The following story contains spoilers for Nine Perfect Strangers, Episode 8.
After seven episodes—and a pretty massive cliffhanger—those loyally tuning in to watch Hulu’s Nine Perfect Strangers had to be eager to see how this would all wrap up. What should have, in theory for our characters, been a week+ retreat of calming serenity had instead evolved into something much more. Lots of drugs and tripping, yes, but also the start of relationships that could last a long time, and the evolution of existing relationships that could make or break them in a big way. And as the show entered its finale, it faced the daunting task of wrapping this all up—Nine Perfect Strangers was only ever planned as a one-season limited series.
So we’re going to briefly recap what happened, and then look more granularly at what ended up happening with each of our characters, specifically, at the show’s very end.
Where Nine Perfect Strangers left off at the end of Episode 7 was a doozy. Some stories were really ramping up, while others were certainly spinning their wheels in a place where they had kind of been for a few episodes. Example: obviously the revelation that Carmel was the one who shot Masha (revealed by her glossy/foggy eye) is a major one, and the fact that she had been coming entirely unhinged isn’t great either. We also saw Masha take a heavy dose of hallucinogens with the Marconis, in an attempt to help them see their late son/brother, Zach, one last time. Lars, in all his investigation, had come to understand Masha’s plot and would be fully observing. On the other end, though, we got more of the same from Tony and Frances (who clearly want to be together and have good chemistry together but just keep putting it off for no good reason, really), and Ben and Jessica (who really don’t have much to do at this point other than…walk around holding hands and being happy?). Oh, and Delilah busted out of Tranquillum House and was headed straight for the nearest police station,
Anyway. That brings us to the events that did happen in Episode 8. Carmel and Masha had a confrontation that somehow ended with Masha forgiving her for shooting her, saying that her entire life at that point was her fault. Thanking her, even. This skipped a bit, though, and eventually Carmel was in a sensory tank and locked in a padded room.
Tony and Frances finally got over their drama and decided they wanted to be together—and that meant busting out of this popsicle stand and heading to the nearby Four Seasons. Theye’re ready to leave together and run into Ben and Jessica, who also want to leave together. Until all four discover that their cars are missing (and we never really get an answer on where the cars are). They then hear Carmel screaming from the padded room, where they bring Masha and Yao, and then…are locked in the room with Carmel, by Masha and Yao.
And then, eventually, we’re led to believe that Masha was ordering something to be set on fire? Maybe the whole room? Smoke comes through the vents and we hear crackling. Except, Lol, never mind. It’s a fake simulation meant to help them become more vulnerable and grow closer. Whatever.
Meanwhile, though, Masha is about to start tripping hard with the Marconis, but Lars felt the need to tell them the truth first: Masha has only tried this kind of thing once before, and the guy died. And Masha’s main goal here is to use them as a test group to see if it works, so she can connect to her late daughter. Oh well, the Marconis are mad for about five seconds and then decide they don’t mind and are OK with tripping balls to try to connect with Zach.
Joking aside, Michael Shannon is absolutely amazing in his role and I suspect I’m not alone in saying that Napoleon broke my heart throughout the series, but specifically in this final episode. There’s something that’s just really particularly crushing about a guy like him who really, really, means well, and tries to put on a positive face at any and every turn. And you just know he’s got this pain inside of him, and in this episode we finally see it come to the forefront—and Shannon predictably crushes it. There’s a moment where the alarm of his phone—which he put to sleep the morning his son died—goes off, and you really, really feel his pain.
And I also cannot lie—I was worried Napoleon was going to bite it a couple times during this final episode, which would have been really crushing. Thank you, Nine Perfect Strangers overlords, for not doing that.
Eventually, the Marconis connect to Zach one last time, and each do have a meaninful interaction that helps them get closure and move on. And, finally, Masha manages to connect to her own late daughter—just as the police arrive with Delilah and take her away.
What happened to each of our Nine Perfect Strangers?
Once the police arrive, we see a number of different visions of our characters in the future (?). Including Delilah and Yao, who while they aren’t technically part of the “Nine Perfect Strangers,” they are characters in the show. And we see them join the Peace Corps! Good for them. Or so we think.
Tony and Frances
Tony and Frances finally get over whatever manufactured drama they had going and decide to go for a wonderful non-hallucinogenic-smoothie dinner. After putting in a big order, Frances gets a stroke of genius and starts writing before she loses her train of thought. Tony, at that moment, decides to go try to FaceTime his daughters, eager to reconnect and changed by his experience.
When we see another scene of the two of them later in the montage (presumably with some passage of time), they’re together, and Tony (now sporting a mustache instead of his full salt and pepper beard) has reconnected with his daughters. Looks like they’re having dinner! Good times. These two deserve it.
The Marconi Family (Napoleon, Heather, Zoe)
Our brief glimpse of the Marconis just tells us that they’re doing better, moving on from the painful grief we’ve seen affecting all three of them in different ways. Napoleon has his hand on Heathers, and Zoe looks happy—calm, not stressed—in the back seat.
Lars, who was out in the woods filming the hallucinogenic experience that Masha and the Marconis were having, was clearly moved by such strong emotions for everyone—he eventually left, believing that none of that was his business (which, while a noble thought, kind of goes directly against his whole I’m an investigative reporter doing a story thing. But whatever). And realized in that moment that he was ready to return to his boyfriend and start a family of his own.
In the little montage, we see that Lars’ story on Masha—a New Yorker cover story!—appears to be very much in favor of her (title: “Psychedelics to the Rescue”). Her work, Lars’ story seems to argue, while untraditional and dangerous, is for the greater good—and successful. (Yikes?)
In perhaps the most outrageous scene of the little montage, Carmel is some sort of life coach or support group leader, telling others that because Masha forgave her she was able to move on and live a better life. Regina Hall is fantastic in the show but Carmel shot Masha, tried to strangle Lars across the table, tried to kill Masha again, and was just generally a menace. We can have a larger conversation about whether or not she should be like, on trial or something, but she probably should not be any sort of life coach!
Jessica and Ben
Jessica and Ben, who had so much fun doing Molly and re-growing closer to one another, and finding Jessica’s nose when it fell off, decided to spend some of their lottery money to become the new purveyors of Tranquillum House, seemingly taking over for Masha. We see them greeting a new group of guests. I suppose that’s one way to return to work!
What about Masha?
We see Masha driving down the highway in a convertible with the top down, with her late daughter in the front seat. In the final shot of the show, the camera pans up and we see that Masha is alone in the car (of course, because her daughter is dead). It makes us ask a question (within a question; stay tuned for below): is Masha driving under the influence of heavy hallucinogenic drugs right now? Or is the idea that she’s just come to terms with the loss of her daughter? The first is funnier, but the second makes more sense. She’s accepted that what happened, while of course horribly tragic, has happened. And now she can live with the happy memories and good feelings instead of letting the one awful moment haunt her entire life—and influence other decisions in bad ways.
And, based on the insinuation we got from Lars’ New Yorker cover story, Masha seems to be getting good press. She probably didn’t end up doing any sort of jail time.
Is it real or is it fake?
That’s the real question here. The only part of any of this that definitely happened—after Masha took her hallucinogens with the Marconis and left everyone else in that fire simulation room, and all of the aftermath of that—was Tony and Frances going out to dinner. They definitely ordered burgers and drinks, Tony definitely FaceTimed his daughers, and Frances definitely started writing.
What we have to wonder, then, is if everything else we’re seeing isn’t what that actually happened to all of our characters (Frances and Mustache Tony included), but rather the idealized, beach-read ending version that Frances came up with in the heat of the moment.
We could probably go either way on the guesses, with the exception of where Carmel ends up. She can not be a life coach! No! That woman strangled two different people durning a 10-day wellness retreat! That’s an average of once every five days. Yikes, Frances. But you know what? Maybe that’s why she’s a successful writer in her genre—she can find ways to give things a happy ending, even when they don’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s OK—as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Even if that destination is becoming a life coach, or whatever.
But the real tell is that when we see Masha, she’s got a book on the dashboard of her car—Nine Perfect Strangers, written by Frances. So Masha probably did get off scot free from everything that happened, but the visions we saw of all our characters are almost certainly how Frances wrote them in her new book. But maybe they really happened too! If you want to tell yourself that, no one’s really going to stop you, right?
Evan RomanoEvan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.
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