The true twist of Deadwater Fell? That there’s really no twist at all.
In the fourth and final episode of this mystery thriller, viewers may find themselves disappointed to learn that David Tennant’s Tom Hendricks is precisely the monster that the previous two episodes have presented him as.
After all, in this era of shock twists, cliffhangers and last-minute about-faces, fans everywhere were likely expecting something…more. At least, something different. Some kind of surprise revelation – that Idiot Dylan had a secret reason to want Kate dead, that Tom’s evil twin plotted to take over the life of his popular country doctor brother, that Kate simply snapped after years of abuse and belittlement at the hands of the Worst Husband Ever.
At the end of the day, however, none of that was true. The heart of the story Deadwater Fell was always interested in telling wasn’t a juicy thriller or a messy whodunnit. This wasn’t Broadchurch. Instead, it was a story of tragedy, a tragedy that could have been prevented, had anyone looked beyond the surface of things.
The story, it turns out, was really a simple one. Tom killed his entire family, because he was a monster. He was an abusive husband who felt he had the right to control all the women in his life – even the children, and even and up until death.
The answer isn’t a big mystery. It’s the one you suspected all along.
Maybe you didn’t want it to be. Maybe some of us (cough cough me cough) were sucked in by Tennant’s various charms or thought that because he was the big “name” actor of the piece, his character would somehow be redeemed. Or at least, turn out to not be a cold-blooded murderer.
But in real life, last-minute twists are rare. The husband did it, because the husband almost always does it. Because too often women who are victims of domestic violence aren’t believed when they try to get help, and too often there’s simply no help available to them.
The clues that something was dangerously wrong in the Hendricks’ marriage were all there. Tom’s degrading treatment of Kate in front of his mother. His repeated cheating on her. His aggressive stalking of her friends, his belittling of her emotional state. The fact that Kate wasn’t coping, even tried going to Steve for help.
No one listened to her. If they had. If anyone had paid attention. If one person had told another about any of the things they saw or worried about. The worst might have been avoided.
Deadwater Fell is a chilling story, but not for the reasons we all thought going in.
In this fourth and final installment, we finally get Tom’s perspective, much as we did Jess and Steve’s over the past two weeks. But Deadwater Fell doesn’t give him a platform, doesn’t make the character into a larger than life figure, or some sort of victim. No, Tom’s sins are firmly his own.
We see him measuring out syringes’ worth of insulin. We hear him ask Kate to stop and buy a padlock, knowing what he’ll later do with it. (And how that small favor will inevitably be interpreted later by the police.) We watch his insistence that he was a good husband and father, wondering if he’s said the words so many times that he must surely think them true.
And we see his dead eyed reaction to discovering that his wife was preparing to leave him, surely the sort of ego blow that a supposedly good husband and father would never be able to come back from.
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end with Tom. There’s catharsis, in the realization that it’s his mother who turns him in, finally facing the monster she’s allowed her child to become. But the last time we see him is as something small – a guilty man, listening to the knock at the door, knowing the police are there.
Instead, Deadwater Fell ends with something else – a memorial to the woman the show really never gave us the chance to get to know. A murder mystery is far too often the story of a dead woman, and this one is no different in that regard. We saw flashbacks of Kate, but almost all of them were tinged with a hint of suspicion or pity. Viewers never truly experienced much of her inner life – it was all filtered through others’ stories. Deadwater Fell didn’t give her much, but at least it gave her its ending, and that’s no small thing in my book.
What did you think of this story? Did you guess the murderer was really Tom all along? Let’s discuss in the comments.