The Emotional Ending of 'Baby Reindeer,' Explained

The incisive Netflix series ends with its characteristic mix of realism and empathy.

a man (richard Gadd as donny dunn) stands behind a bar with his hand on a tap handle, in netflix's 'baby reindeer'
(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

Netflix's new miniseries Baby Reindeer is a must-watch, but viewers going into it blind may appreciate a word of warning. Created by and starring Richard Gadd, the seven-episode series follows a fictionalized version of the Scottish comedian, named Donny Dunn, during a harrowing time in his life. One day, a crying woman named Martha (Jessica Gunning) enters the pub where Donny works, and he offers her a tea on the house. His life is quickly turned upside down as Martha becomes obsessed with him, going on to stalk and threaten Donny and his loved ones.

As Baby Reindeer goes on, we learn more about Donny and how a traumatic period of abuse has affected every aspect of his life, from his fledging comedy career to his relationship with a trans therapist named Teri (Nava Mau), which he tries to keep secret. By the final episode, Donny has lost nearly everything to Martha's threats, but his cathartic standup set where he finally tells the truth about everything he's done throws open a new path toward a resolution of his story.

How does Martha get Donny's phone number?

Despite episode 6 ending on what may be Donny's lowest point, the final episode of Baby Reindeer sees the aspiring comedian on an upswing in his career. It turns out that an audience member filmed the set, and Donny receives a burst of viral fame with supporters sharing his work and bigger comedy spots welcoming him with open arms.

"It was like my life began three decades in, and all I needed to do to achieve it was to be honest with myself," the voiceover says in at one point.

a man (Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn) stands onstage with a microphone, in a circular spotlight in front of a red velvet curtain, in netflix's 'baby reindeer'

Richard Gadd as Donny Dunn in 'Baby Reindeer.'

(Image credit: Ed Miller/Netflix)

This coincides with a break in the deluge of emails from Martha, and it's almost enough for Donny to forget she's out there. As she slips out of mind for Donny at the biggest moment in his professional career, he makes a colossal mistake: he sets an automatic reply for his rapidly-filling email, including his phone number for any urgent matters.

Later, as Donny's walking down the street, with a haze of sunshine symbolizing his happy mood, Martha calls, and Donny's smile instantly drops.

Martha goes straight for the pain point, asking Donny if his parents saw the video, and if she should alert them to his secrets. Donny immediately travels to Scotland for an emotional talk with his parents, where he tells them about everything that's happened with Martha, Teri, and Darrien. He admits that he didn't want to tell them because he didn't want them to think "less of [him] as a man." His father responds, "Would you see me as less of one?" simply adding that he grew up in the Catholic church. (Once again, Baby Reindeer shows its skill in restraint, letting the unspoken truth sit and be recognized.) After a few days bonding with his supportive parents, and keeping his phone off, Donny seems ready to go back to his life without feeling scared.

Does Martha go to jail?

As Martha continues to spam his voicemail, Donny shows how far he's come by not engaging. However, he also knows he can't just wait for her to go away. The police are useless; Martha literally calls him as he's talking to the front desk officer, but the cop says they can't act since she's calling from an unknown number. Instead, the cop suggests that Donny comes back when Martha has said something actionable (read: threatening) on one of the voicemails.

a man (richard gadd as donny dunn) lies in bed with an open laptop next to him, in netflix's baby reindeer

Donny (Richard Gadd) lies awake at night listening to Martha's voicemails in 'Baby Reindeer.'

(Image credit: Netflix)

"Over the next few months, Martha's voicemails became the podcast to my life," Donny narrates, starting a sequence where her voice continues constantly going in the background as he walks through life with a pair of headphones on. He allows his career trajectory to skid to a halt as he logs hundreds of hours of recordings as evidence. (You know, something the police would do in a perfect world.) Donny's empathy for Martha re-emerges as he tries to figure out why she thinks the way she does, but it's an impossible task. In a sort of full circle, their relationship reverts back to Martha serving as a source of recognition and a distraction, especially since his ex has found someone new. At some points, he even has to "fight every fiber of [his] being" not to call Martha back.

Though some of the emails include threats, Donny begins holding off on reporting Martha again, "out of fascination or empathy or guilt. Any excuse, really, to keep her in [his] life." Still, Martha always goes too far, and she eventually threatens his family again in a truly terrifying rant that she ends with "maybe one day I will stab someone." She's arrested the day after that voicemail, and after she pleads guilty to eighteen months of harassing and stalking Donny, she's sentenced to nine months in prison and a five-year restraining order. Her guilty plea is the last time Donny ever sees her, and when Donny gets home, he begins writing his witness statement by typing the same lines we heard at the start of the series. "I felt sorry for her. That's the first thing I felt."

How do Donny and Darrien end things?

Donny's a wreck in the weeks after Martha's sentencing. The next time we see him is when his ex Keeley checks on him, and sees that he's turned the wall of his bedroom into a neater version of the conspiracy theory meme, still trying to make sense of Martha. He's spent all that time categorizing her voicemails by emotion—Angry, Sad, Happy, Depressed, Horny, and Adoring are some of them, seen in a laptop close-up—and there's still "a ton" he hasn't even gotten to. He also says that he's given up on the comedy, saying, "Nothing like getting everything you want in life to realize it's not for you."

In a sweet moment, Keeley throws him a lifeline: she offers to pay out his lease at the horrible party apartment so he can move back into her mom's house, where he was comfortable. The ghost of Martha is still felt in his old room, but he finds a different surprise there: a copy of his 'Hangman Harry' screenplay, marked up with complimentary notes from his abuser Darrien.

a man (Tom Goodman-Hill as Darrien) sits on a couch in front of a circular lamp, in Baby Reindeer

Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill), at his flat, in 'Baby Reindeer.'

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

Donny goes back to Darrien's flat, but there's no big blow-up or victorious moment where the groomer meets some sort of justice. Instead, they fall into cordial patterns, drinking tea as Donny entertains Darrien with stories of his flatmates' parties. The only mention of past abuse is Darrien admitting he saw the viral video; he says that it was "really brave," dismissing his own role in Donny's hurt in an insidious bit of gaslighting. He also offers Donny work again, saying it "won't be like the last time" (for one, it'd be paid), and Donny says, "I'd love that." Once outside the flat, he has a panic attack. It's a deeply affecting scene that plays out with immense realism. Abuse victims rarely get neat and tidy apologies from their abusers; real life is more often the opposite of neat and tidy.

Why does Martha call Donny 'Baby Reindeer'?

As Donny regains his breath after breaking down outside Darrien's flat, he pulls up one of Martha's voicemails, under the file folder "Complimentary." He listens to her fawning over his jawline and magnetism as he walks through the city in tears, and eventually he goes into a bar and orders a vodka and Coke, evoking Martha's signature drink order: a Diet Coke, loads of ice. He pulls up one of the Not Listened To recordings, and it's an insightful one where she recalls her childhood and her baby reindeer.

Martha's earliest childhood memory was her happy as a child at Christmas, sitting with her favorite toy that never left her side. She says it was "the only good thing about [her] childhood," and it comforted her as "they" fought, all the time. Martha adds that Donny looks the same as that reindeer, and both it and he mean so much to her. Donny breaks down in tears as the voicemail ends, and right then the bartender delivers his drink. But Donny left his wallet at home, and the bartender lets him have the drink on the house. A kindness, like the one Donny showed Martha way back when, but it ends at that. As Donny looks up, wide-eyed with recognition that he is now fully in Martha's shoes, the screen cuts to black. (There's also an ending card for Netflix's site of mental health resources:

Jessica Gunning as Martha, sitting in a cafe booth, in the netflix series 'baby reindeer'

Martha (Jessica Gunning), near the beginning of it all, in 'Baby Reindeer.'

(Image credit: Netflix)

Even before episode 4 revealed the abuse that Danny went through, it was clear that he and Martha were more alike than different. One of the themes beautifully woven through Baby Reindeer is an empathy for Martha that isn't usually shown for a stalker, at least for a series that's told through the POV of the person they're stalking. It's one of the truths of life that often goes unrealized or is shoved deep down: Anyone could be a couple of life-altering incidents away from the sort of pain that both Martha and Donny lived with.

Another point that the superb Netflix series makes sure to make is that pain like this doesn't go away in an easy ending. We're left with Donny at an ambiguous place, because nothing neat and final would be genuine. Donny's final moments in the bar is an ending that honors both of the characters and the messy, real-life circumstances of this fictionalized true story.

Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.