“Baby Reindeer'”s“ ”Ending Explained: What Does It All Mean?

The new Netflix limited series ends with Martha revealing the rationale for her pet name and Donny reaching a full-circle realization

<p>Ed Miller/Netflix</p> Richard Gadd as Donny in

Ed Miller/Netflix

Richard Gadd as Donny in 'Baby Reindeer.'

Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season finale of Netflix's Baby Reindeer.

Baby Reindeer and its ambiguous ending is getting viewers talking.

The new Netflix limited series, which follows a bartender and aspiring comedian (Richard Gadd) relentlessly stalked by a woman (Jessica Gunning), deals with tricky subjects including sexual assault and mental health.

Not only did Gadd create, write and star in the limited series, but it’s based on a true story: Gadd’s true story.

“It’s very emotionally true, obviously: I was severely stalked and severely abused,” he told The Guardian in mid-April. “But we wanted it to exist in the sphere of art, as well as protect the people it’s based on.”

Related: The True Story Behind Baby Reindeer: What Happened to Richard Gadd?

<p>Ed Miller/Netflix</p> Richard Gadd as Donny in 'Baby Reindeer.'

Ed Miller/Netflix

Richard Gadd as Donny in 'Baby Reindeer.'

While Gadd’s real-life experiences closely mirrors Baby Reindeer’s plot at times, there are distinct differences, too. Yes, Donny and Martha actually met at a bar, and Donny offered her a free drink. But Gadd made it a point to change the character’s names and identifying details for Martha and Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill), the successful TV writer who groomed and raped Donny.

There’s also a lot of truth to Martha’s stalking efforts. Over the course of four years, her real-life counterpart called Gadd “baby reindeer” and went on to send him 41,071 emails, 350 hours of voicemail, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages and 106 pages of letters.

Though Gadd went to the police about the situation, the authorities weren't much help. The comic said they were skeptical he was being stalked because of the stalker's gender.

“When a man gets stalked, it can be portrayed in films and television as a sexy thing,” he recently told The Times. “Like a femme fatale who gradually becomes more sinister. It doesn’t carry as much threat of physical violence, is less common and can be trivialized.”

Related: Baby Reindeer's Richard Gadd Asks Fans to Not 'Speculate' About Real-Life People Who Inspired the Story

<p>Ed Miller/Netflix</p> Richard Gadd as Donny and Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer.'

Ed Miller/Netflix

Richard Gadd as Donny and Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer.'

But eventually, Gadd found a silver lining by using his experiences as the basis for his stand-up show Monkey See Monkey Do, which won the Edinburgh comedy award in 2016, and much more recently, through Baby Reindeer.

As the show worked its way to its inevitable conclusion, Martha found Donny’s number and left him a slew of voicemails, which Donny listened to. He decided to hold off on reporting her creepy messages to the police out of “fascination” and “guilt” to keep her “in my life.”

He later visited his parents to discuss the viral video of a recent stand-up performance that became a moving impromptu monologue, in which Donny opened up about his sexual assault and his complex, years-long situation with Martha. Not only were his mom and dad extremely sympathetic, his dad revealed a long-kept secret: that he was also sexually assaulted when he was younger, presumably by a Catholic priest.

In the weeks that followed, Donny spent all his time cooped up in his room until his ex-girlfriend Keeley (Shalom Brune-Franklin) finally checked on him and insisted he move back into her mother’s place, where he previously lived.

Related: The Best Shows on Netflix to Stream Now

<p>Ed Miller/Netflix</p> Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer.'

Ed Miller/Netflix

Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer.'

But it’s his next move that was a complete surprise: a visit to Darrien at his home where the writer raped him repeatedly. There, Darrien acknowledged that he saw the viral video and it was "really brave" of Donny before offering him a paid writing gig on a show that’s returning for another season.

"It won't be like the last time," Darrien insisted, noting that the gig would be paid. However, he failed to acknowledge his own past actions and the trauma he inflicted on Donny.

The comic agreed to take the job, but after leaving Darrien's home, Donny was visibly distraught by their interaction.

While strolling to a bar, he listened to one of the many voicemails Martha left him in the days before she was arraigned, sentenced to months of jail time and received a five-year restraining order. Donny had spent a lot of time — perhaps too much time — organizing Martha’s voicemails by theme. He landed on several messages marked as “Complimentary”: one gushed about his “great jawline” and overall attractiveness. Another said he had “it," a kind of star quality.

In the final scene at the bar, a deeply pensive Donny ordered a drink and pulled up another voicemail in which Martha finally explained why she started calling him “baby reindeer.” As it turns out, she had a stuffed reindeer growing up with big lips and a “cute bum.”

Related: The Best Netflix Original Movies to Stream Now

<p>Ed Miller/Netflix</p> Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer.'

Ed Miller/Netflix

Jessica Gunning as Martha in 'Baby Reindeer.'

“It was the only good thing about my childhood,” she explained in the voicemail, before noting that "they" — who viewers can presume are her parents — "fought all the time."

“Well, you are the [spitting image] of that reindeer. The same nose. The same eyes. The same cute wee bum. It means so much to me," Martha added. "You mean so much to me.”

Her words brought Donny to tears as he sat at the bar alone and came to the realization that he and Martha were more alike than he thought after they each unexpectedly brought a form of comfort to the other.

As the scene wound down to a quiet finish, Donny went to pay for his drink but realized he didn't have his wallet. The bartender, seeing that Donny had been crying, said the drink was on the house.

It was a nod to the very beginning of the show when Donny, as a bartender, served Martha a free drink. Only this time, Donny was alone, left with his complicated emotions, hundreds of hours of Martha’s voicemails and lingering memories of a woman who loved him in the most twisted and misguided of ways.

While it becomes clear that kindness can go a long way, the show also drives home the point that the human experience can be messy and painful, and those emotions can't always be completely resolved and neatly tied up with a bow.

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All 7 episodes of Baby Reindeer are available to stream on Netflix.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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