Thirteen Series Finale Recap: A Clean Break

By
Nicholas Farrell as Henry Stone, Natasha Little as Christina. Photo: Guy Levy/BBC
Show
Thirteen
Episode Title
Thirteen
Season
1
Episode
5
Editor’s Rating
5/5

The final installment of Thirteen is a tense and upsetting glimpse into Ivy's kidnapped years. It's quite a change of pace for the mini-series, which, up until now, focused on the effect Ivy's disappearance has had on her family and friends. Since Ivy's return in the premiere, relationships have been tested (Tim and Yazz) and, in some cases, reborn entirely (the Moxam family as a unit). But what happens to those relationships when Ivy goes missing again? Do they fall back to familiar patterns?

The episode opens with a panicked and anxious Ivy standing in a crowded outdoor mall. She's on her way to meet Mark White, but she's not alone: Nearly 40 police officers (including Carne and Merchant) are scattered throughout the open plaza, and her family is sitting in a van nearby, anxiously awaiting news of the meeting. White asked her specifically to meet him at a movie theater, and for shrewd reason. As a movie ends, a burst of people exit the theater, making it easy for the police to lose eyes on Ivy. She enters the theater lobby and sees White sitting in a photo booth with the missing girl, Phoebe, on his lap. Ivy tears her police wire out of her ear, and White lets Phoebe go.

White approaches Ivy and gives her the world's creepiest kiss on the hair. At this point, I thought Ivy was voluntarily taking Phoebe's place, but instead of staying there, she calmly turns around, exits the theater, and determinedly walks away from him. For a moment, it seems like she might make it back safely to police custody, but White appears out of nowhere and pulls her into a secluded corridor, setting off a tense chase sequence between him and the police.

During the chase, Carne and Merchant spot White's getaway van and have a chance to cut off White. Carne's betting that White will stop, but he's wrong: White rams his van into the side of their car. The detectives' vehicle rolls, and Carne and Merchant are left bloody inside. When they finally come to, they tease one another about the crash. It's an odd scene — really, post-crash flirty banter? — and it feels out of place, considering the high stakes of Ivy's disappearance. I'm usually a sucker for Hepburn-Tracy types of romantic tension, but there's something about the detectives' almost-romance that never worked for me. The performances aren't lacking, it's just that their personal scenes always felt unnecessary and randomly inserted into the story. I can just picture the network executives' notes: "Can't the detectives make out?!"

With the police detectives sidelined, the Moxam family take matters into their own hands and develop a search plan for Ivy. Angus, in particular, is determined to not sit idly by as he did after Ivy's first kidnapping. In theory, these scenes could have read pretty cheesy, but because Thirteen spent so much time on the Moxams' emotional development, I am all in and rooting for them. Even Tim, Yazz, and Eloise join the search. There's a panicked desperation during this sequence, as there would be for any family that has had a child kidnapped, but everything feels more heightened for the Moxams. It's happening to this family again.

Of course, that goes double for Ivy's anxiety and terror. Every moment with White is awful, but what feels even worst is the defeatist knowledge that Ivy is back in this situation a second time. The terror is in the repetition. After escaping, White, who's armed with a gun, takes Ivy to a house with a room that he's recreated to look similar to their former bedroom. Although he initially tapes Ivy's mouth shut and ties her to a chair, she eventually convinces him to undue her restraints. She lies, saying that she went looking for him the day she left the house, but the police found her and made her leave.

That White believes her is the first indication that he's not dealing with a full deck. The problem with Ivy's lie, though, is the follow-through. Thinking she loves him, he wants to get back to where they left off, which apparently means hair nuzzles, watching her get undressed, and making her scrub the bathtub clean. Cleanliness appears to be a particular interest of "Leonard" (the name "Alyson" calls him), referring to Ivy's exposure to the "germs" of the outside world. As she's cleaning the tub, he mentions that it's time they start trying for a family. "Alyson" tells him she's on board with the idea, but first it's "bath time."

While White soaks in the tub, Ivy sits behind him, scrubbing his hair with shampoo. White goes under the water to wash the shampoo out, and when he resurfaces he finds Ivy holding his gun. She points it straight at him, telling him that it's time to let her go. He, of course, tries to talk her out of it — and references a prior miscarriage while doing so. As he drew near, I yelled at my television: Kill him! Kill him! Oh, she better kill him. And she pulls the trigger! But to no avail. There are no bullets inside. There never were, White says, before smashing her head against a wall and leaving her unconscious on the bathroom floor.

Meanwhile, Carne practically drags himself out of his hospital bed and back to the police station. (Merchant's wounds are more serious and require further medical attention.). At the station, Carne pleads to question Phoebe in the hopes that she can lead him to White's hideout. Although he's turned down, he decides to try anyway. He has Phoebe draw the house and asks her what she saw out of the window. She takes the paper and draws a very tall tower. Right at that moment, Carne's boss pulls him out of the interview. A frustrated Carne tells his boss to check Lockleaze, a Bristol neighborhood with a very distinctive tall tower. Afterward, he heads to the hospital to check on Merchant, who seems to have taken a turn for the worse. He sits by her bedside, waiting for her to wake up.

It's interesting that as much as Carne and Merchant have been the center of the police action, they spend most of this finale away from Ivy's case. Instead of Carne canvassing, we see an understandably worked up and freaked out Angus Moxam. The Moxam family's search party ends up a failure, and they reluctantly head back to the police station. Thanks to Phoebe's tower drawing and Carne's tip, though, there's something to cheer: The police think they found White's house.

Meanwhile, Ivy wakes up, and White cleans the blood from her wounds. He tells her they'll soon be a proper family, with his mother, Dylan, and their baby. She's not quite sure what's he talking about, until she sees smoke seep in under the door. He's planning a murder-suicide. As they lay in the bed together, coughing from the smoke, she straddles him and starts to kiss him. White's into it, and Ivy nearly bites his lips off when she catches him off guard. He's bleeding and woozy from the smoke, so she finally has a chance to escape. She opens the bedroom door and sees a staircase of fire. Without another choice, she races down the stairs and towards the door.

In a great bookend moment from the premiere, she steps out the front door in a daze. She's escaped again. A few moments later, White's house explodes. Ivy looks back with a smile, as her family and the police rush on the scene.

Final Thoughts:

  • Overall, this was a satisfying and well-executed twist on the traditional kidnapping story. I enjoyed how Thirteen emphasized the emotional fallout more than the police-procedural plot.
  • The first time I heard this show's theme song, "In Your Dreams" by the Dark Dark Dark, I thought the tune's jaunty beat was a strange choice for the subject matter, but I've really grown to love it more with each episode.
  • What did you think of the finale? And the mini-series as a whole?