The Act Series Finale Recap: "Free"

Photo: Courtesy of Brownie Harris/Hulu.
We've finally reached the end of Hulu's The Act, with a finale that swapped the previous seven episodes' shock value for a deeply emotional farewell. The episode opens with toddler Gypsy and Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette) gazing up at the stars together, a sweet image after a barrage of moments that highlighted the abuse Dee Dee levied at her daughter. It's important that we see this, because as the episode continues, the weight of what Gypsy (Joey King) has done by having Dee Dee murdered weighs on her. Much like the real Gypsy, who told Dr. Phil that she doesn't believe her mother deserved death, in hindsight, King's Gypsy seems to begin regretting hers and Nicholas Godejohn's (Calum Worthy) actions.
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The first scene of Gypsy as an adult is in a shadowy courtroom, where Gypsy and Nick are being formally charged with First Degree Murder. As the charges are read, so are the possible sentences, which include the death penalty. Gypsy utters her plea as "Not Guilty," much to the chagrin of the courtroom attendees, who clearly think she is guilty. Nick and Gypsy are then escorted from the courtroom, and Nick uses this moment to promise they will be okay as long as they stick together, "like Bonnie & Clyde." Gypsy, however, is focused on her own endgame and simply shouts after him, "What happened to them in the end?" Bonnie & Clyde were shot to death in a police ambush (apparently, Nick didn't get that far in their story), but in her heart, Gypsy seems to know this iconic duo isn't one to look up to.
With dread hanging over her, Gypsy asks her lawyer if she will be executed. Her lawyer doesn't say no, and instead answers that it's all about perception, because at this point the evidence is too strong against her. Instead of trying to prove Gypsy's "Not Guilty" plea was true, the lawyer goes straight to proving that Gypsy was in an abusive situation. The only problem is that because Gypsy was convinced to sign over power of attorney to Dee Dee, the only way to release her medical records is by reaching out to Gypsy's father. The lawyer is having trouble getting him to respond, but hopes Gypsy can get him to talk. This upsets Gypsy, because while she wanted to get away from her mother, she also loved and trusted her — including the lies about her father being gone, useless, and uninterested in their lives. Gypsy wants nothing to do with him, but when her lawyer advises that it's the only way to turn the tide of media perception — that currently has her painted as a "cold-blooded" killer — Gypsy starts to realize she needs a way out.
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She tries everything else first though, even asking ask the prison doctor to get the records for her (spoiler: that's not how prison doctors work). The doctor says no and simultaneously dispels all of Gypsy's phantom medical issues in a matter of minutes, swiftly taking out her feeding tube and saying her aches and pains are nothing a little aspirin can't fix. "You're one of the healthiest people I've seen," she says. It's devastating to Gypsy, because it's such a course, swift removal of the reality her mother spent years building.
Later, in the prison yard, Nick and Gypsy see each other through a fence. He finally found out what happened to Bonnie & Clyde, but he doesn't seem that upset: They died together, he says proudly. He doesn't seem to get why that might upset Gypsy, who doesn't seem to have any interest in sticking with him until death like Nick appears to want.
After that, Gypsy is in need of some sort of connection to something from before her mother died, so she uses her phone call to reach out to Lacey (AnnaSophia Robb) and hopes she can easily clear up what the news has been saying about her. She points out that the money and fraud was a Dee Dee issue, but Lacey then asks the question that Gypsy's avoiding altogether: "So you killed her?"
"All I wanted was to be like you. And I really just need someone to talk to right now. I want to tell you everything. It's just really complicated," she whimpers into the phone before asking Lacey to come see her. But Lacey is still shocked by all of it and offers a noncommittal response and hangs up. (Later, Lacey does seem upset by their friends and neighbors speaking so callously about Gypsy and Dee Dee, but doesn't end up actually visiting her one-time neighbor in prison.)
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Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.
Having finally run out of options, Gypsy breaks down and decides to call her father. When Gypsy finally gets a visitor, she assumes it's Lacey, but it's actually Rod Blanchard (Cliff Chamberlain) with some sweet snacks from the vending machine in hand. Gypsy is cold to him, but all he wants to do is finally connect with the daughter he's been kept from. All she wants are her medical records. He directs her to a few doctors' notes, all of which include false claims from Dee Dee, one of which he can directly refute since it was before he was out of the picture. The reality starts to sink in that Dee Dee never let Gypsy speak to doctors herself as a means of ensuring Gypsy stayed "sick." "That's how she made you a prisoner," he says.
Gypsy isn't ready to accept him or his explanations of Dee Dee though, and points out that Dee Dee was there while he wasn't. He was 17 years old when they got married, he reasons. "She was a lot older. She was in the driver's seat. I was a kid," he says. Gypsy is convinced that he doesn't love her, but he says that he does and that Dee Dee kept her from him and said it was potentially medically hazardous for Gypsy to spend time with him. He does everything he can to convince her, telling her about the checks he sent, about all the ways he tried to see her. She won't budge. So he has one last move: three photos of the two of them together — one from when she was eight at the Special Olympics. Despite having been at an age when she'd remember who was with her, Gypsy is convinced Rod wasn't there, likely because of the way Dee Dee spoke about him and their time together. Gypsy does remember the flag he gave her, though, and that's the detail that finally convinces her to let him help her.
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Armed with the medical records, Gypsy's lawyer asks that Gypsy's case be severed from Nick's case because the medically abuse renders her case totally different. The state agrees, and the declaration is granted. It all happens directly in front of Nick, who immediately knows this is going to make his case more dire. "But I did it for Gypsy," he whispers, fear in eyes as he leaves the courtroom. Gypsy asks her lawyer what this all means and her lawyer says she'll have to plead guilty to get a deal so she doesn't spend her life in prison. This devastates her far more than Nick's fate does. In fact, she appears almost flippant about whatever might befall the man who actually took the knife to Dee Dee. Her main concern is that she didn't realize that asking Nick to kill her mother is also a form of murder.
Lacey, meanwhile, is blaming herself for introducing Gypsy to the dating website and therefore Nick. She says there were clues about what was going to happen, but she didn't notice them. When Gypsy calls from prison, Lacey can't bring herself to answer the call. Mel says she should go see Gypsy, to "look her in the eye" after all the lies. She doesn't make it, but Mel does.
Mel appears somewhat sympathetic, but wants to know why Gypsy went along with it. "She was my best friend until she wouldn't let me grow up," reasons Gypsy, professing that she loved her mom. But then Mel asks the million dollar question that so many have wondered: Why didn't Gypsy just get up and walk away? Unsure of what to say, Gypsy says "everything happens for a reason," but Mel disagrees. She eventually lays the truth bomb on Gypsy that she needs: There's no reason any of this happened, Mel can't be her new mom, she's on her own now, and there's no way out, only through.
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The use of her mother's catchphrase takes Gypsy back to a memory of her last night with her mother, when they laid in bed side-by-side and repeated their nightly routine of telling the "stars and angels" bedtime story about how they would always protect one another. Gypsy nearly cries as she says "goodnight, Mom," knowing it's the last time she'll see her mother alive. As Dee Dee falls asleep, she whispers, "Don't hurt me, sweetie," almost as if she knew her daughter was planning her demise. This rattles Gypsy to her core.
When Dee Dee is out, Gypsy silently tiptoes around the house until Nick texts her that he's there and she begins to panic, popping another Xanax. As she prepares to let him in and give him the knife she purchased, suspense builds for what feels like an eternity before he comes inside. He appears to be psyching himself up, and while the scene is dark, his face betrays some uncertainty. Gypsy then gives him the knife and leads him to her mother before retreating to the bathroom. After another short eternity, Nick wakes up Dee Dee, who cries out for Gypsy, and then he begins repeatedly stabbing her. King's Gypsy can't take it, and tries to block out the sound as Dee Dee continues to cry out for almost 30 full seconds. It's not an easy scene to watch, even knowing that it's a fictionalized version of what may have actually happened in the Blanchard home.
After the deed is done, Gypsy is frozen while Nick runs in and kisses her. When he does, she balks, then gets to work cleaning the knife and cleaning the blood off of him. As she shakes and panics, he smiles before embracing her. It's very much time for them to leave, but Nick asks where her room is and she leads him there. Gypsy wants to get out, but pauses momentarily. As if putting on a whole new persona, she suddenly becomes bubbly and calls Nick her prince, thanking him for taking her on an adventure. He grabs her and pushes her onto the bed, pulls down his pants, and forces himself on her. Gypsy doesn't object, but it's clear the event is not consensual from the pain on her face and her clear disinterest. It would make sense that she'd be too afraid to object considering he just proved that he's capable of murder.
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When he finishes and gets up, he says "Welcome to the rest of your life" with a smile. He means it romantically, but as a romantic song wafts over the scene with visions of blood stains, the sinister double meaning of the phrase is heightened. She and Nick slowly close up the house as their getaway taxi makes its way to pick them up, and she stares longingly at the house. Nick asks if she still wants to go with him, and while it doesn't appear she actually does, she replies in the affirmative. Of course she does; where else can she go now that her mother is dead?
The scene lends a haunting shade to her time with Nick, suggesting that after one grave mistake, she was forced into the Bonnie & Clyde routine by circumstance and a lack of choices, rather than love. In fact, in this fictionalized version of the story, it seems that Gypsy fell out of love with him the moment he actually killed her mother. Still, she walks out of the house with a smile on her face, her own version of Dee Dee's act.
The final scene of the series, as Gypsy contemplates the reality that her greatest mistake has wrought, finds Gypsy imagining falling asleep on her mother's shoulder in her prison cell. It's a heartbreaking image, of a young woman who felt trapped, made the wrong call, and now has to live with that reality for the rest of her life.
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Devastating Details:

Gypsy asking the prison doctor if she can keep her food tube, last thing she has from her mom.
"I used to always think, 'I wish that Mel could be my mom.' And maybe now you can be, because I need one." - Gypsy, desperately, to Mel during their prison visit.
Gypsy letting the gerbils go free after she escapes the murder scene — a signal that she still had some gentleness left in her after going through with planning Dee Dee's murder.
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