For the uninitiated, when the series opened back in 2019, Sean (Toby Kebbell) and Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) had hired a nanny, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), to take care of their baby, Jericho, only Jericho is a doll. A sleep-deprived Dorothy accidentally left the real Jericho in her hot car, but she was so traumatized by the event that she has no memory of her baby’s death. She thinks the doll is real.
When Leanne arrives, the doll is inexplicably replaced by a real baby, which Dorothy accepts as her own. The origin of the real baby remains unknown — it’s possible it’s Leanne’s baby. It’s possible that the baby is a mass delusion, a manifestation of Dorothy’s guilt. Wherever it came from, the cult that Leanne once belonged to reveres both Leanne and the baby.
Sean and Dorothy’s brother, Julian (Rupert Grint), know that the baby is not the real Jericho, but they don’t question it. They are mostly interested in hiding the truth from Dorothy because the trauma of remembering she was responsible for her baby’s death might kill her (Sean also treats Jericho as his own though he understands he probably isn’t unless Leanne managed to bring Jericho back from the dead). Hiding reality from Dorothy, however, requires keeping Leanne happy, lest she puncture Dorothy’s protective veil of denial. Leanne, meanwhile, seems mostly interested in using the baby to insert herself into Dorothy and Sean’s family. She’s taken that one step further by sleeping with Julian, and Julian seems unable to stop himself.
Despite three seasons with Leanne, we still know surprisingly little about her. She grew up in a cult. She idolized Dorothy, whom she knew from television (Dorothy is a local television reporter). Former members of her cult treat her like their leader. When Dorothy is not in the house, the baby has a tendency to disappear. Leanne also seems to have some supernatural gifts. At one point, she seemed to manifest the killing of one of Dorothy’s local news rivals.
For two and a half seasons, Dorothy and Leanne mostly managed to get along. Midway through season three, there’s a shift after Dorothy becomes enraged when Leanne takes the baby to meet former members of her cult, who live in a nearby homeless encampment. She raises the issue with Sean, but Sean is dismissive, in part because he doesn’t want to upset Leanne. Dorothy tries to send Leanne away, but that doesn’t work. The baby briefly disappears while Leanne is outside the house and when the baby returns upon Leanne’s reentry into the home, Sean is adamant that Leanne can stay and be a part of their family for as long as she likes. Dorothy is livid.
Dorothy will not let Leanne near the baby. Dorothy straps the baby in a front pack and refuses to separate herself from Jericho for days. She barely sleeps. She barely eats. Dorothy becomes more unhinged and recruits her father to assist her in getting Leanne committed because Dorothy believes that Leanne is mentally unwell. The therapist hired to evaluate Leanne, however, determines that Dorothy is mentally unwell. He threatens to call child protective services and have Dorothy committed, but Sean and Leanne talk the therapist out of it, arguing that they can take care of Dorothy on their own.
Dorothy acquiesces. She plays nice with Leanne. It’s a ruse. Dorothy makes plans to take Jericho and run away (what she doesn’t know is that the ousted leader of Leanne’s cult has arranged to help her escape, although the former cult leader is only interested in taking possession of the baby). As Dorothy is leaving with Jericho, however, Leanne spots her. She stops Dorothy from leaving with Jericho, and Dorothy loses her sh*t.
Leanne: Why do you want to leave me?
Dorothy: Because I’m not your f—king mother. I’m your boss, and you are just a sad and delusional girl who needs help. You somehow convinced these two f—king idiots [Sean and Julian] to believe you.
Sean [in his calm, gaslighting voice]: Dorothy, why don’t I hold [Jericho].
Dorothy [on the top of the stairwell, backing away]: Don’t you dare look at me like that.
Sean: No one is looking at you in any way.
Dorothy [leaning against the banister]: I will never let anything bad happen to him. Never.
Sean: I know. I know.
Dorothy: I’m leaving now.
Leanne [in a quietly evil voice]: I’m sorry, Dorothy.
Leanne uses her supernatural power to make the banister give away. Dorothy falls backward. Leanne grabs Jericho, and Dorothy plunges over the stairwell, falls two flights, bounces off of two banisters with loud crunches, and lands limply on the floor. She has broken bones and is barely alive. Her eyes, however, look above her to see Leanne holding Jericho on the top floor and looking down on Dorothy. End credits.
Spoilers: Dorothy is not dead. For one, she’s the show’s central character, and killing her off before Dorothy realizes the truth would be a cop-out. Also, Lauren Ambrose has already given an interview saying that she’s shooting the fourth and final season now. It doesn’t make what happened to Dorothy any less f*cked up, especially because — in all likelihood — she will be limited in her mobility in season four, stuck in a house with a nanny she believes is trying to steal her family, and incapable of doing anything about it.
I can’t wait.