Did ‘The Undoing’ finale give everyone the payoff they wanted? (spoilers)

Nicole Kidman films with Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland in NYC

SPOILERS for The Undoing’s finale.

The entire time I’ve been watching The Undoing, I’ve been severely irritated by how a professional therapist and doctor (Grace Fraser, played by Nicole Kidman) could be so thoroughly “fooled” by a pathological liar like her husband Jonathan Fraser, played by Hugh Grant. I get that he was apparently very good at keeping secrets, and that he was likely a sociopath. But once the house of cards began to come down, Grace was still wandering around New York, asking Jonathan’s friends and colleagues about what they thought, and then she ignored their answers when it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. For five episodes, we had to watch Grace fumble around emotionally, to the point where I thought the character was just a bad actor and Grace was actually the murderer.

But we got a spectacular payoff for all of that fumbling. I know we all had theories about who the killer was and why, but that payoff was unexpected and fascinating – turns out the cops had the right guy the whole time. Jonathan did it. When Grace promised her father that she would “take care of it” after the whole drama with the hammer found in their son’s violin case, I thought we were in for another episode of Grace wandering around New York in a boho coat. But no – she finally made up her mind to actually DO something. She got her friend, played by Lily Rabe, to act as a go-between, feeding information to the prosecution. Then Grace “fell apart” under cross-examination and revealed all of the sh-t about Jonathan’s dead sister, what his mom said about his coldness and sociopathy and all that. At first I was like “why are we centering all of this crap on the Grace character?” But Grace got justice for Elena in the end.

Then, Jonathan is sitting alone in the house he once shared with his family, having flashbacks about that night with Elena. We see it like it happened – he went over to her art studio, he f–ked her, Elena started talking about Grace and how they could, like, raise their kids as brothers and sister. Jonathan slams her head into the wall repeatedly. Elena comes after him with a hammer as he’s leaving, he grabs the hammer and brutally murders her. The twist was there was no twist – Jonathan was the man everyone said he was.

The whole thing with Jonathan taking their kid and Grace and her father in the helicopter and the bridge… I mean, it was a good ending. I appreciated that Grace didn’t say a thing to him as she took their son away.

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant film a scene for ''The Undoing''

Photos courtesy of Backgrid.

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47 Responses to “Did ‘The Undoing’ finale give everyone the payoff they wanted? (spoilers)”

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  1. square_bologna says:

    I had a whole other theory. I thought Franklin did it. I thought that the “sad f–k,” one time other infidelity Jonathan admitted to was with his father-in-law. Franklin’s having disliked Jonathan from the start hinted to me that Franklin sensed a kindred spirit in him, i.e., serial cheater. Then he gave/lent Jonathan all that money, and cried as he told Grace about it … I expected to hear that HE’D been the one in a jealous rage against Elena. Now THAT would have been an undoing of her whole life! 🤷‍♀️

    That said, it bothered me a great deal that Henry got into the helicopter (one reviewer thought it was Franklin’s private chopper, I’d thought it belonged to the police) and left his phone behind in Jonathan’s car, by the driver’s seat. My phone is like a third hand to me, I would have HAD TO go back for it! 😆

  2. Nev says:

    Nicole is sooooo amazing. My favourite. And the little boy was amazing too. Their scenes together were so well acted.

    • LightPurple says:

      Noah Jupe. He’s a great child actor and has been working regularly in some big projects. I’m always happy to see him in something I’m watching.

  3. Arpeggi says:

    It was a great ending… Until the end? I honestly don’t think it was necessary to see Elena’s assassination so graphically, nor did we need to see picture of her hammered skull, that was gross. A shot from the back of Jonathan with the hammer would have been enough, we don’t need to see yet another woman getting beaten up no screen. Same for the car chase even if it didn’t end in a murder-suicide: no need for domestic violence p*rn.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Yeah. I agree. SICK of seeing violence against women sadistically re-enacted for viewing pleasure.

    • Case says:

      Agreed. These horrible acts can be hinted at just fine without actually showing it. It’s never necessary and never adds anything to the story.

    • candy says:

      Yea, I have read a lot of stuff by Rebecca Solnit and her activism focuses on this theme. Once you know to look for it, it is truly terrifying how present and relished it is.

    • Anna says:

      Agreed. And it was especially upsetting to see the child in the room and there was nothing in the script that even addressed this fact. Couple this with the other instances of how they’ve dealt with this BIPOC child, and it’s just glaring. I cannot see another BIPOC person subjected to experiencing or witnessing horror, murder, death, violence, not in real life and certainly not in tv. It was deeply irresponsible how they portray the child. Such white privilege throughout.

      Another thing that blocked me from being able to even remotely lose myself in this story was that Kidman’s face is now incapable of expression. I was transfixed by the fact that no matter what was going on, her face couldn’t register any expression and I found myself going back to her face constantly, trying to see if there was any emotion registering. A few wrinkles on her forehead would shift (the area below where she must have gotten botox) but other than that, no movement whatsoever.

  4. Midge says:

    Nicole Kidman’s acting throughout the series was cringeworthy.

    • mander says:

      I agree.

    • Eating popcorn says:

      No her acting was fine – she just had so much botox you couldn’t read any emotion on her face.

      • Eugh says:

        Her accent was also slipping all the time, it was really odd. The strange pursed lips was also distracting to me

      • tcbc says:

        She also kept slipping into her Australian accent. To be fair, that’s par for the course with her.

      • Louisa says:

        It was the wig and the “bathrobe” coats that did it for me. So bizarre. I am a huge Nicole fan but this was definitely not her finest role.

      • JoJo says:

        I thought her acting was really good. But I could actually see a change in her face over the episodes. In the first few, her fillers/Botox were really toned down, and she looked better, but then somewhere around episode 3 or 4 she looked different again. Way too much. And I’ve been noticing the pursed lips on her for a while. That’s the lip fillers. They look ridiculous and distort her facial expressions. She really needs to quit it.

  5. SJ Knows says:

    NK looks really plastic-y to me in these photos.
    I no longer pay for cable so I have not seen this, but she needs to stop having stuff done to her face, period.
    She photographs badly so imagine what she must look like in person.

    • Alissa says:

      it was really distracting for me during the whole show, but especially this episode, how smooth with Botox and fillers her face is. she has no lines! her face doesn’t move! she kept trying to do a furrowed brow but she was only able to conjure the faintest of wrinkles.

    • ThatsNotOkay says:

      She gives new meaning to the phrase “stiff upper lip.” And her face is starting to get that hardening gel or concrete-like appearance. It’s getting lumpy. Imagine: lumps in place of wrinkles. Give me the wrinkles any day.

  6. Case says:

    I usually love Nicole Kidman’s work but I didn’t think she was strong enough in this series to carry the psychological drama aspect and have the story focus on her processing these major revelations. Which is why many people mistakenly thought it was a traditional whodunit. I don’t think the writing was clever; I think they just wanted to keep using cliffhangers and surprises to mislead the audience. I was satisfied with the ending, just didn’t think it was particularly well-written overall.

  7. Alissa says:

    it’s pretty disappointing that Elena’s character was confined to either being naked/sexy/whatever, or acting “crazy” and emotionally volatile. just the basic sexy fiery Latina trope, with an added dash of unexplained Fatal Attraction behavior (seriously, explain her weird obsession with Nicole Kidman to me).

    all for the show to basically just alternate between showing us her naked body, and her face smashed in.

    she also had ZERO chemistry with Hugh Grant, so I’m not sure what her motivation was with him? was she just playing him in order to get her son to go to private school, etc? I feel like it was just very not fleshed out.

    • Case says:

      Totally agreed, and her unexplained obsession with Grace was messy writing (not the only example of messy writing, either). I think the writers were too focused on throwing us off than they were interested in explaining their twists.

    • Chica1971 says:

      The entire time I was watching last night, I could not get that GQ article out of my mind about how Grant needs to moisturize and go to an aesthetician. His older skin just made his relationship with Elena even more ridiculous for me..

      • geekish1 says:

        Yes, but he was a very wealthy, highly respected doctor who did not look like the crypt keeper. A lot of younger women would have gone for him.

    • TeamMeg says:

      I thought that sex scene was pretty hot, when he put his fingers in her mouth…? That was chemistry to me. Hugh is the same age as me and, um, yeah. He looks great.

      I did not watch the smashing-in scene, or any of the still shots of bloody Elena – I closed my eyes tight for all of that. SO TIRED and eternally PISSED off with the graphic images of dead women, and violence against women, that have been par for the course on television and film for so many years. Make it stop.

      • Alissa says:

        he looks fine, but I didn’t think the two of them worked and to be honest, I’m not sure why she would have a year and a half long affair with her kids older doctor. she had a whole pregnancy happen!

        also him sticking his fingers in her mouth made me cringe so hard. I’m not sure why – I like Hugh Grant a lot and have always had a bit of a crush on him, but it REALLY didn’t work for me. I just didn’t buy that she would cheat on her hot husband with Hugh Grant unless it was too fleece him, which they didn’t go into in the show.

      • Imogene says:

        @ Alissa – I see what you’re saying but I think it was the idea that she fell for him because he “saved” her son and transferred feelings of gratitude to feelings of infatuation. This is why she became obsessed.

    • Turtledove says:

      “she also had ZERO chemistry with Hugh Grant, so I’m not sure what her motivation was with him? was she just playing him in order to get her son to go to private school, etc? I feel like it was just very not fleshed out.”

      I think they didn’t have a lot of time to flesh out the relationship but I personally assumed that he saved her son and that alone was meant to be a lot of what she saw in him. They definitely mentioned it but didn’t show much of it. (Ironically, they could have delivered LESS gratuitous sex scenes and MORE of this, it would have perhaps explained the whole thing better)

  8. A.Key says:

    I loved it! Probably one of the most realistic murder mysteries in the genre! Love how they played on our expectations for it to NOT be the obvious person because hey fictional narratives have to be complicated, when in reality the most obvious person usually is the one who did it.

    And I find it really normal that she was in denial the whole time about her husband’s character, precisely because he was her husband and she really did love him, and he was also her son’s father, her son loved him, of course she was never gonna be able to clinically evaluate him objectively like her patients. So many women are like this, the hardest thing is to admit a person you love is a bad person and that you’ve been living in an illusion the whole time.

    Btw Hugh Grant blew me away, never knew he had it in him, terrific performance.

    • Sunnydaze says:

      Thank you for that comment! I’m a therapist and there is a HUGE expectation that people in the mental health field are “all together” or are pinnacles of pristine mental health. I would argue most of my coworkers, myself included, have had many past and current struggles. We’re not here to suss out deception and play detective, we’re here to give you as a patient the tools to make your own change, at times calling out inconsistency for therapeutic benefit but not really to sit there and “figure you out”. I have many friends in the field in abusive relationships, friends who have been led on by partners, put in really shady positions by clients, and there’s always a sense of “they should have known better” (I also can’t help but notice it’s a highly female dominated field and subject to widespread burnout and compassion fatigue). I do notice there are several prominent male psychiatrists in my area who are almost self-described narcissists (one actually claimed he was in I swear to God a legit business meeting – AND LAUGHED – AND WAS HIRED) but if something strange is brought to light in their personal life it’s met by a shrug and “well, he’s a brilliant doctor not a nice guy”. Consider other fields though…medical providers who smoke or are overweight with cardiac issues, hair stylists with terrible hair coloring, accountants with debt, the construction worker whose home is in a constant state of dissaray…etc ….and yes these might be the best professionals in their fields. I think people often confuse a person’s profession as a reflection of their personal life and being, and yet it is true this can be very frustrating to see it play out on screen. Quite the tough thing to reconcile, we are frustrated they should know better and it’s not realistic…but the reality is people seldom do know better when it comes to themselves.

  9. Southern Fried says:

    The ending was better than I expected, gratifying the snake has to go to prison, surprised he took off with Henry to harm him. But all the scenes of Kidman’s plastic face were too too much.
    I also don’t see a high powered attorney acting out that much in court as their case falls apart.

    • Nic919 says:

      I don’t see any decent lawyer throw a witness on the stand without witness prep either especially not the spouse of the accused. And putting the accused on the stand (which happens rarely in a murder case as it is) without trying to rehabilitate the weak points of the case before the prosecutor has a chance to cross examine isn’t done either. I just took this show as super silly because the legal aspects were just wrong all over the place.

      • Indywom says:

        I agree with the ridiculous court scenes. What parent would allow children in a courtroom during a trial? In fact lawyers and judges would discourage it. The threat of Henry being sent to juvie because he obstructed justice was also utterly ridiculous. Also would a DA not have researched Jonathan’s background before a trial started? Sloppy writing. The best scenes were with Haley Fitzgerald.

      • Redgrl says:

        I agree that a lot of the legal wrangling was far-fetched. Between the nonsensical theatrics and the lack of preparation I generally find most court scenes tiresome and unrealistic. But it’s not uncommon for accused in Canada to take the stand in murder trials. I say that from personal experience since they’ve mostly testified in the ones I’ve prosecuted.

    • Louisa says:

      There’s no way a defense attorney would put a “wronged” wife on the stand no matter how much she said it would help.

  10. Marigold says:

    I thought Kidman was fantastic. Her face when she was running after Henry was amazing. Hugh Grant was so creepy that I may never view him in the same way again.

  11. shanaynay says:

    I couldn’t get into it. Was I wrong not to watch it? Did I miss out?

    • Kathryn says:

      I think Kaiser’s take is right. It is messy and uneven, but has several things to recommend it: Hugh Grant was terrific, a peek into the NYC privileged life. The finale was strong

      • SM says:

        I enjoyed the finale as well. It was competing in a sense that there were no acrobatic plot twists and the guilty one was indeed the one suspected from the very beggining. The show built up towards Kidman’s character’s realisation of who this person she spent her life with is and choosing what is indeed beat for her child. It also is good that the story culminated through the storyline of the key characters rather than throwing in nome random person as killer.
        I understand Kidman persuaded Hugh specifically for this role and so props to her, she placed him exactly where he belongs – playing a sociopathic, narcissist scumbags. As for Kidman herself, her face is becoming distracting. It is so unnatural it was hard to concentrate on anything but that face. In several scenes throughout the show she shared with Lily Rabe, you can really see how all the plastic ruins beauty. Lily looked so beautiful and natural, even with lines, compared to the doll like appearance of Kidman. Also not sure if it was a make up choice so make her eyes look red in each scene in order to show the stress and sleeplessness of the character, but her eyes looked terrible.

    • minx says:

      It had beautiful NYC scenery, some good acting. There were worse things to watch during a pandemic. I do think 6 episodes was a bit much.

  12. Coco says:

    I liked the book much better.

    *Spoilers* For anyone who found the court scenes ridiculous, the trial was invented for the show.

    • Prof Trelawney says:

      I liked the book better too, a much stronger smarter woman at the center, who gets to evolve and grow much more throughout. But the scenes of NY, the fashion and interiors were fun. And I like that Grace finds her smarts and strength in the end here too.

    • candy says:

      The trial was straight up bonkers! I’ll allow a few Perry Mason moments, but the way the characters provided testimony was totally unrealistic, as were the questions.

  13. candy says:

    The whole time I thought Grace’s dad committed the crime to frame Jonathan. But I like how they framed the ending – In real life, it’s almost always the abusive spouse/boyfriend/ex and that’s what they chose to convey.

  14. Sarah I says:

    SM brought up the red eyes of Nicole Kidman, which highlights something I’ve always noticed about her through the years. Yes, she has been beautiful when she was younger, but in photo shoots and in films through the years, her eyes are always bloodshot. I don’t know why that would be. It was commented on in the Amazon comments, that with all she spends on plastic surgery, surely she could spring for some eye drops. I commented once a few years ago about the bloodshot eyes, it was so marked. And I said I wonder what causes that…….no, maybe I don’t want to know.

  15. Lizzie says:

    I was sure Grace was a sleep walker, she seemed so out of it sometimes. It was an entertaining 6 episodes.