Image Credit: Netflix

Baby Reindeer's Heart-Wrenching Ending Explained

Trigger warning: This show deals with themes of violence, sexual assault, transphobia, and grooming. 

Like most of the internet right now, I decided to watch a show on Netflix called Baby Reindeer. I knew nothing about it, except that it was British (I do love an accent) and the plot involved stalking and a comedian. Over the seven episodes that followed, I was emotionally destroyed more thoroughly than a Taylor Swift track five, and still, it was one of the best shows I’ve watched this year. Let’s discuss that ending of Baby Reindeer, though.

What is Baby Reindeer about?

Despite the misleadingly light name, Baby Reindeer is about Donny Dunn, a struggling comedian trying to make it big in London, who ends up being stalked. He meets Martha, his soon-to-be stalker, in the bar where he works, when he offers her a cup of tea on the house. 

She becomes obsessed with him, finds his email address online, and absolutely goes off emailing him every few minutes. Examples include:

havnt seen u on ur street in a whyle fckn cowarded off hav u? cant handle addrssin me like a man? lil bitch Sent from my iPhone

don think ill stop baby reindeer sent from mmy iPhone

Were u with someone jus ther? iphoen

She has a knack for spelling the most difficult words correctly (like cunnilingus, who can even spell that without autocorrect?) while messing up others. Also, she writes out “Sent from my iPhone” each time, when she does not own an iPhone.

Things begin to escalate, and Donny is torn between his initial desire for attention and his fear as Martha grows more dangerous and irrational. Soon, it’s not just him she is stalking and harassing, but friends and family as well. Not only is this situation extremely traumatic for Donny, but it also stirs up a wealth of past and present emotional turmoil as we begin to understand why he was initially so kind to her.

Baby Reindeer
Image Credit: Netflix

How does Baby Reindeer end?

Obviously an article about the end of this show is going to have spoilers for the end. So this is your official last warning that we are about to discuss spoilers. Don’t come at me with your law degree and Tony Blair in your contacts.

Donny’s career starts taking off after his breakdown at a show, where he details the grooming and abuse he was subject to at the hands of Darrien, a successful television writer and Donny’s eventual mentor. He also mentions dating Teri, a transgender woman, and details how he ended up being stalked by Martha. An audience member tapes the entire thing, and it goes viral.

Martha is pissed about this and threatens to tell Donny’s family about Darrien and Teri, which prompts him to come out to his parents and share what he’s experienced on his own terms. It is then heavily implied that his father also experienced sexual abuse when he was younger (“I grew up in the Catholic Church”), and they hug. 

Donny reports Martha again when she threatens to harm his family, and finally, Martha is arrested and charged with three counts of stalking and harassment. Donny attends Martha’s plea hearing and mentions in his voiceover that this is the last time he ever saw her again. He makes eye contact with her, and she grows distressed as she pleads guilty.

“By the time a date was set for her plea hearing, I really couldn’t tell whether it was putting an end to her fascination or mine,” he says.

Martha is sentenced to nine months in prison, and Donny is granted a five-year restraining order against her. But, unable to shake the hold the debacle still has over him, Donny proceeds to build a wall full of photos and messages from Martha as he tries to make sense of it all. His ex-girlfriend Keeley shows up, sees this, and suggests that he move back in with her mother, which he does. In doing so, he finds lots of his old things there, including an old script he’d written… with feedback from Darrien.

The discovery prompts Donny to visit Darrien’s apartment, and the two talk, with Darrien acknowledging the viral video but not referencing whether or not he knows that he’s the one Donny referenced in the clip. Darrien invites Donny to work with him again and promises that it’ll be different this time, and Donny agrees. After leaving the apartment, Donny grows visibly emotional and starts listening to Martha’s happy, complimentary voicemails as a form of comfort.

What does “baby reindeer” mean in Baby Reindeer?

Baby Reindeer
Image Credit: Netflix

At the very end of the series, Donny stops by a bar to order a drink, listening to one last voicemail from Martha, in which she finally shares the reason she calls him baby reindeer. Martha reveals that she had grown up in an extremely volatile household and was a victim of abuse herself. She remembers little else from that time, apart from a small stuffed baby reindeer that brought her comfort — and according to her, it looked just like Donny.

“I still have it to this day. It was the only good thing about my childhood. I’d hug it when they fought. And they fought a lot, you know?” Martha said. “Well, you are the spit of that reindeer. The same nose. Same eyes. Same cute wee bum. It means so much to me. You… You mean so much to me.”

The Baby Reindeer ending explained

Upon hearing Martha’s big reveal, Donny starts crying and is interrupted by the bartender serving him a drink. Donny then realizes that he forgot his wallet. 

“Don’t worry about it. It’s on me,” the bartender says. The show ends with Donny looking up and staring at him. The end.

As you must have noticed, the ending scene echoes the very first of the show. It’s almost word for word what Donny said to Martha when he offered her that free cup of tea. Now what does this mean? While the ending lends itself to individual interpretation, at its core, this is a full-circle moment for Donny. It’s the bitter realization of how patterns of abuse can relentlessly repeat themselves, how an innocent act of kindness can make an enormous impact on someone, and how the repercussions of someone’s trauma can play out it complicated, heartbreaking, self-sabotaging ways. 

Why did he go back to Darrien’s apartment?

Once we learn of Darrien’s abuse of Donny in episode four, some of Donny’s decisions after the abuse seem like less of a mystery. For example, we learn that, just as Donny was hesitant to report Martha for her behavior, he also never reported Darrien — and that made the decision to report Martha a lot less black and white. “I couldn’t stand the irony of reporting her but not him,” he said in a voiceover. The way this struggle plays out for Donny is just one representation of the many unique, heartbreaking, impossibly complex internal battles abuse victims face when it comes to reporting their abusers. (Let alone the fact that, as played out in the show, the legal system does little to aid victims in doing so.)

Baby Reindeer
Image Credit: Netflix

Donny’s sexual assault is accompanied by confusion over his own sexuality. As a result, Donny pushes himself into increasingly dangerous sexual situations with little regard for his own well-being “in a desperate search for the truth” and an attempt to alleviate some of the weight his assault still holds over him. Martha seems to pick up on this when the two go for that first coffee, asking him, “Someone hurt you, didn’t they?”

So why does Donny go to Darrien’s apartment? Initially, he seems to go with the intention of confronting Darrien. But when Darrien welcomes him warmly — and boldly acknowledges Donny’s “bravery” in the viral video without acknowledging his own heinous actions — Donny’s plan to confront him fades away as the two fall into a familiar “friendly” interaction. Donny eventually accepts Darrien’s offer to work together again — a loaded moment that not only calls back to the repeating cycles of abuse Donny has already experiences, but one that also represents how power imbalances and promises of success can further trap people in abusive situations.

Does Donny end up with Teri?

Baby Reindeer
Image Credit: Netflix

Donny and Teri have some beautiful scenes together, but unfortunately, they don’t make it in the end. Donny’s own past and present trauma and confusion about his sexuality appear to prevent him from fully connecting with Teri sexually and emotionally. Although he’s eventually able to have sex with Teri, it becomes clear he still can’t give her the love, care, and support she deserves, and as the situation with Martha takes a dark turn when it’s revealed she’s been recording all her interactions with Donny, Teri breaks up with Donny. 

The real story behind Baby Reindeer

Not only is the show based on a true story, but it’s one that happened to Richard Gadd, who wrote the show and starred as Donny Dunn. While some aspects were adapted for the show, it’s true that it started with a free cup of tea in the bar and that the stalker harassed his ex-girlfriend, parents, and the trans woman he was dating at the time. 

In total, the woman sent Gadd 41,071 emails, 350 hours’ worth of voicemails, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, 106 pages of letters. She also sent him an array of odd gifts, including a reindeer toy, sleeping pills, a woolly hat, and boxer shorts.

Despite names being changed for the purpose of the show, TikTok detectives have rushed to uncover the real identities of Martha, Darrien, and even Teri. Richard Gadd took to Instagram to beseech people to stop, explaining that individuals in his life “are unfairly getting caught up in speculation.” He reminded everyone that this is “not the point of [the] show.”

Fleurine Tideman
Fleurine Tideman
Fleurine Tideman, a European-based copywriter. She’s interesting (cause she’s from Europe), speaks multiple languages (again, she's from Europe), and is mentally unhinged (despite socialized healthcare). You can find her European musings on Twitter @ByFleurine and her blog, Symptoms of Living, both of which are written to the sounds of unhinged Taylor Swift playlists.