HBO’s heartbreaking drama ends with tragedy but also reconciliation in a thematically resonant finale.
This recap of I Know This Much Is True season 1, episode 6, “Six” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
I Know This Much Is True was never going to have a happy ending – I think that was pretty obvious. But HBO’s emotionally intensive drama, which has been a showcase for Mark Ruffalo and a weekly hour of torture for those of us who kept tuning back in, managed to find an ending that felt just right, both in terms of its overall arc and how fitting it felt thematically. The show has always been about responsibility, guilt, and the longstanding legacy of trauma; I Know This Much Is True episode 6, the finale, thoroughly embodies these notions.
All throughout, the past has been offered as both an explanatory factor and an ominous warning. Dominick reading his grandfather’s journal has formed something of a throughline, and the revelations it contained painted an amoral man whose various cruelties might have cursed his lineage. This is, obviously, not true in any real-world sense, but it has been true enough for Dom, who through his responsibility for Thomas has lived under the yoke of family responsibility, and through his inability to take care of Thomas in the way he needed, not to mention his complicity in Ray’s abuse, has been saddled with an overwhelming sense of guilt.
That guilt is only compounded in I Know This Much Is True episode 6. After bringing Thomas home from the facility, Dom dumps his grandfather’s journal and believes that he and his brother can be fine alone, which of course they can’t, since Thomas is mentally ill and requires full-time care, support, and supervision – none of which Dom can provide alone. He can’t stop his brother from sneaking out to visit the falls where, long ago, their school classmate drowned; he can’t stop Thomas himself from drowning in those falls. Both of these deaths are, at least as far as Dom is concerned, Dom’s responsibility. Their chilling similarity so many years apart only feels right to him; a perfect summation of his curse, which has echoed from the pages of that journal and through the ages.
With the weight of these tragedies on his shoulders, Dom needs someone to share responsibility for them. The obvious choice is Ray, but the classic responses of blame and self-imposed alienation aren’t healthy ways in which to grieve and do little for Dom. It’s only through Dr. Patel that Dom is able to begin the process of healing – and finish his grandfather’s journal. By doing so he accepts, or at least begins to, that there is a way forward, that he has people remaining in his life who he could and perhaps should reconcile with, and that even though Thomas’s life always defined Dom, his death doesn’t have to.
That isn’t to say that Dom moves on without his brother. He never could, and he has no real desire to. But he is able to begin that process of moving on, which I suppose on reflection is the closest thing to a happy ending this show could manage. Perhaps I was wrong after all.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.