was the only one who had issues with Green. After Green’s death, Megan stole his hidden money kept in his safe to get out of town and start a new life. She even left some of it for his wife, Sarah Green, who found hard cash in a yellow briefcase left in the log store. Sarah hid the money and briefcase in the basement behind a closed door. For a long time, Broome, Megan, and Harry suspected that Sarah was hiding Stewart Green in the basement.
Throughout the Stay Close series, a bald man followed Megan everywhere. The narrative tried to trick the audience into believing that Green was alive. However, later it was revealed that this bald man was Rudy, the owner of Viper nightclub. Like many others, even Rudy believed that Megan ran off with Green and took the money he stole. However, when Rudy found out that Green was missing, he suspected Megan had stolen the money and thus followed her to get his cut.
Though Lorraine killed Green, it was Ray who disposed of his body. On the night of the murder, Ray followed Megan into the ruins and found Green’s dead body. To protect Megan, Ray carried the body to a remote location. He weighed it down with stones and threw it into a pond so that the police could never find it. After disposing of Green’s body, Ray tried contacting Megan, but she disappeared into thin air. While everyone believed that Megan ran off with Green, only Ray knew the truth and thus never left his pursuit to find Megan. Until the very end, Ray thought that Megan would never leave him alone, but she did.
Who Killed Guy Tatum?
On the night of April 17th, when Carlton disappeared, Lorraine targeted Guy Tatum, who got drunk and mistreated a girl in the bar. She lured him into the woods and killed him. However, while disposing of Tatum’s body, Lorraine heard voices in the vicinity and, in a hurry, left the body in the open.
Ray Levine found Tatum’s body near the ruins and reported it to the police through a public phone booth. Ray was mentally unstable and had visions that made him believe he had killed Tatum. But here again, it was Lorraine who committed the crime.
What happened To The Hired Contract Killers?
The psychotic couple, codenamed Barbie and Ken, who killed people ruthlessly, were hired by Carlton’s father, Del Flynn. The couple was in constant touch with the police head, Goldberg, who leaked case intel so that Barbie and Ken could find Carlton soon.
However, neither Del nor Goldberg knew that Barbie and Ken were sociopaths who killed the suspects instead of interrogating them. In Stay Close, Barbie and Ken killed Viper’s dancer Tawny Allure, lawyer Harry Sutton, and police officer Goldberg.
Barbie tried to kill Megan, but she stabbed Barbie in the act of self-defense, while Ken was killed by Lorraine when he followed her to her apartment.
Why Did Lorraine Griggs Kill Stewart Green & Others?
When DS Michael Broome started investigating the disappearance of Carlton Flynn, he suspected that there could be a connection between Carlton and Stewart Green. Both of them disappeared on the night of Carnival at the Viper. Upon further investigation, Broome found out that a male person went missing every year during Carnival, and hence, there was a pattern.
Ray’s psychological impact was heightened by Green’s death and Megan’s disappearance. He frequently visited the ruins and captured pictures on the same date, i.e., April 16th, every year. In these pictures, Broome spotted a red handle. He quickly visited the spot and discovered the tracks of a hand truck that led the detectives to a hidden underground bunker. To everyone’s surprise, Broome found around 15 skeletons hidden inside.
At the end of Stay Close, Lorraine Griggs confessed to Broome that she killed all these people because they deserved it. All these dead men lying hidden in the hole were accused of horrible acts against women. For example, Stewart Green used to assault Megan physically, and thus, to protect Megan, Lorraine killed him.
Lorraine Griggs was a survivor of domestic violence. Her husband used to assault her, which led to the death of her unborn baby. The attacks ruptured her uterus and left her with mental trauma from which she never really recovered. Lorraine lost empathy for the men who harmed women, and her husband became her first target. She left behind her previous life and took a job at Viper, where she realized that her work as a killer wasn’t finished yet. She stained her hands with blood again and again, and killed a male predator every year on the night of Carnival.
Sometimes, Lorraine framed other men, like Jamal Alade (for killing Zain Kaleed), by planting murder weapon inside his garage. She even tried to frame Ray for the murder of Carlton Flynn by putting Carlton’s credit card inside Ray’s car. But she never killed Carlton. This time, Lorraine was protecting a girl whose life had been ruined in case Carlton’s real killer had been found.
Who Killed Carlton Flynn?
Lorraine Griggs was a psychopath, and like most serial killers, she never broke the pattern. Yes, she did make some mistakes, like losing Green’s body, but that single mistake cost her gravely. When Megan/Casie returned to Viper to revisit the past, Lorraine contacted her and made a story around Green’s reappearance because she wanted to know what happened to Green’s body. It can be explained that Lorraine’s curiosity led to her fatal downfall as her communication with Megan exposed her pattern.
On the same night, Megan’s eldest daughter, Kayleigh, and her best friend, Bea, followed Megan to Viper. Kayleigh suspected her younger sister Laura was wearing her dress without permission, and so to catch her red-handed, she planted a camera in the wardrobe. To her surprise, her mother, Megan, was caught stealing one of her dresses. After being suspicious of her mother’s actions, Kayleigh followed Megan to Viper’s Carnival with Bea, where she used Carlton to enter the club.
Inside the club, Carlton charmed the young woman and tried to spike Kayleigh’s drink. But fortunately, Bea found it out and swapped the drinks. The girls tried to leave the club, but Carlton chased them. In the end, Carlton grabbed Kayleigh near his car, and in a panic, Kayleigh pushed Carlton into the car’s trunk. Suddenly, Bea showed up and decided to use Carlton’s car to run away. The car ran out of petrol (a rich dude’s car), and the girls had to leave the car in the woods. Kayleigh thought he would get out of the trunk when the influence of drugs would fade away. She had no idea that the car trunk had a lock, and that some locks could not be opened without a key. Later, Kayleigh called her father, Dave, to ride them home. But eventually, Dave spotted the car as well.
When Dave saw the car in the news report, he decided to get rid of it to protect his daughter. Even at this point, Stay Close wants you to believe that Carlton was under the influence of drugs and didn’t try to scream or make any noise when Dave pushed the car into the river. The ending sequence established that Carlton did scream while the car was drowning in the water, but Dave was deaf enough not to hear a bit of it.
The entire sequence and the ending of Stay Close that followed Carlton’s death and disappearance were highly flawed. Logically, it made no sense why a sane teenage girl would keep a guy’s necklace (Carlton’s necklace) and wear it like a trophy, especially when that guy tried to spike her drink and was all over the news report.
‘Stay Close’ Ending Explained
That night, Lorraine Griggs saw Kayleigh pushing Carlton into the car trunk. She didn’t kill Carlton, yet during police interrogation, she confessed that she killed him to protect Kayleigh. Lorraine had her reasons for protecting Kayleigh. First of all, Lorraine was diagnosed with cancer and had little time left to live. Hence, even if the court announced a lifetime imprisonment for her, she would be free of her sins soon. Secondly, in her confession, Lorraine explained that she used to frame other men just to keep them away from women. Hence, Lorraine’s lie wasn’t a sacrifice, just a part of a plan to take revenge on the men.
After Lorraine confessed her crimes, the case of dozens of missing males came to an end. Ray Levine and Jamal Alade, falsely accused of murder, were discharged. Ray left Livingstone to start a new life somewhere else and use his photography skills to earn a living. However, in the search for closure for his past love relationship, he did visit Megan and Dave’s wedding as a heartbroken lover.
While everyone had a new beginning, Megan still held a secret that weighed her down. She knew the truth that her husband and daughter had accidentally killed a man. Throughout the narrative of “Stay Close,” Megan struggled to get rid of her secrets so that she wouldn’t have to lie to her family anymore. But it seems like, in the end, she still has a secret to hide that could destroy her happily married life.
Some people, no matter how hard they try, will never be able to break free from the pattern, or destiny, as some may refer to it. For Megan, the end was only the beginning of a new struggle.
Stay Close is a 2021 Crime Thriller Series directed by Daniel O’Hara and Lindy Heymann. The series based on Harlan Coben’s novel is streaming on Netflix.