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Mrs. Fletcher S1E7 (“Welcome Back”): Goodbye Mrs. Fletcher, Hello Mrs. Mackie

We have reached the end of the tale of Eve and Brendan Fletcher, and I can’t say I was too pleased with how it ended. Last week, I said that I didn’t think the show had enough time left to wrap up the character arcs of its two leads in any sort of satisfying way, but what we learn in Mrs. Fletcher S1E7 is that the show never had any intention of doing that. After their separate journeys, we leave them basically as we found them. They both have many new lived experiences, but as far as growth is concerned, the two of them still have a long way to go before they can live healthy and happy lives. I’m not the type of person who requires a happy ending or even wants one most of the time, but the ending of Mrs. Fletcher was absolutely brutal to watch.

“Welcome Back” (Written by Tom Perrotta and directed by Gillian Robespierre) is a fitting end to the limited series because it reunites Brendan and Eve (albeit in the most horrifying way possible). But before we get to that whole mess, let’s talk about Brendan. After traumatizing Chloe (Jasmine Cephas Jones) in last week’s episode, Brendan (Jackson White) is still clinging to the hope that she will forgive him and give him another chance. I didn’t want her to, and I was happy to see that she has no intention of forgiving him. She won’t speak to him or see him, and she sends Zach (Cameron Boyce) out to tell Brendan to leave her alone.

Brendan can’t wrap his mind around why Chloe won’t speak to him and give him a chance to apologize. By his own admission, he doesn’t even really know how to apologize to her. While it is obvious that Brendan is truly sorry for what happened, he still doesn’t fully understand why what he did was wrong. In his conversation with Zach, Brendan even comes off as somewhat flippant about the whole thing. In Brendan’s mind, he knows he screwed up with Chloe but he doesn’t see what he did as being that big of a deal. He thinks that, if he can just talk to Chloe and apologize, she will see that he didn’t mean to hurt her.

But as Zach points out, no one cares what he meant. His intentions don’t matter in this situation. He violated Chloe and she is traumatized by the experience and Brendan just has to live with the fact that he is fully responsible for ruining their relationship. While I don’t think that Chloe considers the violation to be a full sexual assault, the only thing that matters is that it felt like an assault to her while it was happening. She doesn’t need to talk to Brendan; she knows that any apology is pointless because he isn’t capable of understanding why what he did was wrong. The nuances of enthusiastic consent would be completely lost on him. In that respect, he has not changed one iota since the beginning of the series. The consent workshop was a joke to him back in the beginning, but perhaps if he’d paid closer attention he wouldn’t find himself in his current situation.

Brendan stands outside Chloe's dorm looking distraught

I don’t think Brendan is a rapist in the making or anything as harsh as that. I just think he lacks the emotional maturity required to have a healthy sexual relationship. His sexual preferences have been shaped by hardcore pornography (and all the violent misogyny that entails), and he is unable to differentiate between what sex is in porn and what sex is in life. In real life, if you want to call your girlfriend misogynist slurs while you deep throat her, you need to ask first, and he’s learned this the hard way (and at Chloe’s expense).

In addition to his relationship disaster, Brendan is failing out of school. He goes to see his adviser who basically tells him that he’s just not ready for college. I agree with this assessment because Brendan certainly does not have the maturity to be successful as an undergrad. He is not self-sufficient in any way (which is partly a result of Eve’s over-mothering). He doesn’t take things seriously. He doesn’t seem to have any drive or ambition, academically speaking. Brendan thought college was going to be a 4-year-long party, but the reality of the situation is that he actually has to put the work in to make it work, and he seems fairly incapable of doing that.

I don’t know where Brendan goes from here. I think if he drops out, he won’t ever go back, which is a shame because Brendan desperately needs the life skills that the undergrad experience can give him. Over the course of the show I was really rooting for Brendan to get it together—to embrace change and grow as a person—but he’s proven time and time again that he just isn’t willing or able to do what he needs to do. What we see in Mrs. Fletcher S1E7 is that Brendan is facing consequences for the first time in his life. He violated Chloe and broke her trust, and she will never forgive him. He didn’t put the work in academically, and he is going to fail out of school. The real world (in as much as college can really be considered the real world) is not a forgiving place, and Brendan’s sheltered and privileged life in no way prepared him for the fact that, in life, actions have consequences.

Brendan and Sanjay walk through the parking lot to Sanjay's car
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

Brendan’s life has completely collapsed around him and he ends up crying on the floor in the shower, where Sanjay (Cheech Manohar) finds him. Sanjay can see that Brendan is a mess and he offers to drive him home. On the way, Brendan texts Eve to let her know he’s on his way, but of course with her phone all smashed to bits, she doesn’t receive the message. Brendan ends up telling Sanjay what happened with Chloe, and while initially he is still flippant about his actions (he even says, “She punched me in the nuts, and I’m the bad guy”), he finally does admit that he is completely at fault—and I think he actually means it. While it is easier for Brendan to tell himself that he didn’t do anything wrong, deep down he is beginning to understand what he did and why he is, in fact, the bad guy—not just regarding what he did to Chloe but also his responsibility for his academic situation. When Sanjay drops him at home and says he’ll see him when he gets back, we get the sense that Brendan has already decided he’s not going back. What Brendan needs at this moment is the Eve we met in the premiere. He needs his mother. He needs Eve Fletcher. What he gets is something entirely different. He gets Eve Mackie, and she is a woman he doesn’t recognize.

But before we get to the horrifying conclusion, let’s talk about how we got to Eve Mackie. Eve (Kathryn Hahn) runs into her ex-husband Ted (Josh Hamilton) while he’s having a two-beer lunch. Ted is day drinking because they have just found out that his second wife is pregnant again. This is very much unplanned, and he is less than excited about it. He is already overwhelmed by the amount of care that his son Johnathan requires and a new baby is only going to add to the stress. He’s hardly Father of the Year to begin with, as evidenced by the fact that he tells Eve he’ll have two kids and leaving Brendan out completely. That slip-up really speaks to the truth of the situation: he is not a father to Brendan and hasn’t been for a long time. I can’t fully blame Brendan’s behavior on Ted’s absentee status, but I think that a huge part of the reason that Brendan is emotionally stunted is because he didn’t really have a dad. Although frankly Ted wouldn’t have been the greatest role model even if he had been around so Brendan never really had a chance to begin with.

Ted sits at a table drinking a beer with lunch

That evening, Eve goes through a memory box, looking at old pictures of herself when she was young. She also digs out some old mix-tapes that Ted made for her (including one containing original songs he wrote for her). This little stroll down memory lane is painful for her but it does prompt her to make a huge change—one that she should have made long ago. Eve decides to finally drop Ted’s last name and go back to her old self.

After getting her name legally changed, Eve decides to have a party to celebrate the milestone. She calls Margo (Jen Richards) to invite her and ask her to spread the word to the rest of the class, but while she’s on the phone Eve sees Roy Rafferty (Bill Raymond) waving to her in the parking lot. Flustered by this apparition, she twists her ankle and falls off the curb, and a car runs over her cell phone. This scene is important because it provides a believable reason why Eve would not have a cell phone (which will be important later), but the choice to have her see Roy’s ghost is an interesting one. I think Eve “sees” Roy in this moment because she has just laid her old self to rest. She is not Eve Fletcher anymore; she’s Eve Mackie again. Eve Fletcher was the woman Roy knew, and I think he’s come to say goodbye to her.

Roy Rafferty stands in a parking lot and waves to Eve

Eve has, throughout Mrs. Fletcher, been trying to recapture something in herself that she lost long ago. Part of what was lost is her youth, which she wasted on Ted, and I think this is part of the reason she chooses (after 10 years of keeping his name after the divorce) to go back to being Eve Mackie. I think part of what causes Eve to do the things she does and make the choices that she makes is that, in her attempts to grow, she has actually regressed a bit. There are many moments where she tries to channel that young woman she was—the Eve Mackie buried somewhere inside her—which is likely why she’s allowed herself to get involved with Julian (Owen Teague). She wants to feel young and unencumbered but allowing herself to feel that way has led her down a road that she’s not going to be able to come back from. She may feel young again and want to act accordingly, but the fact remains that she is a grown woman and should be making adult choices.

The choices that Eve makes at her party that evening are not the greatest. Before the party even starts, she mixes alcohol with painkillers and shares them with her coworker Amanda (Katie Kershaw). Amanda is a good friend to Eve (she set up the whole party because Eve’s ankle has left her pretty incapacitated), and it is clear that Amanda would not mind if Eve decided to kiss her again. In addition to Amanda, the party guests include the entire writing class group, as well as Jane (Casey Wilson) and her husband Dave (Michael Torpey). It’s a small but lively gathering, with plenty of alcohol flowing, and Eve has a brief conversation with Jane, who has seemingly taken Dave back after she discovered he was cheating. Eve seems supportive of their trying to work it out even though Jane isn’t entirely sure if she’s doing the right thing.

Jane sits opposite Eve who is elevating her twisted ankle
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

After seemingly breaking things off with Julian last week, Eve has a conversation with him in the kitchen where she tells him about having seen Roy. They had exchanged a few flirty glances previously, and this conversation (though it starts off just friendly) veers back into flirtation territory after Julian tells Eve that he took her advice and talked to a girl (his cute coworker). But, as he tells Eve, even though she’s cute, she isn’t really his type (i.e. she’s not Eve). They are interrupted by Amanda (who can tell instantly that there is a flirtation going on between them) and she enlists Julian as the designated driver to go on a booze run.

Now, I don’t have a problem with the adults giving Julian alcohol. He’s 19. In my opinion, despite the laws to the contrary, that’s old enough to drink. But while he seems relatively sober at this point, having had maybe one or two beers, it’s still a bit questionable to have the underage teenager with alcohol in his system be the designated driver to go buy more alcohol. One of the things that I’ve noticed throughout Mrs. Fletcher is that there is a lot of drunk driving that goes on. Eve does it several times without consequence, and the show never really addresses it in any way. While Julian is clearly not drunk at this point, it’s still not a good look for the adults in the room that no one has even the slightest problem with this.

Just generally speaking, Eve’s alcohol and drug consumption (which has gone up significantly since Brendan left home) is not addressed at all even though it is the driving force behind most of her questionable decisions. I think Eve is subconsciously using drugs and alcohol to lower her inhibitions so that she can live more freely as the person she is trying to be. While I do support her trying to find herself, I think it’s a pointless exercise if she can’t do it without self-medicating. A bit of liquid courage now and again is fine, but Eve is displaying a pattern of behavior that suggests that she is incapable of expressing her true self without using various substances. I’m not suggesting that Eve is an alcoholic; the issue is more that she is relying far too heavily on alcohol as a crutch.

Eve stands with her arms crossed in her living room during her party
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

Amanda and Julian have a fun little road trip listening to some Bowie in the car on the way to the liquor store. Amanda actually addresses Julian’s age and asks him if it is weird hanging out with a bunch of adults. This is conversation is critical because we finally see someone specifically addressing Julian’s age and the fact that he is at a much different stage in his life than everyone else at the party. Mrs. Fletcher’s treatment of Julian is interesting. We see him with the adults in his writing class, who are all significantly older than him, but he fits in as part of the group. The bullying he suffered in high school has given him a sense of maturity beyond his years, so it is sometimes easy to forget that he is actually a teenage boy. Here, via his conversation with Amanda, we are purposefully reminded that he is exactly that. It’s no coincidence that this age conversation takes place at this point given what is to come later that night.

While in the liquor store, Amanda calls Julian out on having a crush on Eve, but when he says that he knows that it’s weird, she assures him that it’s not. And it isn’t weird for Julian to have a crush on Eve. He’s 19 years old and she is an attractive woman who he can have meaningful conversations with. I don’t place any blame on Julian for pursuing a relationship with Eve because the young person is never responsible when there is a questionable age difference. I was surprised that Amanda encouraged him, though (and very surprised when she did more than that).

Amanda stands next to Julian holding a beer at Eve's party
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

With all the other party guests gone, Eve, Amanda, and Julian are alone in the house with a bottle of tequila. Eve asks Amanda to bust out her vape pen (so add pot to the booze-and-painkiller cocktail Eve is currently on) and they all smoke a bit. Eve laments that she was unable to dance at the party but Amanda says she still can. The three of them end up slow dancing and everyone is making out with everyone, and then they have a full-on threesome.

I have so desperately wanted Eve to pursue a healthy sexual relationship throughout this entire season, and I’m disappointed that she actually went all the way with Julian. It’s a complicated situation because I like all these characters—Eve, Amanda, and Julian—a great deal. I think they are all good people and I want them all to find happiness in love and life, but this…I can’t get behind it. I just can’t. I realize that technically Julian is of legal consenting age, but just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. With Amanda and Julian, I’m not sure exactly how old she is (late 20s maybe?), it’s less of an issue because they are closer in age. I’m still not super keen on it, but it’s less offensive to me than Eve and Julian. Eve could literally be his mother—her son is the same age and in the same high school class as him, and she knows those things—and yet she pursues a sexual relationship with him. I understand that she has real feelings for him and that she is trying to figure out what she wants in the next chapter of her life, but I can’t get past the fact that she is a middle-aged adult woman and he is a barely legal teenage boy.

I’m not accusing her of being predatory in any way—she’s not a pedophile, she’s not grooming him—but ultimately (even though Julian is in love with her) this is a selfish act on Eve’s part. Because where could this possibly go? What did she think would happen? Is she even thinking at all? I don’t think so. She’s drunk and high (they all are) and caught up in the moment, and she gets sexual satisfaction out of it (they all do), but she learns quickly—as Brendan did—that there are consequences for her actions.

Eve sits on her bed wrapped in her blanket looking upset

The punishment for her questionable decision-making is swift and severe: Brendan walks in on her in bed with Amanda and Julian. This is an interesting bookend to the series since in the first episode of Mrs. Fletcher we saw Eve overhearing Brendan receiving oral sex. It’s a given that no parent wants to see (or in this case, hear) their kid having sex, and no kid wants to see their parent having sex. What makes Eve and Brendan’s experiences more disturbing than your average situation is that Eve heard Brendan’s sexual misogyny, and Brendan saw his mother in bed with a boy his own age—a boy he knows very well, no less.

The second Brendan opened Eve’s bedroom door, Eve knows that there’s no coming back from this. Not only is it over completely between her and Julian—and this is made clear in an unspoken moment between them in which Hahn and Teague truly shine—but her relationship with Brendan has been irrevocably damaged. For the rest of his life, he is going to see her differently. If she had been in bed with some random guy or even just with Amanda, things would be different. It would be awkward of course, but it would not have been a real trauma. He would have gotten over it. But there’s no coming back from seeing his mother in bed with Julian. Finally, Mrs. Fletcher shows us the relationship between Eve and Julian through someone else’s eyes. By having Brendan be the one to catch them, the show finally demonstrates exactly how damaging the relationship between the two of them is.

Brendan sits on the front steps of his house with his hands in his jacket pockets
Image: Sarah Shatz/HBO

There is a brief moment between Brendan and Julian that I found incredibly interesting. Knowing Brendan, one might assume that he would flip out on Julian (and honestly I wouldn’t blame him), but he doesn’t do that. He just says, “Hey,” as Julian leaves. Julian says, “Hey” back to him, and that’s it. That’s the exchange. There is a lot that is unspoken here, though. I think at this point, given everything he’s experienced, that Brendan does actually feel bad about the way he treated Julian in high school. Brendan knows what it feels like to be an outsider now, and I would hope that he would apply that knowledge and do a bit of self-reflection regarding his actions in high school.

For Julian’s part, he could have gloated about it. After all, this is his high school bully—the guy that traumatized him and made his life hell—and he just caught him in post-coital bliss with his mother. But Julian doesn’t do that, because Eve was not a conquest to him in that way. Julian is an emotionally intelligent guy and he understands that while Brendan deserves a lot of things, seeing him and Eve together is its own kind of trauma. Julian is better than Brendan in every imaginable way, so I’m happy that he didn’t lower himself in that moment. The both of them demonstrated a lot of maturity there, and it was nice to see.

The series ends with Brendan sitting on the front steps and Eve standing in the doorway behind him. He doesn’t look back at her. They don’t speak. We don’t get to hear the resolution of this because there is no resolution. Eve doesn’t speak because she doesn’t know what to say, and that’s because there’s nothing she can say that will make it better. Brendan is also at a loss for words. There is so much he needed to say to him mom when he came home, and I think that if he’d walked in to find everything just like normal, he would actually have been able to open up to her about everything that was going on. But now? I don’t know. I don’t know where their relationship goes from here, but I think it was a good choice to end Mrs. Fletcher with that massive question mark.

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Written by Ali Sciarabba

In addition to her position as TV Editor and Writer for 25YL, Ali Sciarabba is a freelance editorial consultant and author of numerous nonfiction reference books for middle school and high school students. In her spare time she enjoys obsessing over various television shows, especially Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. When not overanalyzing TV shows, she is wrangling her Corgi, Cassidy, who is inarguably the cutest dog that has ever existed.

2 Comments

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  1. Watched it and was disappointed by this pessimistic end. Because obviously the show tells us that when a woman can finally live her own life, there are always bad consequences for her. I’m a 50 year old woman , my husband left me after 32 years of marriage and my daughters left home too because they had to study far away. I really understood this woman and her fears .. and the end of this show left a bad taste in my mouth. Sorry for my english and for the lack of complexity of my comment… I would like to say so much more – but I’m french.

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