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Netflix's Ripley season 1 ending (and that big question) explained

Andrew Scott stars in Netflix's taut new adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley

Ripley
Image credit: Netflix

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Netflix has just released Ripley, its highly-anticipated new show about Tom Ripley, a small-time crook in early '60s New York who finds his prospects suddenly expanded when the shipping magnate father of guy he supposedly knew in college unexpectedly asks him to go to Italy to try and convince his trust fund son to come home and get a real job.

Starring Andrew Scott (All of Us Strangers, Fleabag), and based upon the much-adapted Patricia Highsmith novels, Ripley is an intense and often quietly funny thriller about a con artist intent on having it all, no matter what the cost.

But does he get it? Read on to find out.

Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Ripley.

What happens at the Ripley ending?

Over the course of the series, Tom scams more and more people to try and gain the kind of life that Dickie and his girlfriend Marge have. While at first it seems like his goal is simply to push Marge out and take her place in Dickie's life, eventually Tom kills Dickie, takes over his identity and moves to Rome.

When Dickie’s friend Freddie Miles shows up asking too many questions Tom kills him, as well. But Freddie’s body is soon found, and the Italian police become involved. In the second half of the series Tom hustles to avoid being arrested, as more and more of his criminal activity starts to come to light.

Having made it seem to a hotel clerk in Palermo that he was depressed and going to Tunis, in the series finale Tom travels instead to Venice and starts a whole new life no longer as Dickie but as himself. (One of the fun twists of the series is that as Italian police officer Inspector Ravini investigates, he obtains information that makes him think “Dickie” may have killed not only Freddie Miles but Tom Ripley, who has not been seen since he rented a boat with Dickie.) When the inspector holds a press conference saying that Dickie is a fugitive and Tom is missing, Tom goes to the local law enforcement in Venice to let them know he’s alive and well.

The inspector then comes to visit Tom in his new villa in Venice, looking for information about Dickie. He’s met Tom a number of times before as Dickie, but Tom wears a wig and a short beard and keeps the lights low enough that the inspector never realizes the truth.

(One of the show’s conceits is that Tom is obsessed with the paintings and story of the Italian 17th century artist Caravaggio, who spent much of his life on the run after having killed a man. His paintings, as Tom sees them, are filled with violence and the subtle manipulation of light.)

Marge, who had dumped Dickie in a latter after coming to believe that Tom and Dickie had become lovers, travels to Venice to see Tom. When Marge discovers that Tom has Dickie’s ring, Tom prepares to murder her. But before he can she comes to the conclusion that if Tom has Dickie’s ring, Dickie really must have killed himself, as Inspector Ravini had begun to believe.

Having fooled everyone, Tom takes up a new identity as British citizen Timothy Fanshaw, hangs the Picasso painting that he stole from Dickie, and sits to appreciate it, Dickie’s ring on his finger, the ashtray with which he killed Freddie Miles beside him.

Meanwhile, Inspector Ravini receives a copy of the travel book Marge had been working on from the time Tom first met her. Within he sees an actual picture of Dickie and realizes he’s been played.

Are there any Ripley deaths?

While Tom Ripley is often described as a serial killer, in fact in the series he only kills two (or perhaps three) people. He beats to death Dickie Greenleaf with an oar, then dumps his body in the ocean, after Dickie suggests it’s time for Tom move on. Later after Dickie’s friend Freddie Miles shows up in Rome and starts figuring out what’s going on, Tom bludgeons him with a heavy glass ashtray, then drives his body out to a sketchy part of Rome and leaves it.

(The long sequence in which Tom tries to get rid of Freddie’s body is one of the series’ most entertaining and masterful moments.)

At the beginning and end of the series, we also see glimpses of Aunt Dottie, the apparently mean-spirited woman who raised Tom after his parents supposedly drowned in a boating accident. In the pilot Tom writes her a letter saying he’s free of her now, while she prepares to have some kind of dental work done, looking uneasy. In the final episode Tom tells Marge that it was her death that enabled him to buy his new villa, and we cut to her back at the dentist’s office with a drill in her mouth, screaming.

Given the fact that we catch glimpses of the dentist, as well, this may very well just be a fantasy of Tom’s, the torture he wants for her given how she treated him. Or maybe in reality it was Tom who held the drill and murdered her before he left New York.

Is Tom Ripley gay?

One of the ongoing questions in the Ripley miniseries is whether or not Tom is gay. Marge believes he’s queer as soon as she meets him, and Freddie—who turns out to be queer himself — eventually assumes the same. And at ome point Dickie discovers Tom in his room dressed in his clothes and imagining himself (as Dickie) breaking up with Marge because he wants to be with Tom.

While we do see Tom check Dickie out, at no point do we see him flirt, kiss, or do anything else with Dickie or anyone else.

Who’s in the Ripley cast?

Series star Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley is joined by British actor and singer Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf, Dakota Fanning (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) as Marge, Italian star Maurizio Lombardi as Inspector Ravini, and singer/songwriter Eliot Sumner as Freddie Miles.

The series also has a sterling cast in supporting roles, including playwright and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) as Dickie’s father the shipping magnate; Bokeem Woodbine (Ghostbusters: Afterlife) as the private investigator who works for him; and John Malkovich, who actually played Ripley in the 2002 film Ripley’s Game, as Reeves Minot, an accomplished con man himself, who helps Tom get his new identity.

Is Ripley a sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley?

No, the series is a new miniseries version of that story.

Is Ripley entirely in black and white?

Yes, Ripley is shot completely in black and white. And it’s gorgeous.

How does Ripley compare with the novel The Talented Mr. Ripley?

While there are some variations here and there in the details, Ripley largely follows the storyline of Patricia Highsmith’s first Ripley novel. But at the end of the book Tom has moved to Greece, living the life he always wanted and yet paranoid that the police may come for him at any time. At the end of the series he is still in Venice, and entirely content.

Will there be a Ripley season 2?

Netflix has billed the 8-part series as a limited series. But its final scene, in which Inspector Ravini realizes at the very least that the person he met who said he was Dickie was not Dickie at all, definitely leaves the door open for more.

So does the introduction in the final episode of Malkovitch’s Reeves Minot. Though he’s onscreen only very briefly, upon meeting Tom he immediately suggests the two have a lot in common, and seems to delight in meeting him.

Patricia Highsmith herself wrote four further Ripley books which could be adapted. So will we see more of the enigmatic Tom Ripley? Time (and ratings) will tell...


Watch Andrew Scott in conversation with Popverse and fans from London's MCM Comic Con.