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Is the Book Ending of 'The Last Thing He Told Me' as Lame as the TV Ending?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 19, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 19, 2023 |


Spoilers for both the book and the TV series.

Despite the fact that it was a huge bestseller, I often feel like an outlier when I confess that I liked Laura Dave’s novel The Last Thing He Told Me, upon which the Apple TV+ series is based. It had a killer opening, I liked the characters, and though the twist is kind of lame, I didn’t see it coming. However, I did not like the ending of Dave’s novel. A bad ending does not always ruin a novel for me, though. For example, see all of Stephen King’s books.

I had held out hope, despite how closely the Apple TV+ series adhered to the novel, that the television series might rethink the ending or come up with something better. Unfortunately, it did not. It has the exact same underwhelming ending, which makes sense because Laura Dave adapted the novel to the screen herself.

A quick rewind is in order: “The last thing he,” referring to Owen (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), “told me,” his wife Hannah (Jennifer Garner), was to take care of his daughter, Bailey (Angourie Rice). Owen disappears at the beginning of the story, leaving behind a large sum of money. Hannah and Bailey spend much of the rest of the story trying to figure out why. It turns out that Owen is not actually Owen; he is “Ethan.” Owen and Bailey are in the witness protection program, although Bailey, who was born Kristen, did not know this because she was too young to remember when she and her father entered it.

The reason is that the father of Owen’s first wife was the head of a Texas mob, and although the details are not that important, they are very dangerous. Owen’s first wife died in a hit. In turn, Owen agreed to testify against the mob in exchange for witness protection. He received it, but in the present, a scandal at his current company, guaranteed to create headlines, prompted Owen to go into hiding again because he knew the scandal would alert the mob to his whereabouts.

In the end, and oh boy is this lame, Hannah personally negotiated a deal with Nicholas (David Morse), the mobster father-in-law. He agreed to leave them alone in exchange for having a relationship with his granddaughter. However, the deal did not extend to Owen, so while Hannah and Bailey could live free of the mob, Owen would have to spend the rest of his life in hiding.

Supposedly, it’s what Owen would have wanted.

Cut to five years later. Hannah is working in her store, waiting for Bailey to show up and introduce her to her boyfriend. While she’s waiting, she spots Owen, heavily bearded, who drops something in order to get a closer glimpse of Hannah, touch her hand, and tell her he still loves her. Bailey then walks in and calls Hannah, with whom she had a strained relationship at the book’s beginning, “Mom.”

The end.