Features and Columns · TV

The Ending of ‘The Stranger’ Explained

Netflix’s latest mystery saga adapts a self-contained story but leaves the door open to more installments down the line.
The Stranger ending
By  · Published on February 4th, 2020

Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. In the entry, we explore the ending of The Stranger.

The first season of Netflix’s The Stranger, based on the Harlan Coben novel of the same name, is an anxiety-inducing tale of murder, mystery, and secrets. The series spins an intricate web of lies throughout, but the finale reveals some disturbing truths that most viewers will have seen coming along the way. Still, it’s entertaining and engaging all the same.

If the final episode reveals anything, however, it’s that telling the truth doesn’t always make things right. And lying certainly doesn’t, either. This is just one of those shows where there are consequences for actions both noble and deceiving, but in a strange way, it ends on a hopeful note — and leaves the door open for a second installment.

The closing shot sees Chris (Hannah John-Kamen) — the titular Stranger — at the kids’ football match, watching over Adam (Richard Armitage), Ed (Anthony Head), and the other remaining family members. Given that she made amends with Chris in the hospital, it’s weird that she still feels the need to watch him from afar. Of course, it’s also quite understandable since she has no idea if Ed will accept her as his daughter. Talk about family drama, eh?

By this point, it’s also well-established that Chris wants to protect Adam. She might be partly responsible for his wife’s death and his life falling apart, but her truth bombs were well-intentioned at the end of the day. They came from a place of love because he’s her brother, and she took a bullet for him, so it’s unlikely that she wants to set any more stressful events in motion for the family.

By her spying on Adam from far away, it’s suggested that she’s going to remain in the shadows, watching over his family in order to protect them. Protect them from what? Maybe something. Maybe nothing. But if anyone messes with her brother or his family moving forward, she’ll undoubtedly find a way to make their life a living hell. At the same time, the story of Adam seems pretty closed — unless it somehow gets out that he killed Tripp (Shaun Dooley) and covered it up with Johanna (Siobahn Finneran).

Of course, it’s also possible that Chris was taking one last look at them before she moved on in her own right. Her work is done. It’s clear that Adam means a lot to her, but chances are he doesn’t want her being a part of his life considering all of the trouble she inadvertently caused for him. If that’s the case, what happens next for Chris?

While the show contains many similarities to the book, Coben and co. went into it with the intention of changing things up a little — a British setting, new characters, a gender-swapped Chris, to name a few. Furthermore, in the book, Chris doesn’t make another appearance after the showdown with Katz. The show’s closing moments, however, suggests that her story might not be over yet.

Should Season 2 happen, it’s possible that Chris will set forth to new pastures and continue her mission of revealing people’s darkest secrets while blackmailing them for money. In the book, she has a group of accomplices and the plot develops all over America. In the next installment, perhaps she’ll recruit some new allies and the story will expand its geographical scope. Everyone has secrets, after all, and that opens up opportunities for more stories to be told.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.