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‘Safe’: The Ending to Season 1 Is Absolutely Ludicrous, and More Mysteries Should Follow Suit — Spoilers

All those twists come together for one whopper of an ending, but the beauty of "Safe" Season 1 is that it knows when to stop.

Safe Season 1 Netflix Michael C. Hall

Ben Blackall / Netflix

[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Safe” Season 1 on Netflix, including the ending.]

There isn’t likely to be a “Safe” Season 2, and anyone who’s finished the first season knows why.

Still, in an age of inexplicable renewals and extended limited series, it never hurts to have confirmation, and creator Harlan Coben  provided as much as he could — on screen and off. In an interview with Digital Spy that emphasized all the answers to the Netflix murder-mystery were in Season 1, Coben said he wouldn’t “rule out” a Season 2, but later added he doubts it will ever happen.

That’s pretty emphatic as far as creator speculation goes, and Coben speaks even more clearly via the final episode: As a soapy, twist-driven mystery, “Safe” is all wrapped up. Rather than throw in a last-second reveal that upended the answers that had been building over the last few episodes, Coben chose to structure his project as eight episodes and out. In doing so, he made it much more satisfying — like the perfect piece of cake, not too big or too small — but he also served up an example of why even the most outlandish murder-mysteries are stronger when they’re allowed to die out short and sweet.

Just look at how much ground is covered in “Safe.” At the start of the season, there are three major mysteries:

  1. Who killed Chris (Freddie Thorp)?
  2. Where is Jenny (Amy James-Kelly)?
  3. And, in a tertiary plotline that felt like and turned out to be a red herring, who put all those e-mails and photographs in Zoe’s (Audrey Fleurot) school locker?

The answers were given in reverse order of importance (almost). Long before the finale, Zoe’s husband Neil (Joplin Sibtain) admits to exposing his wife’s affair with a student in a fit of rage. Before their son was found dead, the two were splitting up, Neil saw Zoe with one of her students, and he angrily took his vengeance by exposing them.

Safe Season 1 Netflix

Before that, the audience finds out Jenny is alive; she’s being held in Helen’s house (Karen Bryson), but she’s soon moved to Bobby’s (Milo Twomey) place after he kills Helen and sets her home on fire. Why? Well, Helen wanted to come clean about what she, Bobby, and a group of three other kids did decades earlier. Seeking vengeance and thinking the school was empty, Helen, Bobby, Craig, Rachel (Katy Carmichael), and Sophie (Amanda Abbington) set fire to the building and ended up killing multiple students who couldn’t get out.

Though they covered their tracks at the time, years later Jenny and her boyfriend Chris find out what happened and the guilty parties start trying to cover their tracks. That’s why Helen has Jenny in the first place, but Bobby turns on her when she tells him about her plan to confess.

And that’s when things get weird.

Despite Bobby being so committed to hiding his secret that he kills Helen, sets her house on fire, kidnaps Jenny, and is ready to shoot a high school kid in the head, he turns the gun on himself when a (horribly planned) rescue attempt by Tom (Michael C. Hall) and Sophie goes awry. “I never wanted to kill her,” Bobby says, in an odd confessional that motivates his suicide but doesn’t explain why he went as far as he did before it.

Nevertheless, Jenny is safely back in her dad’s arms, and it appears everything is over… until Detective Castle (Hannah Arterton) pulls out a pendant found at the crime scene. It’s the first time Tom’s seen it, and he immediately identifies its owner: It’s Sophie! (bum-bum-bum!)

That’s right: The cop did it! It turns out Sophie went to pick up her kid from the party but ran into Chris pacing by the pool before anyone saw her. When he confronted her about the fire and recorded her confession, she wrestled him into the pool and drowned him before she even realized it. She killed Chris to cover up her part in the manslaughter. Though she begs Tom not to tell anyone — even invoking his dead wife, claiming Rachel would want them to be happy together — he can’t protect her anymore. He calls the cops and turns in one of their best detectives.

“Safe” ends with shots of Sophie walking into her prison cell and Tom walking back into his gated community. It cements the series’ introspective look at how close-knit groups can become corrupted — and protect each other — when things go awry. Or, as Coben put it in the interview, “I was just thinking about the idea of people building fences and walls to keep the bad out, but what if [in] doing so, you keep the bad in?”

Safe Season 1 Netflix Michael C. Hall Marc Warren

But the ending is also just that: an ending. All the answers have been given, and even though curious fans might wonder how Tom, Jenny, and their family will recover (not to mention what happens to Sophie, a cop, in prison), that’s not the story “Safe” set out to tell. It’s a murder-mystery, and even though it’s an increasingly goofy murder-mystery, there are no hanging threads left to be tugged in Season 2.

Told efficiently in eight episodes that clock in at less than 45-minutes each, “Safe” exemplifies the kind of quick thrills that can be made doubly satisfying with equally quick explanations. Instead of waiting for hours, weeks, or even seasons, the binge-able Netflix drama consistently provides new answers. The twists aren’t overextended to the point of exhaustion, and the series’ length isn’t inflated to provide more content. “Safe” isn’t diluted entertainment, like so many other Netflix dramas.

But it’s not only streaming services that could take a few notes from “Safe’s” expediency. Think of all the twist-driven network dramas that have overstayed their welcome (in part) because they’ve overextended their plot. The recently renewed “How to Get Away With Murder” comes to mind, as do “Quantico,” “The Blacklist,” and once buzzy dramas like “Empire” and “The X-Files.”

People are quick to condemn limited series that morph into ongoing series when Season 1 is successful, but perhaps that’s the better model. Rather than hold back your best twists or most long-awaited developments (yup, looking right at you, “This Is Us”), approaching each season as a singular story can provide closure without closing the door on the future. Upcoming seasons of “Big Little Lies,” “The Sinner,” and “The Night Manager” have to build something fresh, and that’s exciting. Whether they’re continuing with existing characters or telling a brand new story, they can’t fall back on what they’ve already finished. Those stories are over, and this one is, too.

If “Safe” Season 2 happens, it will have to dig up another body and a new killer. No matter what’s next — including nothing at all — at least fans will always have Season 1.

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