Hulu’s The Act is a show obsessed with revealing the hidden secrets of its leading ladies, the inspired-by-real-people Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Joy King) and Dee Dee Blanchard (Patricia Arquette). We watch Gypsy’s secret relationship with boyfriend Nick Godejohn (Calum Worthy) unfold outside of her mother’s prying gaze. We figure out what, exactly, led to Dee Dee’s apparent Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy. Yet, The Act hides one major detail from viewers: the specifics of Dee Dee’s in-show murder at the hands of her daughter and Nick, which is the very foundation of the streaming series. This is, after all, a fictionalization of the Blanchard tragedy — anything could have happened here.
With the last act of season 1 finale “Free,” the drama finally shows all of its cards. After a harsh-but-hopeful look at Gypsy’s life in jail, The Act takes us back to the day Dee Dee Blanchard died. It’s a harrowing 25-minute sequence that answers all our questions while also putting some suspicious season 1 moments into focus.
As we see in The Act’s sixth episode, “Plan B,” Gypsy and Dee's last conversation is their often-repeated exchange about Spanish moss and angels. At this point, the words are like a prayer, reenforcing the Blachards’ unwavering codependency on each other. Dee Dee will protect Gypsy, and Gypsy will protect Dee Dee. If the promises weren’t so corrupted at this point — where Dee Dee regularly ties her daughter to bedposts and lies to her about everything from her medical records to her age — they would be sweet. In fact, they are sweet in the cold open, when we see the first time the Blanchards shared this conversation.
But, we’re past angels, ghosts, and the stuff of magic now. Gypsy knows as much, which is why she looks devastated in bed with her ailing, diabetic mom, who is still sporting the painted nails her daughter gave her. Gypsy doesn’t even respond to Dee Dee when she asks, “What’s the matter” — Gypsy’s answer is of no consequence. Her boyfriend is coming to murder Dee Dee. Gypsy bought the hunting knife he will use. This is happening.
“Goodnight, mom,” she says, marking the last words she will ever say to Dee Dee.
With Dee Dee asleep, Gypsy pops a pill and tries to kill her mother herself. Is it a mercy? Is it a way to save Nick, who is outside waiting for Gypsy to open the front door? We’ll never know, because Gypsy can’t go through with it.
Gypsy goes to let Nick in, so he can be the one to remember what Dee Dee’s screams sound like up close and personal. Nick enters the Blanchard home already wearing rubber gloves to hide his prints. Gypsy hands over the knife and points to the room where her mother is sleeping. Nick goes to do the gory deed while Gypsy hides out in the bathroom, covering her ears. She attempts to muffle Dee Dee’s cries and focuses on the lighthouse painting next to the tub. This is why, when Gypsy remembers a flash of the lighthouse painting during the present timeline scene of “Free,” she collapses.
According to the real-life reports of the Blanchard murder case, the broad strokes of this scene are true. Although, we’ll never know if Gypsy really fixated on a beachey landscape to cope with the brutal slaying of her mother.
When Nick returns from his first murder, he’s completely broken. With a three-mile-long stare and tears in his bloodshot eyes, Gypsy cleans all of her mother’s viscera off of her boyfriend and his weapon. Gypsy might be panicked, but Nick is traumatized. All of a sudden, Gypsy’s confidence in “A Whole New World,” which picks up after then-unseen Dee Dee’s death, makes sense. Gypsy had to be strong in the face of Nick’s emotional turmoil.
Along those same lines, Gypsy's changed demeanor in “New World,” seems to begin in one specific moment in “Free’s” flashback sequence. After Nick is cleaned up and Dee Dee’s body is covered, Gypsy and her boyfriend stand in her room. Gypsy looks terrified, and then takes a deep breath. In a second, you see her face change. It lights up. She swings her arms around Nick and joyously chirps about the “adventure” he’s taking her on. Gypsy’s years of pretending to be a broken princess have prepared her for this moment. Amid the grief and fear of her mother’s death, Gypsy can play fairytale excitement with her eyes closed.
In her last moments at home, Gypsy has unfulfilling sex with Nick because she thinks that is what she is supposed to do. When he gets up and announces, “Welcome to the rest of your life,” Gypsy takes his words to heart. She ditches the conservative house dress favored by Dee Dee and throws on a trendy outfit, her favorite wig, and some carefully applied, YouTube beauty tutorial-ready makeup. The knife covered in Dee Dee’s blood drips gore inches from Gypsy’s eyeshadow palette. She doesn't notice. Nick meanwhile desperately tries to get the blood out of his own clothing and later packs the rest of the Blanchards’ cash.
After setting her guinea pigs free and lowering the thermostat — effectively covering up Dee Dee’s murder for as long as possible — Gypsy is ready to say goodbye to the world she has always known. This really is the rest of her life. She just doesn't’ know how short freedom will last.