A highly manipulative finale is bolstered by a stunning performance from Elle Fanning and some inventive sequencing.
This recap of the Hulu series The Girl from Plainville season 1, episode 8, “Blank Space,” — the finale and ending explained — contains spoilers.
Depicting teen suicide on screen places the creators of this content in dangerously tricky territory. If that suicide happens to be based on a real-life story, then the situation is even more precarious. The team behind The Girl from Plainville have walked a very fine line throughout the whole season, but they may have just fallen at the final hurdle in episode eight, “Blank Spaces”.
The Girl from Plainville season 1, episode 8 recap – the finale and ending explained
The finale opens with Coco’s last day, as the suicidal teen embraces the last moments of his life and plans his untimely death. This is an extremely manipulative and risky maneuver from the creative team, which could backfire in a detrimental fashion. Coco plays his favorite video game for the last time, walks the dog, and spends the day at the beach with his family. All the while, Michelle goads him into actually going through with the fatal act. The filmmakers drop any ambiguity in the concluding chapter, happy to brand Michelle as the villain here. She continually provokes Coco into suicide, with a barrage of text messages. This is such an odd situation it was always going to be dramatized, but I’m not sure if it needed to be. It feels quite wrong witnessing a real person’s last day, building up to that awful event.
Michelle keeps in contact with her friends, lying to them for attention, stating that Coco is still missing and she’s worried sick. The teen writes his suicide notes and drives to the infamous Kmart car park. Thankfully the suicide itself isn’t filmed in graphic detail and there is room for a little decency with regard to his death. The finale then jumps forward to the judge’s crucial verdict on the trial.
Elle Fanning brings her A-game for this emotive decision. The judge declares that Dr. Peter Breggin’s analysis was not credible, that Coco was struggling with his mental health, yet the undeniable facts are that Michelle forced him back into that truck. Her conduct was reckless and on those grounds, she is found guilty. Fanning breaks down as the verdict is verbalized, with the actress providing a stellar performance as the teen criminal.
Next is an inventive sequence where Michelle fantasizes about meeting Coco at a bar and the two chat innocently. The series has dipped into the surreal before, with a few musical numbers. This experimental side to the drama has been divisive, but here it works a treat. Coco tells Michelle to stop hiding in this fantasy world and to accept reality. She fights back, arguing how he didn’t want any help and that he tortured her. Michelle is finally regretful and edging towards remorse too.
Episode eight ends with a new 2019 timeline, where Michelle has her hair cut the day before being sentenced to fifteen months in jail. The facts of the trial are then plastered onto the screen, reporting on the dates of Michelle’s incarceration, the introduction of “Conrad’s Law”, which would find someone criminally liable of coercing suicide, and Michelle’s early release. There’s also a fitting final shot of the couple’s phones being placed into evidence side by side.
An odd adaptation that at times delved into the manipulative. The finale brought some resolution to the story, although Michelle never really accepts fault. Elle Fanning is great as the troubled lead and the overall portrayal of teenagers was authentically well crafted. This was a mixed bag of a series that needed some serious editing down and a stronger vision.
What did you think of The Girl from Plainville season 1, episode 8 (finale), and the ending? Comment below.