“Homecoming” is a powerful end to a gripping season, managing to satisfy without completely closing off the story.
This recap of The Defeated season 1, episode 8, “Homecoming”, contains spoilers, including a discussion of The Defeated ending. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
“Homecoming” is the rare Netflix finale that actually feels like one, bringing a gripping thriller to a poignant conclusion. It doesn’t completely tie up every loose end and close the story off from continuation, of course, but why should it? Just like the Second World War didn’t really end in Germany with the German Instrument of Surrender — as we’ve seen throughout the season, post-war Berlin was a place still ravaged by the legacy of the Nazis, the former concentration camp guards still hiding in the country, and the organized and not-so-organized crime that proliferated in the power vacuum — the stories of these characters don’t necessarily end when the cameras stop rolling. One of the greatest compliments you can pay a work of fiction is that it’s easy to imagine how it’ll proceed without you.
Yet the ending of The Defeated at least wraps up the major storylines, follows some character arcs to their logical conclusions, and gives a fitting send-off to a show that has delivered on its promise of being both an earnest period drama and a pulpy thriller. That begins with the capture of the Angel Maker.
The Defeated season 1, episode 8 recap
There’s something charming about Max and Elsie’s raid on Gladow’s hideout; him coaching her through it all, telling her how to fire a gun, how to cover his advances, and ultimately deferring to her bravery when Gladow gets the drop on them. She gives Max the chance to shoot the Angel Maker and take him into custody, where they have just a couple of hours to interrogate him before the arrival of American Intelligence when things will inevitably get messy. Elsie and Gad carry out the interrogation, during which Gladow recalls diagnosing Elsie with ovaritis many years prior, probably saving her life. His smugness is intolerable for Elsie, his playing dumb obviously a ruse to bide his time until he can blackmail Bob Travis for leniency. Gad wants to trust in the system, but Elsie knows better. Her hands are tied, though. When a man knows so much, he has more power than the legal system can contain.
In the meantime, Max goes to confront Franklin, whom Moritz has kidnapped, along with Claire, who had finally plucked up the courage to leave him. Max finds Franklin’s usual driver gagged, but accompanied by a note that directs him to the farmhouse where Moritz has rigged Franklin up in a Saw-style trap involving a lit candle, glue, and gunpowder. Making him suck one of Bertha’s extracted teeth, he shows Franklin his murder scrapbook, and the chapter reserved for him. But Max arrives too quickly. He finds Claire in the car outside and brings her around, then goes to confront his brother, finally.
Once again, “Homecoming” returns to the night that the brothers’ mother died at the hands of their father, but this time we get more context. In the struggle, Moritz shot him, as previously depicted — but not fatally. After seeing his father was alive, Moritz executed him, which is where, Max posits, he psychologically broke. Moritz sees things a different way. He believes he was given purpose. Now, he’s making his life count, and he plans to do the same for his son. It’s understandable that Max, with a final, “I love you,” pulls his gun and shoots Moritz, who tumbles off the edge of the barn’s upper floor. He goes back outside and explains to Claire that this was their mother’s farm. She planted a seed there back in the day that she always wanted them to come and see. In the end, they did, though perhaps not in the circumstances she imagined.
When Max goes back inside to tell Franklin to play ball with Elsie, Moritz is gone. We see as part of an epilogue that he’s discovered, alive but in bad shape, by a passing man and presumably his son. He asks to go to Italy.
The Defeated‘s ending chooses a note of optimism, though. Karin manages to get away and discover her purpose in preparing Germany’s children to bring about a new, better future. Gad makes a hell of a policeman. And Elsie, to the tune of Bach’s unreleased composition played by a local cellist, returns home to find Leopold, taken there by Izosimov, with a note reading, simply, “You’re free now.” It’s a start.