Under the Bridge’s Haunting, Hopeful Finale Underscores the Gravity of Mercy and Forgiveness

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Under the Bridge’s Haunting, Hopeful Finale Underscores the Gravity of Mercy and Forgiveness

Hulu’s Under the Bridge, the true crime miniseries based on the novel of the same name, is undoubtedly the best true crime series released in recent memory—and, if nothing else, the most respectful to its central victim. 

Cataloging the brutal murder of Reena Virk (Vritika Gupta), Under the Bridge examines how growing up Indian in a small Canadian town led Reena down a path that would ultimately result in her death, highlighting the casual cruelty and racism of both the teens responsible for her murder and those charged with bringing them to justice. In the final episode, titled “Mercy Alone,” we finally learn the fate of Reena’s killers, catching the end of the trial, the verdict, and the many appeals that come down the line. But while it is satisfying to see Kelly (Izzy G) and Warren (Javon Walton) get justice served to them (even if that justice feels paltry in Kelly’s case), it’s the smaller moments with Reena’s family, as well as the closure given to Cam (Lily Gladstone) and Rebecca (Riley Keough), that make this finale as satisfying as it is when the final credits roll to bring this miniseries to a close. 

In one of the most moving moments of the episode, Rebecca brings Reena’s mother, Suman (played to perfection by Archie Panjabi), to see Warren in prison, to plead with him to testify in Kelly’s trial to insure she doesn’t walk for her daughter’s death. While Suman is understandably angry at and disgusted by Warren, knowing that he aided in taking her daughter’s life, she also shocks both him and the audience with a simple line: “I forgive you.” That single sentence, and the follow-up sentiment that she’s showing Warren kindness because she believes a bit of kindness shown to him could have changed the outcome of that fateful night, reflects the central thesis of this series. Because, of course, Under the Bridge is about sharing Reena’s story and examining how and why these teenagers became murderers overnight, but it is also about forgiveness and mercy, and how we all suffer when we reduce those around us to stereotypes or one-note caricatures rather than real, tangible human beings. Suman understands that despising Warren will only allow those rotten feelings to fester within her; holding anger and hatred for Warren will never bring her daughter back, so instead, she frees herself of that burden and instead offers him forgiveness. In doing so, she exercises the hatred she feels for him and fills that hole in her heart instead with love for Reena, where her daughter will live on forever in her memory. 

Similarly, both Cam and Rebecca find themselves on their own journeys with mercy and forgiveness, which each come to a head in this final episode. Cam discovers that she was removed from her birth family when she was a baby, re-homed by the controversial Canadian program AIM, which removed Native babies from their families and placed them in foster care, in the hopes they would end up in white homes. Of course, Cam ended up with her police chief father, lamenting earlier in the episode that she “look[s] like the people that took [her] away.” As the episode comes to a close, Cam tells Rebecca that she’s resigning from the police force and is going to head to Vancouver to find her birth family.

Rebecca, on the other hand, realizes that she latched onto Warren not because he reminded her of her deceased brother, but instead that he reminded her of herself. Both Warren and Rebecca were unconcerned with the feelings or humanity of those around them—if only even for a fleeting moment—and that one single slip allowed a human life to be lost. Whether it was Rebecca being carelessly cruel to her brother or Warren choosing to view Reena as less than human, they each made a horrible mistake that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. But unlike Warren, who is undeniably more guilty and responsible for committing an actual murder, Rebecca gets a second chance now, an opportunity to become a better person than the one that was casually cruel and emotionally distant.

As Rebecca stands on the bluffs and Cam looks wistfully at the home she could have grown up in, it’s clear that the two of them now are offered a new opportunity to become better people, to become who they were always meant to be: kinder and more forgiving, of themselves and of those around them. 

“This evil spirit was revealed in the end to be something oddly human,” Rebecca narrates in the series’ final moments, but “mercy and mercy alone transforms the human heart.” As each character chooses to be merciful—Suman forgiving Warren, Cam alleviating Rebecca of her guilt over Gabe, Cam allowing herself to finally break free of a path that was chosen for her carelessly and cruelly—Under the Bridge posits that it’s never too late to offer kindness to one another, and that kindness and forgiveness are not cures for the rotten edges of humanity, but do offer a balm to ease suffering. 

But, even in this bittersweetly hopeful ending, Rebecca reiterates that “there would never truly be closure,” and that is unfortunately true. In the series’ final minutes, Suman and Manjit play Reena’s Biggie CD, and while they awkwardly bop to the beat and smile at the memory of their daughter, the illusion is broken by the CD skipping and stopping. The haunting final beat, of these two heartbroken parents sitting in a bedroom that will never be occupied again, brings Under the Bridge home. Because, like Rebecca so eloquently states, mercy can heal the heart and offer a reprieve from suffering, but nothing can ever truly erase the pain that was inflicted upon this family, no matter how many lives were changed in the wake of this tragedy. It’s a bittersweet goodbye for a series that offered hope and heartache at every turn, and that offered its central figures forgiveness, whether they were deserving of it or not. 

As our obsession with true crime continues to evolve into a juggernaut industry, I can only hope that shows in the future will offer its characters, and namely its central victim, the same respect and care that Under the Bridge took in bringing this story to the small screen. This series was deeply haunting and deeply hopeful, offering a truthful look at humanity, cruelty, and connection all through the eyes of these refreshingly flawed and strikingly different people. Under the Bridge will stay with me for a long time, as will this story of pain, heartache, and, most importantly, mercy. 

Anna Govert is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and her unshakable love of complicated female villains, you can follow her @annagovert.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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