‘The Essex Serpent’ Ending, Explained – What Happens To Cora And Will’s Love Affair?


After setting most of the story in Essex (because the name of the miniseries is “The Essex Serpent”), the penultimate episode took the narrative to London, along with Cora (Claire Danes), Frankie (Caspar Griffiths), and Martha (Hayley Squires). Then Will (Tom Hiddleston), Stella (Clémence Poésy), Jo (Dixie Egerickx), and John (Ryan Reffell) arrive in London as well to get Stella checked by Dr. Luke Garrett (Frank Dillane). Obviously, Will and Cora have some weird interactions. Will then leaves with his family after Stella decides to not get herself operated upon. Things get weird between Cora and Luke as he expresses his love for her, and she rejects it. This bitterness spills over into Cora and Martha’s relationship, causing Martha to leave Cora. And Luke gets mugged, and his hand is slashed by the robber, i.e., the very tool he uses to do his surgeries.

Spoilers Ahead

Cora Returns To Essex

“The Essex Serpent” episode, titled “Surfacing,” opens with a semi-conscious Cora on her bed with all the debris of her rage around her. Then we see Luke regaining consciousness and trying to check the status of his hand but failing. Cora sits up to write a letter to Stella, explaining how sorry she’s about her situation. Cora’s words turn into the narration over scenes of Stella walking in the rain and choosing a boat. The narration and Cora’s writing of the letter are interrupted by Frankie asking about the things lying around and the whereabouts of Martha. Cora takes him to have breakfast.

In Aldwinter, Will is seen taking care of Stella after her little walk in the rain. Will says he was looking for Naomi (Lily-Rose Aslandogdu) and Stella assumes that she’s with the Serpent. Realizing that Stella’s health, both mental and physical, is deteriorating, Will avoids answering Stella and instead focuses on warming her up. Stella, realizing that Will is trying to avoid her inquiry, says that she knows that the Serpent is waiting for her, and she is ready. Stella asks Will to help her by bringing back Frankie and Cora.

In London, Frankie helps Cora pick up all the broken pieces strewn all over the floor. Stella can be seen packing as well. When she goes downstairs, she finds a letter from Will that’s requesting Cora to come to Aldwinter and meet Stella one last time because she has been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Will admits that he’s broken up about this, reducing Cora to tears.

Dr. George Spencer (Jamael Westman) shaves Luke’s face, and Luke compliments his work by saying that at least Spencer’s shaving is better than his stitching. When Spencer suggests that Luke move in with him for some time,  Luke gets agitated and says that he’s fine on his own, even though he evidently isn’t. Luke says he wants to go to the mortuary so that he can start working again. Spencer advises against it, and Luke gets even more agitated. Spencer asks if he can do something to help Luke. Luke tells Spencer to leave him. Spencer obliges, and Luke acts like a brat while pushing him out of his home. Luke then tries to pick up a knife, hoping that his hand will start working. He fails, and his hand starts bleeding again.

Martha goes to Sali’s (Deepica Stephen) place to give her the bad news that Charles Ambrose (Nitin Ganatra) has changed his mind and is not going to help them. When Martha says that she’s not going to give up on Sali and Nev (Yaamin Chowdhury), Sali reveals that Spencer has apparently come up with a plan to help them by buying the whole building and installing plumbing and electricity in it. Martha says that they’ll benefit from this on a personal level, but that they need real change, not philanthropy. Sali says that she thinks Spencer is doing this for Martha. He apparently talked about spending his future with Martha, to Sali, and Nev.

Cora and Spencer meet. Cora says that Martha has moved to Cheapside. So, if he wants to meet her, that’s where he has to go. Spencer says that’s not the reason why he’s there. He has bad news. Spencer tells Cora about Luke’s attack and that his hand got slashed. He says that he did his best to fix Luke’s hand. But Spencer thinks that Luke will never be able to operate again. Cora asks how she can help in this situation. Spencer tells Cora to visit Luke and cheer him up.

So, she does and goes and immediately hugs Luke. They discuss alternatives and how they are going to get through this together. She even tells him to forget about their argument and find ways to get him operating again. Cora suggests that Luke come live with her so that she can take care of him. Luke says now, she sounds like Spencer. Cora says that she’s asking Luke to move in with her permanently, as her friend and companion. Luke says that he’s under the impression that that was Martha’s position. Cora says that Martha is gone. Luke knows it means that Cora is just filling a void with Luke. Cora stops Luke’s bitter rambling and tells him that they are good together. Luke calls out the ridiculousness of it all and tells her that he can’t move in with her because he is in love with Cora while she is in love with someone else.

Cora meets Martha and asks her about Luke. When she says “yes,” Cora asks Martha why she didn’t inform her. Martha said because she thought that Cora would end up doing something stupid. Cora apologizes to Martha. Martha asks, “for what?” Cora says that she’s sorry for misbehaving with Martha, for Luke, and for not looking after the people she loves. Martha seems glad. Spencer visits Luke and persuades Luke to let him stay and help him out. Martha unpacks the whole situation with Ambrose, Sali, and Nev, and how Spencer is looking to fix things up because he’s in love with Martha. Cora says she doesn’t want to go to Essex, but she has to because of Stella’s dying request. Martha convinces her to go, and Cora takes Frankie with her to Essex.

See More: ‘The Essex Serpent’ Episode 5: Recap And Ending, Explained – What Causes Cora And Martha’s Fallout?

Naomi Returns Home

Martha visits Spencer and is taken aback by his enormous wealth. She assumes that Spencer is going to propose to her and goes on an entire rant about marriage. Spencer corrects her and tells her that he has decided to use his trust to set up a campaign for social housing, and he needs someone to run it. And, of course, Spencer wants Martha to take up that spot. Martha doesn’t respond. She only smiles.

Cora and Frankie go to the Ransome household to meet Stella. Cora asks Stella how she is feeling. Stella responds by saying that she’s ready. Cora requests Stella to not say that. Stella says that she is ready to die. Cora asks how John and Jo are doing. Stella says that a lady in the village takes them after school. In mid-sentence, Stella says that she is feeling tired. Cora tensely asks Stella if she wants to rest. Stella says no, not yet. Finally, Cora asks the big question, pushing Stella to speak her mind. Stella tells Cora to meet Will. Cora says that she’s there to meet Stella. Stella insists and sends her off to the church while keeping Frankie under her supervision.

The first thing that Will tells Cora is that he told her not to come. Cora says that she had to see Stella. And that Stella told Cora to come and find Will. Cora says that she can leave if Will wants her to. Will shakes his head and takes her for a walk. Cora randomly asks if the boats are going out into the waters. Will says that the villagers are still afraid of the Serpent. Cora asks how the kids are doing. Will says that he hasn’t told them yet about the severity of Stella’s illness because it feels too cruel, especially with Naomi still missing. Cora coerces Will to speak his heart, and he starts talking about Stella’s bravery, grit, and how she has accepted the fact that she’s dying soon.

Will says that, now and then, Stella’s mind drifts, and then she returns to being Will’s Stella. But even when she drifts away, Will still loves her. He tells Cora that he is always going to love Stella. Cora says that she knows he will. Stella tells Frankie that Cora is right and that the Serpent is alive. Under the garb of showing the Serpent to Frankie, Stella uses him to make a funeral boat for herself. Cora wonders if she has made things worse for Will. To which Will says that she’s not at fault. He let Cora into his life even though he had everything he could ask for. Cora says things aren’t that simple. Cora says that love isn’t finite and it isn’t confined to marriage. Cora says that there are more ways to love. Will says that Cora has never known a happy marriage. Cora says that, still, she knows how to love someone. Will says, “and to be loved in return.”

Cora and Will get close again, and Will examines the scar on Cora’s neck. Frankie pushes the boat with Stella in it into the water. She floats away. Frankie sees that it’s about to sink, and he seeks out Will and Cora. Frankie spills the details of what he has done for Stella. Will notices the sinking boat and jumps into the water to save Stella. Will successfully gets to Stella, and when she is being pulled out, Stella sees the murky silhouette of something humongous swimming around in the water. Stella proclaims that she has seen the Serpent.

Later that night, Frankie asks Cora if Stella is going to die. Cora says that everyone dies one day. Frankie says that Stella is going to die before her time, though, like his father. Cora agrees that that’s a possibility. Frankie says that he doesn’t want Cora to die. Cora says she doesn’t intend to either. The following day, we see Naomi coming out of Cracknell’s (Christopher Fairbank) hut and looking at the carcass of a dead whale. She runs home to her father, Henry (Gerard Kearns), who rushes to hug her instantly. Naomi says that everything is going to be alright now because the Serpent is dead.

‘The Essex Serpent’ Season 1: Ending Explained – Cora And Will Get Their Happy Ending

The whole village gathers at the beach to look at the dead “Serpent.” Frankie and Cora rush to the spot, and Frankie observes that the carcass is not that of a serpent. It’s a Blue Whale that evidently got caught in the nets and died. Frankie wonders why it came to Aldwinter. Cora says that maybe its patterns were upset by earthquakes. Frankies asks why everyone is thinking that it’s a serpent. Cora says that people fear what they don’t understand and jump to the wrong conclusions. Frankie says that he didn’t want it to die. As they look on, Frankie holds Cora’s hand, and she sheds some tears before walking away with Frankie.

Will is seen plucking some flowers. When he goes to give it to Stella, he finds out that she has passed away in her sleep. He quietly cries and hugs her. The narrative moves ahead by six months. Cora has become a full-fledged excavator. She gets a letter from Luke asking about how she is doing. Luke says that he misses her, but not as much as she misses him. He also says that he has finally found people who appreciate him. He has been made head of medical school, where he’ll be teaching the ways of the heart. Luke asks Cora if Will has reached out to Cora.

“The Essex Serpent” ends as Will reads a letter from Cora that says she loves him and she is content without him. He adds to the pile of letters from her and cries. Eventually, he shows up in front of Cora. She asks him why he never wrote back. Will says it is because he had too much to say. They smile. They hug. They kiss. And they walk off into the distance, finally together.

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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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