The Girl from Plainville has proven itself to be a thought-provoking series during its run, challenging our preconceptions of Michelle Carter (Elle Fanning), while presenting young love wrapped in the suffocating blanket of mental illness and loneliness. Where the Commonwealth and the media had presented the death of Conrad Roy and manslaughter charges of Michelle Carter as vindictive and monstrous, Hulu’s series takes a step back, looking at the bigger picture. It takes a moment to find the humanity on both sides and all together, proving that at the end of the day, we are all human.
With its final episode, “Blank Spaces”, The Girl from Plainville does not back down on its efforts, bringing thus far its strongest sense of artistic liberties to the final moments of both Conrad (Colton Ryan) and Michelle. It does not leave viewers with a blank space, rather in its final moments, giving us the final “what happened” while leaving the future open.
Much of the series has found its focus on Michelle, waxing, and waning in its depiction of her. Where the first episodes questionably presented her as a conniving, opportunistic, and attention-seeking teen, the subsequent episodes that followed began to craft more to her story, challenging the commonly accepted perspective. For the final episode though, The Girl from Plainville turned the camera back to Conrad, capturing the final day he was alive. They are not as concerned with showing the suicide as they are in capturing his final moments, giving “Blank Spaces” an almost quiet peace.
As the episode opens, birds are chirping louder, light is brighter, and color richer giving an enhanced beauty to the world that surrounds Conrad – and one he is quietly saying goodbye to. While Michelle is briefly seen pushing him to make today the day, her aggressively questionable behavior from the beginning of the series returning, the camera remains with Conrad. With her words and expectations lingering in the air, he takes his dog out for a walk, the sounds of the world around him once again encompassing. It is almost euphoric, especially as he returns home, morning breakfast, his sisters and his mother brought to a slow grind – Conrad taking in every single moment.
Though, as the episode is coming to its end, so is Conrad’s story. As his mother, Lynn (Chloë Sevigny) asks him to come to the beach with her and his sisters, her words from the first episode ring loudly in the ears of viewers. She is no longer recalling their final day but kicking it off into motion. As Conrad explains that his swim trunks are at his father’s house, he leaves to retrieve them. Yet, the hypnotic nature of the world around him has lost its grip, Conrad retrieves the water pump before heading to the beach. There is a final feeling of Conrad saying goodbye as he tries guacamole for the first time, feels the sand between his fingers, and leaves the house for the final time.
The Girl from Plainville would have done a disservice to Conrad had they not captured his final moments. When we are first introduced to Conrad in the grave aftermath of that night, here viewers have the chance to see Conrad whose love for his family was almost his grounding element – if he had only just reached out to them. Instead, he reached out to Michelle.
As expected, viewers return to Michelle, her world slowing to a drag as she heads through reporters and into the courtroom to hear the verdict read. Before that, she enters the bathroom, finding Commonwealth prosecutor Katie Rayburn (Aya Cash) washing her hands. It is awkward and it is alarming, with viewers almost holding their breath as much as the prosecutor. As Michelle turns to leave, she pauses, thanking Katie, “I know you are doing this for Conrad”, and acknowledging her efforts. As Conrad’s final day with his mother echoes her tragic words from the beginning, so does this moment for Michelle.
Gone is the bubbly, attention-seeking Michelle from the beginning, replaced now with the broken and alone one. And while the projection of Michelle has changed, her concern and dedication to Conrad have not. It almost builds a case, in this one moment, that she always had the best intentions for him, even if she didn’t always make the soundest of decisions – and you see that register as well on Katie’s face.
This scene is weighted more heavily in the episode, the verdict of “guilty” is quickly delivered, and the episode moves on. While these scenes and episodes are fueled by artistic liberties, there is an essence of potential truth woven in – if we are questioning her guilt and the entirety of the situation, we can’t be the only ones. And while the facts are mixed with alterations for the sake of storytelling, “Blank Spaces” has its own void to fill.
As the verdict of guilt is read, viewers are whisked out of the courtroom, Michelle driving home in the snow, returning from college for the holiday season. As she shares a glass of wine with her mother, there is a wholesome feeling as she appears to be talking openly with her, eventually making her way to the bar to meet her friends. As she waits, Conrad arrives, the two meeting for the first time since Florida. In a moment, viewers will realize that this is what could have been – this is what Michelle wishes would have been. As she and Conrad converse, their conversation begins to take a dark turn.
This is not the first time Michelle has to meet Conrad here, sometimes their surroundings in Florida or on a baseball field. Her imagination is met with reality as Conrad stands to leave, heading out the door towards a dark neon red light. There is fear that comes over Michelle’s face, one that turns to agony, grief, and guilt as she follows him outside, standing in the Kmart parking lot watching as Conrad exits his truck coughing. She pleads with him to stop listening to her on the phone, to go home. As she falls to the pavement, there is the understanding that this is a moment that replays on repeat for her, one she will forever regret and one she can never correct.
It is one of the deepest freedoms the series takes, giving Michelle the last bit of humanity it can by endowing her with the emotions of grief, guilt, and regret. No matter the perspective of Michelle that has struck you these past eight episodes, this is how the series wants to leave you with her.
”Blank Spaces” wraps nicely giving brief ends for each of its characters – primarily Conrad’s family and Michelle. While Conrad’s family is able to bond deeply in the aftermath of Conrad’s death, Michelle’s greatest fear comes to fruition – being alone. As she is locked into her cell, the series finalizes her story in text, leaving the future a blank space.
What did you think of The Girl from Plainville? Let us know in the comments below!
All episodes of The Girl From Plainville are streaming on Hulu!
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