Who is Daniel March, really? What does he want? In the scant three episodes in which we’ve gotten to know him, we’ve learned that Daniel is rich (or at least comes from family money), a little controlling of his friends, and also … okay, that’s all we’ve learned. There’s Daniel, a man-shaped cardboard figurine, a “bad” dude, and also, apparently, an exceptionally gifted kisser who can immediately spot the oral-muscular distinctions between two doppelgängers. (What a tongue!) Did Daniel have a rough childhood? Has his family forsaken him? How did he end up with this exceptional home to share with his friends? How did they all meet? Does he have any hobbies? A favorite Beatle? (Ugh, probably John.) We’ll never know, which is a shame because even if he didn’t kill Lexie he is the “villain” of this segment of Dublin Murders — and in this penultimate episode he irritatingly wraps up the Lexie murder mystery in a nice little (probably shabby velvet) bow.
The last thing we saw in the sixth episode was Cassie collapsing on the back lawn, knocked out by some libationally delivered drug, Daniel peering over her and wondering, “Who the fuck are you?” He doesn’t stop there. Next thing you know this is a full-fledged kidnapping (albeit in Cassie’s “own home”), with her tossed in a dirt cellar. He’s alarmingly honest about what he gave Cassie to knock her out — ketamine and rohypnol, whoa — and that he ripped the front of her dress open to see what was lurking under that bandage.
From then on, throughout Cassie’s relatively brief imprisonment, nobody in this house can stop themselves from committing one massive blunder after the other. I get it, they aren’t professional killers and don’t have a ton of practice interrogating police detectives in front of roaring fires, but still, what a bunch of amateurs. You’d have thought that before Daniel gathered a bunch of sedatives and anesthetics that he would have formed some sort of plan with his housemates. But nope! Everyone is just along for the ride and hanging on for dear life.
Daniel has firm reasoning for why he’s taken Cassie prisoner. “It’s my friends,” he says, “I have to take care of my friends.” Which makes sense, considering a detective has been living in their midst and they may be soon indicted on murder charges. I might kidnap someone to stay out of jail for a worse crime, too! But the emotional inconsistencies among almost every member of this household have me wondering how so many sociopaths ended up in one place and how they stood each other for so long. If the show had set us up with even a hint of the intimacy that Tana French establishes for the friend group in her novel, it could work. But because we never saw the connections between them, the ties that made Cassie so comfortable and content among them for a while, it’s hard to care about them blowing up.
Things take a few weird turns — Daniel drags in Abby, gun to her head, and proclaims that he’ll shoot her if Cassie doesn’t tell him what to text Mackey to keep him from growing suspicious, but then embraces her because Abby was playing along to con Cassie out of that info. Then they bring Cassie back upstairs, leading me to wonder why the hell they carried her passed out body down there, anyway. When Rafe gets nervous he does coke, quite literally the least relaxing drug available, and so he’s pacing and muttering, begging them all to flee the country and leave Cassie tied up. (I’m assuming he’s researched extradition treaties already!) Only Justin remains quiet, as Daniel and Abby kiss and nuzzle and generally stand close together stroking the gun and acting like a bunch of Manson groupies. The obvious next move (?) is to play Truth or Dare.
Honestly, what the hell is going on here? I think we’re supposed to view this entire little kidnapping scheme as an elaborate game of cat and mouse between a brilliant villain and tough-as-nails cop. Except neither of them are smart! Daniel asks who she is and Cassie spills the beans. What was her plan? “Attrition. Sedition. Depose the king. Psychologically destroy you, set you against each other, tear you apart.” If information is the only weapon in this mental battle royale, these two are basically handing one another grenades and rocket launchers and begging to be aimed at. Lexie was pregnant! Cassie reveals, unbidden, as if that is something they would remotely care about now. She wants to stir the pot enough that the group turns on one another, but they do that all on their own. And then Daniel, who would have a lot more authority if he weren’t wearing sherpa-lined snow boots for no good reason, foolishly sends her off alone with Justin, the weakest link in this chain, so that Justin can explain exactly how he murdered Lexie TO A COP. WHY. WHY. WHY.
Justin explains to Cassie that Lexie was planning to sell the portion of the house that Daniel had gifted to her. (How did he learn this? Shoulder shrug.) Angry that this sale would rip apart the group and chastened by her comments that he is “invisible” to the others, he chased her outside with a knife, kinda accidentally-on-purpose stabbed her, and then let his friends hide the body. So Cassie gets her murderer but decides, out of nowhere, that he’s actually a good guy. So good, in fact, that without any further information she promises she’ll testify on his behalf.
And here’s where we finally learn where Lexie — that is, the Lexie who pretended to be the Lexie who Cassie made up (phew, sweating over here) — really came from. Oh wait, no, we don’t get that. Just Justin recalling that he met the Jane Doe her on a bus, thought she was Cassie-Lexie after taking a class with Cassie-Lexie, and then she ran with it.
From there, it’s fairly procedural. Justin says he’s leaving, Daniel freaks, Rafe bolts, and the cops are waiting at the end of the drive to catch him. Inside, Cassie confronts Daniel, who momentarily turns into a dark wizard, muttering, “You know what happens when doppelgängers meet each other? The world ends.” And then she shoots him, presumably because he was about to shoot her, but maybe just to shut him up.
And so that’s it. The Likeness wrapped up in just a few episodes, with precisely none of the dark intimacy and emotional agility that French wrote. Of course, the show also blows up her ending, for reasons I can’t quite fathom. In The Likeness the housemates never discover Lexie’s real identity until well after they’ve been arrested. Rather than stagecraft this extravagant festival of confession, Daniel only appears after the rest of the gang fills Cassie in on what happened that night. And it wasn’t Justin who stabbed Lexie — in fact, it happened in a scuffle and nobody is ever sure exactly how the knife ended up in her chest. Cassie does shoot and kill Daniel, but the lead-up to his death is logical and suspenseful. Dublin Murders shoehorns in one of French’s best novels and turns it into a B-plot. This was never going to end well. Especially because Rob’s storyline — mostly one very long, protracted nervous breakdown — is still playing out, but the most dynamic part of the series, Cassie and Rob’s relationship, has been missing for the latter half of the season.
Admittedly, with Cassie by his side Rob might not have ended up down such an emotionally treacherous road. This episode tries to divert our attention yet again, the time to Terry Andrews, the fellow who was calling and threatening Jonathan Devlin, but quickly gives him an alibi. Mostly, we watch Rob flail, the circles under his eyes threatening to swallow the rest of his face, and the filter that normally keeps him in check completely worn away. He commits not one but two assaults in the span of 24 hours, first taunting Sam with a reminder that he slept with Cassie, and then beating poor Shane Waters (who actually helped him in the woods on that long-ago day) senseless because he looked in his face and saw young Adam.
It’s a shame because given the proper room Rob’s unhinging could be powerful stuff. His mother’s reveal — that Jamie and Peter weren’t the chummy friends he remembers them as, that in fact he “followed them like a puppy” and they tormented him for his small stature — is a clever reminder that we’ve been trusting the memories of a man who has admitted that he’s unreliable. This is a broken human, traumatized first by the that day in the woods and then again by his abandonment at an English boarding school. He was an egg perched on the edge of a counter, just one little breeze away from rolling off and splattering on the floor.
But faulty as it may be, his memory does save the day. Standing there with Dr. Hanley (who is apparently unembarrassed about having once been caught pouring wine over his naked bod!), Rob crunches into an old basket and something comes back to him: The coroner reported that Katy Devlin had a chocolate biscuit in her stomach when she died. She’d eaten it just before the murder. So who supplied the biscuits? Damian Donnelly, that overly helpful dig tour guide who steered Rob and Cassie toward “the man in the French blue tracksuit.”
And finally we have some new evidence: blood residue, including a sad little handprint, spattered on the laundry room wall in the Donnelly’s house.