‘Thirteen’ Season Finale: For the Love of Ivy

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In the gripping, if a bit abrupt, season finale of “Thirteen,” we finally got some semblance of an idea of what happened to Ivy (Jodie Comer) over the course of her thirteen years of captivity, and her ultimate fate, more or less. To say that there were a lot of unanswered questions is putting it mildly, but that’s what happens when you do a season made up on only five episodes, I guess, so perhaps it was to be expected, at least to a certain extent.

So, here’s what we know, and obviously we’re going to get into spoiler territory, so you might want to stop reading and come back if you’re not all caught up. Basically, we found out that Ivy, despite indications all throughout the season that she might be complicit somehow in things, was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be fully innocent in every aspect of the whole horrific ordeal.

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Instead, what happened was exactly what it seemed to be: a girl was kidnapped by a psycho- in this case, Mark White (Peter McDonald), who was once an employee at Ivy’s school. He obviously took an uninvited interest in her, and plotted to kidnap her, in which he succeeded, after which he held her hostage for thirteen long years.

During part of the time in which she was held captive, White lived with his younger brother, who was a bit slow-witted. Using this to her advantage somewhat, Ivy managed to talk him into letting her go, only for White to catch them and beat his poor brother to death by slamming his head into the floor repeatedly.

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Afterwards, he made Ivy clean it up and cover up the body, which was why her DNA was on the body and tarp it was covered in when the body was finally found, walled up in the very cellar Ivy resided in, as a constant reminder of “what she caused to happen.” Using this murder as leverage over her, White was able to keep Ivy in line for years to come.

At 16, which he termed the “proper” age of consent- yeah, right- White started raping poor Ivy, and at some point three-and-a-half years ago, Ivy got pregnant, but ended up losing the child, which she would later admit was a relief, lest it end up with a “Room”-style existence, which no one would wish on a child.

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Then, as the series proper opens, Ivy had another chance to escape, and took it, succeeding this time, and kicking off the story in earnest told over the course of five episodes. We also know that, at one point, White “tested” Ivy by allowing her to go out once, seeing if she’d run again. She didn’t, at which point, he knew she was fully under his spell, and yet, he never let her go out again from there on out.

In retrospect, this would seem to be because Ivy was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, where one is brainwashed so deeply by their captor that they begin to develop feelings for them which they no longer realize are wrong-headed. We know this from her hesitancy to talk openly about the nature of her relationship with White upon her escape, as well as the private files that DI Elliott Carne (Richard Rankin) snuck a peek at, where she admitted as much.

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Because of this caginess, the detectives in charge, especially DS Lisa Merchant (Valene Kane) suspected Ivy of being willingly involved with White, and perhaps complicit in the kidnapping of another child, Phoebe Tarl (Isabel Shanahan). However, Ivy had no idea about any of it, and in fact, White only took Phoebe to convince Ivy to come back to him.

While we didn’t hear what White whispered to Ivy in the mall, one assumes it was something to the effect of, “I’ll let her go if you come with me,” so she ditched her earpiece and did just that, resulting in the release of Phoebe, but her own kidnapping by White, who clearly had everything planned out to a “T.”

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White almost got away with it, thanks in no small part to a fair amount of incompetence on the behalf of the cops, who you would think would have at least put a GPS tracker on Ivy, just in case something went wrong. No such luck, and things were decidedly not looking good for Ivy when White drugged her and she woke up in a new location, tied to a chair with duct tape on her mouth.

On the plus side, Phoebe was indeed let go and found by the police, who subsequently started a manhunt for White. Lisa and Elliott got a bead on White and put in a valiant effort to stop White, but he simply plowed right into them with his vehicle and kept going. Both ended up in the hospital, but Elliot refused to take things lying down and got up to continue the hunt for Ivy, while a too injured to leave Lisa stayed put in the hospital.

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Eventually, Elliott was able to talk privately with Phoebe, albeit without permission, really, but the clue he got was key enough to put the cops back on the right track. A closer look at the residences in the vicinity of the landmark Phoebe identified put them in the ballpark of where White might have taken Ivy and everyone concerned, including Ivy’s family, rushed to the location, save Elliott, who got word that Lisa was in dire straits, and headed there instead.

Thankfully, Lisa proved okay and Elliott likely earned some points from Lisa for choosing her over the Ivy and the case for once. Though, to be fair, Lisa was probably the single-most skeptical person investigating Ivy’s case every step of the way from the jump, so one can’t blame Elliott for being one of the only truly sympathetic people involved in the case.

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Meanwhile, Ivy did her best to fend off White’s advances, managing to earn her way back into his good graces, as it were, enough to let her free from her restraints. He then had her “redecorate” her new room to look as much like her old one as possible- we know now that the upstairs room we saw in the old apartment was likely the place White took Ivy to rape her repeatedly, rather than the basement where she was held.

We discovered that White had some very specific- and very sick- ways of dealing with Ivy, that were somewhat akin to the way some people treat a dog: if she was “bad,” she was punished accordingly, depending on what she did, if she was “good,” she got a “reward,” such as food, clothing, and pencils and a journal to write in and so on.

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Ivy manages to convince White to let her take a bath, but lets White go first, all the better to steal the gun she knows he has. Alas, she learns the hard way that the gun isn’t loaded, and never was, when she grabs it and tries to fire it at him. White, now in a rage, gets up from the tub and slams poor Ivy’s head into the wall, knocking her out.

When she comes to, she tries to convince him to let her go again, but to no avail. No doubt assuming her to be a lost cause after the rant on her end that led into her attempt to kill him, White sets fire to the apartment and the two lay in the bedroom to await their fate.

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However, recognizing time to be of the essence, Ivy makes a play to seduce White, getting on top of him and kissing him, then suddenly biting him and slamming his head into the wall. Ivy then rushes to the door, and using a shirt or towel or the like, opens up the various locks and rushes downstairs and escapes just in the knick of time before the place explodes behind her.

Running into the street, just as she did in the premiere episode, we come full circle, as Ivy is free once again and reunites with her family, who arrive shortly thereafter, along with the police. That’s where we end things, and one assumes, everything is relatively alright for all concerned moving forward, including a seemingly reconciled Tim (Aneurin Barnard) and Yazz (Kemi-Bo Jacobs), as well as Ivy’s parents (Stuart Graham & Natasha Little) and her sister Emma (Katherine Rose Morley) and her fiancée Craig (Joe Layton).

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So, yeah, it probably would have been nice if they’d done at least one more episode, perhaps ending things either with Ivy getting successfully kidnapped for a second time by White, or when she pulled a gun on him and found out it wasn’t loaded and he knocked her out. Either one would have left ample time for a less rushed denouement and a few more scenes that showed everyone’s respective fates and what have you.

Instead, it was all a bit rushed, and as a direct result, the finale was a bit muted overall, with little time to breathe, much less explain certain things, like why White called Ivy “Allison” or if Elliott was fired after directly disrespecting his boss or so on and so forth. I get the desire to not want to tie everything up into a nice little package at the end, but just another 10-15 minutes or so would have done the trick nicely, and left viewers slightly less wanting.

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I get that the BBC prefers their seasons shorter and more succinct, and I get that reasoning, but making it into six episodes, or even simply “super-sizing” a few, which, in fact, was a thing I believe they did a little of, anyway, wouldn’t have been such a big deal, right? I mean, “Orphan Black,” for instance, does an expert job of doing a nice little arc of a storyline over the course of ten episodes, for instance.

I’m not saying “Thirteen” should have run that long, but I don’t think one episode or a few slightly longer ones would have been a big deal. Hell, even the show creator, Marnie Dickens, said that she never intended it to run past one season and that it was meant more as a mini-series than an ongoing thing. If that’s true, and she knew that all along, why not put forth the effort to make things that much more self-contained? It’s not like there needed to be a cliffhanger or what have you.

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But that said, I certainly don’t mind having to work for things a bit- I was a huge “Lost” fan, which is the very definition of that sort of thing in action- and when all is said and done, this was a really well done show with some superlative acting, especially from Jodie Comer, who is truly a force to behold and an actress to keep an eye on in the years to come. She certainly nailed that whole “thousand yard stare” thing down cold, that’s for sure.

I also liked that Dickens wasn’t afraid to make some characters unlikable and downright nasty, in some cases, notably Lisa, who took “blaming the victim” to a whole new level of low. Yes, I get that she had reason to be suspicious and wary of Ivy, but still- a little sympathy wouldn’t have killed her.

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Nor were Ivy’s family perfect, by any means, with both her parents having affairs and lying to their daughter about it, and Emma not even believing Ivy was her real sister when she first got there. Indeed, the show did an infinitely better job all around in a relatively stealth five episodes than “The Family,” which had a very similar storyline, did in its entire 12-episode run- and minus the maddening cliffhanger, I might add.

So, while not at all without its faults, overall, this was a fine effort from the BBC and well-worth the minor commitment it took from the viewer, if I do say so myself. Yes, it could have been better, and the pacing a bit tighter, and it left one with more than a few unanswered questions, but ultimately, it was a solid watch and completely worth checking out in the end. I can live with that.

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What did you think of the series “Thirteen” as a whole? Was it too short? Or could it have stood to go on a bit longer? Or was it just the right length for the story it had to tell? What did you think of the ending? How about the acting? Did you have a favorite character? How about a least favorite one? How would you have gone about improving the story at hand? Sound off on this and more down below in the comment section and thanks for reading!