The Girls at the Back ending explained – which of the girls has cancer?

September 24, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
Ending Explained, Netflix, Streaming Service
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This article contains major spoilers for The Girls at the Back’s ending.

READ: Our spoiler-free season review.

The Girls at the Back upends the usual girl’s trip formula by not being a comedy, and also darkening the premise with the looming threat of calamity. That’s because the annual week-long holiday of Carol, Olga, Alma, Sara, and Leo – five friends in their thirties who have been best friends since the sixth grade – is perhaps the final one, since one of them has been diagnosed with cancer.  

The show makes a mystery of who is ill. The girls have made a pact not to talk about it – even though them shaving their heads in solidarity means it comes up all the time – and we don’t find out who’s dying until the final episode. In the meantime, given the stakes, the women have all agreed that their final vacation will have a bucket list vibe, and they’ve all anonymously suggested a “wish” that they’ve all agreed to carry out; stuff that they ordinarily would be too scared or embarrassed to do.  

The Girls at the Back ending explained

The first of these is having a lesbian experience, which is quite a start. The second is to get high on drugs, which is comparatively tame. But the third is to commit a crime, and the fourth and fifth are the most challenging of all – to resolve unfinished business and to tell the truth.  

Of course, some of these scenarios are designed to promote funny moments, but some are also clearly designed to unearth long-dormant emotions and dynamics, which is what gives The Girls at the Back its poignancy.  

When we eventually learn that it’s Leo who has cancer, we have also learned along the way that in their experiences of this trip, the women have all been preparing for a trip of a different kind, as the move into chemotherapy will provide new challenges for them all. By trying to resolve their unfinished business they find closure with an old friend, Palo, who had distanced herself from the rest of the group, while Alma and Sara’s feelings for one another are able to come to the fore. Neither of these subplots has a strictly happy ending, though, but that’s life, and the show’s less-than-idealistic slant keeps it grounded.  

And it’s that grounding which means not everything is resolved in time for the finale. And nor should it be. The Girls in the Back presents honest relationships fraught with repressed feelings, guilt, confusion, love, passion, and self-discovery; far too much to ever properly unpack in one trip. The adage of the journey being more important than the destination is truer here than usual since there really is no destination; the journey is all we have.  

You can stream The Girls at the Back exclusively on Netflix.

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