The finale wraps everything up in a pretty tidy bow with a morbid conclusion, as Helene is finally forced to confront the truth.
This recap of The Perfect Mother season 1, episode 4 contains spoilers, including an open discussion of The Perfect Mother’s ending. You can check out our spoiler-free season review by clicking these words.
The finale of The Perfect Mother opens with Anya fearing for her life, trying to hustle a taxi to Berlin. And you can’t blame her, really. Now that the photographs of her and Kamal have been released to the media thanks to Damien’s mother, she knows she’s in danger. Her account has once again been undermined, her innocence is no longer assured, and her status as a “victim” has suddenly become questionable again. Helene is there to stop her from departing, but is this once again the idea of perfect motherhood winning out over logic?
The Perfect Mother season 1, episode 4 recap
The question should be asked. Lukas actually brings it up to Matthias, whose role in the whole affair has been to distance himself from it and pretend it wasn’t happening. Lukas was burdened with Anya’s secrets because their parents were too determined to push the narrative of a perfect life and family. They would rather ignore the obvious than have to confront it; to sully their public persona, and their internal ideas of what being a parent really means. They pretended things were fine when they should have known — correction: did know — that they weren’t.
Helene knows she is complicit in this way. She knows what she has done and what she hasn’t. But she still feels resentment for Anya’s secrecy; even if it was largely an illusion, doesn’t she deserve some credit for how determinedly she has created the ideal life for her family? Doesn’t Anya owe her the truth? The truth, according to Anya, is that Damien’s death was an accident, but one that was nonetheless her fault. She liked Damien but had no idea he was a power-mad psychopath. She didn’t know, if she went back to his place, that he’d drug, hit, and rape her. In the bathroom, after, she called Kamal to get her. She had her phone. She told him about the open window on the roof. When Kamal arrived, Damien set about the pair of them with a knife. When he dropped it in the struggle, Anya took it. At some point, Kamal got a hold of it. Damien, incensed, calling Anya a w***e and Kamal a thief, attacked them both, and Kamal stabbed him repeatedly, apparently in self-defense. We see flashbacks corroborating the account, but they’re from Anya’s perspective, so it’s difficult to buy into them totally, and even Helene seems unconvinced.
Vincent asks the essential question: Why didn’t she say this, to begin with? Her description of events is clearly self-defense. But it turns out that Kamal is a Libyan undocumented immigrant — he’s in Paris illegally. They met at the law center, where Anya helped him with his asylum application. They’re in love, she says, and her going home with Damien was just an effort to get back at him for what she assumed was an affair. Now, she wants to make sure she saves him. Vincent persuades her to go to the police station to give them this story, while Helene and her mother go out to look for Kamal at Anya’s request.
The plot thickens when Helene goes looking for Kamal and finds not his sister but his wife and their infant son. They have been living separately because of their status. She also mentions about a duffel bag full of money that Kamal provided and then supposedly returned. She passes this information onto Vincent, who informs Anya, who predictably refuses to believe it. When she’s finally convinced, she doesn’t accept Helene’s reminder of how difficult his life has been or Kamal’s explanation of how marriage and family work in Libya. She calls him, and rats out his location to the police. When they confront him, Kamal tries to escape, jumps off a footbridge, and dies.
And then Anya’s friend Julie goes to see Vincent.
So, here’s what really happened. As we learned through Lukas, Anya was sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend and never told anybody. She went to Paris to “heal”, privately, but in the process she began to reinvent herself as a kind of vigilante, taking down men who were abusive. Her temper got the better of her at the shelter. She, along with Julie, targeted a professor who had tried to force himself on a cleaning lady. Julie intentionally took GHB, and Anya blackmailed the man. If he didn’t pay up, she’d go to the police, and with the date-rape drug in Julie’s system, they’d have him dead to rights. He paid, and that’s the money that Kamal’s wife was referring to.
But that wasn’t enough for Anya. Even after Julie had enough of the scheming, she wanted to take down Damien, who was well-known as a serial rapist. So, she went home with him, took the GHB, and tried to extort him. But she underestimated Damien’s sense of entitlement. He wasn’t scared off by the blackmail efforts. Instead, he forced himself on her at knifepoint. During the struggle, she stabbed him to death, and then called Kamal for help.
Vincent takes all this to Helene. But Helene is still adamant about Anya being the victim. She still sees herself as the perfect mother, and for that to be true, Anya can’t possibly have done what Vincent is saying she did. She implores Vincent to defend Anya, and despite his warning that this will live with Helene forever, he does. When Anya is declared free and clear, she smiles at her victory.
But Helene knows what she is. As they walk down the courthouse steps hand in hand, Helene lets go of Anya’s hand and fixes her with an “I know what you did” stare. Anya just goes and cuddles Matthias instead, knowing she has gotten away with it, and at least two men are dead because of her. Helene remains on the courthouse steps, halfway between Vincent, and the truth, and her family and its lies.
You can stream The Perfect Mother season 1, episode 4 exclusively on Netflix. Do you have any thoughts on The Perfect Mother’s ending? Let us know in the comments.