Defending Jacob Ending: Here's Why The Series Ends On That Scene

Chris Evans as Andy Barber and Michelle Dockery as Laurie Barber in Defending Jacob

(Image credit: Apple TV+)

Spoilers for the ending of Defending Jacob are discussed beyond this point.

So you just finished binge-watching Chris Evans starrer, Defending Jacob, and you want to know all about that wild ending. Well, the show’s star has revealed why the series ends on that scene. But first, how about a refresher?

Defending Jacob centers on the question of whether 14-year-old Jacob (played by Jaeden Martell of It fame) murdered a fellow teen. Jacob’s parents defend him but struggle to ascertain whether their son is actually guilty. When the ending rolls around, Jacob’s mother has become convinced of his guilt and attempts to get him to admit it.

The weather is rainy and as the duo head down the road, Jacob’s mother Laurie (Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery) demands to know the truth. Jacob half-heartedly admits to the murder, saying he did it, only to say “whatever you want” when his shocked mom believes he has admitted it. Believing her son is guilty, Laurie drives their SUV into a wall.

Somehow, mother and son both survive albeit with varying injuries. Jacob is left in a coma, while Laurie suffers from critical ones as well. The ending subsequently leaves viewers wondering whether or not Jacob really is a murderer. Asked if the showrunner or director told him if Jacob was guilty, Jaeden Martell said:

No, they didn’t. But they made me decide. Basically, when I first met with Mark and Morten, they said that I should decide whether or not he did it or not, and they don’t want to know. And then I shouldn’t tell anybody. I didn’t even tell my mom. I didn’t tell anybody. It’s just in my head.

So based on his comments to FanSided, Jaeden Martell has his own answer as to whether his character murdered Ben Rifkin. However, he has no plans on sharing what it is, as Martell explained that the Defending Jacob’s showrunner and director had him make a choice and keep it to himself.

The last scene doesn't make things any clearer for the audience, either. Jacob quickly backpedals from his admission during the ending episode of Defending Jacob, and Jaeden Martell plays the scene in a way that maintains its ambiguity. Although, for her part, Jacob’s mom is so certain of his guilt that she decides to kill him (and herself).

Though Jacob's mother believes she holds the evidence that her son is a killer, it's ultimately, up to viewers to decide where they stand on Jacob’s guilt. Unfortunately, this open-ended method of storytelling could undoubtedly leave those looking for closure a bit empty.

That being said, the Apple TV+ series is an adaptation of the 2012 novel of the same name. Originally set to be made into a feature film, Defending Jacob ultimately ended up coming to life in the form of a miniseries. While maintaining many similarities to the book, the show did have some difference, particularly with the ending. The novel’s conclusion makes it seem as though Jacob has killed again after the girl that he meets on vacation ends up deceased.

Conversely, in the Apple TV+ series, the girl turns up alive. Needless to say, this is an ending that's going to leave audiences talking things over for a while.

Defending Jacob is currently streaming on Apple TV+ and if you need more in the ways of suspense, you can check out this summer’s premieres.

Did Defending Jacob's ending make you think Jacob was guilty or innocent? Sound off in the poll below!

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Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.