The ‘Under the Bridge’ Finale Does Right by Reena Virk

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The ‘Under the Bridge’ Finale Does Right by ReenaDarko Sikman

Last week, Under the Bridge asked viewers to contemplate Reena Virk’s killers—a group of teenagers who attacked her in 1997 after a petty fight broke out between friends. They beat and drowned Reena, who was found days later in a gorge. Her death led to the upheaval of a quiet community in Saanich, Canada, as the victim’s family and onlookers alike begged for answers as to what happened and why. We may never know why people do bad things, but it’s even harder to offer mercy in times of strife. In the finale of Under the Bridge— aptly titled “Mercy Alone”—the Hulu series challengers viewers to find mercy for everyone involved.

The episode begins, as this series so frequently does, with a flashback. It’s the afternoon of Reena’s death. She and Dusty Pace (Aiyana Goodfellow), Josephine Bell (Chloe Guidry), and Kelly Ellard (Izzy G.) are dancing and rapping along to a Biggie Smalls CD. Reena (Vritika Gupta) jumps on Josephine’s bed to groove to the music—and then, suddenly, the fun is over. Josephine screams at her to get down, then excludes her from a party in one scathingly simple sentence: “You’re not invited.”

Reena, clearly upset by Josephine’s shift in demeanor, looks toward Dusty. We’ve seen this scene before, but not quite like this. Dusty, as we learned earlier on this series, was also fed up with Josephine’s antics. But instead of backing Reena up, she sheepishly sides with the other girls. This won’t be the last time. Later that night, Josephine hears the rumors Reena spread about her. She calls Kelly to vent, then devises a plan: “Let’s fucking kill her.” Kelly’s mom is within earshot yet says nothing about the girls’ grim conversation.

Afterward, Josephine asks Dusty if she knew about Reena’s plan. Dusty lies and says no, though Reena did confide in her beforehand. “Honestly, I’m kind of impressed,” Josephine says. “I didn’t think she had the balls.” Then she offers to include Dusty in the CMC—aka the “Crip Mafia Cartel,” a pseudo-gang that only fifteen-year-old suburbanites could come up with. She even offers to include Reena. “We can initiate Reena tonight,” she says. “It’ll be a little surprise.”

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Cam (far right), her brother (center), and her father (left) at the trial. Darko Sikman

Cut to Warren Glowatski (Javon Walton) in juvie. It’s the present day, and he recently received a second-degree murder conviction. He calls Rebecca Godfrey (Riley Keough)—a writer whom he’s befriended—and asks if she’ll visit him in prison. She declines, feeling that she’s grown too close to Reena’s case. Meanwhile, Cam (Lily Gladstone), a local detective, visits Seven Oaks Foster Care. She lived at the facility as a kid—as did Josephine and Dusty, prior to their arrest. When Cam arrives, she sees the workers packing everything up. They’ve been shut down.

Before leaving, Cam receives her file, which she hopes will clear up the questions she has about her adoption. Cam is Native American, like Warren, and a woman of color, like Reena. She was raised by a white family and followed in her father’s footsteps by joining the police force. But Reena’s case has unveiled failings within the criminal-justice system that have forced her to question how race plays a role in the way people are treated by those in power. Her adoption, as she’s been told, was something of a rescue mission—her father claims she was taken from an abusive family—but now she’s not so sure.

Afterward, Cam visits Josephine in juvie and gives her the rest of her belongings from Seven Oaks. Despite the ongoing trial, Josephine maintains an air of indifference. She’s desperately pretending to appear unfazed—at least until Cam plays a recording of Kelly trying to pin Reena’s murder on Josephine. “Josephine’s got some psycho problems,” Kelly says on the tape. “She says weird and demented things all the time. She hated Reena.” The last part is true. She despised Reena for spreading rumors about her—but she didn’t want her to die. Nevertheless, Kelly throws her under the bus. “Josephine is so twisted, she said, and I quote, ‘Let’s fucking kill her.’ ”

Josephine is in shock. For the first time since Reena’s death, she cries. “I didn’t think she’d actually do it,” she says. Cam wants her to testify at Kelly’s trial, but Josephine refuses: “I’m not a rat.” Cam reminds her that not taking the stand means another ninety days in juvie. It’s no use; her loyalty to Kelly, confusing as it may be, is all she has. “It doesn’t fucking matter anymore, does it?” she says. “It’s not like I have anywhere else to go.” Before Cam leaves, Josephine asks her to play Kelly’s tape again so that she can hear her voice. It’s a bittersweet moment. Josephine has been impossible to root for on this series, and in juvie, she finally has to reckon with what she’s done. In a way, that’s vindicating, but watching her yearn for Kelly’s voice is heartbreaking.

At Kelly’s trial, the rest of Reena’s attackers—nicknamed the Shoreline Six by the press—offer their version of events. Each girl’s story is pretty much the same. Kelly called them and asked them to beat up Reena, who crossed Josephine and needed someone to teach her a lesson. Kelly’s defense argues that she’s been unfairly judged by the press. News organizations are calling her “Killer Kelly”—and the testimonies, he suggests, aren’t reliable. He says Dusty has anger-management issues and probably killed Reena herself. That other girl? She smokes too much pot; her memory must be warped. And the girl Kelly called? Well, she must have conspired with Warren to shift the blame. One by one, he tries to poke holes in their stories. Dusty, for her part, takes full responsibility. “We were all a part of this,” she says.

In a brief flashback, we see the moment Dusty turned on Reena when she needed her the most. After she’s chased under the bridge, Reena tries to reason with Josephine. “You take whatever you want from people, say whatever you want, and we’re sick of it,” Reena says, looking toward Dusty in the crowd. “Who’s we?” Josephine asks. “Dusty, you got a problem?” Silence. Then the attack begins.

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Josephine confronts Reena. Darko Sikman

Back at the trial, Cam’s father, Roy (Matt Craven), knows they need Warren to testify against Kelly. He’s the only one who actually saw what happened. After getting a few punches in, Josephine and the rest of the girls peeled off. Afterward, Kelly and Warren followed Reena and delivered the final blows. Roy pleads with Rebecca to talk to Warren. “If Warren doesn’t show up, she’s probably going to walk,” he says.

Though Rebecca—for the past thirty minutes, at least—has sworn to take a step back, she knows he’s right. That evening, she visits the Virks, hands them the chapters she’s written about Reena, and tells them she’ll speak to Warren. Reena’s mother, Suman (Archie Panjabi), decides to visit him instead. “You poisoned our life, and I need it to stop,” she says. “In my faith, we believe in mercy, so I came for that. To say I forgive you.”

The next day, Warren takes the stand and finally tells the truth. The whole truth. He describes jumping into the fight despite not knowing Reena. He says Kelly stole her boots and kicked her. He says they jumped up on her with “two feet” in the air. “Why?” the defense team asks. “It was a rush, like a release,” Warren says. “I had a lot of negative shit going on in my life. There was something about it that felt good…to get out all that anger.” Finally, he explains why Kelly is far more responsible than her lawyers want us to believe. He helped Kelly drag Reena into the water—then she drowned her while Warren watched. “I didn’t show her any mercy, and I really wish we did,” he says.

At last Kelly is put on the stand, and it seems like she’s trying her best to make you forget what mercy even is. The lawyer asks her why everyone says she killed Reena. “I don’t know,” she replies. “Everyone was always mean to me.” Not true. Next question. He asks why Kelly would hurt Reena. This time, she speaks in a cringey, syrupy-sweet British accent. Then the lawyer asks if Kelly ever bragged about holding Reena’s head underwater. “No, I wasn’t even there to know if she was dead or drowned,” she says. That’s not true, either. The lawyer tries, once more, to get a confession, asking Kelly to demonstrate the type of punch she would have thrown if she had hit Reena. The sound of her fist cracking into her palm startles the courtroom. Even Kelly looks surprised. She spirals and repeats, “I did not kill Reena Virk” with a shocking rigor until she slumps into her chair, panting and out of breath. No further questions.

After five days of deliberations, the jury finds Kelly guilty of second-degree murder. Though she’s charged with the same crime as Warren, the judge gives her a measly five years, citing her high grades and good family. It’s the minimum sentence for a minor. “Some justice, eh?” Cam says over a round of drinks with Rebecca. We always knew Kelly would get off easy, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

The last few minutes of Under the Bridge tie up the series in a not-so-neat bow. Rebecca finds closure, realizing her empathy for Warren was kind but misplaced. Cam decides to quit the police force and look for her birth family. The Virks clean out Reena’s bedroom and discover her Biggie Smalls CD. They listen to it for a moment and smile, finally understanding their deeply misunderstood daughter. Then the track skips the way that scratched CDs do, and they’re left in silence. Cracked albums—much like grief, hatred, and even mercy—deliver relief in waves.

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